Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bike to Work Week

With the Big 'O Bicycle commuter challenge kicking off this week, it's time to discuss the basics of commuting by bike to work.

Ride Like a Boy Scout Seeking a Merit Badge
Time to reinforce the basics. Wear a helmet. Obey Traffic rules. This includes stop lights and stop signs. Signal your turns even if you never do while driving your car. Don't tailgate. Back in the day, I rolled over the trunk of a 1976 Coupe De Ville when it came to a sudden stop. I was Ok due to the aircraft carrier like trunk that I landed on, but the bike got a bent derailleur hook when it fell to the street. Don't make that rookie mistake: keep plenty of braking distance for obstacles.

It's also a good idea to use marker lights in the city. On occasion, I ride with elite cyclists who regularly use front and rear lights. If they do it, then you should too.

I have also had the unfortunate experience of riding with some tri-geeks. When it comes to safety, they epitomized the exact opposite good urban riding skills. Recklessly pulling out in cross traffic, and bounding to and fro like a squirrel on I-80, it's no wonder that they get such a bad rap as cyclists. I'm not kidding: it was so bad that I was embarrassed to be seen with them and relieved to see no one injured in the ordeal.

Pick A Safe Route
My to-work commute is mostly on side streets. It's typically safer and you're less likely to have somebody give you the finger or have folks pelt you with rocks and garbage. Bike paths are always a great choice but you still have to be alert for other riders, runners and walkers. Announce your approach and pass elderly, children and pets with extra care and reduced speed.

Flat route there, head for the hills afterwards
Use topo maps ( to help pick a route that's as flat as possible. Avoid areas on the topo that looks like spaghetti. This will especially be helpful if you or your co-workers desire a fresh arrival. After work, hammer the hills to your delight and let the dog lick the sweat off your legs.

Pack for the Commute
I ride with a backpack that includes work clothes and shoes, a lock and my lunch. Peanut butter and jelly still cuts it for me.

It's also a good idea to get a saddle bag with small toolkit that includes an extra inner tube, tire irons, patch kit & pump are good investments. Spend the twenty minutes learning how to remove the tire so you can handle the inevitable flat.

Cleaning Up
I'm fortunate that the U.P. has a full shower locker room facility with towel service. I even have my own locker with a picture of Eric Estrada on the inside of it. For those without such luxuries, I've heard that sponge baths work pretty well.

Make Lunch Plans
My favorite part of biking to work is in being able to go for a ride during lunch. Given the shortened time frame, it's a fun social ride with plenty of machismo to go around while attacking the hills of south 'O. At the end of the day, the commute to and from work and the lunch ride adds 28 miles to training log.

Enough of my preaching. Get out and ride!

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