Well, next week is Bike to Work Week here in Springfield. For me, it’ll be just like any other week, except maybe I’ll see more bikes out on the road. For others, however, it might be the first time they’ve attempted to ride their bikes to work. This post is for those people, so if you’re not one, you can go ahead and zone out now. I won’t be offended.
If you are thinking about riding your bike to work next week, I understand. It’s a scary proposition the first time, but I find it very rewarding. Here are some of my “helpful tips” to get you through the week.
Bike to Work Week Tips
1) Plan your route ahead of time. If you’re in Springfield, here is a great resource for planning a safe route to wherever you need to be. We’ve got upwards of 50 miles of streets that are designated bike routes, another few miles of marked bike lanes and the Greenways trails that all provide what I consider a safe route through most of town. You don’t need to ride on Glenstone, National, Sunshine, or Kearney.
The one caveat to that is if you live south of James River Expressway and need to come north. There aren’t many options to get across that sucker without getting into a bunch of traffic. I really wish the City would address that, but it’s not a cheap or easy fix. Hopefully, you don’t live out there.
Also…be aware that traffic will be heavier in the evening than in the morning, so if you decide to only ride one way, do it in the morning. The evening commute is also the time that the problem drivers wake up and come out. You might encounter one…but if you do, just shake it off as an encounter with an unintelligent life form walking around with some kind of chip on his or her shoulder. My point is that morning is a much more pleasant time to be out and about on the streets. That’s usually the time I stop and smell the flowers. I swear there are days that it’s a miracle I make it to work at all!
2) Plan Ahead. I pack my work clothes and breakfast/lunch every evening for the next day. Until you get your system down, lay out the clothes you’ll be riding in as well. Check the weather and round up any contingency items like jackets, gloves, hats, and rain gear so you won’t be scrambling at the last minute.
3) Your Bike. I have a dedicated commuting bike, but you can commute on just about any kind of bike, as long as it’s well maintained and everything is working. Got a mountain bike? Ride it! Roadie? It’ll be fine. Hybrid? Good as gold. Single Speed/Fixie? Perfect. Beach Cruiser? Well, I probably wouldn’t do that, but to each his own.
4) Carrying Your Stuff. I use a rack and single pannier to carry my clothes and food back and forth every day. If you don’t have those, a backpack or messenger bag works great! I personally use the pannier because I don’t like carrying stuff on my back and because of the sweat factor.
5) Bike Repair. You don’t need to be a certified bike mechanic to be a bike commuter, but for heaven’s sake, make sure you’re carrying what you need to fix a flat tire. I carry two spare tubes and a CO2 inflator with spare cartridges. If I see you stranded on the road, I will be glad to stop to assist, but chances are that I won’t see you out there. Carry your own gear and make sure you can use it! If you’ve never changed a bike flat, practice at home first, rather than trying to figure it out on the road. There are lots of YouTube videos out there to show you how.
And…if you should have a flat, when you fix it, make sure you thoroughly inspect your tire to be sure the offending rock or piece of glass is not still embedded in the tire waiting to puncture your spare tube.
6) Ride Safely. You’re a vehicle on the road. Understand that. Understand that your responsibility is to operate that vehicle in a safe and courteous manner. That means you need to obey traffic laws and signals. One of my pet peeves is to see a cyclist run a red light instead of properly waiting for that light to change. For Pete’s sake, you wouldn’t run that light if you were driving a car, would you?
Missouri law says you should operate your bicycle as far to the right as safely possible. That last phrase leaves it to your discretion to determine what is safe. I’ll give you a clue. You’re generally safer riding far enough to the left that cars have to partially pull into the opposite lane to pass you than you will be if you hug the right curb trying to leave them room to pass. The vast majority of motorists in Springfield will pull out and pass you safely and courteously in that situation. Once in a blue moon you’ll encounter someone who gets offended at you, but I generally consider those few people to be uneducated morons who don’t understand your situation. If you hug the curb or ditch, you’re basically telling the drivers it’s OK to squeeze themselves into the space that you have left…and they will. Trust me on that.
Oh…and stay off the freakin’ sidewalks. You may feel safer up there, but you’re not. You’ll be crossing driveways and intersections, and frankly, drivers aren’t going to be watching the sidewalks for fast moving vehicles like a bicycle. You wouldn’t drive your car, motorcycle, or even scooter on the sidewalk, so why should you drive your bike there.
7) Cleanup. I’m lucky in that I work someplace that makes a locker room and shower available to me. If you aren’t that lucky, there are still alternatives. Cox Fitness Centers and the Y will let you use their showers next week free of charge. If that’s not convenient, you can take a “sink bath” with a washcloth and soap, or even use a wet-wipe to clean up in your office if necessary. I you need to do that, the key to success is to start clean! Yes, that means taking a shower before you ride to work. The culprit in causing the sweaty funk smell we’re all too familiar with isn’t the sweat. It’s the bacteria already on your body. If you start clean and then clean off any sweat as soon as you can, you should be OK.
So, there you have it. My seven suggestions for a successful bike to work week. I’m sure there are probably dozens more I could have made, but I’ll call it good for now. If you would like to chime in with your own bike commuting tips, or have any questions, please feel free to use the comments.
Have fun out there, and God bless…