As soon as warm weather begins, finding ways to be outside as much as possible is usually the goal. Sitting in a dark subway car, on a crowded bus or in your own vehicle doesn’t seem as glorious as a leisurely bike ride to and from work.
But the answer to whether you should become a bicycle commuter isn’t in the spring and summer air. It’s in your wallet and your commitment to regular and safe riding.
We asked Brian Gluck, owner of the Red Lantern Bicycle Repair shop in Brooklyn, New York, what you need to know to be a bicycle commuter:
What’s Your Commitment Level?
Do you ride regularly now? How many times per week would you want to ride your bike? Is the distance to and from work something you can handle? Are you comfortable changing clothes when you get to work if your biking clothes get sweaty? Riding your bike takes a lot of planning and commitment. Always test out riding to work at least once before fully committing to commuting regularly by bike.
Are You Comfortable Riding in the Conditions Required to Get to Work?
The amount of years you’ve ridden a bike isn’t as important as your confidence as a bike rider and having basic street skills. You need to know how to maneuver around cars when necessary and not be overly timid when passing cars or other bicycles.
Judge your own confidence with riding near traffic. Fine tune your awareness for the traffic on the road, any delivery cyclists in a rush and obstacles from the side of the road such as parked cars that may suddenly move. If you don’t live in an area with bike lanes, you have to be a bit more careful.
Do You Have Places for Your Work Stuff?
When you bike to work, you need to make sure you have some sort of storage area on your bike for anything you need to take with you to work in excess of a backpack (especially any necessary rain gear). You can add a basket if needed, and you should always have a bag of some sort to carry basic gear and your work materials. Ask local cyclists or your bike shop for suggestions on a bag that will be comfortable on your daily commute.
Are You Prepared for the Expense?
If you already own a bicycle, the annual costs to own it (including tune ups and replacing brakes and tires when needed) can total around $250. When you commute by bike, you can deduct what you would normally spend on transportation for the same amount of days/months you’re going to ride. For instance, say you’re going to ride your bike in every season but winter, and public transportation during those nine months would normally cost $900 – you’ll save approximately $650.
Will You Need a New Bicycle?
One of the easiest ways to guarantee you won’t ride your bike regularly is to ride someone else’s. A used bike may not fit your body or be the most comfortable one to ride for long commutes. The same goes for renting a bike for regular usage. When you buy a new bike, it’s adjusted for your height, body and comfort.
You’ll also want to talk to a local bike shop about the type of bike best for your personal commute and climate. A heavy beach cruiser may work if you live in Santa Monica, but not if you live in New York or Boston. A good bike you’ll love riding could range from $300 – $1000 and a helmet, lock and lights will add about $150. You can easily make up for your initial investment in a year by saving on other transportation costs. Bikes can last forever with regular maintenance, and new bikes generally come with a warranty.
What Is Your Life Impact?
Commuting to work by bike, as long as you’ve thought it through, can change your life in a very positive way. Not only will you be getting regular exercise, you can gauge commute time better when it’s only about your pedal speed. You’re not stressed out when a train is late or a vehicle is stuck in traffic. The bonus, Gluck says, “are those moments built in to unwind after a long day at work.”
Do you commute to work via bike? What tips do you have for readers considering a bicycle as their method of transportation? Let us know in the comments!
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