National Bike to Work Day falls on May 20th this year—the culmination of Bike to Work Week. With so many commuters feeling pain at the gas pump, what better way to cut down on the cost of your everyday travel, and get some exercise into the bargain?
But whether you're an accomplished velocipedist, or are planning to set off on two wheels this Friday for the first time since grade school, there are some things to bear in mind to make sure that you not only get there on time and in one piece, but enjoy the experience. Here are 5 things to consider:
Pack a bag
One thing that puts lots of people off cycling to work: it makes you sweat. Who wants to spend the day at work in clothes that you've just worked out in? And more to the point: who wants to sit within 10 feet of that person?
But there are ways around it, especially for those who work in less formal office settings. Bring a towel, even if you don't have access to a shower. Simply being able to wipe down after exercise goes a long way. (Many regular bike commuters keep baby wipes in their desk drawer.) And if you pack clean clothes to change into, the only reason your bike commute need ever cross a colleague's mind is if they catch sight of you on the road.
(While we're on the subject: resist the urge to layer on deodorants, colognes or perfumes. Those "cures" are often worse than doing nothing at all.)
Allow plenty of time
If it's your first time on a bike in a while, allow yourself a margin of error. Within cities, a speed of 10 miles an hour is do-able even for non-experienced cyclists. And remember: traffic signals apply to you whether you're on two wheels or four, so don't be tempted to blast through red lights to shave time off your journey. And remember: going slower also means you'll perspire less.
Check your equipment
This is as just important for everyday cyclists as it is for newbies. Properly maintained bikes are crucial for safety. Your checklist should include
- • Tires—check for wear and proper inflation
- • Brakes—in addition to checking whether they actually stop the bike, check for wear and tear, and whether they squeal or scrape when used.
- • Chain—should fit the bike properly and be lubricated
- • Lights—crucial if you're likely to be riding in low light
- • Bell
If you have doubts about your bike's road-worthiness, leave it at home.
The League of American Bicyclists offers the following five tips for better road safety on two wheels:
- Follow the rules of the road
- Be visible
- Be Predictable
- Anticipate conflicts
- Wear a helmet
Check out their website for more on each of those points.
Do What You Can
Not up for a 30 mile bike ride from the suburbs to your office? You don't have to be. Consider cycling a single leg of your commute—even if it's just a couple of miles to the nearest bus stop or train station. Or you could try driving to a parking facility midway between your home and workplace and cycling the rest of the way.
Enjoy the ride
If you do decide to set off on two wheels this Friday, be sure to take the time to appreciate the ride. And if you have time, why not snap a photo of your bike commute (be sure to pull over first) and send it in to email@example.com. We'll publish all suitable images—imaging some from our own biking efforts
--Phil Stott, Vault.com
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