Bike commuter tips

The 10 most frequently asked questions about riding to work

1. Will I feel good?

Yep! Being on a bike is really enjoyable. Remember when you were a kid and you could go wherever you wanted? Apart from that, cycling gets the endorphins flowing and is a great stress release. It can feel slightly strange at first, being higher up than usual and rolling along, but most people quickly start to enjoy themselves.

Remember, bike riding shouldn’t feel more strenuous than walking unless you want it to. Don’t push yourself too hard at first. If a hill starts to be un-fun, just get off and walk. There’s no rule that says you have to ride to the top just because you have a bike! I often ride/walk/ride up Wellington’s hills.

As a bonus, long-term health benefits include increased strength, improved muscle tone, decreased body fat and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. But that all just happens by itself when you ride. Check out Kepa’s story here.

2. Will it take long?

For city trips of less than 10km in peak hour, it’s generally quicker to cycle than to drive or use public transport.

3. Do I need any Special Equipment?

You need a bike, a helmet (unless you have an exemption) and a good lock.

If you’re going to ride in the dark you’ll also need front and rear lights.

Also, make sure your brakes, chain and tyres are in good condition. Ask your local bike shop for advice and possibly a bike service, they’re not too expensive.

While you’re at the bike shop, ask them whether your bike set-up is right for your body size. Are you over-extending your upper body? Is your seat at the right height? Is your helmet fitted correctly?

4. What should I wear?

Whatever you want! The only restriction is whether you can ride in it, so a fancy-dress chicken outfit is probably out.

You can ride in work clothes, or change at work. It depends on how far and fast you’re riding and what type of clothes you wear at work. If you ride at a medium pace, like me, you will have no trouble riding in work clothes.

I ride in dresses and skirts, suits, heels, the works. I don’t mind getting a bit warm on the way home, because I’m on the way home. That’s about the only time I’m likely to get a bit sticky, because I live up a hill. Like most Wellington people I can ride down the hill to work and arrive as fresh as a daisy.

Clothes that are unrestrictive, light, warm and dry quickly are ideal. They should be bright for maximum visibility, if that’s not too much to expect in the black-clothing capital of New Zealand.

If you’re really worried about getting sweaty or dirty on the way to work you can carry a fresh change of clothes with you or bring them in once a week by public transport or car. After you’ve been riding for a little while you’ll have a pretty good idea of what clothing works for you.

If you do decide to change at work it’s worth asking your boss or other riders in your workplace about facilities for changing, showering and storing clothes.

5. How do I carry my stuff?

If you’re travelling light, try a backpack, courier-style bag, a good-sized saddlebag or a bike basket. I personally don’t like to carry things on my back because I find I get uncomfortable quickly and I’m more likely to get sweaty. But try it out, see how you go. Like a lot of people I see with backpacks etc you may find it no problem at all.

Panniers (bags that can be fastened to a rack) are great for larger loads. I use panniers a lot. I find them very convenient – I can just fling unexpected shopping or what have you into them. Stopping at the supermarket on the way home is no problem!

Bike trailers or cargo bikes are a great option for large or heavy materials. When I started riding I thought cargo bikes and trailers were a bit extreme, but once you start riding bikes you start to want to ride them for all sorts of things! I’m seriously considering getting a trailer.

6. How do I plan my trip?

Start by speaking to regular cyclists and checking out the Journey Planner (be sure to click on the ‘Cycling’ option). Aim for a route that avoids fast traffic and narrow roads. You might be able to utilise off-road bike paths and on-road lanes. In fact, the most common mistake that new cycle commuters make is that they bike the same route as they have previously driven to work. Jervois Quay is not a good idea! Go on to the waterfront instead.

If you know someone who cycles in from your direction, ask if they’d like to ride with you. Most regular riders love to share tips and help new riders to get started.

Consider doing a trial ride on a weekend. I did this. It was well worth it. I recommend going before 10 am when the roads start to fill with cars.

7. What if I live a long way from work?

Consider jumping on the train with your bike in the morning and getting off at a reasonable distance from work.

Park and ride! Have you thought of driving part of the way and riding from there? I have a friend who used to do that from Breaker Bay.

Some people reduce the distance each day by riding only one way each day.

8. What if it rains?

There’s no rule that says you have to ride 🙂 But if you decide to, here’s some options.

  • Wear a rain jacket, preferably with underarm vents and reflective or bright panels.
  • Wear clothes which dry easily and won’t make you too cold while they’re still damp. Wool is very good.
  • Take a change of clothes for your legs or wear waterproof overpants.

Exercise extra caution, just like when you drive a car in the wet. Avoid metal surfaces such as manhole covers, drains and railway tracks. And ride a bit more slowly so that when you come upon that manhole cover you don’t have to swerve suddenly into the path of a car to avoid it. It’s surprising how fast those things come up!

If it rains at the end of the day and you’d rather not ride, leave your bike at work and ride home the next night or take your bike home by train. Personally I don’t mind getting a bit wet on the way home, because I’m going home. I won’t ride if the visibility gets too low though.

9. What about riding in traffic?

Always keep in mind the “Three Cs” when cycling in traffic:

  1. Common Sense: Bicycles are recognised as vehicles and must follow the rules of the road. Riding on the left, obeying traffic signals and using hand signals before turning right are all essential for safe riding. There are no special road rules for cyclists in NZ – what applies for a car driver applies for a cyclist.
  2. Courtesy: Be assertive but considerate by knowing the road rules and acting on them. If you make eye contact with motorists you can be more confident that they’ve seen you. I find smiling an excellent tool, people respond really well even if I’ve done something slightly un-smart or uncertain.
  3. Caution: Find the safest riding route – try quieter streets or off-road cycle paths. I sometimes ride slowly on the footpath if I think I really need to, even though you’re not supposed to. Ride predictably and leave yourself room to manoeuvre. Try to be aware of what’s happening around you and look ahead, too. Avoid narrow spaces where you have little room for error. Watch for opening car doors and ride a bit further out than the door zone – a car door is about 1.5m wide.

10. What if I get a puncture?

First off, minimise the chances of this by making sure your tyres are in good condition and are inflated to the recommended pressure (the PSI marked on the side of your tyres). You can also ask your local bike shop about tyres and tyre linings that offer extra protection against punctures, if you like.

If you do get a puncture and you’re carrying a basic repair kit, you can replace the tube or repair the old one on the spot.

If you haven’t learned how to repair or replace a tube, make a plan. This might involve carrying a mobile phone or knowing where the nearest bus route or train line is. It also means you shouldn’t ride in out of the way places – there are some mobile coverage shadows around the Miramar Peninsula and it can be some time before the next person turns up to help.

Original article (without comments) at Cycling Advocates Network

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