Bike Month Riding Tips: Take TwoMay 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
Thursday May 17, 2012 is Bike to Work Day in Los Angeles County. If you are planning to bike to work for the first time, that’s great! Here’s a few tips to help make your ride better.
Plan your route ahead of time. A route that works for you will make all the difference. Keep in mind that driving routes and riding routes aren’t always the same. Use a map to identify quieter side streets that you might use for a more pleasant ride. When using side streets, look for traffic signals at major cross streets. Google Streetview is great for this. You can also use Google directions (click on the bike button) to help with route suggestions. Typically you’ll get two or three options that will include exisiting bikeways and avoid hills (if possible). Of course, if you are comfortable with staying on major roads, go for it. Once you’ve identified a route, try driving it on your way to work first to make sure it’s okay. Then try riding it on the weekend to see how long it takes you (hint: Google bike directions will also give you an estimated travel time).
To help ensure you don’t get stranded with a flat tire, be sure to carry a patch kit, tire levers, a pump, and a spare tube with you. If you don’t know how to fix a flat, now is a great time to learn. You will be much less hesitant to ride if you know you can fix a flat out on the road. A multi-tool is also a good item to carry with you, just in case you need to tighten something that’s loose. You may also need a wrench to remove your wheels if they don’t have quick-release levers. As back-up, carry a cell phone or money for a cab or the bus if something happens and you simply can’t finish your ride.
You don’t have to wear spandex to ride a bike. Everyone has a personal preference. Dress however is comfortable for you. Keep in mind that if you ride (and sweat) in regular clothing, cotton gets wet and stays wet. If you prefer to wear shorts and a t-shirt, consider sweat wicking materials that will help you stay drier and more comfortable. Mountain bike shorts are a good option to consider if you don’t like spandex shorts. If you’re going to ride to work in special clothing and you need to dress up at work, take a change of clothes and toiletries to work before bike to work day. Then you can change and gussy up at work.
If you have items you must carry to work with you, there are several ways to go. You can take items in a back-pack. This works well if your gear isn’t really heavy, but your back is likely to get a little more sweaty. You can use a messenger bag. If you think you might want to carry things on your bike more regularly, consider investing in a basket or rack. A basket is a simple way to carry items and forego the backpack option. Baskets typically attach to the front fork and handlebars. If you get a rear rack, you can then carry items in a pannier bag designed to attach to the rack. This is especially good if you have heavy items that you don’t want on your back or in a basket that will affect your stearing.
Hygiene and clean up
Leave early enough so you can ride at a casual pace. If you want to avoid getting really sweaty, it’s a good idea to avoid riding fast or look for routes with less hills. Enjoy the ride. Give yourself some extra time to cool off once you’ve arrived. Use handy wipes or a camp towel to clean up when you get to work. Small camp towels can work as a wash-cloth that will dry quickly. If you have a shower facility at work, that’s great. If not and you really want to shower after your ride, there might be a health club or YMCA near your work that will allow you to use their showers. Once you’ve cleaned up, remember that your riding clothes might still smell a little. Your co-workers will appreciate it if you store your riding clothes in a place that’s out of sniffing range.
If your route is 7 miles or more, you might want to supplement your ride with transit. Metro buses, trains, and most local buses are free on bike to work day. Check Metro’s website for schedules and rules regarding bikes on trains and buses. All Metro buses and most local buses have bike racks on the front of the bus. Metrolink trains also have designated space (and some train cars) for bicycles. If you don’t live close to transit, ride to a point where you can catch a bus or train. Most likely transit won’t get you to the front door of your employer, so you’ll need to ride the last mile or two from the station or stop. Another option to consider on bike to work day is to ride to work in the morning and take the bus or train home. There’s no rule that says you must ride both ways. You’re more likely to be fresh and ready to ride in the morning and tired by the end of the work day. If so, reward yourself for riding in the morning by taking transit home.
Look around your workplace to see if there is designated space to park your bicycle. A locker or secure room set aside for bikes is ideal. If not, ask if you can secure your bike in an unused room or closet that can be locked. If you must lock your bike to a bike rack or fixed object outside, be sure to pick a location that is close to the main entrance of your building and that has a lot of pedestrian traffic. Visibility is key. Don’t lock your bike in a secluded location that’s out of sight. When locking your bike, be sure to lock at least one wheel and your frame. If you have quick release levers, take off the front wheel and lock both wheels and the frame. Never leave a wheel with a quick-release unsecured. They’re way too easy to steal. Remove any accessories that might easily be stolen as well. Things like battery powered lights, frame mounted pumps, or saddle bags are examples of things you want to take with you. If your seat-post and saddle have a quick-release, you might want to take them with you or secure them with an additional lock. A u-lock is the best way to go when choosing a lock. It may cost more than you want to spend, but an expensive lock is usually less expensive than another bike. In addition to locking your bike, you can also deter theft by loosening your rear-wheel quick release so the back wheel will jam against the frame when a thief tries to ride off with your bike. Just remember to re-tighten your quick-release before you ride again!