There are lots of reasons to trade in your car and make the switch to biking to work every day. The most basic benefits of the switch are outlined in this post from last March. Of course, knowing why you should bike into work is a lot different than knowing how to bike into work every day. The reality is much different than most new cyclists imagine. Here are the biggest obstacles that most cyclists face with their morning (and evening) commute and how to handle them.
The relationship you have to the drivers on the road around you is going to depend as much on where you live as much as it does on how you operate your new engine-less vehicle.
The best thing you can do (because even in cycle friendly cities like Portland, the relationship with other drivers can be tense and irritating) is to follow the rules of the road. Remember that a bicycle is considered a vehicle and, as such, you need to ride like you’re driving a car, not like you’re walking. Stay in your lane, keep up with the flow of traffic, follow your local traffic laws.
While most drivers know to keep an eye out for cyclists, making sure you are visible is important. Don’t just pop on your helmet and head out to work expecting that you are automatically visible. The special reflective gear that is sold to cyclists is not a racket. You’ll want to make sure that your bike is equipped with the right lights and reflectors. You’ll also want to make sure that your clothing is easily visible. This could mean sewing reflectors on to your coat or buying special coats, pants and shoes that have reflective and glow in the dark capability built into them. You might feel a little goofy at first, but the last thing you need is to blend into your surroundings!
The Bodily Challenges
Riding a bike is great for your health and, yes, it can reduce your dependence on the gym. At the same time, the repetitive motion of pedaling, the posture your bike requires, etc. can lead to some new aches and pains in your muscles, especially when you are first starting out. You can also expect chafing to be a constant threat and worry.
To deal with these changes, treat each ride as the workout that it is. Warm up and stretch first. Make sure that you are outfitted correctly. Therafirm recommends wearing compression shorts to help wick moisture and prevent chafing during the ride.
Bad weather is a real problem for people who commute by bicycle. Rain and snow and extreme temperatures can all make your commute difficult.
The best way to deal with this is to wear weather appropriate gear while you are on your bicycle and pack your nicer clothing into your bag so that you can change when you get to work. This way you can stay warm (or cool) and dry on the commute and don’t have to worry about showing up for an important meeting looking bedraggled. Remember to adjust your commute for the time you’ll need to change clothes!
Most of us don’t travel to work with just our bodies. We have wallets, laptops, phones and other gear that must be accommodated. Fitting these things into a simple front bicycle basket isn’t always possible (or very good for the items you’re transporting). According to the BTA, Some things can be carried in a backpack that you wear during the commute. Another option is to fix a rear basket or fixtures that will accommodate saddle bags or panniers.
Remember to be patient! Adjusting to cycling life will take time. You won’t get everything perfect on that first ride. Take your time, do your research, talk to the pros at your local bike shop of send us your questions: firstname.lastname@example.org when you need help. You’ll get there!