Find a seasoned biking buddy. SparkPeople member Tanya (RESIPSA99), who commutes 8 miles to the office (and back) in rain or shine, recommends that every first-time bike commuter befriend someone who regularly commutes by bicycle—whether it's a coworker, someone in a bike group or a salesperson at your local bike shop.
"I was lucky enough to have a lot of coworkers who cycle-commute, and one of them shepherded me the first few days I commuted, showing me the best route," Tanya says. "It was a huge eye-opener for me, as prior to that, I had no idea that there was such a thing as designated bike routes. Once I told him that I was really nervous of traffic, he figured out the best route from my place to work, and parts of it I don't think I would have found without him."
Tanya also recommends using Google's bike map directions to help you find the best path and make use of any designated biking routes in your area.
Start simple. Just like an exercise, it's better to start slow and build over time. If it has been years or even months since you've been on a bike and your commute is a long distance, SparkPeople member Garrett (GRITSTER) says to do shorter rides closer to home until you have the endurance and confidence to commute to and from work.
Do a test ride. Because you can never be 100% sure what to expect your first time out, SparkPeople member Michelle (KESTREL500) suggests that new bike commuters do a dry run or two on a non-work day to make sure they know how long it will take and how they will feel after the commute, taking any rush-hour traffic into consideration. "Then make any adjustments before you need to be there at a specific time," she says.
Don't be afraid to take a day off. You don't have to bike to work every day, so if the weather makes you nervous or if you just don't feel like it, take a day off! Being a part-time bike commuter still does great things for your mind and body.
A helmet! Protect your noggin at all times by investing in a quality helmet.
A bike in good working order (and tools to keep it that way). Michelle recommends investing in a bicycle that is in good working order, but not such an expensive one when starting out, unless you have a really safe place to store it. "Other than that, you should always have a tube, tire levers and a pump in case you get a flat," she says. "Oh, and knowing how to use these is a good idea. Depending on how much else you need to carry, you should either have a rack with a bag that hangs on it or some sort of a backpack or messenger bag. I use a rack and a bag that clips on to it and turns into a messenger-style bag when removed."
Lights and bright reflective clothing. No matter what time of day you're riding, you should wear some kind of bright, reflective clothing. That way even if you bike in the daylight to work, you stay safe on the way home when that meeting goes later than you expected! "Even if you are wearing your street clothing, pick up a reflective vest and some reflective arm/leg bands that won't mess your clothing and can be taken off when you arrive and stuffed in a pocket," Tanya says.
Your health. Turning your usual commute into a bicycle workout can burn calories, improve your cardiovascular health and help you lose or maintain your weight.
To save money. Aside from saving gas money, many of our bike commuters cited saving big on parking fees and even car maintenance. Garrett even got rid of his car!
Stress reduction. Instead of getting stuck in traffic and fuming, you could be biking on paths and back roads for an enjoyable start and end to your workday.
"I can leave work after the most aggravating day, and five minutes into the ride I'm feeling more relaxed, even in the pouring rain," Tanya says. "On a beautiful sunny day, it's heaven. I love the feeling of being self-propelled, on my own, enjoying the weather and, when I'm on a side street, enjoying the birds singing in the summer or holiday lights in the winter."
To make the world a better, greener place. Every little eco-friendly initiative helps and bike commuting is definitely a step that makes a difference in reducing your carbon footprint.
It can save time. You might think that biking will make for a longer commute to and from the office, but Michelle found that she could leave her house half an hour later because she didn't have to look for parking. Also, if you bike fast enough to get your heart rate up, you can turn your commute into your cardio, biking right past the gym—talk about multitasking!