Getting Started - Commuting by Bicycle
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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Getting Started - Commuting by Bicycle

by Garner Woodall at 8:24 PM EST   comments
Categories: General, Commuting, Getting Started
 

Logistics

Distance:
Generally, I think that a commute should be 5-7 miles or more in order to be considered useful in terms of a health benefit. Does this mean that I think people with a shorter commute should not ride? Not at all. However, if you are looking to commute for health reasons, you may find that walking the same distance to work will benefit you far more than riding a bicycle, although it will take more time to do it. It will also be even cheaper than the bike option! My own 14 mile commute takes anywhere from 40-50 minutes depending on my speed, traffic and other variables (am I stopping to pick up dinner for my wife on the way home?). I think this is just the right amount of time for an effective commute. If your commute is more than 20 miles in one direction, you may find that is going to take a lot of time. If your job and/or home life can accommodate that, fantastic! As I mentioned earlier, however, that kind of distance (200 miles a week!) will take some getting used to. When you get there, though, you’re going to be crazy fit!

The Office: Probably the most important thing that can make or break a bike commuter is: does your workplace have a shower? If it doesn’t this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Given the money you are likely saving in gas or public transportation, it may be worth it to look into joining a gym nearby your office. That way you can use their showers in the morning, and have the added benefit of having another workout option at lunch time or when the weather gets cold. For several years one of my good friends was able to ride into his office at an easy pace without getting too sweaty or nasty and then rode home at speed and took a shower when he got home. Granted, he had a very high level of fitness. If your commute is less than five miles, chances are you can ride to work in your street clothes (in which case you can skip much of the equipment section). Here’s a shout out to what I think is one of the sexiest sights in the world: A working woman heading to her office on her bike wearing a dress and heels. Grrrrr!!!

Work Clothes: The question I probably receive most is, “what do you do about your work clothes?” It’s actually much easier than you think. For starters, I fold my suit pants neatly after taking them off the hanger. There’s really no chance of wrinkling them if you fold them and place them neatly in your bag. Second, I fold my tie into quarters, and lay it to the side of the pants. Again, there’s no risk of wrinkling the tie. Next, and this is the one that surprises most people, I not so neatly fold my shirt in half and lay it across the pants. The most time it will spend in the bag is about an hour, and when it comes out, there’s not really much in the way of wrinkles. I recommend buying wrinkle resistant shirts, and going easy on the starch when you dry clean or iron. Finally, boxers and socks are placed in the bag and I am ready to go. As far as work shoes go, I leave them in my desk drawer and put them on while I’m booting up my computer. I also leave a couple of my suit jackets in the office as well. If I know I have a meeting that day, I make sure to pack the pants that go with one of the jackets I have in the office. Another variation of this is to leave a blue blazer at the office, and wear khakis or grey pants to work, both of which go well with a blue blazer. Personally, I find this way too preppy for my tastes, but whatever works for you.

I recommend leaving an extra pair of socks and underwear at the office too, just in case you forget these items while you’re getting ready for work. There’s nothing worse than having to go commando all day, but we’ve covered that already. Depending on what your shower facilities provide, you may need to purchase travel containers for shampoo and/or soap to use in the shower. You’ll also need to keep a stick of your preferred deodorant in your bag as well. Luckily, my office gym provides towels, but if yours doesn’t, head to the store and pick up a pack of cheaper, thin towels that can easily be added to your bag. I had to do this at my last job, and the only burden really was that I had to wash towels a lot more often than I usually do.

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