May is Bike Month, a series of events sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists that take place throughout the month of May. And May 20th is the most fun day of all: Bike to Work Day.
Not only is biking to work great for the environment, but it also provides countless health and psychological benefits that are sure to keep you feeling great on the job. That dose of morning and evening fresh air will get those endorphins pumping to get you motivated for a productive day or to wind down after one. You’ll see sides of your city that you usually just zoom past unawares and find yourself filled with energy and creativity. After a day of repetitive motion, moving your muscles in new ways will challenge and stretch them. Best of all, you’ll save time, as you won’t have to make an extra trip to the gym.
Still, if you’ve never biked to work before, the concept may be a little intimidating. Here are a few ways to get it right.
1. Choose an Achievable Distance
If you’re new to this whole biking thing, make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew. If you live too far from the office to bike the whole way, determine what portion of your path will be most pleasurable for biking and take public transport the rest of the way. Most buses should be equipped with bike racks up front, and metros and trains should have dedicated bike cars. Alternatively, you could bike all the way in one day, leave your bike there in lieu of public transit for the commute home, and then bike home the next day.
2. Map Out Your Route
Not all routes are born equal. If your city provides bike maps, give one a peruse to see which ones run near you. If there aren’t any dedicated bike routes and paths nearby, Google maps can suggest one for you. Regardless, it’s a good idea to hop in the car and see where you’ll be going the day before so that you can pinpoint any trouble areas and either prepare yourself or possible reroute.
3. Dress Appropriately
There’s no need to go all out on fancy bike gear, even if you do decide to become a regular bike commuter. Still, it’s always advisable to wear padded bike shorts and lightweight, moisture wicking clothing rather than cotton so that you don’t get the chills and you keep the sweat away. Bike gloves are also advisable, as they’ll protect your hands and wrists should you fall. A rainproof cycling jacket or rain slicker is another must. All clothing should be easy for drivers to spot. If you’ll be riding in the dark, make sure to attach a light to your bike so you can see what’s ahead of you and to wear flashing LED lights to alert drivers to your presence.
4. Make Sure Your Bike is Ready
Check that both the front and back brakes are working. Free your chain of any gunk and grease it up so that it shifts smoothly. And of course, make sure there is enough
air in the tires. You want them full enough but not so full that they’re brittle and ready to pop.
5. Prepare a To Go Bag
Once you get to work, you’ll want to have a way of getting clean. If your office offers a shower or if you have a gym membership nearby, make sure to bring along everything you need for the shower and any hair dryers. You can also bring these things ahead of time and leave them where you’ll be showering.
If no showering is available, baby wipes can come in handy, as can a good sink wash. Even just changing into your work clothes can do the trick.
6. Learn the Proper Hand Signals
Part of keeping yourself safe on the road is knowing how to communicate with drivers about where you’ll be going next. Brush up on the proper hand signals so there’s no confusion.
7. Stay Safe
Sometimes, staying safe on the road means getting extra assertive. You may, for example, want to get into the center of your lane when the road is curvy and you don’t want cars to risk passing you. The center of the road is also necessary for turns. Other essential safety measures include staying well out of car and truck blind spots, especially when they’re turning at intersections.
8. Leave a Little Extra Time
You never know if you’ll encounter any hurdles along the way, like bad weather or a flat tire. As such, give yourself a little extra time to get to work. The worst that can happen is that you get there a little early and can start your day of productivity before anyone else is in.
9. Bike With a Buddy
Biking can be so much more fun when a buddy is in on it with you. Whether it’s a colleague who lives close to you or
a friend who works in the neighborhood, buddying up is a great way to pass the time while you struggle up those big hills. Doing so makes you much more likely to stick with it beyond this one day event.
10. Take Advantage of the Perks
Many cities now celebrate Bike to Work Day directly. The city of Austin, for example, provides bikers with a “passport” for which riders can get stamps at each station they pass — stations stocked with snacks, coffee and water. At the end of the day they host a Bike to Work Day party at a local bar. Taking part in such events is both delicious and a great way of engaging with the community.
Biking to work has many benefits for you and your community. This bike to work day, celebrate with joy and style!