Posted this a couple years ago when I first moved down to Greenville, now that I’m back in the Engineering game and starting to train again for 2016 it’s relevant again!
So it turns out working a full time job and putting in a respectable Pro-level training load is a wee bit of a time commitment, thus I’ve been neglecting the blog (plus it’s the off season). Initially moving down to Greenville I cut out my bike commuting because of my short 10-15 minute commute. However I quickly realized once training started up how difficult it was to motivate myself to ride after work and get the hours in. I forgot how easy it is to pile on the miles with bike commuting There are all sorts of benefits of commuting to work by bike, but for me it really boils down to just two: time management and stress.
Time management is a big factor for me when I’m trying to put in the training hours. Driving to work is a huge time killer and was particularly so for me when I lived up in Cincinnati. The commute could easily top 30 minutes each way. Riding my bike that same distance took only 45 minutes. Since I was going to train most days after work anyway, it really just freed up another hour of my day. Additionally, bike commuting was extremely consistent in terms of travel time. Without traffic (which on I-75 in Cincy was a total crap shoot) to worry about I could leave at exactly 8, get to the gym at exactly 8:45, shower and be at work by 9 every day. The ONLY time I was late commuting by bike was when I got a flat tire. This commute became so routine for me that I started to dread my forced off days where I’d have to rest the legs and drive in. The miles quickly add up as well. Even without additional training or detours that was 6 hours on the bike during the week, not too bad.
As far as stress relief goes I didn’t even realize how stressed out driving made me until I started riding. It may have been because I knew I was essentially wasting time in the car, or just the fact that driving during rush hour and sitting parked in traffic is always a pain, but I would become extremely stressed out driving to work. Whenever I rode to work I knew I already had some of my training already built into the day which helped me relax and focus on work. I’d also show up to work very alert and awake since I’d already been exercising.
I’ve become a total convert of bike commuting, but it definitely takes ALOT of planning to make it enjoyable and worthwhile, however once you have a routine going it’s a blast. Here’s some of the things I’ve learned, if anyone still reads this blog I hope it can help you start or improve your commute:
1. Find a shower
This is tough to go without, I found a gym near my place of work that I joined. The money I saved in gas quickly paid for the membership each month. If you’re training after work you’re going to shower twice a day anyway.
2. Get a locker
This makes your life a whole lot easier. Not only can you keep shampoo/soap/deodorant there, carrying wet cycling gear to the office isn’t an option sometimes (it smells). If you get to expert level of commuting you can leave cycling/work clothing there for a few days worth. Bringing this stuff in on off days allowed me to commute/train backpack free without having to stop off at home before heading out to good routes.
3. Bring an extra pair of underwear to leave in the locker
You will forget and it will be uncomfortable
1. Scout some routes
The route you use to commute is VERY important. Take an easy day on the bike to pre-ride your commute. This way you won’t get lost the first time you ride in (and end up being late), you also wont be time limited and can check out other roads that might seem better for commuting
2. Avoid busy roads
Obvious, but if you need to jump on a high traffic road always go for 4 lanes. You’ll be surprised how much space you’ll get from drivers, even in traffic, if they have another lane to pass you in.
– A sub-but very important-point to riding a 4 lane road is to ride in the MIDDLE of your lane. If you gutter yourself people will pass you without changing lanes and will get WAY to close for comfort
3. Avoid Suburban Areas
This may seem counter-intuitive but it’s been my very consistent experience that the more suburban (vs urban) the less tolerant people towards bike. Not sure what the reason exactly, but in the hundreds of commutes I did through Cincinnati I never experienced aggressive drivers in the more urban or poorer areas of the city. However without fail whenever I crossed into Glendale I had people giving me pieces of their mind out their window or with their horn.
4. Avoid large intersections
They kill your flow, add time to commute, and are usually highly trafficked by impatient people.
5. Explore new routes
After a few months I followed some random guy commuting and he took me behind an old Jim Bean factory to this pedestrian bridge across the freeway, this took 2 major intersections out of my commute. In a city there’s all sorts of weird oddities like this, so once you get your basic route down, don’t be afraid to try new ones out.
1. Ride 25mm tires or bigger
Less flats, nuff said. I had a flat in the west end of Cincy once….switched over to beefy tires immediately
2. If you ride with a backpack you’ll have to tilt your saddle down or raise your handlebars
It will feel different
3. Get lights
Or not, getting caught out in the dark in the hood is actually a great excuse to leave work on time.
4. Ask if you can keep your bike in the office
Lot less headache and worry, plus you can ride your sweet bike in instead of a beater.
5. Get fenders
Riding in the rain is fun, and people give you all sorts of weird looks
1. Get your stuff ready the night before
Trust me it your motivation for riding into work is very low at 7 am
2. Run errands on your way home
Adds some miles, also multi-tasking
3. Start in the summer
Less clothes required, less dress up time, easier to start the routine.
3. Keep your head on a swivel
Don’t get distracted by speedometer, music, etc. Your senses are the only thing between you and getting creamed by some idiot driver not paying attention.
Be obvious and ride like a Honey Badger, Honey Badger don’t care
This took me some time to learn but greatly improved my overall quality of commuting: Don’t give a shit about pissing off drivers.
You are riding with people in 2 ton metal contraptions whizzing past you with not always the most competent people at the helm. Think of the drivers for a second: they’re in a rush, they’re on their smart phones, they may be drunk, they may be dozing off, who knows. The bottom line is don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings, be as obvious of a cyclist as possible. Ride in the middle of the lane, pull in front of people at stop lights, wave your arms wildly when turning. It may not convince any drivers to love cyclists, but really, a few people getting pissed off is a small price to pay when you consider the consequence of being hit by a car. If someone has to slow down because of you, yells at you, or honks at you, they’ve noticed you.
Those are just some things I’ve done and work best, hopefully it’s helpful to anyone considering it. Oh yeah and there’s all that, saving money and saving the environment stuff that goes along with bike commuting.