I think my favorite quote is the one by Nelson Mandela - “It always seems impossible until it’s done”. I thought I would never bike commute. Ever. Are you kidding me? I have to take so much stuff with me to the office - lunch box, laptop, coffee… If I bike, I would have to take even more - a change of clothes, shoes, bike tools… Plus, I have other things I need to do aside from going to and from the office - I need to stop by a grocery store, post office, and for the past 4 years I had to go to graduate school twice a week too. What bike commute? No way!
Oh well, there was peer pressure. Lots of it. Every single ride I went on, there was somebody looking at me as if I had two heads when they found out I didn’t bike commute. I would tell them why (see above), but it’s like those reasons weren’t good enough. If you’re a cyclist, you’re sort of expected to commute by bike, and convenience should not be an issue. Granted I telecommute a few days a week, but those other few days that I drive were the reason quite a few fellow cyclists gave me a hard time. All of them were men, by the way.
Once the weather got warmer and the days got longer, I started to seriously think of giving it a shot. I decided to bike commute once or twice a week, and work from home the rest of the week.
I had to make sure I was ready. I was going to use my Trek fitness bike, not my road bike. I was reading bike commuter advice for women, learning about the things I would need. I got these large panniers and a pannier rack. I got a set of lights and a protective sleeve for the laptop so it doesn’t break as I would have to bike through sections of rough pavement on my commute. I learned that rolling clothes helps keep it wrinkle free and that it’s best to keep a pair of shoes at work instead of carrying them with you.
Long story short, I did it. Can I do that? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it in the dark or in the rain? Not so sure. Did everything go smoothly? Hell no!
Things to keep in mind if you’re a woman commuting by bike:
- Do not use Google directions for bike. Google tries to do weird things and chooses routes with a million turns just because parts of them are on bike paths.
- Figure out the route. Do a dry run on a weekend, when there is less traffic. Note the dangerous areas - freeway exits, roads with no bike paths, rough pavement, shopping plazas. Be extra careful there - watch out for cars and take the lane when you need to.
- Never, ever block the right turners! Seriously, I see that so much. I’ve had drivers thank me when I got out of their way as they were making a right turn.
- Depending on how much stuff you take to work, your panniers may be very heavy. It will slow you down, so plan your trip accordingly - it will take you longer than a bike trip with no load.
- Try to avoid any hills. If you can’t, travel lighter. Especially if there are very steep hills on your commute - heavy panniers will wear you out on climbs.
- Wear a bright jersey or a vest. Nasty yellow or green are great.
- Don’t forget shower gel and towel, if there are shower facilities at your office.
- Keep whatever you can in the office. Definitely shoes, as well as perhaps an extra set of makeup, deodorant, sunscreen, hair brush… You get it.
- Carry extra batteries for your lights with you, always
Be extra careful if you don’t feel safe. My commute goes through very industrial areas of town with a lot of warehouses, trucks loading and unloading, day laborers hanging out, etc. A small section of my commute is on an old one lane road that goes to a waste disposal facility, and on my way back a lot of cars are leaving that place. I had to move out of their way and wait for them to go by - no way to pass on a narrow road. Lots of exciting stuff, but if you are comfortable around cars, you will be fine.
If you choose to bike commute, you will feel good about it. It’s a great way to get some additional miles in, save money and maintain endurance. It sure can seem like a hassle in many ways, but it just takes getting used to.