10 Tips for Bicycle Commuting

Bike to Work Week starts May 12th! Many cyclists around the country will be taking to the streets next week to use their bicycles for their daily transportation needs. While many of us are pretty comfortable riding bikes for recreational use, we tend to do these activities in ideal locations away from traffic where there isn’t much to think about besides having a good time. Bicycle commuting and other urban errands, though, will most likely take us through areas that are out of our normal comfort zone. Sharing the road with trucks, autos, motorcycles, pedestrians, and other cyclists requires a lot of attention, bike handling skills, confidence, and knowledge of the rules of the road. It can seem overwhelming and dangerous at first, but with some experience, it becomes as normal as driving. Even quite enjoyable.

Musser Street
Sharing the road with trucks, autos, motorcycles, pedestrians, and other cyclists

I began full-time bicycle commuting back in the Fall of 2007. At first it was a personal challenge to see how long I could go without driving. I made it through my first winter. Seasons went by, and then a year. Then two and three. After a while I stopped counting. It was no longer a challenge, just a way of life. I had made a lifestyle change that had become a habit. While it all seems routine now, I can still remember all the challenges I faced initially, and all the lessons I had to learn the hard way. So whether you plan to commute by bike next week, the rest of the month, or make a lifestyle change, the following tips will help you get on the road.

    • Rules of the road – While a bicycle gives the rider the feeling of freedom, this doesn’t mean the rider is free to break the law. When I’m out riding, I see a few cyclists blowing through stop signs. Riding on the sidewalk. Or even riding on the wrong side of the street coming right at me in my own bike lane. I also see drivers that treat cyclists like pedestrians (a cyclist is only a pedestrian if they are off the bike walking it). I think a lot of people don’t know that bikes need to follow the same rules as cars, rules that most people are pretty familiar with. When riding your bike on public roads, follow the same rules you would in your car. Stop at stop signs and lights. Keep off the sidewalks as this endangers pedestrians. Ride with traffic on the right-hand side of the road. Riding predictably will help keep you safe, prevent cars from crashing trying avoid you, and give you respect from other roadway users.
    • Which bike to ride – Which bike do you need to commute by bike? The one you have will probably work fine if that’s all you own. Some bikes are definitely better suited to the task though, and one must consider things like road conditions, distance to be traveled, cargo capacity, and portability. Mountain bikes can handle any terrain you may encounter, but a road bike will be easier to pedal and faster over smooth roads. A long utility bike may give you lots of cargo capacity, but may not fit on a bus bike rack or could be too heavy to carry up a few flights of stairs at the office. Start with what you have. After you gain some experience, you may consider a bike better suited to your specific needs. Also consider where you’ll be keeping your bike. Is it secure? You don’t want to leave your high end bike out on a public bike rack for hours on end unsupervised. It’ll disappear for sure.
    • What to wear – If you’re lucky and don’t have to ride very far, you can probably get away with the same clothes you plan to wear to work. I like to be able to hop off the bike and walk directly into the office with no clothing changes. The mornings are nice and cool, so it’s pretty easy to arrive at work unspoiled if you live fairly close to work. For those that live further away and require more effort to pedal to work, it may be necessary to carry your work clothes in your pack or have something to change into stashed at the office. Some offices have a shower, but usually some cool water on the face or a wet-wipe is plenty. If you get sweaty on the way home, you’re going home anyhow. An ankle strap on the right leg works great for keeping your pants clean.

Chrome Commuter Bag
Messenger style bag

    • How to carry your stuff – There are a few ways to carry your things, and all have their merits. A backpack or messenger style bag is really simple and portable. Messenger bags allow you to get to things without taking the pack off, but a backpack is more stable. Backpacks and bags decrease ventilation on hot days though, and place the weight on your body. Panniers get the load off your back, and don’t really affect bike handling with modest loads. You do have to worry about security though if the bags aren’t easily removable. Another way to carry a small load is with a basket mounted above the front wheel. Since they’re bolted on, you don’t have to worry about someone walking away with it as much. The downside is that the weight over the front wheel can affect your steering. Another strategy is to keep some stuff at the office. Dress shoes are a great item to stow at work. They’re bulky and you don’t really need to carry them back and forth each day.
    • What needs to be in your pack – Think of what you carry around in your car. You have a spare tire, jack, cell phone, maybe an extra jacket, and probably a lot of other items just laying around that would be helpful if you broke down or had an emergency. When you’re away from the house all day on your bike, you need to think the same way. A spare tube, tire levers, mini-pump, and mutli-tool will cover most of the repairs you’ll encounter and don’t take up much room. At the very least, have a cell phone and someone that can come pick you up if you have a mechanical issue beyond your skill level or time to repair. A cyclists also needs to consider the weather forecast for the entire day. It may be sunny when you leave the house, but there may be thundershowers rolling in later in the day. Bring the appropriate clothing. Bring your lights if there’s a chance you’ll be riding in the dark. Sometimes you may have an after work function that goes on much later than expected. Water, lunch, and a snack are also good things to consider. Don’t forget your bike lock, wallet, eye glasses, phone charger, headphones, and other items you may need throughout the day.
    • Securing your bike – Before you start bicycle commuting, you need to figure out where you’re going to keep your bike at your destination. The rules vary greatly at each place of business, so you need to check with the boss first. You may be able to keep your bike at your desk, in a spare room, or in a secure area outside. You may have to lock it to a bike rack or a tree. Where you’re going to keep your bike may determine which bike you’re going to ride. Remember, any lock or cable can be cut through or busted open with a jack. The more expensive locks just buy you more time. Don’t make your bike the most appealing bike on the rack to thieves!
    • Map your route – The best routes to get to work in a car are often the worst routes on a bicycle. The bicycle allows you to get more creative with your route, since you’re going the same speed whether you’re on a quiet residential street or a high speed boulevard. Pick a route that helps you avoid dangerous traffic, or one that takes you through a more scenic route like a park or historical district. Google maps is helpful for planning your route, and it even has the option to map it for bicycle travel. For those in Carson City, Muscle Powered has safe cycling maps available around town or for download on the website.
    • Do a trial run – Before your first commute, it is helpful to do a trial run on your day off when you have extra time. Time yourself riding at a casual pace, and see how long it really takes to get there. Additionally, you may find something you don’t like and want to adjust your route. Running late on a Monday morning is a bad time to figure out you’ve made some miscalculations.

Commuter Convoy
Ride with friends

  • Ride with friends – Bicycle commuting with a friend or coworker is a fun activity. I’ve even met some pretty good friends along my routes. Not only does it give you some companionship, but there is safety in numbers. A larger group is easier to see, and you can share tools and other resources.
  • Get Involved – Join a bicycling advocacy group. If there’s something you’d like to see changed, chances are someone needs your help to get it done. Many cities around the country have a bicycle advocacy group that works with local governments to make the roads safer for bicycles. They are always appreciative for more help. In Carson City, this group is Muscle Powered.

Looking for others to bicycle commute with? There is still time left to enter the Bike to Work Week Corporate Challenge. Riders from all over the city will be competing for miles and trips by bicycle. Although this is a friendly competition, it’s a good support group of other riders just like you. Visit Muscle Powered’s Corporate Challenge page for more details.

Next up, some tips to keep you safe on your commute.

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Get Ready for Bike Month

Sheriff Kenny and Muscle Powered advisor Lee Harter getting ready to ride - "Celebrity Ride" 2012
Sheriff Kenny and Muscle Powered advisor Lee Harter getting ready to ride – “Celebrity Ride” 2012

Next month is Bike Month and there are plenty of activities planned in Carson City. We kick off on April 24 with Nevada Moves Day at the State Legislature. Muscle Powered is organizing exhibits in the front foyer of the legislative building highlighting Nevada groups working for better walking and biking. Participants include the Reno Bike Project, Safe Routes to Schools, the Carson Valley Trails Association and more. Muscle Powered members will invite legislators on a one-hour walk from 7 to 8 am starting from the legislative building, highlighting complete and not-so-complete streets in downtown Carson City. Exhibits will be up all day long – this is a good opportunity to visit what everyone during the session calls simply “the building,” so come down and say hello.

Rides

Next up is Bike Habitat’s Tour de Carson on Sunday, May 5. This popular ride starts from Bike Habitat in the Topsy Lane shopping center, circles Carson City, then ends up back at Bike Habitat for a barbecue.

Jenny Scanland is leading Slow Spokes Rides every Wednesday at 5:15 pm through June. Contact Jenny at  jscanland@charter.net, 684 2787

Several years ago Jeff Potter picked up then-City Supervisor Shelly Aldean on his tandem and they rode to work together on the first day of Bike To Work Week. This has evolved into a  Celebrity Ride where community leaders are invited to join Muscle Powered members on a leisurely hour-long ride around Carson City’s west side. Last year we were joined by the mayor, the sheriff, and several City department heads. This year we have invited state officials as well, so we’ll see who shows up. The Celebrity Ride will be on Tuesday, May 7.

One of the most popular events of Bike Month, the Cruiser Ride, will take place on Wednesday, May 15. Ride your prettiest bike. Costumes – for both bikes and riders – are not mandatory but welcome.

Vietnam Veterans of America family bike ride will take place on Saturday May 18, just before the end-of-Bike-Week party.

Artists

Local Gallery Artsy Fartsy is hosting a tricycle yard art contest. The trikes will be decorated by local artists, and will be sold by silent auction. The gallery will also show bicycle-themed art throughout the month.

Bike to Work Week

Of course the whole purpose of Bike Month – besides to have fun, which is always important – is to encourage biking for transportation. Bike to Work Week is May 13-17. Bike to Work DAY is May 17. We are organizing another Corporate/Agency Challenge this year, so you can compete for most miles ridden during the week as an individual or team, and get your chance to hold on to our enormous Bike Trophy for a year. Contact Jeff Potter through this site if you want to take part. Jenny Scanland is hosting a Bike Commute Station in the state’s Bryan Building (901 S. Stewart St) on May 1,2, and 3 to share tips for bike commuting. There will be free coffee for bike commuters on Bike to Work Day May 17 at various locations – check here or on our Facebook page for details.

Parties and other events

The End-of-Bike-Week Party will be Saturday, May 18, 3-6 pm, on West Telegraph Street by Telegraph Square in downtown Carson City. There will be a raffle including 2 cruiser bikes, bands, food trucks, tricycle races, and more.

This isn’t all. Other events include a bike social at Tap Shack, a women’s bike clinic led by Muscle Powered board member Cortney Bloomer, a bike movie at Sassafras, potentially a showing of Rick Gunn’s popular Soul Cycler slide show and more. Check back for info as these events are lined up.

Flat Tire Repair Clinic at the Bike Smith

So you’re out on your bike, 15 miles away from home, and you get a flat. No problem! Just grab your spare tube, your pump, and… What’s that? You don’t know how to fix a flat tire?

Bike Smith Flat Tire Repair Clinc
Learn how to repair your own flat tires at the Bike Smith

A flat tire is the most common problem that WILL happen on your bike. Thankfully they’re pretty easy to repair with a little know-how. You can ride pretty far in a short amount of time on your bike, and having the skill to fix a flat will keep you from walking a long way back home.  The Bike Smith is once again offering their popular Flat Tire Repair Clinic on Tuesday, May 22nd at 6:00PM. They will go over wheel removal, inspecting the tire for damage and sharp objects, and replacing the tube. Other topics may come up as time allows.

What: Flat Tire Repair Clinic
When: Tuesday, May 22nd at 6:00PM.
Where: The Bike Smith, 900 N Carson St, Carson City, NV 89701
More info: (775) 883-3210

Carson City Family Bike Festival

The first annual Carson City Family Bike Festival, co-sponsored by Muscle Powered with Carson City Health and Human Services and Carson City Parks and Recreation, will be held on Sunday, May 20th, from 1-4 pm at Riverview Park.

Put Your Best Foot Forward
Riding at Riverview Park

In addition to the bike ride, Muscle Powered will be doing FREE bicycle safety inspections. Riverview Park is located at the east end of 5th Street out by the Carson River. Trails are hard packed dirt, suitable for all but the skinniest tires.

Free Coffee on Bike to Work Day

On Friday, May 18th, from the hours of 7am – 8:30am, Comma Coffee is offering one complementary cup of coffee to individuals who are commuting to work by bicycle. Keep an eye out for the special Muscle Powered scones to go with your coffee! Comma Coffee is located at 312 S Carson Street.

Comma Coffee
Inside Comma Coffee 

Also, though not a part of Bike to Work Day, Dutch Bros is offering all coffee drinks for $1 as part of their 5th anniversary celebration.

Bike to Work Week Party at the Firkin and Fox

It’s great to see the bicycle miles and trips rack up from our Corporate Challengers! If you haven’t been keeping track, go check out the previous posts to see the daily totals. We’re going to have a big party at the Firkin and Fox on Friday night the 18th to celebrate everyone’s hard work this week. In addition to announcing the winners of the Corporate Challenge, we’re going to have live music from Notch 8, and a raffle with prizes you don’t want to miss out on. Money collected from the raffle goes to benefit Muscle Powered, Citizens for a Walkable and Bikeable Carson City.

Bike to Work Week Party
Last year’s winners of the woman’s cruiser

The Bicycle Authority helped us with the grand prizes again this year, two Custom Beach Cruisers from Phat Cycles! These two bikes are the nicest we’ve given away yet, a little more custom than last year’s. We traditionally give the bikes away before it gets too dark, giving people without lights the opportunity to ride home safely.

Raffle Bikes
Women’s Cruiser

Raffle Bikes
Men’s Cruiser

In addition to the bikes from Bicycle Authority, there are plenty of other fantastic prizes to give away, all donated by our other Bike to Work Week Sponsors! And yes, you MUST be present to win. This year’s sponsors are:

  • Adele’s
  • Bicycle Authority
  • Bike Carson/Tahoe
  • Bike Habitat
  • Bike Smith
  • Capitol Automotive
  • Comma Coffee (Free morning coffee for bicycle commuters)
  • Cracker Box
  • Firkin and Fox
  • High Sierra Brewery
  • Muscle Powered
  • Red Bike Cycling
  • Sassafras
  • The Tap Shack

Notch 8 will entertain the crowd between the raffle items, and there will be drinks available outside during the party. Food will be available inside at the restaurant.

Notch 8
Notch 8 to perform at the party

Details:

What: Bike to Work Week Party 2012
Where: Firkin and Fox, 310 S. Carson St, Carson City, NV 89701
When: Friday, May 18th @ 5:30 PM.
Other: The party is outside in the back of the restaurant. Plenty of bike parking in view of the party.
Facebook Event Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/378436315525125/

West Side Cruiser Ride 2012

It’s almost time for Muscle Powered’s annual Bike to Work Week cruiser ride! This Wednesday, May 16th, bring the whole family down to Telegraph Square for a slow-paced fun ride around the quiet streets of Carson City’s west side. Sign-in for the ride at 6:15pm, ride starts around 6:30pm.

West Side Cruiser Ride
Wear your costume! Decorate your bike!

Last year we had a few riders show up in costumes and it was a lot of fun. So this year, we are strongly encouraging EVERYONE to wear a costume for the ride and/or decorate their bike.

West Carson Cruiser Ride
Join the parade!

Don’t have a cruiser? No worries. Any bike will do. Cruiser rides are all about riding slow, enjoying the scenery, and socializing.

West Side Cruiser Ride
Easy pedal through Carson’s quiet west side

When: Wednesday, May 16th, 6:15PM
Where: Telegraph Square (Corner of Telegraph and Curry Streets)
What: Easy 4-5 mile pedal around Carson’s West side.
Kid Friendly: Yes! Kids are encouraged.
Do: Wear your costumes and decorate your bikes.  Wear your helmet.
Don’t: Miss out on this fun event!