OCD Guide to Beginning a Bike Commute
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.
- Giant Escape 3.0 Hybrid (Women’s)
- Waterproof phone case
- bottle w/water or in summer, water/electrolyte mix
- tail light
- Planet Bike ARS Anatomical Saddle (got rid of cruiser seat but not ready for original seat on bike, this is a compromise between the two)
What I Wear
I 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.
- Workout Capris
- Workout Tank
- Sports Bra
- Light Windbreaker/Jacket (summer: a mesh jacket)
What I Take
STAYS IN BACKPACK
This stuff stays in bag when I get home. It’s my bike commute backpack.
- Small tool bag (used the bag from the french towels I bought):
- 2 Granola Chocolate Bars (for emergency)
- 3 oz sunscreen in little travel squeeze bottle
- Backpack rain cover
- Carmex (for lips and other uh chapping. Don’t double dip!!)
- U-Lock (I don’t take the cable, I lock mine in our warehouse so it’s pretty secure even w/o a lock)
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)
- Jeans, Shirt
- Fresh undies
- Fresh pair of socks
- Sport Quick Dry Towel
- 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)
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.
- Aloe Baby Wipes
- Dry Shampoo
- No Rinse Body Wash
- Spritz Hair Spray
- Body Lotion
- Face Wash
- Facial Lotion
- 2 Hangers (left at work, too)
- Febreze travel (to spray clothes just in case)
- Small portable fan (to help cooling off in restroom as I change)
- Get 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.
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.
After 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.