Bike Commuting Tips

I have been an on-again-off-again bike commuter.

I began many years ago when I didn’t want to pay for parking in downtown Minneapolis, and, I saw a very flashy “commuting” bike that I changed my ways for. I vowed to pay for the bike in the savings I made from not paying to park or drive. Unfortunately, I left that job before I regained my expense.

More recently, I took it up again, because I greatly disliked the I-94 traffic during rush hour; I loved that I could bike to or from work in only 5 minutes more time than it took to drive the same distance.

And I felt I should “pay off” my bike (even though it had been eight years), and, it felt great to get the exercise of a 20-mile round trip each day.

Now, I am Biking For Snow! I am biking instead of driving to reduce my carbon footprint. I hope you will too, so I am passing on my own tips and a few others I’ve found that I think worth sharing. Enjoy, and Bike For Snow!

Plan ahead

I can’t bike in work clothes. I don’t wear anything too fancy at work but do feel better after a change of clothes when I get there, and padded bike shorts make the whole experience more comfortable. A day or so before biking to work , I leave a few things in my office that I can leave there (ie, can get along without in the evenings). More specifically, work shoes (too big to carry each day), a wash cloth (to wipe away any sweat I show up to work with), deodorant (well, you know), and a hair brush. At the I-94hatedrushhour job, I had a shower accessible, so I left a complete shower kit and hair dryer.

Look at the weather forecast each week and pencil-in the days that look good for biking. Then, just like school days, leave your bike clothes out the night before, as well as your work clothes, lunch, bike water bottle, packed and ready for take off. If you do have a shower at work, you can hop right into your bike clothes in the morning, grab some breakfast and go! That reminds me, I always pack a second breakfast to eat when I get to work.

My friend, Therese, bikes to and from work year-round but has a temperature cut-off limit. If it’s 25 degrees fahrenheit or colder, she doesn’t bike. “It just makes my planning and decision making quicker,” she said. She also offered the tip, “if there is rain forecast in the morning and it’s not raining when I get up, I bike anyway. There are too many days when it’s forecast, I don’t bike, and it never rains.” Sounds like throwing a rain jacket in your bag might be valuable on those days.

Get a trunk bag

I used a back pack in my earliest days, but it always doubled the sweat on my back, even though I had a nice mesh suspension panel between me and the backpack. More distressing though, it created a kink in my neck that lasted a very long, uncomfortable time. I installed a nice aluminum rack with a quick-release lever so I can easily transfer from bike to bike, if needed. Then I slide a trunk pack on, large enough for a full day’s worth of gear; it has a decent sized main compartment and expandable pannier side panels, in case I have a lot of stuff to transport. I’ve learned a few tricks to packing too: put the heaviest stuff on the bottom, roll your clothes fairly tight to save space and avoid wrinkles, and make sure your bag is waterproof; if not, cover or pack all in a plastic bag.

Get Bike Lights and be reflective

You know how your car has it’s headlights on all the time, even during the day? I think that’s a good idea for bikes too. And, it would be a saving grace if you got caught on a ride home as it’s getting dark. I avoid biking after dark for obvious safety reasons. But, I have cut it close a few times. Also, I wear clothing with bright colors and reflective material – as much as possible.

Plan a Safe Route

There are more and more bike trails in the Twin Cities, that it makes commuting for many people much easier and safer. For the three destinations I have commuted to, I have been lucky to have 80% of my route on designated bike trails. Any other travel, I keep to the streets with the least amount of traffic. This sometimes makes for a longer comment but it feels safer.

For assistance in planning a bike route, Pedal Minnesota offers this handy way to find a route:

Carry Tool Kit and a Cell Phone

Okay, I’ll be honest. I have a tool kit and an extra tube and patch kit. Now. For each bike. However, if any bicycle part ever fell apart enroute, I’d just call my husband. But, I learned a lesson three years ago when said husband/knowledgeable bike fixer was out of town for the only two days of the year. I was biking to work and exactly half way, my back tire (of course) blew up! It’s lucky I didn’t fall off and hurt myself because I thought I was being shot at. It was a five mile walk home and a five mile walk to work. I had a tool kit and tube bag – on my other bike. The best choice I came up with was to call work and tell them I’d be late, figuring an hour and a half, then start walking. I can tell you I met two very nice gentlemen, both who stopped to ask if I needed help changing the tube (I had to admit I didn’t have one), the second actually tried to patch it with a one dollar bill, bless his heart. I lasted a few blocks, but I deeply appreciated his effort. At lunch time, I drove the office van to the closest bike shop, asked them to set me up with a new tube. I also bought another tool kit and bag and left $115 poorer.