According to a study by MIT, driving a car is as stressful as participating in an extreme action sport. What a horrible way to start–or end–a work day.
On the other hand, riding a bike is a well-known stress reliever. According to the British Medical Association, cycling just 20 miles a week can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50%. It’s also a great way to appreciate your local world. How many fine details are missed traveling at 40 miles-per-hour that you’d catch from your bike?
Not owning a car my first five years in Norfolk I commuted almost exclusively by bike. I saved money. I stayed in shape. I had a great time. I suggest you try it. Here are some tips, provided by members of the local bike community, to get your bike commute off to a good start.
1. Be Smart About Your Clothes + Be Prepared to Freshen Up When You Get to Work
If you’re biking to work on a warm summer day wearing a tight gray shirt is obviously not the best idea in the world. Kelley Howell, who runs a monthly Friday Night Fun Ride, suggests keeping a spare outfit and shoes at work. Here are her tips for looking like you just came out of the shower–and not off a bike:
“I use witch hazel as an astringent to wipe down if I’ve been glowing. Women, of course, neither sweat nor perspire. We glow. After a hard ride, if you have a lot of glow, you can splash water on your face and extremities, dry off, then get the last bit of road grime of with witch hazel. For helmet head: Avon sells an apres-gym hair freshener. What it really is is a leave-in conditioner you can spray on to freshen your hair. Comb it through and style as I would at home.”
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2. Don’t Over-Stress the Bike
From Markus Wegener, President of Bike Norfolk and Chair of the Norfolk Bicycle and Pedestrian Trails Commission:
“My tip for people who are new to or just thinking about bike commuting is to not get sucked into the gear-head mentality. All you really need is a decent bike, depending on the distance there is no need for spandex, clip in shoes, and lightweight bikes. Even if you end up riding slower, that time is made up by not having to worry about changing clothes and prepping for the ride; just get dressed and get on your bike.”
3. Share the Road
“I have found that most cyclist are quick to shout it to passing drivers, but don’t always practice what they preach,” said Eric Throne, organizer of Critical Mass. “If you are riding with a group of your friends (with the exception of the last friday of every month/critical mass ride) ride single file allowing enough room for cars to pass comfortably. Big part of a happy bicycle commute is not getting buzzed or yelled at by drivers. Takes both drivers and cyclist to share the road.”
4. Pump it Up
“Too low of air pressure leads to high blood pressure, and or even flats.” — Andrew Hund, Hund’s Recyclefactory
5.Don’t be a Dummy
“Half of all cycling accidents involve only the cyclist. Learn bike handling skills. Practice on the weekend. Go on social group rides with.” – Kelley Howell
6. Invest in a Decent Lock
“Your bike is only worth as much as your bike lock,” said Wes Cheney, a bike courier with Carry Norfolk. “Skinny cable locks are convenient for cyclists to carry, and for bike thieves to cut. A twenty dollar pair of bolt cutters can easily cut a twenty dollar cable lock, padlock or chain, but not a twenty dollar U lock. U locks are sturdy, but not flexible. Sometimes it isn’t easy to find a suitable bike rack or post for a U lock. In those instances, ‘New York grade,’ heavy duty chains can be both flexible and secure, but at a heavier cost and weight. If you love your bike, lock it up, right.”
7. Ride with Confidence
Also from Wes, who is a founding member, Bike Norfolk and Commissioner of Bicycling and Pedestrian Trailways, Norfolk.
“Ride with traffic, not against it. Ride with lights at night. Ride with a friend. Few things scare a driver or a pedestrian more than the sight of a cyclist swerving down the street towards their shiny, new car. Ride your bike like you drive for a driver’s license test: cool, collected, alert, undistracted. Don’t be afraid to take a lane of the road. Stay at least three feet away from cars parked at the curb, so that you won’t get ‘doored.'”
8. Take Side Streets
“I like to go by the Hague because it is a nice route,” said Cindy Lewis, who runs the Coffee Shop Community Ride out of East Coast every Saturday at 9am. And the neighborhoods by the Lafayette River are nice. I like the scenic views from both routes. Less traffic and nice back streets to ride.”
9. Bike Even if it’s Nasty Out
“Make an effort to bike in on very bad weather days,” said Paul Forehand, unofficial Bike Czar of the City of Norfolk. “This will let you learn the capabilities of your gear, and increase your confidence. Be more cautious and slow your roll.”