Bike Commuting

Bike Ambassador Team Blog: Commuting Delivers Daily Joy

Guest Blog post by I-Ling Thompson, Bike Ambassador

More than Miles, Bike Commuting Delivers a Daily Dose of Joy

Just shy of two years ago, we decided to move from the trail mecca of Golden, Colo. (complete with across-the-street trail access) to Denver. While I loved having trail access out my front door, I found climbing in a car to go anywhere exhausting and tough on my carbon consciousness. We found a darling, yet woefully dated bungalow in West Highland that offered a #ridemoredriveless daily lifestyle, shaved my daily commute to 15 minutes by bicycle, and served up plenty of renovation projects to keep us busy.

Our first year was hard – city life was dramatically different than rural Golden. The parking hassles, the noise, pavement everywhere…despite my best intentions to ride everywhere, I found the adjustment to city life difficult and old car habits were hard to break. Add to that my work and travel schedule kept me off the saddle and behind a desk more than ever…the days of carefree riding, simply opening my garage door to roll out on canyon roads or dirt felt foreign and beyond distant.

Interestingly, I found a daily dose of sanity by reaching for my bike to make that 15-minute commute to work. I chose between bikes lanes, bike paths and neighborhoods roads to pedal out the day before and behind me. And despite traveling upwards of three weeks a month, I strapped on my helmet to commute 96 times. The simplicity of grabbing my bike to go to work, dinner or the grocery store is indescribable. My commute became my joy and the system of bike paths around Denver, my new stomping grounds. I finally invested in a cruiser bike, complete with rechargeable lights, a rear wheel lock, fenders, a basket and a grocery getter pannier. The neighborhood was an old friend now, and I knew it’s streets. It wasn’t the foothills of Golden, but it was pretty awesome.

When my second spring rolled around, the quiet streets of West Highland blossomed into an entirely new neighborhood. My morning commutes were fragrant with spring flowers, and train of commuters on my route home brought familiar comfort when my days ran into darkness. I was now going days without moving my car. I added Lyft, walking and begging rides from hubby to my commute mix.

Even bigger this year, my hubby and I took our first cycling vacation. Rather than rent a car, we explored Norway by bike for eight days. The experience of riding our bikes in a foreign country, along quiet roads and boarding ferries to cross a fjord was indescribable. Sitting in a fruit stand to have lunch before pedaling to the next town...pure joy.  

I also found peace with merging my professional job + commuting. I don’t have a shower at work, so the struggle with hair + sweat management + outfit selection is real. I embraced the side ponytail to make my new post-helmet hair manageable and slowed my pace to avoid glistening. I tested my “professional” wardrobe and found that most everything was bike-friendliness for the time/distance required for my commute.  Despite my crazy travel schedule, I managed 92 commutes and 331 rather stylish miles by bike, if I do say so!  

If 2017 taught me anything, it’s that a commuter mindset happens in small, every day actions, not just the bold ones. I'm so grateful for my commuter team..this team is comprised of women from all backgrounds...medical, executives, lawyers, nonprofit leaders, small business owners and mathematicians. Despite their full schedules, these ladies stay committed to the bike commuter lifestyles they want to lead and remind me of the possibilities, joy and experiences to be had by bike. It would be very hard to trade in this lifestyle, given the freedom and hours of car-free life I’ve taken back. 

So here's to 2018! I'm ready for the adventures you have in store!

"Love Your Helmet!" - A Guest Post About Denver Commuting

Guest post by Tim McAndrew: One awesome human, cyclist and commuter! 

helmet.jpg

"Love your helmet!"

I LOVE hearing those words as I'm commuting by bicycle from Arvada to Denver and back. God knows we cyclists usually hear a lot worse. But not only is it great affirmation that I have a badass looking helmet -- that flashes and signals turns, by the way… -- it's even better knowing that I can be seen. That's my #1 goal when commuting -- being totally visible to motorists, other cyclists and pedestrians.

One could say I look a bit like a Christmas tree when riding my bike. But for the 16 - 27 mile routes that I take, I wouldn't have it any other way. I sport flashing white and red lights attached to the frame. And then I have the lights on my helmet (I ride with them in flashing mode), plus another flashing red on my backpack (when I’m carrying it). And that’s in summer months! In darker months, I add one 1500 lumen light mounted to the handlebars plus another affixed to my helmet. And then for flair, I will sometimes run a spoke light in the front! So yeah, it’d be really hard not to see me wheeling down the street.

I used to be a summertime-only, Bike-to-Work-Day kind of commuter. This was mainly due to the fact that there are no shower facilities at my office and schlepping a backpack back and forth in 95 heat sucked. But I slowly started figuring out how to overcome these minor obstacles. For instance, I’ve become a master at the 5-minute, I’m-taking-over-the-restroom kind of clean up – it’s amazing what some hot water and tea tree oil can do to get you feeling refreshed and smelling good!

But the real key for me in transitioning to a multi-day commuter was actually even simpler: just planning ahead. I found that if I keep towel, washcloth, and toiletries in a spare filing cabinet, and used a small portion of a storage closet to serve as my private armoire and clothes line, I could commute several days in a row! So I just store a couple pairs of slacks, a few shirts, a couple pair of shoes in there, and rotate through them as needed. Then I just shuffle stuff back and forth on days when I drive to/from work. Pretty simple!

That said, in fall, winter and spring, I still usually carry a backpack. Fortunately it’s fairly empty on the way in. But on the way home I usually fill it with the extra gear (heavier gloves, jacket, tights, etc.) I needed to fight off the morning chill/cold. I also stash in there the clear sunglass lenses I use to ride when it’s dark -- I swap to darker lenses for the ride home.

Which brings me to commuting times. I’m lucky enough to have a little flexibility in my schedule so I use that to my full advantage. My normal hours are 8:00-5:00, but on commuting days I work 7:00-4:00. This means leaving the house between 5:30-6:00a, which for all but the months of June and July means I’m usually riding in the dark for at least part of the way.

For me, riding in a little darkness is a great trade off versus riding later with a lot more vehicles on the road. This is definitely more the case in the morning where traffic is almost completely negligible. But it’s true in the afternoon as well. I estimate for each 15 mins I leave after 4:00p, the volume of vehicular traffic increases by 25%. So, yeah, I’ll take the early/dark option every time and twice on Sundays.

One thing that can wreak havoc on a bike commute is the weather. This is especially true here in Colorado where the weather changes lightning fast. So my best friend for commuting is my Weather Underground app. I use WU to check current temps and wind direction/speed of my planned route, and adjust both my route and gear accordingly. For example, there was one day where the temp at the house was 52 and when I hit the low point of my ride along Clear Creek, the temp was 28. So I able to dress appropriately and even altered my route so as not to ride through that low point.

I also use WU to track storm cells and their movements. As anyone who’s lived on the front range knows, once a cell crosses the foothills there’s no telling which direction it will go. But seeing them develop on radar, seeing how they are tracking, and then just looking out the window usually gives me enough info to determine which route I’m gonna take home. There have been days when a cell was right in my planned path, so I’d just adjust my route to skirt around it. But there have also been days when I’ve had no choice and to just grin and bear it. If it’s an exceptionally bad/wide storm, I’ll hang around the office and wait it out. Then make my way home after things have settled. Worst case, I’ll call the cavalry for a ride or even uber it home and leave the bike at work.

Bike commuting can seem daunting. And it’s true there are a lot of things to factor in and consider. But with a little bit of planning and a little bit of experience, it can be easy as pie. And it sure beats the heck out of commuting by car these days. You feel great and energized when you arrive at work, and even better when you get home. So much so, that rewarding yourself with that cold beer on the deck is both refreshing and totally guiltless!

Here’s to your bike commute…cheers!!

#ridemoredriveless

 

Holiday greeting & Challenge for the new year

Happy Holidays fellow bike lovers!  I write this post with love, gratitude, and bikes in my heart and on my mind.  I hope this message finds you well -happy, healthy, and with your family and friends as Christmas approaches.  

I write this post shortly after tallying my overall bike miles for the year as compared to my overall car miles.  They are very close to being the same.  

Car mileage this year is 6,578. 
Bike mileage is approx 6,455

One of my goals for 2014 was to ride more than I drove.  I feel pretty good about where the mileage ended up and I'm confidant that before the year is over, my bike miles will surpass those car miles.  In 2015, I hope to make it an even bigger difference.  My goal would be 2 bike miles for every 1 car mile.  It is possible, it just takes planning and diligence.

I wish to challenge you as you approach your 2015 resolutions.  I wish to challenge you to add bike commuting to your list.  Here are just a few of the many wonderful things that happen when you leave your car at home and use your two-wheeled friend instead, to get from point A to point B: 

We start with the obvious ones:

You'll be happier

You'll be healthier

You'll be more awake and energized

You'll NOT suffer from road rage like you do when driving a car

You'll smell the fresh air

You'll see things you'd never notice in your car

You'll wave, smile and connect with other people instead of just passing them by

You'll destress

You'll reduce air congestion/pollution/road wear and tear and you'll help decrease traffic

How about a few more complex bonuses to bike commuting?  Consider these:

1-you can't cram your schedule as full, because it takes more time to get from place to place.  Therefore, bike commuting can actually help you slow down, declutter your calendar and slow your frenetic pace.  You'll need an hour between appointments instead of 20 minutes?  That's a GOOD thing.

1.5 -when you aren't as frenetic in your day-to-day schedule, you are nicer and friendler to people you encounter. You are more likely to feel compassion, empathy and sympathy for others because you'll have quiet time to think while you ride, which can recharge you and equip you to be more caring for others.  More plugged in ... more present.  Slowing down makes you nice(r). 

1.75 - you'll have a chance to be mindful.  There is no "auto-pilot" when you're bike commuting (nor should there be in your car, either!)... however you can be engaged in your bike commute while also taking the opportunity to be mindful while you ride.  This is not only good for your mental and emotional health, it's important. It may be your only chance to disengage from all the technology and buzz in your life. 

2-you can't buy as much stuff.  We are consuming consumption consumers.  Buy buy buy.  Fill our homes, drawers and cupboards with stuff.  Are you desirous of a fridge with shelf space, perhaps a less cluttered home, with less "knick knacks" sitting around collecting dust? Does your office have so many picture frames or potted plants, that you're starting to feel claustrophobic?  Bike commuting can provide a solution!  You can't physically BUY or cart around as much stuff, when you use your bike to go shopping.  (My commuter bike basket can hold a decent-sized bag of groceries- but it's far less than I would normally buy if I drove my car to the store).

Do you find that, no matter what, you spend $100 or more each time you step into Target? It's almost a given, isn't it.  Well -ride your bike there and just wait and see how truly selective and purposeful you are in your shopping.  Additionally, when you don't just pop into your car and run out to the store to grab something, you end up shopping and buying less overall.  When each trip means loading up on the bike and pedaling there, you start to really ask yourself, "do I truly need to go get that?  Can it wait until another trip -  or can I skip it altogether?"

2.5 - Bike commuting leads to conscious consumers. I have found that the more I "work" for an item I'm going to go buy by bike, the more I want to know what's in it -where was it made -was it locally-grown? Was it grown sustainably?  Going there by bike reveals curiosity in the items themselves, and you find yourself evolving into this curious consumer who wants to make the right purchasing choices -ones that align with your missions...ones that align with the goals that got you bike commuting in the first place! 

3-related to #2 above, bike commuting can help reduce debt or rid your life of debt for good!  You can't shop as much = you don't buy as much.  You don't cram as much into your daily schedule or routine = you're not spending money on fuel to rush around like a maniac trying to fit it all in.  You will improve your health, so you'll be sick less often, you'll need to see your Doctor less, and you may need less prescription or OTC medications or supplements.  Let's not forget the savings in fuel, car wear and tear, and maybe even car payments, registration, and insurance (if you opt for the bike exclusively and go car-free!).  The less you spend on car expenses, the more you can spend paying down debts and saving for fun trips or for retirement! (#2 above).

4- you'll inspire others.  I don't know about you but I try to make each day meaningful in some way -to positively touch someone else's life if I possibly can. If you are out bike commuting and others see you -whether it's your friends, neighbors, spouse, kids, or simply other commuters driving past you in your car -you may be THE REASON they start bike commuting too.  And beyond the basic awesomeness of that, imagine how many of the above positives they will begin to experience in their lives as well.  YES PLEASE! 

In sum... who doesn't want to be happier, healthier, debt free, engaged in their surroundings, connecting with others, inspiring others, and helping the environment?  

Consider how you can include a bike commute in your weekly schedule -especially for those trips that are 3 miles or less.  

Here are some great links to help you get started.  

http://www.commutebybike.com/2007/08/16/a-guide-to-a-simple-bike-commute/

http://hottmanlawoffice.com/commuting

http://bikeleague.org/content/commuting

Remember- you don't need a fancy bike, or special clothes. You just need to have equipment that is in good working condition and a little preparation in your packing and planning, and you're all set!  You may even ask Santa to bring you a nice wind/rain jacket (priceless when it's needed) and some good quality bike lights (if you'll be riding at dawn/dusk/night).  

Good luck to you and happy new year! 

Sincerely,