I’m always amazed by the number of people who seem impressed that I commute by bike. I’m sure people in bike-friendly cities like Portland and Davis don’t get this so much, but around here riding your bike to work garners the kind of awe and respect normally reserved for speed skiers or base jumpers. Of course, I live in a suburban town overrun with Escalades and Hummers, so the sight of someone walking or riding a bike to get somewhere can be quite a shock to the psyche.
Well, for all you suburbanites who seem to think commuting by bike is a super-human feat, I’ve got news for you: it’s easy. Really. You only need a few things to get started.
- You need a bike. Any bike will do as long as it’s a bike you like to ride. Racing bike, recumbent, cruiser, your Grandmother’s three-speed, it matters not. As long as it makes you smile when you think about riding it, it’s the right bike for you.
- You need some cool clothing for the summer and some warm clothing for the winter. It doesn’t have to be specialized cycling gear; most of what I wear on the bike is the same clothing I wear everywhere else.
- You need some way to carry your stuff. This could be a backpack that you already have, a messenger bag, a bike-specific bag/pannier, or even a cloth grocery sack. Again, it doesn’t really matter what type of bag it is as long as it’s large enough to accommodate your stuff.
- You need a secure place to park your bike. You’re not going to enjoy riding your bike to work everyday if you spend all day worrying about it getting vandalized or stolen. Don’t be afraid to approach your employer to work out a secure bike storage solution.
People often use the fact that they don’t have showers at their work as a reason for not bike commuting. This is a silly excuse. I assume your work has a bathroom? If so, all you need is a towel, a change of clothes, a hair brush, and some deodorant to get you through the day. Also, bike commuting is not bike racing. Leave 5-10 minutes earlier and slow down to a pace that keeps your heart rate comfortably below the point of huffing and puffing; about the same as if you were taking a casual walk. I’m assuming you don’t take a shower every time you walk across the office or go out to lunch, right?
That’s about it. You can get way into it, and there are websites that go into great detail about specialized techniques and equipment for those who have an interest (see below), but in reality you only need those few things mentioned above to become a bona fide suburban thrill-seeker (aka bike commuter).