It’s official, I’ve started to bike to work! Today, for the first time in around 8 years I got on a bike and road somewhere (OK, I did try it out yesterday night, but that was only for 10 minutes so it doesn’t really count does it?).
Yesterday after work I took a trip over to Two Wheel Tango to check out their street bikes. They have quite a nice selection of bikes and I was pleasantly surprised with the help I received. After approximately 1:30 hours and a bit lighter wallet I walked out the proud owner of a Trek 1200. It looks just like the picture.
I purchased a few necessary accessories, like a helmet, front and rear lights, and an odometer. Most of these are safety oriented, and the odometer is geared toward knowing when to get the bike tuned.
I’ve been looking at different routes to take into Ann Arbor for awhile now. The gmap-pedometer has been an invaluable tool in determining mileage estimates. Of course nothing beats actually driving the car around the routes and checking the roads out, which is what I proceeded to do to verify the course would be acceptable.
I haven’t settled on a specific route, however I’m working out the method of least resistance traffic wise. In other words, the less cars that pass me, the better.
Fortunately Ann Arbor has quite a few bike lanes on the roads so I’m matching up my route to best utilize those routes. This map, although rather general has been extremely helpful in determining bike routes as it outlines which roads have bike lanes, bike paths, sidewalks, etc.
Another useful resource for determining the Ann Arbor’s bicycling/commuting routes and benefits has been getDownTown. They have a nice list of resources, links, financial calculators (who knew you actually saved money riding a bike to work). They also have a list of events to hook you up with others of similar interests.
One things that I have been particularly interested in, paranoid about, and continue to strive to achieve is safety. I’ve learned the basic hand signals and have been learning how to avoid common accidents.
Some of the tips you receive are initially counter-intuitive. That is until you actually spend some time on the road. At that time you can see tips such as, “Take the lane when cars are passing you too close” makes quite a bit of sense. A car is much more likely to see you in slower moving situations when you are not hugged directly up against the shoulder.
I believe the best advice I’ve read is that although bikes have just as much right to the road as cars, it doesn’t do you any good if you’re dead. So in other words, be safe, be commanding, but above all, be smart. Just because you can do something on principle doesn’t make it a safe or intelligent thing to do.
The commute I have is approximately 9.2 – 10 miles depending on the route. Most of the route is covered with bike lanes, making me feel much safer. Since it’s only been a day, I will certainly be tweaking the route however I’m happy with the initial research I did, along with the advice of a coworker who is very familiar with the area and biking.
I managed to make it through torrential downpour for approximately 10 minutes. Good thing I have a water proof backpack. It was both exhilarating and exhausting. Quite an amazing first day of riding.
There are a few things I’m looking into to improve the ride, suggestions are more than welcome:
- A waterproof biking backpack – Something like this, but significantly less expensive. I need something which isn’t as bulky as the current North Face day pack that I have. It looks something like this, but a bit bulkier up top.
- Bike shorts – My ass can only take so much. After a ride, I’m starting to think the girl who suggested the bike shorts might be right. I’m going to stick it out for at least a week or two to see if the seat breaks in like others say however.
- Lightweight Lock – You never know when you may need to lock the bike up. Unfortunately most lightweight locks are cables, which are crap. The decent locks are 5 pounds. That is a heck of a lot to carry around. Definitely need to look into this much more.
- Sweet Peddles and Shoes – Sure I made it through the rain in running sneakers, but I’ll begin to drool over biking shoes and new peddles. Not a necessity by any means, but I nice upgrade when the time comes.
Some things I have learned on the 1st day of commuting to work via bike:
- Don’t overdo it. You don’t want to feel like you’re going to vomit as you walk into work.
- Bring a water bottle. You may not think you need one, but even a half full water bottle in your holder could be a nice refresher as you wait at a red light. Double so on the way back home after a long day of work!
- Sidewalks suck. Sidewalks are dangerous, it hurts like hell with a street bike, and pedestrians feel uncomfortable as you fly by. You’re much better off, and safer riding in the road. I saw a statistic that said for every bike accident on the road there are 1.8 on the sidewalk. Scary, scary stuff if you’re a sidewalk rider.
- Posture Matters. I haven’t had enough practice to get it quite right, but it definitely makes a difference the more miles you roll.
- Ride where people can see you, but if they don’t see you, they don’t hit you.
Here’s hoping tomorrow brings more wisdom with the commute to work, along with a sunny day.