Just for Fun Friday – Bike Commuting Questions Edition

Although I didn’t know it when I biked to work yesterday for the first time in my life, May is National Bike Month.  Next week (5/14 – 5/18) is National Bike to Work Week, and Friday the 18th is National Bike to Work Day.

On my first-ever bike commute yesterday, I made a wrong turn since it looked a lot different on the bike than it does in a car, and I was distracted a bit.  And yes, I’m the team’s navigator which explains why we never win anything.  Regardless, I made it to work, and I loved it.  However, I have a few questions for all of you veteran bike commuters out there.

  1. What do you carry your stuff in?  Backpack?  Messenger bag?  What would you recommend?
  2. Do you carry extra bike clothes for the ride home?  Putting my bike clothes back on to ride home was a bit gross.  They were pretty sweaty even though it was a short ride in 70 degree weather.  I can’t imagine how funky they’ll be in mid-Summer.
  3. Is it okay to bike on sidewalks?  Or is that taboo?  What if the sidewalk is a designated path for bikes and pedestrians like the Greenway here in Jefferson City?
  4. What do you say to coworkers who whistle at your hot ass in spandex?
  5. Do you lock your bike up?  If so, what kind of lock?  Do you have a storage space inside the building for your bike?
  6. How far is your commute?
  7. Any other tips, tricks, or knowledge bombs this newby bike commuter should know?

Seriously, I’d love to hear what you guys do.  I think it would be helpful for not only me, but others who are new to bike commuting or thinking about starting it.


About Lukas Lamb

Husband to a wonderful wife, father to 4 incredible kids (3 daughters and 1 son), adventure racer, mountain biker, runner, lifter of weights, reader of books, and lover of life. He can be found on Google+

Posted on May 11, 2012, in Just for Fun Friday and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. 1. Backpack, and actually my AR backpack so I can bring clothes plus have the Camelbak for water in the summer.

    2. Depends on how hot it is going to be. I usually go funky on the bottom if it’s super hot and just bring a different shirt of some kind to change into for the ride home. I actually have a shower on my floor in our building plus my carpet-covered-cubicle-of-hell has a storage locker in it, so I stage clothes for the week so I don’t have to carry as much.

    3. I do a combo of both because I’m dumb and don’t really know the rules. I connect up to a concrete trail by the Cedar River once I get into Cedar Rapids and ride on that, and then hit the streets once I get into downtown.

    4. I have a large-ish coworker who rides in pretty much year round. Everyone gives him plenty of crap on how he looks but he doesn’t care. I usually sneak in and out as I don’t really need everyone at work fantasizing any more about me than they already do. And trust me, they do. Don’t you?

    5. Lock it on the bike rack. Got a not-the-cheapest lock from WalMart. Our parking deck is video monitored though, so there’s never been any bike stolen.

    6. 16.5 miles each way. Once I get my legs under me a little more and if I have time, I stretch it to 20 on the way in, and if we don’t have kid activities that I have to get home for (almost never) I stretch it 20 on the way home too. I ride my Trek 4300 Mt Bike, so I’m not speedy at all plus I have about 5 miles of gravel each way to contend with plus one set of a-hole dogs that I plan to make friends with this year. If I had any sort of clue on how to modify it to make it faster I would, but remember, I’m a member of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Adventure Racing, and we basically don’t know shit.

    7. Knowledge bombs: if it’s super Missouri melt-your-skin-off hot (we get that in Iowa sometimes too), text your wife before and during your ride home so she knows you’re safe. That way she won’t worry as much and will guarantee the green light to continue to ride when it’s nasty out.

    8. Knowledge Deuce: Don’t let Bob Jenkins touch his no-no parts to your Camelbak bladder. It makes things taste weird.

  2. Aaron Lackman

    Luke..thanks for this post..as I’ve commuted twice now and have similar inquiries. My bike commute is a hair under 13 miles, so my questions are more about weather and bad weather gear. I thought I’d post them here, maybe you would like to hear someones answers too.
    I have a couple answers for you questions, that I’ll get to first.
    I use a backpack or my camelbak to hold my crap. I don’t really care for these options because they make my back sweat really bad. I’m going to install back rack, and maybe a front one too to hold my stuff (clothes, shoes, food).
    I tend to stay off sidewalks, because they usually are pretty broken up, or the trees are low enough I’m constantly ducking them as I ride.
    I don’t have to lock my bike up…right now it sits against the wall in my cubicle, and normally I would just lean it somewhere in the maintenance shop here at work. If it had to sit outside, I would most definitely lock it up.

    So here are my questions for the more experienced bike commuters who might be reading:

    When it is raining, or rain is in the forecast, do you still ride?
    What kind of outerwear is the best for commuting in bad weather.
    What type of fenders, if any are people using, and do they have to take them off for normal riding?

    That is all

    • My commute is about 12 miles. If it’s raining, you’re gonna get wet not matter what kinda jacket you’re wearing. You’re either soaked from the rain or sweating to death from exercising while wearing a raincoat.

      Best thing you can do is invest in a quality wool zip-up for that. Wool keeps you warm when wet, and dries quickly.

      Same goes for socks: Swiftwicks only on these feet. Spend the money, you won’t regret it. Put your socked foot in a walmart bag before putting bike-shoes on for an added bonus.

      Fenders: I love ’em. Rear fender keeps my butt nice and dry, and a front rack acts as a fender asnd gives me somewhere to load my stuff. I think my fender is SKS brand, but any wraparound would work. Plus, its a cool place to put stickers.

      I like to take all of my laundry in one trip for the week. Don’t forget underwear…

  3. TriMOEngr (Christina)

    I work from home so I can’t “bike to work”, but I do occassionally run errands on my bike. I use a small backpack (as I never carry THAT much). It is a drawstring one I got free at some conference, but it is fine for a couple library books and my ID/cash. Putting on damp/sweaty clothes sounds gross – I’d probably go with bringing extra – it’s not like it weighs that much. In general, I don’t ride on the sidewalks (though I allow my kids to), but do ride on the JC Greenway (as do many other bikers). Lots of places have no bike lane or sidewalk and I just try to stay as close to the side of the road as possible. My kids don’t say anything, but my husband (ie. Board of Directors) has been known to make a comment or slap my spandex. But don’t you work at the Healthplex? I’m sure those folks are used to plenty of it. I bought a lock so when I am in the library I don’t have to worry about my bike. Just a Walmart Bell brand. Probably only enough to slow down a grade schooler, but it works good enough. Since my commute is just from my bedroom to my computer room, no help there. It is about 8-9 miles round trip (plus a couple of nasty hills – it is JC afterall) to the library and back.

  4. 1) Right now I use one of those drawstring gym bags that I’ve seen given away a few places. The free one I originally used got holes in it around the ring that the drawstrings go through, so I bought a heavier duty Nike one at Shoe Carnival one day. Main drawback is that I have to store my jeans here at the office and plan ahead a bit. They don’t fit, but rest of the clothes do just fine. When I get that AR backpack, I’ll use that.

    2) I wear the same stuff going home. I let my clothes hang on the back of my office door to dry out some during the day. Maybe it’s a bit gross, but at the same time, 3-4 sets of clothes in one day seems wasteful. Bring an extra pair of underwear maybe?

    3) Normally you aren’t supposed to ride on sidewalks, unless it doubles as a bike path. I don’t have a choice on my commute, it’s either road or bike path.

    4) Whistle back. When I walk back to the shower, I go outside the door by my office and back in the door by the shower so I don’t have to walk by everyone.

    5) I am fortunate enough to be able to keep my bike in my office with me.

    6) Used to be 9.5, the new route is more like 13-14, but has a LOT less traffic. I’m on bike paths for 5 of it, and in a state park for another 2.5.

    7) In choosing your route, neighborhood streets with less traffic or arterials with giant shoulders are worth adding a couple miles to your commute. 55 mph roads with a wide shoulder bother me far less than 35 mph roads with no shoulder. Plus, major roads usually have gentler hills. Wave traffic by you when it’s safe if you hear them coming (my part to help bicycle / vehicle relations).

  5. In my experience, I have found it beneficial to leave a pair of shoes for work at work. That way if your shoes get wet on the way to work, you don’t have to worry about wearing them all day.. it also allows for you to wear you bike shoes on your commute if you would rather.

    1) I carry everything I need for work in a backpack which doubles as my laptop bag or in a set of panniers. I haven’t been riding my bike with the panniers lately though. On more than one occasion, I have filled the panniers and rack with routers, switches, and computers for the ride to work.The biggest thing is to make sure you can safely and comfortably carry all of the things you need for work with you.

    2) I don’t usually carry extra clothes with me. In the summer, I will ride in a tech shirt and put my work shirt on when I get into the office (after a quick wipe down with hand sanitizer and a paper towel). But I don’t wear a jersey or bike shorts on my commute. I usually just roll up my pants and ride into work… it isn’t a race, just a casual ride to the office.

    3) I will bike where ever I find a safe path. I cut through parking lots, back alleys, and parks. I usually try to avoid the sidewalks and keep to lightly traveled roads or bike paths. Sidewalks are usually too narrow to safely yield and pass pedestrians without having to drop off the walk way and get back on…. which greatly increases the chance of me catching my tire too low on the side of the sidewalk and crashing. Bike paths are usually wide enough to get around a mother and her stroller without either of you feeling too much anxiety.

    4) If I wore spandex to the office, and they whistled… that is the time to strike a pose for them. I usually just wear my office clothes… occasionally a tech shirt.

    5) If you are leaving your bike outside, by all means lock it up. Don’t take the lock home with you if you are using it there often… unless it is one of those cool Kuat Bottle locks. I bring mine inside and stick it in the conference room. Just commuting around town, I have found that many places are super accommodating and will help you find a safe place to store your bike.

    6) My commute to work dainty at just over a mile. It is usually quicker for me to ride to work than to drive. Occasionally, I will have someplace else I need to go that will add a few more miles to the commute. I like to run errands on the bike too using most of the same guidelines I use for commuting to work.

    7) other hints… Leave a pair of shoes at work (maybe an extra pair of dry socks) … You can use baby wipes or hand sanitizer for a quick clean up at work if you don’t have showers … store some deodorant at work … It is a ride to work not a race, have a nice relaxing ride to work … Plan on arriving 10-15 minutes earlier so that you have a chance to clean up or cool down after the ride … Don’t be afraid to find new routes or shortcuts on the way home … Watch the weather forecast, but try not to let a chance of rain ruin your ride to work … Get everything you need ready the night before … Fenders are your friend on a commute, even when it is dry out … Enjoy the ride

  6. Brian –

    Isn’t #5 kind of an oxymoron?!? I mean a “not-the-cheapest” Wal-mart lock?!? Just sayin.

  7. Sorry to be the last to arrive at the party, but that’s just how I roll.

    I keep clothes at work. The day before I ride, I bring a duffle bag with all the necessities. Plus, I can shower at work, although it’s in one of those scary concrete block locker room showers, not the fancy marble tile, brass faucet types where Brian works. It’s basically a garden hose zip tied to a 2×4. But it works. Bringing stuff early is key, especially if you have to dress nice for work. I’m just in khaki’s and a polo, but it still takes up a lot of room in my bag. i keep a bottle of shampoo, stink stick, toothbrush/toothpaste at work.

    My commute is 21.5763 miles each way, give or take a few hundreths, depending on whether or not I take corners sharply and it takes me about 1:45 – 1:55. I’m mostly on a highway, but the last 5 miles are on a paved trail, which is nice. I pack two water bottles with gatorade as well as my Camelbak. It gets hot and I have no shade during the ride. Brian is right, it does get hot in Iowa, just not stupid hot like in Missouri.

    My wife doesn’t love me as much as Brian’s and really doesn’t care about me calling, but that’s good advice, especially if you are out in the country. Me, I’m on a busy two lane highway with no shoulder so I would hope somebody would call for help if they see me in the ditch.

    I’m not brave enough to just wear my bike shorts yet, so I’m not too worried about people staring at me. In fact, it’s usually the other way around as the views get better as soon as I get on the trail near Iowa City. I just suck it up and wear the same thing back home. It’s a little gross, but not near as gross as having Bob’s nether-region juice slathered all over your pack like a nice honey glaze.

    While I like biking to work, it’s sort of a hastle and you have to plan ahead. Pick your days wisely. I don’t bike if I have errands to run during the day. I don’t bike if I absolutely HAVE to be to work for a meeting or something first thing. You never know what could happen (ie flat tire, cramps, lost, so windy it slows you down. etc.). I don’t bike when it’s raining. I’m not that hardcore about about it, plus as I mentioned, I’m mostly on a busy highway with no shoulder so I really try to avoid getting hit as much as possible.

    When I’m in town, I sometimes ride on the sidewalk. I know it’s frowned upon, but I think it’s safer than riding on some of the busy streets because people in cars seem to get mad when they can’t pass.

  8. Bike riding is a cheap communication for every person that doesn’t need gas, petrol or others. Good sounds?

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