It’s time: the weather is better, it’s light earlier in the day, street sweepers are out and gas is approaching (or past!) $2.00 per litre. Time to start using the bike more and the car less.
Some trips the switch is easy – quick trips to the grocery store or for coffee just require swapping car keys for bike locks and helmets. Others, like going to the office take some more organization before the trip.
First step for any ride is checking the bikes: pump up tires, checking breaks and gears, charging batteries on ebikes and making sure lights, locks, and bells are in good working order. Once you have everything in order it’s time to make a plan and get riding!
Tips for Commuting to Work
Think about how much time you need
For me the ride time to my office building and the drive time are pretty much equal thanks to a bike/pedestrian path network that bypasses a major road and a lot of lights. However the amount of time it takes to park my bike adds about 10 minutes to my commute. In a car you pull into the parking lot, get out, lock your car and enter the building. For bike commute it is a bit more complex. Consider how long it will take you to do all of this into your commute time:
– Enter the bike lock up area (mine is behind a locked door)
– Put bike in the rack, get out your lock(s) and secure to the rack.
– Turn off lights ect.
– Remove bag from the bike (unless you are using a pack in which case you get to skip this)
– maybe remove helmet and secure to your bike
– Leave lock up and enter the building.
As well consider the time if you need to change (or shower/change if needed and facilities are available) to be ready for work for example if it’s rainy you’ll need to add time because your ride will probably be slower and you might need to change when you get to the office.
Decide How You Will Get Your Stuff to The Office
I’ve tried a few different things: backpack, bike bag/bags, and bike basket.
– I like the freedom of the backpack but in the summer months it is just not enjoyable (my back gets way too hot and sweaty).
– Big bags are good, but once I switched from a regular bike to an ebike for my commute I had to give up my bag because it didn’t fit properly on my bike rack. I also wasn’t crazy about how dirty and wet it got during raining rides (although you can buy covers – like a rain coat for your bag).
– My preference is the bike basket. It’s the least attractive of the options but it is big enough to store everything I need, easy to load and unload. For wet rides I put my work bag inside a dry bag and then put the whole thing in the basket. If you are worried about things falling or bouncing out of the basket invest in a bungy cord and use that to hold everything in place.
Prepare for Weather
A big factor in bike commuting is the weather. I don’t ride to work or use my bike for errands in the winter because of the snow & the total lack of winter bike infrastructure in Kelowna so I’m not addressing winter rides here.
There are a few must have regardless of the season: a helmet, lights for the front and back, and a bell or other noise making device (to be honest though now that everyone wears some kind of headphones I find using my voice works better than a bell shouting “On your left” seems to get a better reaction than just ringing the bell).
In my experience Kelowna has three basic ride conditions:
Spring and Fall – great temperatures, clear skies.
– a light jacket
– bike gloves
– scarf or buff for the morning rides is helpful to keep your face warm
Early Summer and Late Fall (June and Oct especially) – Great temps, but then also rain.
– rain coat and rain pants if you have them
– spare pair of shoes at work in case your feel get wet
– bike gloves
– waterproof bag for my work stuff. I throw everything in a giant dry bag from MEC and strap it into a bike basket. It looks kind of silly when I arrive at work with my dry bag but at least I am confident my laptop is dry!
Summer – HOT and maybe smoky
– shorts and a t-shirt
– Clothes to change into at work.
– finger-less bike gloves
– for smoky rides consider wearing a mask as well to help filter the air you are inhaling.
Things I keep at work just in case
(If anyone who doesn’t know me opened my desk drawers they would be very confused hahaha)
– extra shoes & socks
– Sweater, sometimes I get a bit of a post ride chill. It’s nice to know I have a warm dry sweater to throw on.
– brush & hair elastics
– hand sanitizer – it’s great at removing chain grease!
– a change of underwear. There is nothing worse than getting caught in the rain on the way to work and having a damp bum all day.
– If you wear make up I suggest keeping some of your must haves in your desk too. (trust me when I say mascara and watery eyes from a cold ride aren’t a good office look!)
Enjoy the ride!
My best advice is to look at your route and adjust to make it enjoyable.
My first day ever riding to work I ended up riding home on a major road way on garbage day so I was riding alongside cars, trucks, garbage trucks, and buses. I did not enjoy it.
My second day I ventured off though a residential neighbourhood and although it added another 20 minutes (I got lost in a network of alleys, cul de sacs and deadend roads) it was way more enjoyable.
Since then I have become more comfortable riding on the main roadway but I still venture off at parts to a less traveled and more enjoyable ride.
Take some time to investigate your options:
What side streets are there, what bike paths, separated lanes and parks are on your way home?
If riding through parks remember to be aware of other people though – we have great little network in my area called Brandts Creek Linear park and I love riding through there but am extremely cautious when approaching corners, slowing down and on a few ringing my bell so people around the corner are aware that I am coming. When riding my ebike I also turn off pedal assist to lower the potential speed that I can reach.