Ready, Set, Go

No Excuses

I envy people who live a 100% car-free lifestyle. They have it easy this time of year; when the weather is rotten, they have no choice but to buck up and head out on their bikes. On the other hand, car-lite people like us are tortured by the constant temptation to take the easy way out and hop in the car when it’s miserable outside. To improve our odds of overcoming the urge to wimp out, we try to always make it convenient and easy to hop on the bikes by doing the following:

  • We park our bikes inside, near an exit door. Keeping the bikes within plain sight is a constant reminder to use them. Parking them near an exit door makes riding more convenient. Plus, an unridden bike always looks a little sad and adds to the guilt. ;-)
  • We store our cold weather gear, helmets, and bags near the bikes. This eliminates the need to go hunting every time we head out.
  • We have duplicate cold weather garments in case we fall behind on laundry.
  • We keep our bags, panniers, tool kits, lights, water bottles, and whatever else, on the bikes and ready to go.
  • We perform bike maintenance on a regular schedule. This includes topping off tires, charging batteries, lubing chains, and keeping the bikes clean. A flat tire or a squeaky chain is just another unwelcome excuse to take the car.

Besides trying to always make riding the convenient choice, we also try to encourage each other when the going’s a little rough. And when we get a break in the weather, we always take the opportunity to go for a joy ride for the sheer pleasure of it, because keeping it enjoyable is probably the best motivator of all.

36 Responses to “Ready, Set, Go”

  • bongobike says:

    Allan wrote:

    “Keeping the bikes within plain sight is a constant reminder to use them. Parking them near an exit door makes riding more convenient.”

    And as you very well illustrate in your photo, park it pointing the right way, toward the street! All those little steps save time in the morning.

  • Andy E says:

    My wife and I only have one car and she drives it to work, essentially making me car-free. However i usually can bum a ride off her if i really need to. So here are a few of my ways to stay motivated about commuting on bike:

    -Set the alarm early. The less of a hurry I am in, the easier it is to ride.

    -Have appropriate clothes. Wool and lots of it, fenders, rain gear etc. No “it’s raining/hot” excuses.

    -Think about how the work day can be potentially miserable. this is a funny one, but a miserable work day, sandwiched by two vigorous rides is a non-factor.

    -Think about how guilty i will be when i see others at work with their bikes. I mean, come on, i can ride in anything they can!

  • Torrilin says:

    I’m about dying of laughter here.

    There are almost no bikes on the roads in Madison right now. Many streets still have chunks of a 2″ thick ice sheet covering, so they’re *perfect* for diversion falls. The busy arterial streets where we depend on bike lanes shared with the buses… don’t have the bike/bus lane clear. Not even a little. Quieter streets often are down to 1.5 lanes. Even a 100% car free biker might not be skilled enough to manage the mess on city streets.

    I *walked* for my errands today. It was safer.

  • Geo says:

    How about some more photos of those bontrager ECO bags? :D

    Torrilin: That’s why I’m riding right now IN Madison! I get the roads all to myself! ;D
    Studded tires and a slightly suicidal mindset are also helpful in these situations. Beats riding the trainer, and driving into work though!

  • Fritz says:

    Oh yeah, I need to do laundry tonight.

    I own a car but I drive it to work maybe twice a year. I’ve been biking to work through all weather for over 20 years now so it doesn’t even enter my mind to do anything different, no matter what it’s doing outside. This was the case even when I lived in areas where we actually have weather (i.e. not California).

    That bike is way too shiny to ride in the rain! ;-)

  • Alan says:

    @Geo

    “How about some more photos of those bontrager ECO bags? :D”

    There’ll be more to come over the next few weeks. :-)

    Alan

  • Anne says:

    We do all of that except keep the bikes indoors….our bikes are not as shiny and clean as yours!

    Having a spouse/partner who rides is key – doing it together keeps us honest. It’s actually fun to take a rainy ride with a buddy.

  • Alan says:

    @Anne

    “We do all of that except keep the bikes indoors….our bikes are not as shiny and clean as yours!”

    We have bikes in the garage too… :-)

  • cole says:

    i have been car free for at least 6 winters, 3 in michigan and this is my third here in chicago. i borrowed my dads truck to move my business and will have it for another week. its been cold here like 10 and 15 degrees i don’t drive unless i’m hauling something but i don’t have a winter bike set up yet so iv’e been walking. i really miss riding at this point and just have to get the winter bike finished.

  • mike says:

    A very timely post for me, Alan. I’ve missed a couple of riding opportunities due to just the factors you name here. Which bike has the pump/lock/tire levers on it? etc., etc.

    But a much more pressing question presents itself: What is my dog doing in your house? I showed the photo to Jan and her immediate comment was, “that’s not our door, but that’s Bessie.”

    I’ll post a photo so your dog can see his/her twin sister.

    mikespokes.blogspot.com

  • LHT Rider says:

    Thinking ahead to be prepared definitely helps make it possible to ride, whatever the conditions. I rode my bike to work and back today in Madison (high five @ Geo). In addition to studded tires, multiple layers, hand warmers and a face mask, I had to be creative and think carefully about my route. The best part was seeing bicycle tracks from someone who had ridden that same “creative” route before me.

  • doug says:

    Today I rode about 24 miles in the rain for some Christmas shopping. Including a trip down to Seattle’s industrial areas south of downtown.

    When I got home I felt pretty demoralized. It was not a very fun way to spend the afternoon. I should have taken the bus!

    I prefer 25 and clear to 48 and pouring rain, that’s for sure!

  • Alan says:

    @Mike

    Here’s a better photo:

    That’s Chloe on the left, Winston on the right.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Doug

    “I prefer 25 and clear to 48 and pouring rain, that’s for sure!”

    You’re not the only one!

  • Doug R. says:

    Guilty feelings! I am sick and staying home, moreover, I have been only riding my mb2 on an indoor trainer for 5 songs on the ipod at night. signed: wimpy p.s. (I love heaters).

  • Alan says:

    @Fritz

    “I’ve been biking to work through all weather for over 20 years now so it doesn’t even enter my mind to do anything different, no matter what it’s doing outside.”

    That’s dedication, Fritz!

  • Doug R. says:

    I am a Fritz fan!

  • David says:

    My velomobile and tandem are in my kitchen pointed out the door.

    How many folks have children? If I wasn’t a dad I wouldn’t own a car.

    My 16 year old doesn’t ride with me as much as she use to. She catches the bus to school.

    But my 14 year old has different hours at school as she is significantly autistic. We ride most of the year, we ride a whole lot but once it gets into the 30 degree range getting her ready to ride is a monumental task especially when we have to be somewhere at a certain time.

    On the other hand when the kids are visiting their mom I take any excuse what so ever to ride regardless of the temperature, rain or shine, night or day. 200 miles in the last week. Funny how a 6 mile round trip to the grocery store or a 10 mile round trip to the post office can turn into 30 to 50 miles.

    Riding keeps me sane.

  • Johnny says:

    “because keeping it enjoyable is probably the best motivator of all.”

    That’s half of why I went car-free in 2005. Driving was not fun, while cycling and walking are. :)

  • Bob says:

    Seconding Andy E.’s points. I feel at loose ends all day if I don’t ride, even in crappy weather, and seeing another cyclist when I’m in the car or bus just makes the feeling worse. I missed two days last week because I didn’t have time to warm up the bike and finish my winter tire swap (ca. 0 Fahrenheit rubber just doesn’t like to obey the tire levers). Despite vicious wind chills and ice boulders much like those reported above in Madison, I’ve been pedaling happily this week.

  • Cezar says:

    It’s quite hard for me to overcome the urge. We are car lite also, but the temptation for me is the bus that’s 50 feet from my door.

    Also, on a side note. I’ve heard it recommended that if you only use one pannier, to use the left side for two reasons. One, there is already strain on the right side of the axle, and two, the being on the left gives the perception that you are bigger and cars will give you more clearance.

  • bongobike says:

    Cezar,

    It doesn’t really make any difference which side you hang the pannier from. I prefer the left because that’s the side I mount and dismount the bike, so it’s easier to load and unload, but that’s the only advantage I see. I wore out the left pannier on my REI set because of that, and now I’m using the right one.

  • Alan says:

    My right pannier stays on the bike as a catch all for groceries, extra layers, rain coats, etc. The left pannier is an Arkel Bug that serves as a briefcase/manpurse and comes with me when I park the bike.

    Alan

  • Antoine says:

    As my wife’s car was stolen yesterday and used to hold up an armoured-car I have no option but to ride to work as she is now driving mine! No big deal as I ride all year anyway in temperate (although often wet) Auckland.

    I have a shiny new Surly Cross-Check sitting in my garage but I find myself using my heavy old MTB-based commuter for a lot of the reasons you have given above.

    -It has mudguards
    -It has a rack complete with saddlebags
    -It has lights on it permanently
    -It has flat pedals

  • Don says:

    We have been car lite for the last four years and my wife uses the car for her work (home health visits). By and large bike commuting everyday is relatively painless as the Willamette Valley in Oregon has a pretty moderate climate and I have a safe route to work.
    During the winter, it’s a blessing to have a free transit bus with bike racks for a bailout when the weather is too wet or icy. I still have a 30 minute bike ride each way which is enough to ease the guilt.
    I have three bikes with fenders, one I primarily use in the winter wet and dark season with a full complement of lights and flashers. The other two can be used with a minimum of fuss if necessary or by whim. I check and maintain them, if used, usually on Saturday AM.
    I pack everything the night before and fill the water bottle, so all I have to do in the morning is get dressed, eat and get on the bike and if the mood strikes take a detour on the route for a change of scenery. Life is good.

  • eli says:

    this is a great aspiration. thank ya’ll. Also, great blog.

  • bongobike says:

    “As my wife’s car was stolen yesterday and used to hold up an armoured-car I have no option but to ride to work as she is now driving mine! ”

    Antoine,
    You win the prize for the most interesting reason/excuse to ride to work.

  • AJ Smith says:

    The last week, here in Colonie, N.Y., I rode to work in a blizzard (2″ per Hour, high winds), wind chills at 0 F, and ice chucks the size of Volkswagons (and in the dark). Tomorrow, the commute to work will be at 11 F with 30 mph gusts; I can’t wait. I’m not a big supporter of Nike, but their catch phrase, “JUST DO IT”, is appropriate.

    The weather always looks worse from inside the house. Get outside, quit whining, and do it!

    aj

  • Dottie says:

    Good tips! Though as a car-free person I must admit that I have the temptation of taking public transportation, which is pretty easy.

  • Mr D says:

    Mark me down as another one on the paths/roads in Madison this week.

    Biggest challenge were the waist high mounds of snow from the plows where the paths cross streets. A little cross skill helps.

    It’s been really nice and peaceful on the paths the last few weeks. I even cut the dog walkers some slack this time of year, They all seem to have “lost” their leashes. Even with studded tires you need to ride slower anyway so I’m good with some sharing the path with some very happy dogs.

    One question tho’. For the first time this am my actual eyeballs got really cold. Anyone tried ski or motorcycle goggles?

  • New Year’s Resolutions « Be A Green Commuter Home says:

    […] just get on your bike and resolve to ride it more frequently in the new year.  Read this  http://www.ecovelo.info/2009/12/15/ready-set-go/ for […]

  • Rick says:

    “Manpurse”? Wow, I can’t wait to tease you about that one! Lol!

  • 2whls3spds says:

    @ Antoine…

    I have a shiny new Surly Cross-Check sitting in my garage but I find myself using my heavy old MTB-based commuter for a lot of the reasons you have given above.

    -It has mudguards
    -It has a rack complete with saddlebags
    -It has lights on it permanently
    -It has flat pedals

    I thought all bikes were supposed to have that stuff…all of mine do, including my fixie. :-0

    Keeping the bike handy and ready to go is the best way to build the habit of using it. I also considered freezing the car keys in a block of ice…

    Aaron

  • Chuck says:

    An electric bike can really help with getting around on two wheels without wearing yourself out. My R Martin electric bike only uses about 2 pennies of electricity per charge (according to my kilowatt meter) and gets me eveywhere I need to go. They have lot’s of styles at really great prices. http://www.electricbikedistributor.com

  • Rich says:

    Hi Alan,
    I’m new to bike commuting and I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I’m currently building a LHT and I’m looking for panniers. In your banner I noticed a set of panniers that have a green leaf graphic on them. Can you please tell me who the manufacturer is? In addition your post on waxing chains encourages readers to ask you for your wax formula. I would appreciate it if you can provide it.
    Thank you,
    Rich

  • Alan says:

    @Rich

    I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog, Rich.

    I believe the panniers you’re referring to are the Queen Bee panniers on the Pashley. If so, you can find out more about them at the Queen Bee website:

    http://www.queenbee-creations.com/

    You can read more about my wax formula here:

    http://www.ecovelo.info/2010/06/25/wrench-junkie/#comment-30877

    It’s nothing too special, but there may be something there that will prove useful.

    Thanks for your comment, and congrats on becoming a new bike commuter!

    Best regards,
    Alan

 
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