Riding to Work

After some apprehension, in the fall of 2009, I began riding my bike to work.  We bought our bikes that summer and had our first triathlon scheduled for November. I knew I needed to get miles in during the week and figured this would be a good way to do that.

The first task was to figure out how I’d shower and get ready for work after my morning ride. Our school nurse’s office has a shower in it so I asked there first. Unfortunately, they said no because they use the shower for storage and it does not have a curtain. Next option was to find a coworker who lived near the school and didn’t mind having company in the morning. I was in luck – a friend of mine lives only a couple miles from school and graciously offered up her guest bedroom/bathroom for me.

Next I had to pick a route.  On the weekend, Kris and I took a test ride – trying out two different routes I could take in. We wanted to make sure roads in decent shape (ideally with nice bike lanes), and wanted to see how long it would take.

I then got all my bike gear ready and gave it a shot. The night before my first ride in I was nervous – I wanted to make sure I had everything I’d need. Kris showed me how to change a flat tire – and, I’m glad he did because it wasn’t long before I had my first flat on my way into work.

That morning I filled up my bottles and headed out. I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it. Since then, I ride in as often as I can – which, unfortunately is only a couple times a week. For those days, my ride is my time – no cell phone, no texting, no radio … just me, enjoying the moment and thinking about whatever I want to think about. Sometimes I focus on my form, other times I work through any problems at home or work. Some mornings I go through my ‘to do’ list for the day and other mornings I just enjoy watching the sunrise. Regardless of the topic, the ride is very therapeutic!

Benefits:

  • Save gas money – and, the way prices are going, this is a BIG bonus!
  • When I ride in, I end up getting about 2 1/2 – 3 hrs of a workout in by only adding 1 1/2 hours to my day. That makes it an efficient way to get training & miles in.
  • This is the only way I can get a 40 mile ride in on a weekday – helps with training for big races.
  • Riding to work puts me in a better mood for the day. I find biking to be much more relaxing that driving and a chance for me to clear my head. 
  • I have more energy at work and after school. No matter how much sleep I may get, some mornings are tough to get going and driving can lull me back to sleep. Starting my day with a 20 mile ride wakes me up and keeps me energized for the work day. Then, as I’m starting to hit the early afternoon fade, it’s time to ride home. Normally after school I have a really hard time getting a workout in. I’m wiped out from a day of teaching and just want to go home and relax.  When I ride in, I have to ride home -that ride restarts my energy. I’m much more likely to go for a run when I get home from a ride than I am when I drive home.
  • Riding gives me a chance to enjoy our beautiful Arizona weather – especially in the fall and spring! In addition, riding into the morning sunrise is hard to beat!
  • Arizona does the Share the Ride program which includes drawing and prizes for people who find alternative ways to get to work. My school district does additional monthly drawings for employees who participate in this program. Both my friend and I have won Target gift cards as well as other small prizes. Check with your employer – they may do something similar.
Logistics to think about:
  • You’ll need somewhere to shower or a job where you don’t need to. Ideally, you’ll be able to leave anything you need to get ready in the morning at this location.
  • If you will be showering and getting ready for work somewhere – you’ll need a way to get work clothes and toiletries there.  I leave all my toiletries at my friend’s house. On Mondays I drive into work and take a bag with any clothes I’ll need for the week.  The next time I drive to work I bring all my dirty stuff home.
  • Depending on your normal lunch routine, you’ll need to plan your lunches for the week. Again, when I drive in on Monday, I take all my food for the week and leave it in a fridge at work.
  • See how long the ride should take you and budget an extra 10-15 minutes in the morning for traffic lights, wind and/or a tired body.
  • Dress in layers – or at least make sure you’re ready for different temperatures while riding. In AZ, I’ll be bundled up in the morning – gloves, toe covers, jacket, beanie or something to cover my ears – then in a tank top for the ride home.
  • You’ll want to watch the weather and have a contingency plan in case you get struck with bad weather and can’t ride home.  If there’s any chance of rain throughout the day, I usually forget about riding in just to be safe.
Needed Equipment:
  • Bike (obviously – preferably a road bike)
  • Helmet – Please do not ride without a good one!
  • Rear lights (red flashing lights work well)
  • Reflective gear – most bike clothes will have this built in.
  • Headlights – if any of your ride is done in the dark. We use NiteRider MiNewt lights. On the high setting I get 1 hour out of these lights.  My ride is between 1:10-1:20. When they turn off after an hour I can turn them back on the low setting and finish my ride.  It looks like the new model is designed to last longer.  If your ride home is in the dark, you’ll want to make sure you can charge the lights before you ride home.
  • Fix a flat kit – spare tubes, CO2, levers – I keep mine in a saddle bag with an all-purpose bike tool.
  • Water and/or sports drink/nutrition items – and a way to refill before the ride home.
  • Storage for keys, cell phone, ID – I use a bento box, jersey pockets also work well as does a small backpack if you need more room.
Happy & safe riding!
-Mindy


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