Since May is bike month, I figured I would post some thoughts and experiences on my years of bike commuting in Seattle, WA. I consider myself lucky to live in a town that permits this year-round, but I recall standing at the bus-stop in Minneapolis one day when it was about 14 below zero and seeing a grizzled bike commuter pedaling by. I guess this can be done anywhere! That takes me to the first item:
If you want to succeed in biking to work regularly, you have to get through the first month. If your commute is more than a few miles, you may want to start out small and work up. I generally ride 4-5 days a week these days, but when I started out, I did one day a week until that felt ok. Then I stepped it up to two days. After a few weeks of this I went to three, and so on. You will be frustrated at first by lack of energy, weather, bad drivers, bad bikers, etc… After a month, though, you may find that getting in a car is actually more frustrating, and you may find exhilaration in anticipating a nice ride in, or home. There will be days where you hear wind and rain and think “what the hell am I doing riding in this?”, but when you get out in it, it’s not really that bad. Same as skiing – water or snow. You will get wet and/or cold, but you’re still having fun.
You will need to plan a tiny bit more to be a bike commuter – time, clothes, shower are all slightly modified. First off, it takes longer to bike to work (usually). Figure out how much time it takes on a day when you don’t have to be somewhere, or just give yourself way too much time. Keep your main clothes at work. I just bring an undershirt and socks with me. I take a shower before I leave. It’s generally cool in the morning, so I don’t break too much of a sweat on the way in. Nothing a good towel won’t take care of. I keep a week’s worth of pants and 2-weeks worth of shirts in the office. I launder these at a dry cleaner, but have brought bundles home via car/bus on my rest days. Remember – if you’re in an office job, you can generally get multiple wears out of a set of clothes between washes.
Find and Vary Routes
I have 3 or 4 routes I take regularly. There is the short-direct shot into work; the meandering coffee shop route; the long scenic route; the mostly trail route. It really helps to have options as it makes the trips fun, and not tedious. If you don’t like your route, take a different option, and don’t worry if it adds miles. My shortest route is 7.5 miles, and the longest route is over 13 miles one way. I can be just as tired after either of them, and all of them get me where I’m going. There is nothing quite as satisfying as passing a lot of traffic that is gridlocked due to a game or other random event. On a bike you have endless options!
I hope this helps – commuting by bike is really rewarding in health, stress-relief, and giving you time to think or wind down on the way home. It is a great way to turn a stressful activity on its head, and get something beneficial out of the time you may be spending in traffic.