With the onset of spring, many people focus their attention on spending more time outdoors. A popular choice is cycling, particularly here in New England which has a strong history of mountain biking and road riding. I’d like to share some advice about combining a few passions many of us share – as my son says, “saving the world”, exercise, and something we all need to do: commuting to work.
Many people are willing to try a ride into work on that perfect sunny Friday, and I encourage that to establish a baseline. How long does it take? What route will I ride? Do I need a series of airbags installed on my bike? What do I do with my latte and podcasts? Once these questions have been answered, you’re halfway there.
When things turn sour outside, as they often do in New England, I’m here to let you know that you can continue to ride to work even though it’s less than ideal riding. It’s a mindset.
Here’s a list of things to help you get started:
- Make sure your bike is in good tune and comfortable. Any local shop can do this, and I encourage local bike shop repair classes or online tutorials for basic maintenance. This comes in handy when things happen on the road, as they sometimes do.
- Install a good set of plastic fenders with mudflaps. “Unbreakable” ones are best as some have a tendency to shatter in temps below 10 or 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, I’ve had this happen! Having fenders will increase the number of days you can ride tenfold as the streets are often wet after precipitation, but these fenders will keep you perfectly dry.
- Carry spare tire tubes, patches, tire removal tools, an air pump, and basic multi-tool wrench kit available at any bike shop or online. You can fix almost anything with this basic setup.
- Stay cool and/or warm. Many offices (ours included) offer shower facilities that are great for really hot days. Simply wearing shorts and a t-shirt riding moderately and changing at work is an effective solution. Most people tend to stop riding when it cools down, but I find it the best time to ride. It’s easy to stay warm on a bike when you’re working hard!
And here’s a list of must-have equipment:
- Wind proof vest or jacket
- Wind proof gloves
- Quick-dry riding pants
- Ear warmers. I use a great Swedish product called Earbags.
- Toe warmers and shoe booties. I ride with clipless pedals and shoes which are designed for efficiency, not warmth. Toe covers are great to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Below that I ride with a full neoprene zip up boot cover. These are perfect for anything colder and deep snow as well. I will also use my snowboard gear for really snowy/ cold days. Goggles, heavy gloves, jacket, etc will get the job done. You can also invest in winter tires with studs.
- Proper lighting. Please spend the money on a quality flashing tail light and the best headlight you can afford. Be visible. I like lights that you can plug in and charge like an iPhone. They last incredibly long and there are no batteries to buy and replace.
As you get used to riding in any weather, you will realize that it makes sense on many levels. It’s easier than you might think to run errands and haul kids. A bit of fresh air and exercise in the morning does a body well, and the adrenaline rush can be addicting. It can also be a great money and time saver, and a simple way to reduce your “footprint” on a regular basis. I’ve been commuting to work exclusively by bicycle for 10 years, and I make it a personal goal to never let the weather stop me from riding. Hurricanes and blizzards make for great challenges; are you up for it?