National Bike to Work Day is just one day in May, so we thought it would be a good idea to pull together some ideas for how you can keep on riding no matter what the calendar says. Nearly all of us learned to ride a bike when we were kids, but it takes an extra bit wisdom and knowledge to successfully commute to your job on your bike every day. You need to factor in the weather, the roads, the cars and trucks on those roads, and your fellow riders. You need the right gear and you need to pedal the right path. Take some time right now and read these six suggestions for how to keep riding your bike long after Bike to Work Day is over.
Get the gear
Safety gear is key for bike riding. (Photo: William Hook/Flickr)
No, I don’t mean stylish racing gear or expensive wheels — I’m talking safety gear. It’s a lonely world out there on the road for the average biker, who is at a disadvantage, physics-wise, with nearly every other moving object on the road. In addition to obvious gear like helmets and bike lights, you should also consider the Airzound Horn, an extremely loud bike horn that uses a bottle of compressed air to crank out bounds-busting decibels. When you unleash the Airzound on an encroaching automobile, the driver will hear it, as will every other vehicle within a few hundred feet.
Make sure you have bright lights festooned on your bike, facing both forwards and back, and think about buying clip-on lights for your backpack or jacket. Reflective ankle straps keep your pants from getting caught in your gears and provide another point of light to catch a motorist's eye. Get a full-on reflective vest and wear gloves. If you pitch over your handle bars, you're coming down on your hands, and you don’t want to crash down on bare skin.
Research your shower options
If you don't have shower facilities at work, figure out options to wash off the sweat after your ride. (Photo: PhotoAtelier/Flickr)
If you happen to work for a company like the seven bike-friendly employers that we highlighted on this list, then you probably don’t need help finding a shower to use after riding your bike to work. Truly bike friendly companies have to figure out some way for employees to wash off the sweat of their ride, whether it’s by installing in-office shower suites or contracting with nearby gyms to use their facilities.
If your workplace doesn’t offer show facilities, you'll have to figure out options on your own. If you don’t have a gym nearby where you could shower, you might have to resort to the emergency shower — some baby wipes and Gold Bond Powder.
Alternatively, you could…
Get an electric bike
Electric bikes get you there faster and more easily. (Photo: Richard Masoner/Flickr)
Electric bikes do one of two things — get you to your destination faster or less sweaty. I’ve been a happy electric bike rider for the past four years, and although I work from home and don’t have a commute to ride my bike on, I have been happy with my e-bike for getting around town and doing light errands. An electric bike from a company like Pedego, CurrieTech or Evelo is a fantastic way to put a little zing in your morning and afternoon ride.
Learn how to take care of your bike
It's key that you know the basics of taking care of your bike. (Photo: bagaball/Flickr)
What’s worse than getting stuck on the side of the road with a broken bike? Getting stuck on the side of the road with a broken bike after a long day at work. Or worse yet, doing the same in the morning right before an important meeting with a client.
You don’t need to graduate from bike mechanic school to be able to handle most of the likely malfunctions that could pop up on a ride. Get a book, take a class at the local community college, or corner a better-informed friend to spend a weekend teaching you all you need to know. You will need a good set of tools.
Learn, at the very least, how to fix a flat tire. You should be able to remount your chain back on the cogset and crank and know how to adjust your brakes. Oil your chain, keep all your fasteners tight, and generally keep your bike in good working order.
Be aware of the dangers you face when you ride. (Photo: Nadia Hatoum/Flickr)
Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety and need to ride accordingly. Assume that a driver in a car hasn’t seen you until you make eye contact with him. Assume that the car turning right is going to pull out quickly in front of you and that all of those doors in the parked cars are going to open up right before you ride by. Have your hand on the brakes during especially dodgy moments and above all else, value your safety and your life.
I don’t mean to suggest that you ride timidly, just that you are fully aware of the dangers of life on the road as a cyclist and prepare for as many as you can foresee.
Build a posse
Get organized and ride with a group. (Photo: bill mulder/Flickr)
Remember when you were a kid riding to school? As you got nearer to school in the morning, you’d slowly collect other kids on bikes as you rode by their streets and neighborhoods.
You can recreate that feeling as a grown-up by doing some good ol’ fashion organizing. Find other people in your company and in nearby companies who also ride their bikes to work. Even if you end up living on opposite sides of town from a potential riding pal, at the very least you’ll be more organized and better positioned to ask for things like better bike racks and shower facilities.