How I Prepared

I started simple and slow, just by pedaling around the neighborhood, 1-2 miles on a cruiser (Walmart brand, big seat)  just having fun, getting used to riding a bike again.  My confidence in stopping, getting on and off, turning, was VERY low.  Hell, I still can’t jump curbs!  After about a couple weeks fooling around, I decided I wanted a bike with handbrakes, and so I sold the cruiser on Craigslist, bought a Mountain Bike for 30 dollar difference and off I went.

I found a couple trails and on weekends would go with a friend to do maybe 3-5 miles total.  After a month, I made a goal to bike 5 miles everyday in February.  I met my goal and knew work was only 8 miles one way and was slowly building the idea of commuting.  Only problem was that though I felt my strength was growing quickly, I realized I was pedaling harder, but not getting much return.  It felt like I was pushing and getting no where.  I set my next goal:  change my bike and plan my commute.

 

Bike and Setup

I decided to get a hybrid bike.  It’s like a mountain bike with skinnier tires for speed but still wide enough and rough enough to handle some off road stuff.  It seems most beginners begin on a hybrid and then grow into either a CycloCross or Road bike.  For now, I love me hybrid!

I used RideWithGPS to plan my route, I had various options and the first two failed.  I was scared of big intersections and traffic, non paved road, etc.  I planned a route, went on my free time to go stake it out with my car, walk along the area and finally, I found a route that would work.  By the 3rd week of March, I completed my first commute to work.

Here’s an OCD breakdown of what I bring, items I bought and procedure.  I know it’s a lot of detail, but planning and over-planning assuaged a lot of my nervousness about commuting and hopefully it helps someone else, too.

 

What I Wear

Regular WearI chose “performance” and workout clothes because they dry quickly and wick away moisture.  I do a complete office change, hang my clothes and by the afternoon, they’re dry (or mostly dry).  I wear capris and a jacket because I have very sensitive skin, I try to limit it’s exposure to sun, grass, etc.  I also changed to long socks (allergic to grass) and roll them up if I see high grass.

 

What I Take

STAYS IN BACKPACK

This stuff stays in bag when I get home.  It’s my bike commute backpack.

 

PUT IN BACKPACK

I have a reminder that goes off weekday mornings reminding me to make sure I have the following in my bag.  Somethings, like keys and wallet, are in there from the night before, but this is my general checklist:

  • Laptop (13″, 2lbs, no cord – I have a cord at home and at work)
  • keys
  • wallet
  • Jeans, Shirt
  • Fresh undies
  • Fresh pair of socks
  • Sport Quick Dry Towel
  • Lunch
  • bottle w/water or in summer, water/electrolyte mix (on bike, but part of checklist cause I prep it each morning)

This seems like a lot, but the only bike specific stuff is the water bottle, towel, and fresh change of socks/undies.  The rest I’d be looking for in the morning, anyway.

 

Work Clean-Up (No Shower)

Clean-Up Kit (Closed)I use a lot of the “gift pack”  items I get over Christmas (perfumes, lotions, washes) to make me smell awesome.   After the first week, too, I noticed my face drying and breaking out.  So, I took care to bring the gift pack facial washes, etc.  I also apply lotion at night, no problems since. The rest of the items are pretty cheap.

 

SUPPLIES:
PROCEDURE:
  • Clean-Up KitGet to work, drop helmet off, grab my cleanup bag, backpack and go to restroom.
  • Put fan on handicap rail on high
  • I take biking clothes off, put them on hanger and hang them on door handle.
  • I use wipes to clean face and privates
  • Spritz down body with the no-rinse body wash.  I rub it down to make it sudsy, then dry off with the sport towel (sometimes I dampen this towel as I walk in if I’m real gritty).
  • Wrap sport towel around head to soak up any sweat and apply lotion, deodorant and dress, still in front of fan.
  • Take bag to counter, unwrap hair, use dry shampoo on head, wash face with facial soap.
  • Dry off face and apply facial lotion and final spritzes of hairspray.
COOL DOWN:

I have a little electrical fan in the office, I sit by it for a good 5-10 minute and I’m done.  Entire change process takes about 10 min, cooling down another 5-10 minutes, but luckily I do that as I roll through the morning emails.

I noticed after the 2 weeks, the process got a lot faster and so did my cool down.

 

Maintenance

Bike StandAfter a month or so, I wanted a cheapie repair stand so I can put my bike up and check the tires, chain etc.  So, I got this:

 

Upgrades

Tire SizesAfter my first couple of flats and a crash or two, I wanted something that gave me a little more security.  I upgraded my tires as such:  Schwalbe Marathon Puncture Proof Tires and I kept the 700x32c size that my hybrid comes with up front, but in back I changed the tire to a 700x38c.  Why?  I feel more secure, has a little more grip, takes bumps and rocks better and I can feel a little more comfort.

When I started doing more weekend rides, long haul (just did my first 32 miler!), I got a little cyclometer from Planet Bike.  I retired the phone case (phone got too hot!) and would just start my Ride with GPS app (to track my progress) and stuff it in my backpack/bag etc.  I start my little cyclometer and off I go!  It helps me pace myself on longer rides and quit slacking off on shorter rides.

If you’re just starting out, these both might be overkill, but as I ride more and more, this has made my hybrid much more practical and enjoyable.