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.