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Seven tips to improve your bike commute

Seven tips to improve your bike commute

bike commute
Every morning I see my colleague Tom ride to work. Rain, snow, hail, fire, it doesn’t matter. I’d be slowing down in rush hour traffic and he’d just widen his shoulders. This is inspiring. Tom rides his bike out to work out and goes to work with a smile on his face – and I don’t. Accordingly, the article will tell you 7 tips about bike commute.

Last summer, I decided to start biking to get off work. I live about 15 miles from the store. Riding this commute often seems crazy at first. But with the encouragement and advice of Tom (who lives further away), I found my best and made it part of my day job. I’ve been cycling to and from get off work for over a year now. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself, but it takes a little getting used to the new routine.

Not everyone enjoys riding every day. Cycling to and from get off work as often as possible is the next best thing. Fortunately, my employer encourages cycling and other environmentally friendly forms of transportation. This has helped me lose weight and be happier, and it has rekindled my passion for riding. I learned a lot in the process.
If you’re interested in commuting, training during your commute, or just committing to cycling more often, here are some tips to make your time on the bike more enjoyable.

Ease in

When I started commuting last year, I basically got off the couch. My first bike ride was slow and frustrating. After that, I felt hungry and lacked concentration at work. It feels like it takes my body two days to recover. When you’re motivated to try something new and exciting, it’s easy to jump headfirst, get discouraged, and lose that motivation before developing a solid routine.

The more you plan to ride, the more you need to control fatigue and recovery time. When Tom found me picking up litter in the refrigerator one morning, he suggested that I start with a smaller amount than originally planned and gradually increase it. This is key for any rider looking to improve their endurance and mileage, whether they commute or not. Manage your fatigue so you can continue to put in your work, make incremental improvements and develop good habits.

I started at about half the volume I hope to reach later in the year, riding basically every other day. I would ride my bike one morning, ride home at night, ride back the next morning, and drive home. This has given me more time to recover as my health has improved. As I got used to the effort, I was able to add more riding days to the mix. Before I knew it, I had been riding for a full week without a shred of soreness or fatigue. It became normal. No matter what level of rider you are, moving slowly toward your goal is the key to success.

Learn the difference between motivation and discipline

When my willingness to ride started to wane, Tom always emphasized the difference between power and discipline. Motivation motivates you to ride the bike, but discipline keeps you on track every day. Motivation can come and go, it can get stronger or weaker day by day. But if stress, fatigue, obligations, and distractions start to lower your motivation, good discipline will keep you on track.

After a few weeks of my commute, I woke up lazy and tired. The temptation to get in my car and drive to work is almost overwhelming. While I’m not motivated to ride, I have a plan to overcome. I had my jersey sorted the night before, so they were ready. I gave my wife the car keys so it would be harder for me to get to them in the morning. I set a series of increasingly annoying alarms to make sure I have enough time to wake up on the bike. And, most importantly, the night before, I stressed to myself that I had to ride a horse or suffer severe karmic consequences.
 I find getting out is always the hardest part. Once I finally get on the bike and start riding, I’m instantly back on track and I’m always more than happy to be on my bike again. Eventually, mornings get easier until they become a routine. I’m disciplined enough to wake up not wanting to ride, but still do what it takes to ride a bike without fighting or thinking.

I still fail occasionally. But I see those moments as opportunities to seek improvement. I wouldn’t let them cause a downward spiral.

In the beginning, I set short-term goals, like riding Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This provides the basis for long-term goals such as riding on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the month. When I succeed, it feels good. It reinvigorated my motivation and further improved my discipline. These things can be built and improved upon. Discipline can be learned and trained, and the more disciplined you are, the better you can be as a rider.

Find the bits and pieces of adventure

There’s no point in sticking to the discipline of riding if you’re trying to enjoy the ride itself. The daily commute can turn into an mindless trek, so I do what I can to make it as fun as possible. One of the keys to maintaining interest and keeping the week-long commute fun is confusing my route home.
bike commute
It doesn’t take much. Usually a few small deviations in the route are enough to keep my daily ride from getting stale. For my personal commute, I explored the cobwebs of connecting roads that could eventually lead me back to my home. Often these are not the fastest or most efficient options, but they are fun and more sustainable.
Whenever I have the time or opportunity, I try a road or road combination that I’ve never ridden. I switch between tarmac, dirt, and gravel, and even occasionally venture into a single track on my gravel bike. I’ve stopped at random taco trucks that I usually never try.
It’s not much, but these little detours on my daily commute help keep things fresh and minds active. If (or rather, when) I get lost, I have a GPS to save me. The Android-based Hammerhead Karoo bike computer I currently use has excellent navigation and maps, so I can wander aimlessly without fear and still get to my destination. If I’m planning a bigger adventure, I can also easily pre-create routes and go further on unexplored roads.

Get ready for the ride

You can ride in any comfortable clothes. Wear work clothes if your commute is short and easy. When I’m going to be in the saddle for more than 20 minutes, I prefer to wear proper cycling shorts or bibs with comfortable suede. Cycling shorts or bibs improve your riding experience by increasing comfort and dryness so you can ride farther, farther and more often than any other cycling gear.

Many riders are picky about the shorts or bibs they wear. But for commuting, I prefer entry-level bibs, as my regular rides make them wear out faster. I can buy multiple pairs for less money, but I still have some high-end bibs that I can save some time for longer, more serious rides and workouts.
During the colder months, I check the weather every day to decide what I need to keep warm. I always bring extra clothes if the weather looks suspicious. Excess layers can always be removed and stored. Most of my spring and fall kits include basic thermal gear like arm and leg warmers, vests, toe wraps, and headgear, which are lightweight and packable.
Look for cold-weather gear that’s windproof, breathable, and moisture-wicking, as it keeps sweat from dissipating heat. Most cycling-specific winter gear combines these qualities to effectively keep you dry and warm when you’re riding hard in cold weather. If you’re really committed to riding in cold weather, consider winter cycling shoes. They are more effective than shoe covers at keeping your feet dry and warm.

Bad weather can derail a lot of riders. There were so many times last winter that I saw rain, sleet, or snow falling from the sky, and I doubted my IQ. When I’m fit and training a lot, I’m a completely sunny rider. But when I started commuting every day, I had to toughen up and learn to love being out in bad weather. 

I’ve found that riding in rough conditions can actually be fun as long as I’m well-dressed. There are always scary moments, but I find that the memories I create are often the ones I’m most intense and cherished the most. Going out in a blizzard or thunderstorm turned into a little adventure, which sadly became rare in my adult life. After battling terrible weather, I often go to work and come home happier than I drive and stay dry.
Regarding bags, Tom and I both like the large waterproof roll top backpack. The bags are easily expandable and have a large single compartment that provides plenty of room for clothes, food, work supplies and other gear. Tom’s strategy is to fill his bag with the overalls he needs for the week and then haul them all in on Monday. This allows him to carry less later in the week so he can focus more on the ride itself.

Below are examples of cycling jerseys that I love for each season. As the weather gets colder or wet, I mix and match as needed to stay comfortable.
bike commute

Keep it clean

If you ride a lot, be sure to wear clean cycling clothing. My home life is hectic, laundry is forgotten, and I’ve been tempted many times to reuse bibs I’ve worn before. Yes, it’s disgusting and I’m not proud of it. I’ve gotten rid of it sometimes. But more often, I developed some form of stimulation that made the ride harder and more painful.
I’ve found that owning six pairs of bibs is a good deal. I have a pair for every day I ride and then wear an extra pair when I’m behind the laundromat. Your travel expenses may change. If you’re diligent about washing, you can only wear a pair or two.

Speaking of your body, try to keep the saddle area clean and dry after riding. This is your best defense against irritation and saddle sores. Luckily, our shop has a shower that can be washed off after a ride. If you can’t shower, baby wipes are your best friend. I keep a bag on my desk that I wipe off when changing clothes when I don’t have time to squeeze the shower.

When it comes to your bike, it’s important to regularly clean and lubricate the drivetrain to ensure it continues to run trouble-free. This is especially important in winter and wet climates, where road dirt can reduce shifting performance and accelerate wear.

Choose the right bike

The right bike is any bike you can ride comfortably and consistently. It can be your road racer, mountain bike or hybrid commuter bike. Ideally, the bike you choose should be suitable for your local roads. Tom and I both ride versatile trail/gravel bikes because Boulder, CO has a ton of options including paved and dirt roads, gravel roads, steep climbs, flat terrain and singletrack.

Ideal for training while commuting

This is Tom’s area of expertise. For time-crunched racers, the commute may be the only steady time they have on their bikes. Trying to fit a good workout into your schedule can be difficult. Riders targeting specific fitness or competition goals must adjust their commute to facilitate training.

Even if you don’t have structured training, just cycling every day can make you fitter. I find that the volume I’ve built up from months of easy daily riding gives me a good foundation to build on when I really want to hit the gas.
I will continue to ride through the winter this year in hopes of losing more weight. Hopefully you can apply some of these tips to your own riding and hit the road more.

If you are looking for a new way of commuting or want a healthier lifestyle, we are here to help you. Visit our website to learn more about electric bikes and electric scooter or please leave information to us.