Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bike Commuting

In my decade of working life I have never lived closer than 20 miles to work. I started out over 40 miles away with my first job while living in San Marcos. Now I live about 3 miles away from my office. I can get there in 10 minutes! So what do I do? I go and make my commute almost as long as when I was 20 miles away by deciding to commute by bike.

First I had to get a bike. I had a nice bike when I was in college back in San Marcos which was stolen off our front porch (they cut the chain). Then, I had my niece’s old bike which had brake issues so I intentionally left it unlocked at work to be stolen/taken. I followed that up with my co-worker’s daughter’s old bike. That bike got me to and from college classes at ACC for 2 years. It was removed after sitting idle for several years locked up at work. I was not heartbroken because it was nothing fancy and pretty well worn out (starting to rust). So, I was bike-less as of last weekend and really wanted to get started on bike commuting before I got completely spoiled by a 10 minute drive. Most cheap bikes from big box stores are foreign made. They also seem to be worth about what you paid for them. Bike shops in Austin are very proud of their merchandise and both their new and used stock are priced such that you understand why they offer payment plans. Ultimately, I found a bike for $30 on Craig’s List. The bike seemed practically new and was just what I needed. I took a safety buddy to pick it up and have been bike commuting since then.

First off, I am pretty happy with the whole bike commuting experience. I can get exercise and save money while fulfilling a need. Here are some of my suggestions if you want to get into bike commuting. Although I’ve only been bike commuting a grand total of 3 days, I have quite a bit of experience with urban bike riding from my college days.

1)      If you live within 5 miles of work and can get there without getting on a highway or major thoroughfare, give bike commuting some consideration.

2)      Buy a cheap used bike to start out. You can always upgrade later. First off, a cheap bike will probably be a tougher workout since they aren’t built for speed. Second, it will be less of a target for theft. Third, it will be easier to tune up yourself. Cheap equals simple and simple is good when you are starting out.

3)      Take it easy. Don’t try to get there quickly. It is not a race. Don’t be embarrassed to get off and walk up a steep hill (there is one hill toward the end of my ride home that I so far refuse to ride up).

4)      Take a route through neighborhoods. It seems safer. People drive slower, are looking for obstacles like kids, dogs, and bikes. They are also probably less likely to be texting and driving as there are too many obstacles such as parked cars, speed bumps, and traffic calming islands to take their eyes off the road.

5)      Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Slow down at intersections and parking lot entrances/exits even if you technically have the right of way. Cars might not see you, so make sure you see them.

6)      Wear a helmet (duh!).

7)      All locks can be cut, so just get a decent steel u-lock and save your money: