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Changing the Morning Commute - How to Bike to Work

Use these tips on how to bike to work to turn your morning commute into a key part of your exercise routine.
August 6, 2014
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If there's anything that puts a huge grin on your face as you arrive at your desk on a Monday morning, it's leaving the car at home and getting to work under your own steam. When you bike to work, you not only get a workout in before 9 a.m, but you can then sit with a happy glow enjoying your cup of tea, while adding up the cost of the fuel you've saved. It really is a win-win situation.

However, biking to work isn't always that straightforward. Before you decide to hop on the bike for your morning commute there are a few logistical considerations you may want to iron out. Here are some tips for those of you wondering how to bike to work based on my experience.

Prepare ahead of time

Are you ready?

Learn from my mistakes. My car was in the garage for some repairs, so I planned to bike to work but didn't check my bike over ahead of time. Cue panic at 8 a.m. when I realized my bike had a flat, I didn't have a spare inner tube and I hadn't left enough time to run to work instead. Not the greatest start to the day. If you're planning a bike commute, make sure your bike is in good working order the night before. I'd also suggest packing your bag beforehand. There's nothing worse than packing in a rush and arriving at work to find you have no clean pants.

Pack and test your bag

Obviously, when running or biking to work, you'll need a bag to carry a towel, work clothes and shoes, makeup etc. For those who choose to bike their morning commute, this is less of a problem as you can chuck your stuff in either a backpack or pannier and you're on your way. But biking to work isn’t the only option for those looking to get in a workout at the start of their day.

If you’re running to work, it’s important to make sure you find running with a backpack comfortable before you head out on the run to work. In my case, running with a certain backpack changes my posture enough that my shins are in excruciating pain which results in a very slow hobble, making me late for work. Test several different bags to find what works for you. The kudos you get from your colleagues for running to work disappear in a flash if you arrive late and whimpering in pain.

Laraine_cycle to work

Laraine preparing to cycle to work

Find someplace to clean up

Speaking of changing at work, I'm pretty lucky in that there is a shower at my office!  Not all companies have facilities for getting clean, so the thought of turning up sweaty and a bit stinky is not an appealing one for you or your colleagues! If you don’t have a shower at work or a nearby gym, body wipes and dry shampoo will become your best friends. It’s not ideal, but it certainly beats the alternative which involves a discreet word from the HR Manager about your 'personal hygiene'.

Know your route

Know your route

I'm quite lucky in that I only live a few miles from work, meaning a run or bike commute is very easily doable. Not everyone is lucky enough to live that close to the office. If your morning commute is longer than you can pedal before putting in eight hours, consider taking the bus or train. You can jump off a few stops earlier and make your way in from there.  

Plan for bad weather

Bad weather cycling

Your colleagues will think you are seriously hardcore if you arrive at work having run or biked your morning commute despite torrential rain! That happy glow I mentioned earlier will last all day in this situation, or at least until you have to get back into stinky damp clothes to do the reverse trip home. Trust me though, even putting on the sweat-soaked socks and sports bra that have been festering under your desk for eight hours won't kill the feeling of accomplishment you get as you arrive at home, looking down your nose at the car on the driveway. To reduce the impact of foul weather, have proper raingear and waterproof clothing, then try to find a way to dry out your gear during the day, whether you can leave it hanging in the locker room or wring it out at lunch.

Biking to work gives you energy to start your day, gets a workout out of the way and helps you save money on gas. Most parking garages in major cities even have bike racks you can use for free. If you’re not sure you’re ready to trade in your four-wheel morning commute just yet, find out if there’s a weekly or monthly ‘bike to work’ event in your town where you can ride in with other bike commuters and maybe grab a coffee in the morning or a pint after work before heading home. You may even find someone who rides your route regularly that you could join up with. Have you have ever tried biking or running to work? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below!

Image copyright: bikeriderlondon, Filipe Frazao, Vadim Georgiev, Dmitry Naumov
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  • Josh Harper

    I tried it a few times. It was only 9 miles each way and bought an entry level road bike. My biggest problem was that there was no bike lanes and on the way home it seemed really dangerous with so much traffic. The Three Foot Law seems really inadequate when people are passing you doing 60-65 and splitting the difference between me and an on coming car.

  • Ryan Mason

    I think commuting to work is highly rewarding and productive: you reduce your typical allotted time for exercise (which can be difficult to fit in for those with full-time jobs, children, and other obligations), reduce your carbon-footprint, as well as develop a much deeper appreciation for fellow bike-commuters. Probably the biggest set-back for any commuter is not having a decent way to clean-up upon arrival, and so that takes some creativity. My top 4 suggestions are:

    1) If you’re a somewhat new cyclist and your commute is more than 3-4 miles each way, don’t start commuting five days a week from the get go. The most successful commuters I’ve met are the ones that start by commuting one to two days a week and then increase their commuting volume once they have a good rhythm going and know how to easily prepare and plan for their commute.

    2) Make sure to eat more for breakfast than typical (especially the commute is over 6 miles) and make sure to bring some extra snacks to keep you going throughout the day. It’s much more difficult to have the energy and initiation to get on the bike for the ride home.

    3) Make sure your rig is well-prepared for commuting. Take it to a reliable local bike shop and have them install new kevlar belted tires with a good quality sealant (like Stans NoTubes or Orange Seal) so you are less likely prone to get a flat, evaluate the rest of the bike and replace anything else necessary, and make sure the bike is comfortable for commuting.

    4) Finally, if it’s a long commute (+15 miles), think about driving to work and leaving the car overnight so you can commute home by bike. The next morning, commute to work and then drive home. The best way to sabotage yourself is to be stressed out while commuting. If it stresses you out, you’ll stop commuting.

  • Mariana Moyano Menta

    Hi!
    Starting a new job soon in a new town and I just found out I’ll be 6 miles away. I’ve been cycling to the office at my current job but the distance is only half of that. I think I’m physically prepared, although I’ll definitely take on the advice in the comments about starting 2-3 days a week before going full time. Found really helpful tips here. I only hope I don’t need to cycle a lot on road. Wish me luck!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laraine Wyn Jones

Activities
Climbing, Trail Running, Cycling, Mountain Biking, Hiking
Favorite Gear
All Out Fuse
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