This is the third and final installment that was written for the Georgia Clean Air Campaign.
In the first installment of the three part series I covered solutions for the top two excuses for not commuting. In this third and final installment I would like to cover the basics of how you get started on your new commuting lifestyle. We will cover the basics of setting up your bike, choosing your route, and actually going for it.
The first thing you need to do is get what you need for your bike so you can carry what you need. This may be as simple as a backpack or messenger bag, or it may require the addition of a rack and panniers if you need to carry a lot of stuff. What you need to carry and the distance you have to travel are the major factors that determine your set-up. For short distances and lighter loads I would suggest a backpack or messenger bag to save on cost and also convenience. The further you travel and / or the if you need to carry quite a bit of stuff, you will want to put your bag on the bike, not your back.
I have a longer commute and use a hydro pack so I use the rack and pannier option. I also drive my car to work on Monday with my bike on the back and my weeks’ worth of clothes inside. This allows me to carry less on a daily basis and I also have my car at work if I need it through the day or if a storm blows in and I need to drive home. When I started I used a garment bag pannier that allowed me to carry all of my clothes and that worked well but it created a lot of surface for cross winds to catch. I really like my current set-up, but it took some trial and error to get to where I am today.
The next thing you need to spend some time on is the route you will take. This will be an easier task for some, but will take time and thought for the majority of riders. You start by sitting down with a good mapping tool and looking at the roads between your house and work. Think about your current commute and which streets you could ride on safely. Then mark the streets that you cannot or will not ride. Next, find alternate streets for the ones you are not going to use to complete your route. Once you have a route set, drive it to see if it will meet your needs. Finally, test ride the route on a weekend to get an idea for how long it will take to make the ride and to familiarize yourself with the roads.
I know that Google will show you bike paths and bike friendly roads if you choose the Bicycling option in the drop down. You may also need to plan one route for the morning and a different route for the evening depending on traffic patterns. My ride to work is 18.4 miles and my ride home is 20.4 because there are roads that are not as safe during the commute home. My routes have changed several times since I started out of safety concerns.
The final step is to get out there and do it. Get all of your gear ready the night before and either load it up or lay it out. Go to bed and get a good night’s sleep so you can get up and not be rushed in the morning. Get up a bit earlier than you need to so you have plenty of time to get yourself and the bike ready to hit the road. The only thing left to do is climb on your bike and start pedaling.
I hope that these blog entries have been persuasive and helpful. I am an addicted bike commuter and my hope is to create a few more addicts like me. If we get more bike commuters on the road it will have a cumulative effect of reducing traffic and pollution, and increasing physical activity and cycling awareness. I know that I am in a much better place physically and mentally when I can bike commute, and I spend a lot less on gas so it helps financially as well.