How to cycle to work

Someone was quizzing me the other day about my commute to work.  First of all, yes, I cycle all year to work. I missed a few days when it was snowing in January – I wasn’t confident in my tires or the nervous drivers out there. I love cycling to work for the most part. Sometimes I sing on the way, sometimes I mentally compose eloquent and wicked comebacks to conversations long gone. Now, mine is only about 4 or 5km each way and I know lots of other are far more hard-core that I, but these are the choices I make:

1. I follow the bike route – I have no wish to compete for space on a busy road.

2. I ride about a meter from parked cars and I don’t meander in the street – this sometimes annoys drivers who wish I would tuck into the spaces where cars aren’t parked, or ride right next to the parked cars, but I am a big believer in consistency (not popping up back into the lane unexpectedly) and keeping my space from opening doors and individuals who have a elastic definition of “stop” at stop signs. So yeah, I take my space and I ride in a consistent manner.

3. I change at work. It’s not such a long ride that I need to, but I really hate getting my work-appropriate bras (ie, non-sport bars) sweaty, and I’m almost always sweaty when I arrive: either because it’s sunny and warm, or it’s cold and I”m layered up with shirts, sweater or rain jacket.  I change in the bathroom – not ideal, but whatever. I keep work-appropriate clothes in my desk at work (bringing home stuff regularly to launder), along with baby powder (see: sweat) and deoderant. I don’t have  make-up routine, so rinsing my face, putting on mascara and brushing my long hair is all the styling that I do.  I’m not Cycle Chic, but I admire those who are!

4. Changing at work solves some of the rain issues as well (because I do get rained on!), and I have winter/rain appropriate clothes. I have lightly lined cyling pants that keep me dry, and in the winter I wear silk long johns beneath with wool socks. I layer with a long sleeved moisture wicking shirt, a hoody of sweatshirt material and a cycling jacket with reflective tape. The jacket is light enough that without the layers I can continue to wear it long into spring and summer. I’ve got gloves, of course, and only a few times did I curse not having warmer lobster type gloves (but those are something like $50!!).

5. I have battery powered lights for the front and the back of my bike (and extra reflective stickers from Modo Car Coop), and I keep extras in my pannier just in case I forget or lose a light.

6. I wouldn’t commute without my pannier – it cuts down on the sweat and I can fit what I need (lunch, book, maybe some fresh clothes) in the one pannier. I have a cover for when it’s really rainy, but I don’t get that wet, really (it’s only four km, and part of it is under the skytrain line, which cuts down on direct precipitation. mostly). If I don’t want to bring a pannier, I can always bungee cord a purse onto the rack.

7. As for the actual riding, I’ve gotten WAY stronger in the last year + of riding. Hills are easier and I suspect that I”m faster. I stopped timing my rides, because I was getting too competitive with myself. I ride pretty defensively, and am trigger happy with the bell. I always assume that drivers won’t stop completely at the stop signs or when turning right. I’m mostly proved wrong, and drivers see me and are courteous, but every once in a while you get a dingbat who is aggressive or oblivious.

8. Most days I remind myself that it’s not a race and I don’t try and beat the other cyclists off the block and I try and give pedestrians a wide berth on the shared pathway (some times easier than others, depending on what direction they’re walking and how many individuals or groups are sharing the path).

9. I learned basic maintenance for my bike: I change and adjust my own brakes, I can change the tire, I clean the chain (not as often as I should), and I occasionally (every year or year and a half) take it into the shop for a tune-up.

10. I bought a really expensive bike lock.

But mostly, I just do it, and I smile when people say it’s too cold or wet or dangerous for me. I’m at the point where I want to make more mods to to my bike – coloured tire rims?


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