On our prior Real Advice: Commuting by Bike post, we asked readers to share their advice and stories about commuting by bike – we got such great replies that we had to share our favorite responses. Read on below to find out why folks just like you saddle up to hit the road by bike every morning, some adventures they’ve had along the way, and some hard-earned advice they learned along the way. We hope that you’ll be as inspired as we are to try riding your bike to work!
Commuter shot from our last photo shoot
From Steve H.:
When I ride a bicycle to work, I am “ready”. By car and bus my commute is 35 minutes for 9 miles, but by bicycle it takes that or less. The bike ride then becomes a challenge to beat the clock, while obeying all traffic signals. During the ride, there is little to no traffic since I leave an hour earlier than my normal commute time. Less car traffic eliminates risk, at least that is what I try to accomplish. When I get to work I am energized, focused, feel like I accomplished something, and its a conversation starter with coworkers. As a data geek, I track the route/time with MapMyRide, post it to Facebook, and review my stats (speed, time, personal records, etc….). Fun way to start the day. The afternoon flies by as I have my commute home to waiting for me. On the bike my mind drifts to work tasks, grocery list, dinner cravings, connecting with nature, watching construction progress in neighborhoods not on my normal car commute, greeting fellow bike trail riders, breathing clean air, driving the pedals up hills so I can fly through the next flat, greeting my smiling daughter upon my arrival home and answering all her questions about the ride. Life is better on a bicycle.
It was my first time commuting (by bike) to downtown Chicago.
I had heard rumors of Chicago becoming a bike-friendly city, but the infrastructure improvements had yet to reach my neck of the woods. So, for once, I was enjoying protected bike lanes, visible bike lane paint, and smooth roads. Sure, the typical frustrations existed here: car exhaust, drivers passing too closely, sweat pouring down my face. But, I had pedaled myself all the way downtown.
Me. My legs. My bike. While reflecting on this, empowered doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.
Then, on the way home, I started getting tired. Doubting myself, I wondered if I had the strength to make it home. Did I make a mistake? Was it too soon? Too far beyond my abilities?
Just then, as if to confirm my fears, a truck began to turn left… On a one way… Headed right toward me. I was frozen and stared at the driver in horror. Eye contact, a turn of his wheel, and — much to my relief — he caught his mistake and didn’t run me over.
Still shaken, but relieved, I glanced to my left. A pedestrian stood at the crosswalk, with a similar look on her face. We laughed together, and she exclaimed “I was so scared!! I started waving, like ‘NO!’” while demonstrably waving her arms in the air.
Connecting with another person during a commute? Positively? That never happened while driving in my car.
I made it home just fine.
View of Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods
From Lisa P.:
How can you go wrong with a 10 mile commute to work when you know 3 miles into it you look to your left and see the magnificent Pikes Peak surrounded by the Garden of the Gods?
I feel that same guilty pleasure every time I ride that no one I work with can truly understand. I have just pedaled my way to work, gained strength, clarity, and beautiful scenery. I know my day will rock no matter what gets thrown at me. And what’s even better? I get to look forward to that same beautiful scenery, strength and clarity all the way 10 miles back home. Riding to work will clear the mind and soul, not to mention save on gas while burning some fat! It’s a shrink and a personal trainer wrapped into one awesome ride!
I would advise to use a rear carrier , panel or basket to carry your bag. I love recycling and saving money at the same time so I installed a plastic fruit case I found on a supermarket bin as a rear basket. That makes my ride easy as my back is free and doesn’t sweat.
I try to go faster and reduce the time every day, with the help of an app on my phone that tells me how I’m doing during the cycling , pace , time, speed, etc . Luckily I have shower facility at work so I can take a nice shower as soon as I arrive there. When I see my colleagues already working on their desks with their grey faces and sleepy eyes I feel like Iron Man, fresh as a lettuce and ready for action.
The common sense tells me that you have to be visible for the cars , especially in the morning when the drivers are trying to wake themselves up, so it’s extremely important to wear a reflective jacket, preferably a yellow one. Gears such as gloves and glasses are recommended too.
I hope that one day more people will realize the benefits of cycling and leave their cars for long journeys only.
Riding through the NC Museum of Art
From Joe B.:
My “real advice”, here goes, somewhat a list of do’s and don’ts: Don’t be afraid to take the long way and learn to ride fast and smart. Do leave early both ways. If your commute is in or near the suburbs, do try NOT to ride at 5pm or shortly after. There is a different energy around then which makes drivers more aggressive. Do find a park to cut through on your way home because 1) you’ll escape cars and 2) melt away any stress.
Here’s my story, in one big paragraph: I am very lucky. I have a seventeen miler one way. Only one mile of which can be fairly existential. Getting to the back side of Lake Crabtree is pretty awesome and quite a relief. Along the route I get to sprint up the dam and make the turn at the top. Still hoping to one day make it no hands. Then fly through Umstead, braking at the water fountain before heading down hill and up Reedy Creek on past the horse farms. Marking off a couple of sections to sprint. Taking a turn and going below the road through a tunnel, coming out and rounding the corner in full sprint, suddenly braking hard for spazzed bunnies. I’m now headed toward the Art Museum, riding no hands into the wind up a gentle hill. Eyeing the light and cars to make sure I’m not a jerk because I know they won’t see me for the brief moment it’s green. Then having to wait while the sun bakes and sweat drips. Finally crossing through the museum, taking the steep hill because it’s there, and then another because I have no choice. Over a humongous bridge across the freeway, down and under another tunnel. Phew, last big hill coming up. Before I know it, I’m crossing at Hillsborough and then skirting the Rose Garden, up a little hill, turning at the water tower and waiting at the bank light. Then it’s down my street, eyeing cars that pull out before looking, hoping the curb and dismounting. The best part might be saying Hi to my neighbors because I’m in a really good mood as my girl greets me at the door.