Friday, May 11, 2012

Beginning bike commuting? Start where you live. . .

I'm not biking to work exactly these days but you can!
If you are reading this blog because it's National Bike Month and you're considering your first bike to commute to work, congratulations!  Doing a little prep work definitely can make the difference between a successful first attempt and a disaster never to be repeated.  When I started bike commuting four years ago, I doubted that I'd be able to commit but blogs like Let's Go Ride a Bike, Bike Commuters and Copenhagen Cycle Chic sparked my interest in making my ride a pleasure rather than a drudgery.  Nothing replaces experience though, so I took a few practice rides before I actually biked to work. 

An image from my first year of bike commuting.
Spring weather means we have a lot more opportunities for trial runs so why not incorporate them into some of your weekend plans, like biking to the park, the coffee shop or Barnes and Noble.  Your trial runs give you an opportunity to consider what adaptations you are going to need to make to have a satisfactory bike commute to work.  What are you going to wear?  How are you going to carry your stuff?  Are there any tools, gear or accessories you need to carry with you or install on your bike to make your ride the best it possibly can be?

Have you ever noticed friends, family or neighbors who hop in the car for short trips easily accomplished by walking or biking?  Have you ever taken the car when walking or biking would have done as well?  Our friend Connor recently remarked that a parent who lived just a few blocks away had driven one of his daughters home after an afternoon visit.  Connor, a dedicated bike commuter with a BOB trailer perpetually latched to the rear of his bicycle, found this both amusing and odd.  It was not yet dark and only a few blocks so why get in the car for such a short trip? 

Note the reflective strap around the ankle.
No surprise that Connor and family arrived on bikes to share barbecued beef ribs last Sunday night.  They only live about a mile from our casa.  They packed the BOB with potato salad, cornbread muffins and a six pack of beer.  I guest they could have loaded into the car but biking to BBQ is just more fun and parking was a cinch.  They just pulled their bikes right up next to the house and unloaded their contributions to the feast directly on to the front porch.

It's not hard to create visibility after dark.
If you made this trip as a new cyclist with Connor and his family you'd learn a couple of things for a future ride, the first of which is - trailers are great for transporting larger hauls, including food and beer.  But realistically, most new riders venture into investing in trailers after they've committed to getting around on a bike.  For this post, I'd like to highlight the importance of lighting for a new cyclist.  The Boyles left our house after dark and we live in a Dark Skies city so the streetlighting is not particularly bright. 

As you can see from the photos,  Their bikes are outfitted with reflectors and lighting.  Connor's "safety green" jacket provides excellent visibility from considerable distance as well.  The whole family wore helmets, too, and while I'm not a regular helmet wearer, I think it's a pretty smart idea at night where we live.

So, if you are on the feeling a little nervous about a first bike commute to work, try practicing  with a few short trips in your neighborhood to places you were going to go anyway.  You probably will have more fun than you would have had you taken the car and  you'll probably learn a lot about what you should have on your bike to make your next trip even better. 

And now, without further ado, a few photos from our BBQ!  Maybe you know of one you can bike to!

A boy and his grill.
Grilled sweet corn!
Eat up everybody!


disabledcyclist said...

Very good post,my friend :)

The DC

anniebikes said...

This should inspire others to start making a few short trips. Incorporating fun things like a coffee shop destination is a great idea. Nothing like treats to encourage a ride. It works for me!

DAN said...

Nice cook out.

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