What Does It Take to Commute Via Bicycle?
Initially, relying on a bicycle for transportation might seem intimidating but with the right level of commitment, knowledge, equipment, and planning anyone can do it. Whether looking to save money, go green, or get in better shape, commuting by bicycle is a fantastic option that satisfies all of those goals.
The first and most important thing to consider when planning a commute is safety. Always remember to follow and observe all laws regarding cycling and motorists. Here are some general questions that should be asked before going on any ride to ensure a bicycle/cyclist is up to the task of a commute:
Are the tires inflated properly? Proper inflation specifications (PSI) are typically located on tire sidewalls.
Is there a spare tube? Riding with a spare tube is generally good practice.
Are the drive-train (shifters, derailleurs, cranks, chain, and pedals) functional? All gears should shift smoothly with minimal hesitation.
Are the brakes functional? Brakes should be properly adjusted before riding. Brakes should stop a bike when needed and not drag or touch any part of the wheel when disengaged.
Are riding lights required? Most areas have laws requiring front and rear lighting to ride at night. If in doubt, ride with lights.
Is a helmet required? Again, not all states require helmets, but it is strongly recommended. When in doubt, ride with a helmet.
Once these questions are satisfied, it’s time to ride! Well, almost. There are many different ways to set up a bicycle for commuting and most options come down to personal preference. However, it is important to allow for as many options as possible when choosing a bicycle. Most bicycles designed for commuting have attachments called “braze-ons” for racks. Without racks it is not possible to mount bags, called “panniers”, on the bike. Panniers are a nice alternative to backpacks for the fact that they do not put the weight directly on the rider during the commute. Panniers are a good option for longer commutes.
Another important factor in planning a commute is the time it takes to reach the destination. This includes route planning, but is not entirely limited to the physical path by which a bicycle will be ridden. Some important things to consider in that regard are distance to the destination, traffic conditions, weather conditions, road conditions, and time constraints. With proper planning and the correct gear any of these obstacles can be overcome. Typically if a bike comes with braze-ons for racks, there are also braze-ons for fenders. Fenders fit around your wheels and deflect any water that an unsuspecting cyclist might ride through; a useful addition for areas that get a lot of rain. Fenders combined with a rain suit or poncho is formidable protection from inclement weather. It is always important to allow ample time to arrive in a timely manner. A great way to ensure a prompt arrival is to calculate the longest possible time it will take to reach the destination. It is a good idea to leave enough time for changing a flat tire when calculating your commute time.
At last! It is now time to enjoy an invigorating commute regardless of the destination. As a commuter gains experience, an idea of what does and does not work for the individual become clearer. It does not take long to begin to reap the benefits of this lifestyle, just stick with it. Please, always remember to ride at your own level and be respectful of other riders and motorists. Happy trails!