The last two weeks have been rough. I started my new job and then promptly came down with the stomach flu. Luckily it was an internal position change so I still had sick days to take. I’m finally feeling a bit better (they don’t lie when they say the flu can linger), and I wanted to give some advice.
Are you thinking about riding your bike to work daily? You’re in the right place!
Let me start this by saying that before last week, I hadn’t ridden a bike in over 10 years. TEN YEARS. I was terrified I’d fall and die. Or at the very least get some nasty scrapes. But as one wise-cracking friend put it, “Kelly, it will be just like riding a bike.” *head desk* No, really?
(In case you were wondering, it really is just like riding a bike. You don’t even need to start all over with training wheels!)
So, some tips I have for you from my first 2 weeks back on a bike and commuting to and from work!
Don’t wait until you have the perfect gear
I am so guilty of putting things off because I feel like I’m not prepared. In this case, I forced myself to do it because I wasn’t about to pay $75 a month for parking when I live literally less than 2 miles from my office. So my fiance grabbed my middle school bike from the place it’s been sitting in my mom’s basement since, well, probably 9th grade, filled the tires with air, and the bike actually worked. I bought a helmet and a good sturdy u-lock (recommended by countless people on Google), and found my backpack to carry all my crap in. The bike is not good for city riding – it’s bulky and heavy and just a bit too tall for my liking. But it works.
Do give yourself enough time that first day
Google Maps said it would take me approximately 7 minutes to bike from my house to my office. It actually took me 15 minutes that first day. I was so unsure of myself that I was shaking from fear of getting hurt. I had to push with one foot on the ground for what seemed like forever before taking that leap of faith and putting my other foot on its pedal. EVERY time I had to stop at a light or stop sign. I’m getting better, but starting the bike again when I’m at a stop is till a struggle.
Do research your routes (and memorize them) beforehand
Learn from my mistakes, please. I was fine getting to work my first day. That’s a straight shot. But my city is full of one way streets, and bikes have to go the same way as the rest of the traffic. So getting home I needed to take a bunch of side streets I wasn’t super familiar with. Instead I decided to go a few blocks out of my way to a street I knew. Bad idea. In a car, a few blocks out of the way is nothing. On a bike, it can add a lot of distance. That road I so desperately wanted to get to because I knew it was a straight shot home? It was also uphill the whole way. I thought I was going to die. I had to get off and walk the bike at one point and it took me 30 minutes to get home. Apparently I’m not in the great physical shape I thought I was in.
Do check with your city/state’s bike laws
You’ll thank yourself because you won’t get a ticket. I know people who have been ticketed for biking with headphones on (WHY THOUGH WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO HEAR CARS COMING) because per NYS law, you can only have one ear covered/one earbud in. Apparently it’s not the law in NYS to wear a helmet but I don’t understand why anyone riding on a city street wouldn’t want to protect his or her head?? I (sort of) trust myself. But I DO NOT trust other people on the road.
Getting doored is a real fear
The whole time I was riding my first day, I was mostly concerned about cars coming up and hitting me from the side or behind while trying to get around me. But I’m learning that drivers really don’t want to get too close to people on bikes. The real thing to be wary about are people parked on the side of the road who open their doors when you are too close to stop or move out of the way (hopefully not into a car driving by). Lucky for me, I read some blog posts about staying a door’s length away from parked cars just to be safe, and while I’m further in the street, I hopefully won’t be losing any teeth (or worse) from any unsuspecting door openers any time soon.
Are you a bike commuter? I want to hear from you! What are your tips? And if you are thinking of becoming a bike commuter, do you have any questions?