Do you wince when you fill up your gas tank? Don't expect the pain at the pump to end anytime soon. That makes it the right time to grab your bike and use it to get to work and run errands. You'll save money and do your part for the planet at the same time. To make sure you have everything you need to get started, I'm collaborating with Ellen Stoune, former president of the Rock Hill Bicycle Club in South Carolina to share our "Top 7 Secrets to Commuting by Bike."
Ride the right bike
The right bike will make all the difference in the world. There are simple mountain bikes or ones made with commuting in mind. You can find ones that will have everything from chain guards to fenders to hardwired lights. There are even bikes with skirt guards so you can wear your favorite dress or skirt without worry.
In places where there are no designated bike lanes, position yourself as far to the right as is practical. And, be on the watch for the so-called "door zone" with cars parked on the street. That's the space where drivers open up their doors that can cause serious injury to cyclists. Try not to ride on sidewalks that are for pedestrians or on the left side of the street where drivers may not see you.
Select safety accessories
A bike mirror mounted on your left handlebar will be your best friend. You can use it to scan traffic behind you. Another good idea is a set of lights for the front and rear. If you're going to be riding early in the morning, at dusk or at night, lights are mandatory as it is almost impossible to see a bike clearly during these times. You'll also want to invest in a bike lock.
Research your route
Your usual way of getting someplace by car may not be the safest way to go by bike. A higher level of comfort will only come with time and experience so if you are new to commuting by bike, plan your route carefully. Goggle maps offer a fantastic tool for this that factors in your mode of transportation and will filter out bike unfriendly roads.
Stash your stuff
You'll also need some way to carry your stuff. Backpacks or messenger bags are good options especially ones with a waist strap. You could also use a basket or rear racks. You might be surprised to see how much you can actually transport with the right equipment.
Use a helmet
Make sure your helmet fits properly. It should be snug but comfortable and the bottom edge of the helmet should be two finger widths above your eyebrow. And remember, ones with more vents are better in the summer and less vents will make you more comfortable in winter.
At some point, somebody is going to tell you that you are crazy for using a bike to get around. Keep in mind that they are the ones paying those shocking gas prices. You, on the other hand, are Doing Your Part by reducing your dependence on foreign oil and contributing less pollution to our planet.