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May: The Month of Cycling Awesomeness

I love May. Also, I love a challenge. So, I’m going to challenge you to ride your bike for some part of your commute during May. It doesn’t matter if it’s once or every day, half a mile or 50 miles, on your bike that hasn’t seen the light of day in a decade or on the bike you’ve been riding for the past 8 years straight. This is for anyone and everyone who enjoys riding a bike.

Why? Because May is National Bike Month (here in Washington state, it's officially Bike to Work Month, too).

Simply put: I think riding bikes is fun, and I encounter a lot of people who also think the same. So… why not have fun on your way to or from work? Simple. Fun. (High-fives!)

In my experience, Bike to Work Month is filled with camaraderie and motivating stories—many of the people I see riding year-round got started during Bike to Work Month and caught the bug. I’ve watched people go from practically no experience on a bike to leading a group, taking pulls into a tough headwind. And the conversations shared between old and new friends? Fantastic! It's a rolling social hour (though it may be worthwhile to set ground rules of no work talk). 

Excuse the sentimental gushiness, but the days when I’ve left work with 20 other bike commuters, all smiling and happy to be out there, riding… those have been some of my favorite days of the year. Watching hundreds of people filter through our Bike to Work Day commuter station? So completely inspiring. Simply put, May is a month of awesomeness. If you can, I encourage you to consider riding as part of Bike to Work Month.

Some tips I wish I’d been given when I got started:

  • Baby steps. If bike commuting is new to you, take incremental steps that let you figure out what you are and aren’t comfortable with.
  • Routes. These are usually the biggest hurdle for people, including experienced riders. The good news is that there are lots of resources out there, including online maps and route planning tools, printed maps, and of course the wisdom and experience of other riders and bike shop staff. Some areas even have “bike buddy” programs where you can work with an experienced rider in hashing out all the details and figuring out a good route. It's also worthwhile to ask around at work, as it's possible there are other bike commuters from your area who've already done all the route finding. The trick is taking those first steps. It can be challenging, but more often than not, it’s not as hard as you’d think.
  • Readiness. Most bike shops offer some level of instruction or help with basic maintenance, like fixing a flat or lubing your chain. These are good skills to have, regardless of the context of your riding.
  • Packing. Pack your stuff and prep your bike the night before. Yes, it’s likely riding your bike will increase the amount of time it takes to commute; you can lessen that impact with a little bit of preparation.
  • Planning. Things to consider keeping extras of at work: toiletries, change of clothes, shoes, towel, an spare tube or patch kit. Also, you don’t have to carry everything with you every day. I’ve known people who bring a week’s worth of clothes to the office with them when they drive in on Monday, or do something else along these lines.
  • Use weather tools. Radar and hourly forecasts offer great insight into the day. For instance, the general forecast may call for a 50% chance of rain, but looking at the hourly info reveals that the rain will be moving through in the middle of the day, with warm temps and a tailwind for both the morning and evening commutes.
  • You don’t have to ride the whole way. Seriously. I encounter this perspective very, very often—that unless you ride the whole way, you’re somehow “wrong” or “not doing it right”—riding your own ride is doing it right.
  • Ride what you’re comfortable with—bike, clothes, pace, weather, distance. All those things are entirely up to you to alter to fit your comfort levels. If you don’t have a locker room or shower facilities at work, it’s okay to ride slow enough so you don’t break a sweat. You don’t have to ride in the rain. If there’s a sketchy part of the route that you don’t want to ride, it’s okay to catch public transportation or drive past that point and ride from there. The point is to ride. Distance, intensity, frequency… all up to you: and whatever you choose, good on ya for doing so!
  • I’d be remiss to not mention that our local Commute Challenge has helped provide a bit of competition for the competitively spirited. It’s worth checking out, even if you aren’t in the area.
If there’s one thing I know for certain, though, is that there’s probably lots that I’ve neglected to mention or address… so please, whether you’re highly experienced bike commuter or considering buying a bike because of the rising gas prices, speak up, ask questions or leave your commuting tips for others as we approach the Month of Cycling Awesomeness!

Posted on at 4:31 PM

Tagged: Cycling, bicycle, bike commuting, bike to work month and commute challenge

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If there are any other bicyclists at work, ask for their advice. Or ask your human resources department. What are the best bike routes around the work location? What are the safety hazards that you really need to be wary of? And where do you park your bike? Bicycle theft is one of the biggest deterrents to bicycle commuting. Some good local knowledge can really help getting you started.

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