Tips for bike commuting
This UA professor rides home along the Third Street bikeway.
When you become the “bike guy” or “bike girl” at your place of employment, it is inevitable someone will come to you with questions about commuting by bike and how to get started. This happend to me a few days ago.
When you commute by bike every day, it’s basically second nature, but for people who haven’t ridden a bike in years, every little detail can be monumental.
I often wonder what the best way to encourage people to start bike commuting. I don’t always know what to tell people to make it seem doable. I’ll put my list of tips for new bike commuters below, but I am hoping you’ll add your advice to new commuters in the section below.
The bike: If they have a decent bike at home I try to get them to get it tuned up. I also have a hard time with pricing. Many people want to spend $200 or less, which is hard to find a quality bike, but you don’t want them to spend a lot of money in case they don’t stick with it.
1) Buy a bike that fits properly. I generally recommend they measure their inseam and recommend a size from there. I also suggest they ride the bike to make sure it feels comfortable.
2) Buy a bike that will accept a rack. Riding with a backpack is uncomfortable and makes for a sweaty ride. I always encourage panniers.
3) Depending on the length of commute I recommend different bikes. For commutes less than five or six miles, I suggest any type of bike will be OK including a mountain bike with slick tires. If the commute is longer than six miles, I recommend some sort of skinny-wheeled bike. I really like cross bikes as a commuter bike for longer commutes.
1) I suggest people attempt the commute on a weekend when the time pressure isn’t there. By doing it on the weekend you’ll know long to budget and make sure they can ride the whole route.
2) I often suggest people with longer commutes drive part way with their bikes and then ride their bike the last mile or two to work. Do a week of that and then extend the bike commute and shorten the driver until they can work their way up to the full distance.
Avoiding sweat: A shower at work makes this a moot point, but unfortunately most employees do not have access to a shower.
1) Go slow. Riding a bike slowly makes it less sweaty.
2) Change clothes at work and do a “duck bath.” When the weather is hot, I bring a change of clothes with me each day and have deodorant, baby wipes and cologne in the office. When I get into work, I use the wipes to clean the sweat and put on the deodorant and cologne.
3) If they don’t have a way to get clothes to work on the bike, I suggest they drive Monday and bring their clothes for the week. Then They can ride Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, they can drive and bring home all their dirty clothes.
Those are my basic tips for helping get people started with bike commuting. What tips do you have to help get people out of their car and onto a bike? Leave a comment and let us know.