As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, it’s time to consider making your commute healthier, more environmentally friendly, and a lot more fun than sitting in a car. Just get on your bike!
Maybe you’ve never done it before and are ready to take the plunge. Maybe you already commute by bike, but only in the summer. Whatever your situation, if you’re not biking now but plan to soon, it’s time to get ready.
Here are six great steps to get to the starting line.
1. Get connected with your local bicycle advocacy group.
Bike advocacy groups like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Chicago’s Active Transportation Alliance, or Bike Texas are great resources for information and, even more importantly, motivation. Whether you go to events, engage with their advocacy work, or just crawl their websites, these organizations are there to support bicyclists and bicycling with an eye toward making their cities more sustainable.
Hit them up for good bike maps (usually free), which should tell you which streets have bike lanes or other infrastructure to keep bikers safe.
2. Plan your route.
Once you have your bike map in hand, you can suss out the best way to get from your house to your work. As you’re planning, also consider multimodal options like taking your bike on public transit (if allowed).
3. Consider your workplace infrastructure.
Where will you park your bike when you get to work? Is there a rack in a safe place (and do you have a sturdy lock)? Is your workplace casual enough for you to bring your bicycle inside the office? If neither of these is true, work with HR to try and get safe parking for bikes.
Check for a shower room at your workplace or in the building. Or maybe there’s an inexpensive gym near your office that you can use as a locker room. Get creative.
4. Assess your wardrobe.
If your bike commute is short enough or it’s chilly enough outside, you may not need a shower at all. That said, if you won’t be changing clothes, you want to make sure you can ride in your work attire. Depending on your bike and your comfort level, the range of workable fashion options can be pretty wide. Take it from me, though: avoid bike commuting in denim when the temperature is over 80 degrees. If you’ll be riding on days it may rain, a waterproof coat and either rain pants or a change of clothes are a must. Also consider how you’ll keep your hands, feet, and head warm on colder days.
5. Service your bike.
Before you hit the mean streets, do yourself a favor and take your bicycle in for a tune-up. If you do it early enough (before spring has officially sprung), you may benefit from winter deals and specials. Have them check the brakes, lube the chain, check the tires for wear, and make sure the gears are working. Tune-ups can be expensive, but when you compare them to the cost of driving and parking, there’s no contest.
6. Take a dry run.
The weekend before you officially start commuting, ride your bike to your workplace. You can time yourself, check out any parts of your route that might need rethinking, and get a good feel for what the experience is like—without the pressure of needing to get to work at a certain time.
Ride to work!
Miriam Wolf is the editor of The FruitGuys Magazine. She bike commutes in Portland, OR.