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Bike Commuting 101



Words and photos by Andy Dappen 

Recently, during National Bike To Work Week, I wrote about the ‘why’ of bike commuting (it’s good exercise, regular exercise greatly improves health, good health benefits families and employers, it saves money and reduces congestions, it’s good for the environment, and bike commuting gets you more in touch with the outdoors and other people). Benefits aside, be forewarned: You may not like this activity at the start. It is sweaty exercise, so you need to give bike commuting a fair shake by sticking with it for at least a month. As your body gets used to moving, a day will arrive when the teeter-totter quite dramatically tips from ‘this is terrible’ to ‘I like this.’ It’s like getting hooked on coffee – most coffee lovers thought coffee was a loathsome beverage the first few times they had it. But gradually....

The basics below will get bike commuters going, but you need to provide the tenacity to stick with it long enough to turn the corner from loathing it to loving it.



The bike.
 Any bike is fine. Clean it, pump the tires firm, oil the chain, check that the brakes work well. Make sure the bike is visible, too – a blinking taillight and blinking  headlight that catch the attention of motorists several hundred yards away are excellent for accident prevention.

 
       

Other gear.
 Helmet. Thin, protective gloves (gardening gloves in a pinch). Bike rack or small pack for work supplies, lunch, windbreaker. Strong bike lock. Pump. Small repair kit (supplies to fix a flat tire at the minimum). Water.


Work clothing and changing. 
Keep work clothes, shoes, towel, hygiene items at work. For most of us around the Wenatchee Valley, commuting to work is a downhill ride that doesn’t generate much sweat—going home after work is the uphill, sweaty work. Still, give yourself a short post-ride cool-down period before throwing your body right into your business suit. 



Planning.
 Check the weather, prepare the bike, organize your pack, and plan the route the night before. Leave earlier than necessary in the morning – you’re safer and more observant when not rushing.


Frequency and Partners.
 Ride twice a week for a few weeks, then three times a week for a few weeks. Look for a commuting partner – it’s more fun and obligates both of you to ride.

        

Riding.
 Be visible (bright colors) and predictable. Claim the right side of a traffic lane, not the sidewalk or the shoulder where cars at intersections or driveways will have trouble seeing you. Bikes are vehicles and use the same rules of the road as cars. Ditch headphones and think about a rearview mirror for your handlebars or helmet. Learn and use hand signals.

  • Master Plan.  Earlier this month, a new bicycling master plan for the Greater Wenatchee area was adopted. Once you’re hooked on bike commuting, you’ll be interested in the many ways the new plan improves bike lanes and bike safety around town. You might even find yourself at city council meetings advocating that funding be found to implement different recommendations.
More WenatcheeOutdoors Biking Resources: