SAN FRANCISCO, CA Let's be honest; daily commutes sound fantastic when you travel less than 10 miles either by car, bus or train. But, is it the same as commuting using your very own two wheeled, single speed, rusty old buddy? Let's expand on all the things that can ruin your daily commute.
To start, let's set the background and the rules to determine the factors that can definitely ruin your awesome morning (or afternoon) trip to work or school or whatever other reason you have to move to point A to point B. The items below apply to everyone who owns a bicycle and uses it to go to/from work or school. No electric bike issues are covered here or riding in the middle of the arctic circle with a foot of snow, so let's keep it real people!
GETTING A FLAT TIRE - Imagine yourself riding at 15 mph, downhill with a subtle breeze hitting your face on a nice sunny morning. And then, Zeus strikes and WHAM!! you get a flat tire. Not only this little but annoying incident can be dangerous (especially on a downhill trip) but also it can be time consuming if you don't have a spare tire and tools to replace the damaged tube. Always check your bicycle and maintain it. It only takes a few minutes every morning to keep it in check or better yet, get some nice and light tools (and pump) to take care of issues like this. Not too good at the whole mechanic thing? Don't worry, there are mobile shops out there that can help with situations like this: beelinebikes, revrepair, velofix, thebikedoctor and many others. Find the right near you and if they have an app, that's even better!
WEATHER CONDITIONS - It definitely depends on where you live but weather conditions can make or brake your commute, regardless if you bike or not to work. Even sunny days can be challenging if you forget your water bottle. Rainy days are difficult if you don't own a really good rain jacket or waterproof gloves, not to mention that your backpack has to protect all your dry clothes and maybe even your laptop from water. Other places struggle with sand storms, high humidity, really hot and dry environments and snowy afternoons. My recommendation is to have the right gear for the right weather. Make a sound investment in products that can satisfy these requirements without going bankrupt, some companies allow you to try their stuff before committing, look for those options and ride!
GETTING HIT BY A DISTRACTED CAR DRIVER - More and more stories come up in the news about cyclist getting hit by distracted or disgruntled drivers. It doesn't matter how extravagant or fluorescent your cycling clothing are, it seems that nothing can prevent this from happening. In previous posts of this blog we talked on the commitment from cities and states to expand the cycling path networks to allow more and more people to ride safely. What can you do? Well, there are a ton of recommendations you can find in the web about this but my best advise is this: ride in highly visible streets with bike paths/lanes if possible. Don't try to ride around cars or try to pass them during traffic lights. Make sure they see you. A helmet mirror is a great way to see them and make sure they see you. Nowadays you can get really powerful bicycle horns to capture anyone's attention, these work well with distracted drivers.
A HANGOVER (HAD TOO MANY CERVEZAS THE DAY BEFORE) - Yes, this is a problem too! Don't get me wrong, the opportunity of having a really cold beer after a ride is magical, almost mandatory; but when you had too many of them, can be disastrous and painful. Dehydration is dangerous when riding as it can trigger so many side effects during your commute such as fatigue and dizziness (to name a few). I don't have to expand on this too much but you get the picture. Keep it light, enjoy a couple of beers and have a nice and happy ride the following morning.
NOT WEARING THE RIGHT GEAR - Not everyone likes to commute wearing cycling shorts, bibs or even jerseys. Some folks in England ride their work clothes and others buy daily clothes that have been designed or modified to be used for this purpose. It has become a trend to use cycling clothes that look more like daily clothes. Merino Wool, breathable fabrics and materials, water repellent blazers and even dress shoes with clips are now available through different companies across the globe. Your commuter doesn't have to be uncomfortable, even your bike can be upgraded to a wider and more ride-friendly saddle. Even a steel frame can be more accommodating than a full carbon fiber bikes or even a folding one can be a better solution than a fixie. Ask people, get into blogs, talk to your bike store guy and get the right stuff.
A CONNECTING BUS WITH NO SPACE IN THE BIKE RACK OR RIDING A TRAIN FULL WITH NO MORE ROOM FOR YOU - This sounds like the perfect storm and it happens more often than you think. Just recently in the Bay Area we celebrated the "Bike the Work Day" and it was almost impossible to find a spot in the train or the bus for a bike commuter. Definitely both systems are not designed to carry so many of us at one time!
YOUR BIKE GETS STOLEN - I can't think of anything worst than this. I recently had a conversation with a delightful lady that talked about this happening to her 3 times in the last 6 months or so. Her friends decided to buy her the last one as a way to support her and encourage her to keep commuting to work this way and not buy a car. So many different solutions are available but none of them seem to be the perfect solution. If you asked me I would say: Buy a folding bike with a Tile Bike Lock Tracker of an Ellipse Smart Bike Lock.
YOUR FORGOT TO CHARGE YOUR BIKE LIGHTS - It's getting darker sooner and you forgot to charge your bike lights...what do you do? It's not like you can light a candle and ride! Now you went from barely visible to almost invisible on the road. Go with solar or with a secondary system to power your lights like the Siva Atom.
Anyway, regardless of the unfortunate reason, be happy, smile and remember to enjoy the ride.