The Beauty of the Commute
- SV Essentials for Riding to Work -
by Aaron Allen
For a change of pace, we'll talk a bit about how you can increase your mileage, fitness and quality of life – all on your way to work. Yes, you too can commute by bike!
Although it is often daunting, commuting by bike is not necessarily the extreme activity you might think it is. There are however some tricks and equipment that can make it safe, fun and easy ... and we’ll eliminate some common fears and excuses.
First off, common excuses: “It’s foggy” - “It’s cold” - “I’m scared of cars” - “ I’ll show up to work a mess." These are among the excuses we’ll overcome in the next few paragraphs.
Let’s talk about the weather. Our recent winter was easily the rainiest in recent memory, but we still live in California and few places can compete with the Bay Area's year round riding weather. We know people in Minneapolis who commute over 200 days a year, so we really have no excuse. There is no bad weather, just bad gear. Fortunately, we proudly stock some of the best gear to get you through those inclement days. When it does get a bit iffy out there, we’ve got you covered, literally. The trick is to understand what you need to wear in different conditions. Using the age-old Layering Principle will keep you in good shape out there.
Although warm weather riding seems simple and straightforward, there are key layers to keep on hand. A good pair of arm warmers or skins will help to keep you warm and also shield you from the summer elements. Vests come in different thicknesses to protect you from the chill, wind and even rain. Most vests can also be rolled up and easily stashed in your rear pocket when temperatures rise and are then easy to access when the chill returns.
A few of our favorite Summer layers include:
MAAP cycling caps - keep sun and rain out of your eyes
Velocio Arm Screens - high stretch, uber comfortable sun protection
Assos Blitzfeder vest - super light and packable
If you find you are nervous about riding through traffic, staying visible is one of your best defenses. You should always follow the rules of the road (or trail) and be alert; watching for cars, pedestrians and other cyclists. To help others see you coming, we recommend a good head and tail light during dark hours or inclement weather. You may even consider continued use of lights during the day.
Another great tool to let others know you are coming, whether you choose to ride road or dirt is the Spurcycle bell. It is a small but powerful bell that comes in handy to help you alert fellow cyclists when you are passing, catch the attention of distracted tourists while crossing the bridge or even to let hikers know you are coming around a blind turn on the trails. Staying alert and helping others know you are coming is key to a successful and safe commute.
Lastly, if you are concerned about showing up to work sweaty or messy, there are a number of things you might consider. Ask your facilities manager if they can install showers or perhaps work with a neighboring fitness facility for access to their showers. If you aren't able to gain access to a shower, it's okay! Pack some baby wipes and freshen up in the bathroom. If necessary, plan in advance and bring a bag to work the day before you will commute, so you have all of the things you will need to get ready for work, without having to carry them while you ride. Don't worry, your co-workers will be impressed by your dedication to ride.
SV master mechanic Bret Winters celebrating winning 2015 Marin County Bike Commuter of the Year
We hope you have found these tips useful and will consider trying out the commute. Please feel free to stop by the shop if we can help you to prepare or pick out any equipment specific to your needs. Be sure to also report back to let us know how your commuting goes. Good luck!