Now that I ride to work, where else can I ride?

This is the final post in the Quick Tips for Bike Commuting. So far in the series I have covered what kind of bike you need for bike commuting, steps for safely getting to and from work, what kind of facilities do you have at work, and how do you get your stuff to work. The question is now where else can I ride? There are many people who start bike commuting and realize how much they enjoy traveling by bike, that they set out on an adventure.

Rethink your daily transportation options, beyond commuting to work. I currently have 3 bikes and am always talking to my wife about the benefit of this one or that one. I also have three cars and am finally at the point that I am thinking about getting rid of one of them. It has sat in the driveway and not been driven much if at all for better part of a year or more. My wife has even said that the commuter bike should be my third car – meaning that I have put more miles on it this past year than I did the car. She would rather see us put more money into the commuter bike than into that car! I have enjoyed reading the blog Car Free Days from start to finish and they talked about how they started going car free certain days of the week and eventually car free. They have gone from 4 cars to none. Their entire family has ridden the Pacific Crest Bike tour.

Bike touring would be a dream of mine. I think it would be a great adventure. The website Bike Overnights– Don’t wait to go Cross Country. Bike Overnights encourages people to take advantage of shorter trips and to take overnight trips near home. On the website people post about the different overnight adventures as inspiration. One aspect of the site that I really like is the first overnight page. It covers many of the basics for traveling by bike. The resources includes a great collection of information like packing lists and links to active forums to ask questions of other people who travel by bike.

Just one example of some of the amazing photography on the Give a Bike blog.

Just one example of some of the amazing photography on the Give a Bike blog.

One of my goals for 2014 is to do some bike touring this year. I think I might attempt do ride Skyline drive with my father acting as a shuttle for the trip. I would also like to attempt to tour along either the New River Trail Park or maybe the Great Allegheny Passage  (Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD).

Once you have conquered a bike tour, the sky’s the limit! What about cross country travel? Many times people undertake an adventure such as this to raise money for a charity or multiple charities. I would want to encourage you to take the time to read the Give a Bike blog It is about a couple who traveled through all 50 states. The photography through out the blog will certainly inspire you and the writing will most definitely have you laughing and cheering them on.

Where will your bike take you?


This is the final part of my Quick Tips for Bike Commuting series. You can find the table of contents post here.

How do I get my stuff to and from work?

at salem lake

A little detour on the way home. (An example of panniers).

Think about what you take to and from work on a daily basis. Pack your lunch? Listen to an iPod? What about your phone, keys, etc?

So, how do I get my stuff to and from work if I am biking?

When I drive to work, I carry a backpack. I put my water bottle, coffee, emergency rain gear,  iPod and headphones, and the book I am currently reading in a backpack.

In this post, I plan to discuss how to get that type of stuff to and from work. There are a few options and I hope to evaluate each objectively. I do believe that you have to choose the one that works for you.

Backpack:  If you are just getting started bike commuting you could snag a backpack and use it. To be honest, I have never used a backpack to carry my stuff on my bike. One of the reasons why I did not use it was because when I mountain bike I use a hydration reservoir in a pack and I could feel the water shift around as I moved on the bike. I thought that would decrease my flexibility to move around on the bike. I also thought that an eleven mile commute would be uncomfortable with a backpack on my back.

Manufacturers do make packs designed for commuting. Osprey is an example of a backpack with a back that lifts the pack off your back and has convenient commuting features. You can start with a backpack on your commute and then decide if you would like to try some of these other options.

Messenger bags: I would love to have a messenger bag to use but I think that it would fall in the same category as a backpack while riding on longer rides. Too hot for me and not stable when riding. If I had a shorter commute and/or got on and off the bike more often they might be a better fit for me. However, some messenger bags do have an extra strap to wrap around your body to keep it in place. You can watch bike messenger videos on YouTube and they predominately use messenger bags. I think the reasoning is that they are on and off the bikes so much as they run their errands.

Panniers: The name is derived from Old French for bread basket. They are usually bags but I have even seen people use kitty litter boxes! They make sense if you are DIY kind of person but I bought a set of panniers from Performance Bike and I have been fairly pleased with how they work (a review to come later).

The bags should be water proof or (you can do like I do) and put all your electronics and paper stuff that you do not want to get wet into ziploc bags. Some panniers are simply large bags that you just put your stuff in but others have multiple outside pockets so you can put the things you access first at work in an accessible pocket. Depending on how much weight you have in the depends on how your bike handles. Some bikes have mounts for a rack to add panniers to the front and the back. I currently only use a rear rack with panniers on the back.

It does not too negatively effect how I perceive that bike handles. Some are definitely a bit difficult to carry while off the bike.

Bike Trailer:  Some people use a bike trailer to carry their stuff in at the beginning of the week and then ride a lighter or faster bike on the days they don’t have to carry as much. I would really enjoy having a trailer but I can not think where I would store it on the days I am not using it. The trailer would be able to carry more weight than you can put in panniers. It would change the way your bike rides and handles. I have read about people who bike tour and use a trailer and say they love it. It takes a majority of the weight and puts it on another wheel and the frame of your bike. This would probably the most expensive option though you can get some very expensive and very nice panniers.

Bottom line is that you will need to get your stuff to and from work. For a beginner bike commuter I would suggest starting with a backpack or if your bike has attachment points for a rack then panniers might be best for you. There is no wrong way to do it, just make sure your stuff is secure and will hopefully stay dry. Get riding!

This is part of my Quick Tips for Bike Commuting series. You can find the table of contents post here.

What are the facilities at work like?

So far I have covered getting a bike and helmet for your commute and tips for planning your route. Now that we made it to work I will be exploring a few aspects in regards to your facilities to make your commute a bit easier.

In this installment of quick tips to get bike commuting I am hoping to present some questions that you would need answers to make your bike commute a success. Technically, I guess, you should have looked at these things before you rode to work! Some of this information varies depending on the length of your commute. My commute is a little almost 11 miles to work.

Before I rode to work my thought was what am I going to wear to ride? Since I was comfortable riding in jerseys and bib shorts being a guy who has ridden a lot of road miles, I decided that would be what I wear to commute. It is not necessary but it does make a longer commute more comfortable, especially if you have the ability to change clothes once you get to work. This meant that I would have to change clothes at work because I could not nor would I want to wear my riding clothes all day.

I know that I scoped these things out before I decided to ride to work. I spoke with one of my managers and she pointed me in the right direction to get some answers. Since I was riding almost 11 miles one way, I wanted to be able to shower when I got to work. I know of some people who have short enough commutes that they ride in their everyday clothes. I could not really imaging riding in business casual almost 11 miles. I find it easier to change. I found that my work has a YMCA Express in the building but the showers are outside of the YMCA so that means I do not have to have a membership to use the showers.

Another question is how am I going to get myself clean and presentable for work? I put some clothes, towel, deodorant, soap, towel & washcloth in a locker and lock it in the locker. I have not been asked to move it yet (thank goodness). I usually bring fresh underclothes the day I ride.  During the summer when I am riding on a more regular basis I would bring all of this stuff in when I drove in (once a week, due to meeting schedules) and take it home when I drove just because it made life easier.

bike parking at workA third question would be where am I going to park? I found that the place to park my bike was an unattached bike rack near the smokers hangout. The only benefit was that it is monitored by security. I was not excited about this less than secure place to park.  One time when it was raining, I brought my bike inside and a security guard said that I could not leave it there. I asked someone and found a great place to park. I now park it in a computer lab that people log into for training. So there is no people (usually) in the lab and it is climate controlled and very secure!

I greatly enjoy the days I bike commute for a multitude of reasons but one of them is the excellent parking spot!

Now that we know what our facilities are like at work, next time we’ll explore “How do I get my stuff to and from work?”

This is part of my Quick Tips for Bike Commuting series. You can find the table of contents post here.

How am I going to get there?

In the last post, I talked about the pros and cons of different bikes for your bike commute. Now it is time to think about the route you will take to get to work. Planning your route is as important as picking your bike. I am always exploring different ways home especially when I have the time to turn around if the roads do not connect the way I thought they would. 

How am I going to get there?  Or in other words which direction should I ride to get to work? When planning your bike commute you need to think through your route.  More than likely you are not going to ride the same route you drive to work, I know that I do not. Usually when you drive you go the fastest way between two points. Driving, I usually jump on the interstate and then cruise up a 4 lane divided road into the heart of the city but biking I will take a smaller road with slower speeds to the downtown. When you are bike commuting, you are taking into account traffic volume, distance of the ride, and the amount of time it will take. All of those impact your timely arrival to your place of employment. Taking a different route by bike is one of the hidden benefits of riding to and from work. You can see and experience more of the city you are riding in with a bike. If a shop or something catches your fancy you can stop and take a look a lot easier with a bike than a car. Plus it is much easier to find a parking space for your bike!

a great tool to explore potential routes to work

a great tool to explore potential routes to work

One of the best tools I used to figure out my route was to start with Google maps and use their bicycling button. This is a good way to check out traffic. You can drop the little man icon which gives you a view of the street on the map and a look at most streets. I was familiar with some of my route but there was part of it that I wanted to see before I was riding my bike down the road. It also helped me to be familiar with landmarks at key turns along the way. Once I got a route from Google I printed off the directions and took a test ride one Saturday.

Planning your route is an important step but I also believe taking a test ride or two of the route is beneficial. It lets you see what the ride is like. When I was taking the test ride I realized on one section that this would not work. I had to rethink my route. I was coming down a decent hill and trying to make a turn onto a gravel parking lot. It was very difficult to do safely with people in cars coming down the hill after me (I needed both hands to stop and could not signal that I was stopping). It was further complicated by cars coming up the same hill at decent speed. I did not want to turn into the parking lot too fast and wreck on the gravel.

A test ride also lets you see a glimpse of what the traffic might be like. I took my first few test rides on a Saturday which allowed me to enjoy the ride without as much traffic on the road. The problem is that each day traffic is different. Making the test ride also allows you to see how difficult or easy the ride is without having to work (do your job) in between your rides.

So far we have covered getting a bike and helmet for your commute and tips for planning your route. Stay tuned the next post I will cover exploring your facilities at work.

This is part of my Quick Tips for Bike Commuting series. You can find the table of contents post here.

What kind of bike (and helmet) do I need?

The dictionary says that

Commute means to travel some distance between one’s home and place of work on a regular basis.

I challenge you to consider bike commuting as a viable option of transportation. It is a great way to get to work and get some exercise. I hope that this will help you find some answers to common questions about bike commuting before you get started. I am writing this as a guy who rides almost eleven miles one way when I commute. I am sure people who ride shorter/ longer distances will have experiences different that mine. I will attempt to include links for commuting resources as I uncover them.

First step would be that you need a bike and a helmet.

I was asked in a comment on this post, “What kind of bike should I ride?” I think you can get any bike to start bike commuting. I would encourage you to get one that you are comfortable on. Everybody is comfortable on a different kind of bike. It would also help to make sure you have one that is mechanically sound (meaning the tires hold air, it shifts correctly, and can stop properly.) I think that you would want to find one that fits you as well.

A mountain bike (one without any suspension) might be a great starting point for a bike commuting. It gives you an upright ride and possibly a sturdier frame to handle you and your stuffs weight. Some have the ability to add a rack and that really makes your commute easier. The wider tires give you a little suspension over poor city streets and make it easy to do a little off road if you need too.

A road bike is another option because it is built for the road. It is faster and has a more aggressive rider position. Sometimes you can find one with the ability to add a rack but not usually. You will also find that it lacks the space to add fenders should you want them.

my bikeI use what is considered a cyclocross bike. It resembles a road bike positioning for the most part but it also adds some features that make it my “ultimate choice” for commuting.  The specific frames differ because they have differing width/ clearance for tires or fenders. Some run disk brakes like higher end mountain bikes do. Plus as an added benefit the cables are generally routed on the upper side of the top tube, which allows the rider to carry the bike if you have to. This upper attachment of cables also prevents the them from being contaminated by dirt.

I also recommend a helmet because you only have 1 brain and brain replacements are not usually covered under most insurance plans. All helmets should be covered by the proper certifications. Find one that fits and is certified.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned when we talk about planning your route. If you have any questions about bikes please leave them in the comments below.

This is part of my Quick Tips for Bike Commuting series. You can find the table of contents post here.

When You Want to Stay but Can’t

In my first post I shared some of the emotions that I was feeling when I was laid off. I hope by being honest and sharing my struggles it will help to encourage those of us who want to stay but can’t. I am not saying that this is the 3 or 5 step plan you need to follow to help you move on, but these are some of the first steps I took to process the experience. It is just a recounting of the process that I have walked after I was laid off.

Want to read more? I’m guest posting this week at The Longer Haul.

Quick Tips for Bike Commuting

I believe that bike commuting is a great way to get to work, save gas, and get in shape. bikecommuting wheelI am basing this on my experience of commuting over 1600 miles in 2013.  I hope that these posts will help you get started. May your obstacles to commuting to be more like speed bumps instead of road barricades.

This post will serve as a table of contents for the posts.

What kind of bike (and helmet) do I need?

How am I going to get there?

What are the facilities at work like?

How do I get my stuff to and from work?

Now I can ride to work, where else can I ride?

When You Want to Stay but Can’t

January 10th 2010 is a date that has marked my life probably more than my birthday, anniversary, and birth of children combined. It was the day my pastor was going to reveal to us staff members (one by one) the vision and plan to turn a corner in the recent struggling history of the church. I was excited about getting to see what was next for our church. I was approaching 3 years at this church and really felt like I was really making progress in our efforts as a student ministry. But, January 10th ended up…

Want to read more? I’m guest posting this week at The Longer Haul. See today’s post here then stick around to see my part two later this week, also exclusively at The Longer Haul.

Investment in old age!

Commuting by bike is an investment in old age!

I read this quote on a forum that I frequent and I really had to share with you why I like to ride my bike. Here are a few reasons while I like riding my bike:

1. I find that I sleep more deeply. I find that on the days that I ride to and from work I can life is betterfall asleep within minutes after laying down on the bed. I believe that the sleep is also deeper and more restful sleep. I read Professor Jim Horne from the Loughborough University Sleep Research Centre say that “Exercising outside exposes you to daylight, this helps get your circadian rhythm back in sync, and also rids your body of cortisol, the stress hormone that can prevent deep, regenerative sleep.” I know that I have found this winter when I am not riding as much, my sleep is not as restful as it was this summer.

2. My brain is more stimulated and I am more awake. During the summer I would ride to work and people would be “you need to lay off the coffee” and I would say ”I have not had any coffee yet. I just rode to work today!” That usually made them nervous and they tried to take my coffee from me! My ride to work is 10.8 miles and usually takes around 40 minutes from door to door. It gets my blood flowing and I feel more awake after riding instead of driving. The blood flow and the oxygen pumping to the brain help regenerate the brain cells. An Illinois University study said that cycling helps build new brain cells in the hippocampus – the region responsibility for memory. FYI in this study, memory is also noted to deteriorate starting at the age of 30. YIKES.

3. It heals my heart. This is true on a physical level and an emotional level. Purdue University conducted a study and it proved that regular cycling can cut the risk of heart disease by 50 percent. In the past 3 years, I have found out that my heartbeat is “regularly irregular.” My doctor’s prognosis was for me to keep exercising and strengthening it. So keep on pedaling is what I heard!

Salem Lake Greenway4. Many people think that they have to start running to lose weight but I have found that riding 22-25 miles multiple times a week lets me enjoy a lot of food. According to the Daily Burn website, where I record my rides, I am burning 1100-1450 calories just riding to and from work. I don’t accomplish that driving my Civic. I have also found that when I commute for a couple days in a row my metabolism is ramped up. It helps that my rides are spread between the beginning and end of the day.

5. The final reason I am going to give you today for why I like to ride my bike is that I find that it helps me to mentally disengage from work and process my thoughts to get my mind into a better place. While riding you can just think about climbing that next hill, if you are going to make it through that next light, or why that car drove so close to you (okay that might not help with mental relaxation). But it does give me space away from the demands of life and I find that I am ready to engage my kids after a long day in the office. Same effects at the beginning of the day happen at the end of the day. I awake and my blood is flowing and ready to go for my wife and our kids.

Do you ride? Do any of these reasons give you motivation to get out there and ride?