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November 12, 2010

Becoming a Bike Commuter II -- Your First Day

by Kyle Boelte


Bike commuting in style in Amsterdam. Thanks Brian.

If you ever considered biking to work but were kept away by worries about logistics, rain, or what your co-workers might think, you'll find a series of tips here on the Compass blog to get you to work on your bike at least once a week. Today's post is about getting started. We already discussed picking out a bike.

Okay, so you have a bike and you're excited to bike to work. How do you actually go about doing it? While you could just head out the door and make your way to work like any other day, doing a little planning is a great idea and will make your first day of bike commuting much more enjoyable.

Bikes are not cars. Don't assume that the route you use in your car is the best one for biking. Many cities have bike maps published by either the local city government or a bicycle advocacy group. Pick up a map at your local shop or find it online (Google "Atlanta Bike Route Map," for example, and it will give you A-Train).

Now, create a route using the most direct streets with bike lanes and bike paths, if they exist. If you live in a city with a lot of hills, take them into consideration. Going a little out of your way might be worth it to keep away from monster climbs. There are great bike route maps for San Francisco and other cities that allow you to enter the maximum incline you want to climb. Google Maps offer bike routes, too.

Your first day is your second day. Now that you have a route figured out, try it out on a weekend instead of on Monday morning. That way you can time it so you show up to work relaxed and on time. Just remember that there will be more traffic on a weekday, although bikes rarely get stuck in traffic (another big perk!).

What to wear. If you live close to work, you can wear your work clothes when on your bike. Don't think it's possible? People in Amsterdam do it everyday! If you live far enough away that you are really working hard, then wearing either cycling clothes or whatever you feel comfortable in is a good idea. Just bring a change of clothes. And wear a helmet.

Packing for work—part-timer. There are several ways to do this; pick the one that works best for you. If you are only biking one or two days a week, consider bringing in a bag with the next day's work clothes when you drive, so you don't have to carry them with you on your bike. And if you like to bring your own snacks and lunches, make sure to bring extras on your driving day.

Packing for work—full-timer. Make sure you have a backpack that can hold all of your clothes and is comfortable to bike with. If you have racks on your bike, that’s even easier. Your bag should be waterproof so your clothes stay dry. If you are bringing leftovers with you, put your Tupperware in a re-used plastic bag to make sure it doesn’t spill.

Cleaning up. This is a big one, and one that scares a lot of people off. It's pretty easy to bike to work and smell good when you get there. We promise! Some offices offer showers for workers. That’s excellent. If you don’t have one where you work, check to see if there are any gyms nearby. Gyms will often let you use their showers for a reasonable rate. If your ride is short, or you don’t work up a sweat, you can always wipe yourself down with a moist paper towel to freshen up.

Have questions about commuting or finding the right bike? Ask them in the comments below.


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