Commuting

How to Plan Your Commute Route: A Guest Post

A guest post by our Bike Ambassadors member, Marieke! 

Route planning tips for bike commuting

Planning your bike commuting route can be challenging. When commuting, you want to get to work or home as fast as possible and you don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time on a longer detour. Of course, you would like to be safe too. Fortunately, there are different tools and websites available to help you out.

Just like a car route, Google Maps is a great way to start: identify your home and your destination and GO! Make sure to look at the bicycle overlay, which will show green (or brown) lines as bike friendly streets and trails, and use the bike search option, versus the standard car search. Google bike routes are considered in beta version, but the data behind the maps are usually directly fed by municipalities and do give a great first approach of the route to tackle… After a first result, I often check the satellite images for bike lane signs or use streetview to get a lay of the land. It is always good to know if you are on the street, if there is a bike lane, or if you are directed to a poorly-maintained sidewalk that only in name has just been upgraded to bike route. Would you be better off in the street in that case, or should you reroute? Another great way to get an idea where others ride is via Strava heatmaps, which is free and can be accessed without an account. It is fun to see what other riders prefer, and maybe you can optimize your route.

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Be aware and prepared, a bike lane or trail can unexpectedly end.

There is a personal touch to each bike route. Not everyone likes or is comfortable riding in the same streets. Some people wish to avoid bike lanes at all cost and are willing to take longer routes to be completely off street on a bike path. Some quirks, like unfriendly intersections, you will only find out by trying your route, which is done best when you are not in a hurry for a 9 am meeting. I usually keep optimizing my routes to be faster and safer for a long time after my first attempt. Bike infrastructure in Colorado keeps improving rapidly, and new bike lanes or trails show up all the time. I also like to ride with colleagues and friends, just to learn new ways. I even have different routes depending on the time of year. In winter, I will partly use a bike trail that is nicely plowed after each storm, has no cars, and is safer and off-street in the dark. In summer, I won't dwindle and go the shortest route, which is unfortunately along a busy highway. A bonus gravel trail along the way makes up for it and is a shortcut and quiet.

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If you have the luxury, trails are a wonderful and safe way to commute off street.

Denver, as most other Front Range municipalities, has a network of designated bike trails across town. In Denver these are labelled as D-routes and they are a great way to start plotting your commute. It will be worth to check out what your own city or county has listed as bike trails and routes. Bicycle Colorado has a nice list to get you started for most communities (link below).

A GPS, your smartphone or just a plain old map can be handy to take a peak when you are lost, have an unexpected flat and need the nearest bus stop, etc. And.. rule number one when riding your route for the first few times is to give yourself enough room before your first morning meeting.

Happy pedaling!

Useful websites:

My summer morning commute is unfortunately on the shoulder of a busy highway. It is very scenic and by far the quickest way to work, but I try not to ride here in the dark.

My summer morning commute is unfortunately on the shoulder of a busy highway. It is very scenic and by far the quickest way to work, but I try not to ride here in the dark.

#10000milesin2018: Month Two Update

Total Miles to Date: 1298.4

Total Number of Strava Group Members: 264 members – 13 more people joined since our last update at the end of January.

Challenges: 

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After a strong January, February was rough.  Between snow and strong winds, the weather made many days unfavorable for riding outside, my motivation was plain-and-simple lacking to bundle up, and so indoor rides were usually the go-to for me- often in the evenings.  One weekend that was unseasonably warm was really windy, and another one was spent caring for an injured dog.  One week I was at a 3-day conference and I opted for treadmill runs vs the hotel exercise bike (to get a bit more calorie-bang-for-the-buck).  That week -for the entire WEEK- I only logged 27 miles- which is supposed to be my daily target. Ooftah.  But hey - that's life! I fell behind on my miles, no question about it.  (I should be around 1,666 miles so I'm about 368 behind!).

Highlights:

I figured out how to build custom workouts on Zwift, which means the program walks you through your target efforts both in time and in power goals, taking all of the math and self-guidance out of the equation.  It's awesome -and really helps a rider nail their workout! 

THIS MONTH’S QUESTION:  What strengths are you drawing on to meet your goal?

Self-discipline was a big one ...  getting ON the trainer at 9 or 930pm a few times took every ounce of self-discipline I possess.  Getting on the trainer workout after workout (thankful for my Feedback Sports Omnium every single time!) without the chance to ride outside took some self-discipline.  Also -perspective.  Knowing that there were just days I wasn't up to riding and giving myself the "ok" to skip those days.  Looking at the year as a whole and not panicking about falling too far behind on miles kept me sane ;) 


Strava Group Member Feature: 

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If you’re in Portland, Oregon, join Daniel Payne, one of our #10000milesin2018 members, for a ride. He is planning on riding around 11,000 miles in 2018. In 2017, he rode 13,000 miles. Way to go, Daniel! 

My Bike Trip Around the World: A Guest Blog

My name is Sarah Welle - I live in Longmont, CO and I'm an entrepreneur (I run a gifting company called Colorado Crafted that specializes in Colorado-made products). I'm writing to tell you about the time I spent a year cycling around the world for my honeymoon!

It all started when, in my mid 20s, I got the book Miles from Nowhere as a gift. It's about a couple in the 70s who drops everything and rides their bikes around the world. I had never HEARD of such a thing, but I was completely captivated. Less than a year later, I got married to my longtime boyfriend and somehow convinced him that we should quit our cushy Microsoft jobs, sell everything we owned, and cycle around the world for a year as our unconventional honeymoon. I still can't believe I convinced him it was a good idea, but I did! In 2007 we sold literally everything, packed up our bikes and camping gear, flew to New Zealand, and started cycling. I still remember the feeling of standing in a parking lot right before we left and just dropping my purse into a garbage can because I didn't need it anymore. 

How did you decide where to ride?

We wanted to see SO much of the world. We started off with really ambitious plans, not really having any idea how fast we'd make any progress on our route. We decided to start with New Zealand because we wanted an "easy" country to start in - English speaking, cycle touring is popular there, lots of places to get spare parts in the case of a breakdown, etc. So that's where we started! From there we wanted to check out Southeast Asia, so we booked tickets to Singapore and cycled north through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. After that we didn't really have any concrete plans, but what ended up happening was a big crash in the jungles of Laos, forced skipping of China, and a change of plans that brought us to Eastern Europe where we cycled through Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, etc, etc -- finally ending our trip in Istanbul, Turkey! We'd considered flying to Argentina and riding south but after a year on the road we missed family and friends and were ready to end the big trip.


What was the best part of traveling by bike?

There were SO many things to love. We loved the quiet peacefulness of cycling through the countryside: we could hear birds singing, cows chewing grass, locals chatting and going about their business. It also gave us so many opportunities to meet people and really experience the local culture. When you're resting in the shade and eating a snack you'd be surprised how many kind invitations you get to join people for tea, etc. We were overwhelmed by the general goodness of humanity, which was wonderful. We also loved seeing the landscape slowly change as we cycled across whole countries, and it was a treat to actually see the sunrise and sunset every single day for a whole year.

What was the hardest part?

The reality of being stuck outside in terrible weather, the worst was freezing rain or days & days of windy weather, was much harder in practice than I'd expected. We were also surprised by the difference in our physical abilities; I would feel tired and worn out after far fewer miles than James which caused a few pesky conflicts! ;)

How did you experience the cycling-motorist relationship in different countries? 
This was fascinating to experience - there was a huge range in this relationship. In more third-world countries, where cars are less common, cars and trucks on the road were perfectly accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists (and walkers and mopeds and cows)! We felt very safe cycling in countries like Thailand and Laos. In some Eastern European countries - Serbia stands out in my mind - car owners were unbelievably aggressive and frightening at times. We learned to take back roads as much as possible, as well as avoid riding through major cities, and that did a lot to make day to day cycling more fun.


We kept a blog along the way which is super outdated looking at this point, but the stories are still there! It's at erck.org.  

Two of my favorite blog posts are:

  • This roundup, about 6 months into the trip, of our favorite & least favorite things, scariest moments, and our most common arguments: http://blog.erck.org/?p=471
  • Looking back on our trip, our top pieces of advice if you're thinking of a similar trip: http://blog.erck.org/?p=782

 

Dressing for Winter Riding & Commuting in the Dark

Our lovely Bike Ambassadors have been busy writing instructive blogs to help everyone tackle those cold, and sometimes dark, commutes this time of year.  Please click on the links below to read Sue and Laura's tips and tricks! 

DRESSING FOR WINTER RIDING -By Sue 

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#10000milesin2018: Month One update!

By Maureen & Megan 

JANUARY RECAP:

Total Miles to Date: 884

Total Number of Strava Group Members: 251 members -from all over the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Germany, Greece, England, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, USA. 

I am SO excited to see this many people jump in on the challenge! 

Challenges?: I've had a raging head cold since Christmas eve.  It's made it nearly impossible to ride hard on the trainer, or to ride outside in the cold, because that just makes it worse.  I confirmed I don't have the flu, and have just been dealing with the stuffy nose and cough with hot tea and cough drops.  We also got some snow in Colorado which made riding outside nearly impossible (nearly - fat bikes make it possible!) .  

Highlights?: I have been fortunate this month to spend some time in warm, sunny AZ and also CA, where it was easier to log bigger miles.  I've also been really thankful for Zwift for indoor trainer rides, it keeps it fun and engaging! 

THIS MONTH’S QUESTION: How has your daily schedule/routine changed to meet this goal? 

Every day I wake up knowing that somehow, I need to average 27 miles/day.  If I miss a day, I know I'll need to make those miles up.  I went to see family for a weekend in Omaha, where the weather outside was atrocious (and I also didn't have a bike) and so I committed myself to riding miles on the hotel exercise bike each morning.  Sometimes I wait until the evening and do a two hour trainer ride. A few times this month, those rides weren't starting until 9 or 930pm at night because the day was just too jam-packed.  And it was totally ok.  Making it happen is what it takes.  Sometimes I use the commute to work for some miles and then add on.  I was also looking forward to the Trek Travel bike camp I'm on this week (in Solvang) to add some miles -which will hopefully bring up my averages and give me a headstart for February.  

There is no question that every day, I know 1.5-2 hours need to be spent riding.  This has given me a reason to schedule my evenings much lighter, and to minimize my after-hour commitments and social engagements, so that I have time to get those miles in. It's been really nice, actually, to have that daily focus.  I am encouraged to get better/more sleep, to stretch and to take better care of myself knowing I'll be on the bike almost every day.  Overall I am feeling really invigorated and motivated by this goal! 

Here are some photos from my rides in January: 

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!

10,000 miles in 2018

The goal of riding 10,000 miles in one calendar year is one that I've had on my mind for many years, but frankly -lacked the courage to tackle.  It represents a couple thousand more miles than my biggest year, to-date.  With multisport/Ironman training as the focus the past 3 years, I couldn't fit in this kind of riding, along with the running and swimming time demands.

But now as I look ahead to 2018 ... the time feels right and I've publicly stated my goal:

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The plan will be to ride 6 days / week with one day completely off for rest and sanity.  All told, I'll need to average 27 miles/day, or 833 miles/month, to reach the goal. Commuting will play an even bigger role here, as will indoor/trainer rides during the cold months!

If you're interested, I would love for you to join me.  Please find the Strava group HERE.  (34 people have already jumped in) .... the fun kicks off on January 1, 2018.  Let's do this. 

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

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

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"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