Six months! I’m 1/2 way through six months of a car~free commute. February marks a meaningful milestone in my adventure and exploration of how easy, or not, it actually is to be a year~round bike commuter in Northern Colorado.
My impression, in general, is that this is not a big deal. It’s been more of a psychological adjustment than a physical challenge. And not just for me. My coworkers and other people who interact with me casually as an acquaintance continue to be shocked, concerned, and frequently offer me rides to/from work or to run errands. I decline. They care. I get it and I am fortunate I have people in my life that do. With a little pinch of planning, a dash of common sense, and the will and personal constitution to “Just Do It!”, becoming a year~round bike commuter in Northern Colorado is easy.
What I know now is that it could have been easier for me if I would have realized a few things before I started to ride so… here’s a short list of my top 10 tips for those of you who are contemplating becoming a bike commuter:
1. Plan ahead – seriously consider and map out your current routes to/from work, the grocery store, places you like to visit, errands you regularly need to run, etc.
Once you’ve done this, check out city bike routes and get a sense of where you can ride, where you want to ride and maybe most importantly, where you do not want to or can’t ride! Super busy streets, high volume traffic times, times when a train goes through town, sunrise/sunset. These are going to impact you and the quality of your commute.
2. Check the weather – having an awareness of what’s on the horizon for the next 24 hours is very important. It will affect your decisions about clothing, how much extra time your commute may take, and it might cause you to consider a bike/bus combo commute, or not biking at all. Are there weather conditions you probably shouldn’t ride in? Yes. You’ll figure out what your comfort level is.
3. Have a Plan-B and C – Think backups. This could include the MAX, car services such as Lyft or Uber, or friends and family.
4. Charge your phone – Stuff happens. Weather changes unexpectedly. Detours occur. Don’t do a ride without the ability to communicate.
5. Check out your bike before each ride – tires, bike lights, chain and breaks.
6. Pack spares – wool socks, a hat, sunglasses, gloves. Stash a few extra things so if your primary gear gets wet or lost so you won’t be without. The littlest things can make the biggest difference in your comfort.
7. Remove removables – if you’re parking your bike in a high pedestrian place, or even securing your bike on the MAX, do not think for a second that the cool, quick release gadgets like lights, bells, phone wraps, etc. will not get lifted. It happens fast. It’s frustrating and it’s not necessary to ever loose or have anything removed from your bike not removed by you!
8. Assume no one sees you – there are a lot of distracted drivers on the road. Don’t assume any one driving a vehicle understands the laws nor wishes to follow them. This includes other cyclists as well.
9. Listen to your intuition – honor your gut instincts. Getting a vibe that you shouldn’t go down a particular street or that you should take the left fork in the road instead of the right one, go with your gut.
10. Enjoy yourself – your attitude will influence your commute more than you might think. Set the tone internally to cultivate a healthy sense and appreciation for the unexpected.
Is bike commuting for everyone? No. Do I ride everyday, everywhere, all the time? No. There are some destinations, distances, weather conditions, and other factors that influence my decision to ride. But they’re few and far between.
In the past six months, there have only been about a dozen days I’ve not commuted by bike and mostly due to weather. Heavy snow, ice, strong and gusty winds over 25 mph, temps in the double digit negatives, and torrential rain storms will cause me to go to my Plan-B.
The amount of money I’ve saved, increase in my physical health, reduction in stress, and time I’ve saved being able to quickly zip around FoCo has been well worth becoming a bike commuter.