The Decision to Commute
Deciding to travel to work on two self-powered wheels may be by choice or necessity. Either way, many people in SoCal make this journey daily in many different ways. Some zip by gridlocked traffic on their e-bikes, while others leisurely ride through tree-lined residential neighborhoods. Some climb the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean before rolling into their work place parking lot. Whichever route you take, a certain amount of pre-ride planning will make the post-ride transformation (into a well-groomed employee) effortless.
As a start, a new commuter might want to connect with a co-worker who already commutes. It’s a way to learn about the optimal designated biking routes and undiscovered side roads (or use Google’s bike map directions). Do a route test ride on a non-workday. See how you feel afterwards and calculate how long it will actually take on a workday with adjustments for rush-hour traffic. Start simple and consider being a part-time commuter as you build up endurance and confidence. Some days may not be suitable for cycling, depending on the weather or special work activities. No need to push. Even if you are committed to everyday commuting, have a back-up plan for days when it just isn’t feasible.
Safety should be the primary concern of every commuter. Begin with your equipment. Keep your bike in good working order and carry a simple tool kit (tube, tire levers, and pump) that you know how to use. Learn the best way to configure your bike lock. Place a white light on the front of your bike and a red light on the rear. Finally, consider purchasing fenders to guard against splashing mud and water.
A variety of products are available to protect your body. It’s advisable to wear bright, reflective clothing, or at least a reflective vest and arm/leg bands for a commute during twilight hours. Helmets are mandatory and available with lights and other safety features. Gloves reduce vibration and are critical if you fall. Safety or biking glasses protect your eyes from bugs and debris from passing cars.
More importantly, even if you wear a sparkly helmet and glowing jacket, don’t assume drivers see you. Stay mentally focused on your ride. Look around and cover all areas of your field of vision every 5-10 seconds. Check windows of parked cars to make sure no one is about to exit. Take time at intersections to come to a complete stop. Ride on the correct side of the road and follow all traffic laws. Act predictably and signal your intentions.
Once you arrive at work, your pre-planned transformation may require a full or partial change of clothes. Clothing, grooming supplies, and work materials can be carried on a rear rack with a bag that can be attached or hung from it, a front or rear basket, or a backpack. A rear rack may make balancing weighty cargo easier than carrying multiple items in a front basket. A backpack may make you sweaty.
For everyday, good weather commuting, wear moisture-wicking layers that can be removed as you go. Carry a chamois towel, popular with swimmers. For anyone attired in a dress or skirt, wearing a pair of white, black or nude-colored cycling shorts underneath (some even have lace) can double as an undergarment. If your commute is longer than 20-30 minutes, wear cycling shorts without underwear and put on clean undies upon arrival. Shoe selections can range from running shoes to stilettos, depending on your experience and comfort. For rain, have a back-up plan or pack suitable clothing, pants and coat, or a stylish rain cape.
Smell Fresh, Go Faster
Keep necessary toiletries at work, such as baby wipes, on-the-go pre-moistened facial wipes, deodorant, a hair dryer, anti-frizz spray, dry shampoo, and cosmetics. “Helmet hair’ may be prevented by first tying a silk scarf over your hair or switching the part before putting on the helmet. Simplifying your hairstyle and make-up routine are additional ways to streamline the transition from cycling commuter to fresh-smelling and well-groomed co-worker. – CC