I love biking to work. I would never exercise otherwise and it’s the perfect mental disconnection between my work life and my home life. Beyond that, it’s cheap, my route is less affected by traffic and I have helped my workplace win Bike to Work Week several times in a row!
Dressing for the Ride
Many would-be cyclists are concerned that lots of spandex clothing and expensive gear is needed to bike to work. Not so! The only absolutely essential items are a bike, a helmet if local laws require, a bell, comfy clothing and a backpack, basket or panniers to carry your stuff. If you will be cycling in the dark, invest in lights – a white front one and a red rear one. A couple of tiny turtle lights cost less than $10. You may also need a lock. Consider how secure your parking is, how much you are willing to pay and how expensive your bike is when purchasing a lock. As a rule of thumb, the more expensive your bike, the more you should spend on a lock.
Sort Out Your Route Ahead of Time
Check your local bike shop, municipality or transit authority for maps. In some areas, online maps are available. If not, Google is a good source of information. Check with other cyclists – they know secret shortcuts, spots that need special attention and how to trigger a green light at that pesky intersection. Transit-bike combinations are also an option. Can you put your bike on the bus or subway for part of the distance? If you are cycling to work for the first time, consider a weekend test run without time pressure. Give yourself some extra time at first, and, ideally, cycle with an experienced cyclist the first couple of times.
If You Get a Flat
I carry some basic tools and a few transit tickets, but for anything more than a flat tire, or when I have an early meeting, I call a van taxi to take my bike and me to work.
If You Want to Ride in the Rain
There are two basic approaches: wear work clothes and cover up with a waterproof layer that you peel off on arrival, or get wet and change into dry clothes. How casual is your workplace? Will it be okay to get your shoes wet? Can you store some clothes at work? Is your commute long enough to build up a sweat? These are all questions to consider before determining your approach. Basic rain gear is a jacket and rain pants. Booties, rubber boots, Gore-Tex socks, gloves and a thin toque for under your helmet are also popular when it’s raining or cold. Think about how you will store wet gear on arrival as well. My office invested under $500 on a dehumidifier and a couple of folding laundry racks, so my gear is always dry by midday.
How to Look Professional after Cycling
When I wore a suit to work, I kept all my dress shoes, as well as a formal coat at the office and packed everything else. If your building has showers, great. If your commute isn’t long or particularly difficult, it’s not necessary. I don’t do my hair until I arrive at the office, keeping a towel and hair clay at work instead. Hair products that stay moldable are my fave, so I can mold my helmet head back into bed head with little fuss. If you wear makeup, you can touch up after arriving at work or apply it entirely there. Depending on what you wear on your ride in, consider keeping a few spare clothes at work, too, such as underwear and socks, in case you forget to pack them one day.
Once you’ve done all that prep work, the day of is pretty easy! Get up, check the weather over breakfast, load your lunch, clothes and accessories into your bag, and you’re on your way.
Denise Wrathall is a Vancouver commuter cyclist. She has dabbled in commuter skills education and participates in Bike to Work Week annually.