Kicking Gridlock to the Curb – A Dietitian’s Guide to Bike CommutingPosted on September 20th, 2017
Let’s be honest we have all been there locked in traffic and ready to pull out our hair. 😡 But what if I told you there is a way to commute to work that avoids the gridlock nightmare, can help you save money, is great for the planet, boosts mental health, and counts as exercise too? I know what most of you are thinking… “your’e crazy, I’m not riding a bike to work”! I am an avid cyclist and have spent many miles on the open road with just two wheels. But in all honesty I am just now hitting the road to work on a bike after 4 years of dreaming of this kind of commute. So yes, the anxiety is real even for people who regularly ride their bikes, so you are not alone. With a little practice, patience, and preparation bike commuting CAN be a part of your daily routine and a fantastic way to meet your daily exercise goals. So here are a few tips from this cycling dietitian on how you can get started on your bike commute….
It is very important that you feel comfortable with riding a bike, have all the equipment you need, and are educated on safety and laws for bikes.
- Equipment – obviously you need a bike but do you have a helmet, lights, water bottles, pant strap, and gear to fix a flat (extra tube(s), tire tools, C02 cartridges, and a patch kit)? (GET A PANT STRAP IF YOU ARE BIKING IN YOUR WORK PANTS – this little velcro device keeps your pant leg from getting caught in the chain or from getting too dirty) At a minimum you need all of these things to get started but the list can be endless with all the extra bells and whistles available like bike gloves, special cycling shoes, reflective gear, and bags.
- Practice – do you feel confident riding a bike? How comfortable do you feel comfortable riding a bike WITH cars is an even better question. You need to be able to feel confident in what you are doing and how to handle yourself on the open road or you can quickly become a danger to yourself and drivers. How far can you ride your bike and how far is your commute? If you can only ride for 1 mile trying to conquer that 6 mile or 20 mile commute to work just isn’t realistic. Keep working up your miles on the trail or with a cycling group until you are ready to hit the road.
- Plan Your Route – I cannot stress this enough. Plan your route, check your route, and check it again. It is much better to find out about any route hiccups before your commute. Think outside of the box, since you aren’t in a car you aren’t limited to only using the main streets to shorten your commute. In fact my driving commute is 99% main roads but my cycling commute is close to 90% side streets. Why? Well, the there is less traffic on side streets, speed limits are lower, and drivers are more alert with speed humps and stop signs occurring more frequently. I even mapped my route to avoid crossing at most major intersections to have a more safe cross at a less busy light. I highly encourage you to drive your route before ever biking it to anticipate any potential ‘speed bumps’ that you may face.
- Educate Yourself – do you know how to change a flat or fix a dropped chain? Basic bike maintenance should be an absolute before you hit the road. Check out YouTube or a local bike shop to learn these skills.
You can help control your safety with simple pre-cautions and being aware.
- Know your cycling rules and laws. Do you have to use lights or reflectors for your bike (the answer is yes)? Can you take a whole lane to ride (also yes)? Educate yourself on what is acceptable and what isn’t. Check out the state and local laws here.
- The rules of the road apply to you! You are not exempt from following all the laws, like stopping at red lights and stop signs. While it can be tedious to stop – stopping can save your life and your wallet from a traffic ticket!
- My dad always told me it’s better to be dead wrong than dead right. While you may have the right to ride you should always ride with the assumption that no one can see you. Take it slow, be aware of your surroundings, anticipate drivers, and be prepared to give way to a motorist even if they don’t have the right of way.
- ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS wear your helmet. It is like insurance – great to have but never need to use. Please make sure your helmet fits lightly snug and it is always buckled when you are in motion.
- Let someone know that you are commuting on bike and when you arrive. (Moms are great for this!)
- Make yourself visible with lights and reflective clothing.
- Be weather aware – this is especially important in Oklahoma! I think I speak for most cyclists when I say riding in terrible wind, cold temperatures, or rain is just not that enjoyable. Maybe those days you know the weather might be spotty you plan to commute by car.
- Have a plan B – keep a friend or family member on speed dial that you know will come pick you up if have mechanical issues or get too tired. Keep a raincoat handy in case of a pop shower. Know the area in case you need to re-route from road closures.
- Ride with a friend or group if and when possible – there is safety in numbers!
Hitting the Road….
- Pack all of your work gear, change of clothes, lunch, water bottles, etc. the night before to shave some time off your morning routine.
- Pump up your tires. Tires can fluctuate in air overnight so it is always best to re-inflate them before every ride. Low tire pressure can make for a more tough and uncomfortable ride.
- Apply sunscreen, even if it doesn’t look sunny outside. (I like to keep a small bottle in the pack on my bike!)
- Give yourself plenty of time to get from home to work.
- Stay hydrated and fueled. Water should be your first choice of beverages and a breakfast or snack with protein and carbohydrates should help keep you feeling energized through your commute.
- Don’t forget to pack personal hygiene items (or just store them in your office) for when you arrive if showers are not available at your workplace. Event the shortest of rides can work up a sweat.
About the Blogger:
Heather Steele, RD/LD is a Reasor’s Registered Dietitian and is a board eligible Certified Specialist in Pediatrics. In her free time she enjoys cycling and cooking. Heather offices out of the Reasor’s off 71st & Lynn Lane and also covers the 101st & Elm location for all of your food & nutrition needs! Have more questions about bike commuting? Feel free to call/text/email Heather anytime at 918-260-9514 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information included does not constitute medical advice and should only be used as a general recommendation for a healthy diet and lifestyle. Reasor’s Registered Dietitian’s opinions and recommendations are of their own; they are not paid to endorse any products.