Bike commuting basics: Tips from a veteran
It’s not so hard to get started. Just in time for Sustainable Transportation Week, Michael McGoldrick shares some useful tips from his website gobiking.ca
- The shortest route to get downtown is rarely the best one for cycling to work. It will be well worth your while to add a kilometre or two to your route if it minimizes your exposure to heavy traffic, and increases the amount of time you’ll spend on paths, bicycle lanes, and quiet streets. You may want to do a little exploratory riding in the evening or on weekends to figure out your best options.
- Study the NCC and City of Ottawa bicycle maps to see what is possible in your neighbourhood. Also note that Google now includes bike paths (in dark green) and bike lanes (in light green) on its online maps for Ottawa and Gatineau.
What type of bike to ride
- When riding over relatively flat terrain for 10 to 15 kilometres, you should do fine with everything from hybrids to racing-type bikes.
- If you will be locking your bike outside on the street, you’ll want to ensure that it doesn’t become a target for bicycle thieves (i.e. one that’s not too expensive).
Where to park your bike
- If you’re lucky, your employer may provide a “bicycle room” where employees can securely store their bikes for free.
- The large majority of us will have to lock our bikes at street level, perhaps at one of the many large capacity bicycle racks in downtown Ottawa (including the north side of the Place Bell on Elgin, the corner of Sparks & Bank, the northeast corner of Slater & Kent, and next to City Hall).
- Although there are no guarantees, there are two basic precautions to help keep your bike from being stolen. First, choose a bike with a colour that blends into the background; second, adopt a good protocol for locking your bicycle.
- Lock both your bike’s frame and rear wheel to a solid metal bar or post. Use a good quality U-lock (preferably one where the key is inserted perpendicular to the locking cylinder as opposed to the less robust models where the key is inserted at the end of the cylinder).
- If your front wheel or seat is equipped with a quick release mechanism you may also want to secure these to the U-lock using a cable.
Showering and sweat management
- For the minority of bicycle commuters, a sweaty ride isn’t a problem if your work provides employees with shower facilities and locker rooms.
- For the rest of us, if it’s a particularly warm morning, take a little extra time, go a little slower, and pedal at a speed just below your “sweat threshold”. Once you get to the office, changing from cycling clothes into regular street clothes will do a lot to keep you fresh. Also, it never hurts to keep deodorant and a small towel at the office.
Clothes for cycling and work
- You could always splurge on expensive bike clothes, but you’ll also do fine with casual sportswear made of synthetic material. Such material is breathable and good at wicking moisture away from your body. In terms of office wear, you’ll have to devise a system for bringing them home to wash or use a dry cleaning service.
- For heavy documents: the general rule is that the bike should carry the load, and not the rider. This means installing a rear rack on which you can attach various types of bags, such as pannier-type bags or even cycling briefcases.
- For rainy days: you may find that it’s worth equipping your bike with inexpensive lightweight plastic fenders.
- For dark nights: it’s always a good idea to carry a set of front and rear LED lights for increased visibility.
- The frequency of bicycle maintenance depends on its use. Expect to change the chain and rear tire once a year. The bike will also require a major overall maintenance every two to three years.
- The most important thing you can do to maintain a bike is keep everything clean (especially the chain and gears), made easier with an inexpensive chain scrubbing device and a biodegradable degreaser.
This article is a condensed version of the original from http://cycle.ottawacitizen.com/news/bike-commuting-basics-tips-from-a-veteran