If you plan to start bicycle commuting anytime soon there are a few things to keep in mind. In order to stay safe and make the most of your bicycle commute, you’re going to have to follow a few of the basic rules of bicycle commuting that involve dressing appropriately for the weather, having the proper lights on your bicycle, and preparing for the unexpected.
The first thing you’ll notice about bicycle commuting is that Mother Nature is unforgiving, and when you have no protection from the elements, you’re going to notice the subtle changes in temperature that you might miss otherwise. For cold days you’re going to want to dress in layers and aim for having as little skin as possible exposed. It might take a few unpleasant bicycle commutes to figure out exactly what works best for your environment, but I’ve noticed that the toughest areas to keep warm are going to be your hands and your face. I generally ride with a bandana or a scarf covering my face when it’s cold, because it makes breathing much easier and the ride much less taxing. A good pair of gloves will come to be your best friend when you’re bicycle commuting, so don’t feel bad about spending a couple of bucks to protect your digits. No matter how many layers you decide to put on, you should make sure that it never limits your flexibility. It doesn’t matter if you’re warm if you can’t move your upper body in either direction to check for oncoming traffic when turning or changing lanes.
One of the most important things about bicycle commuting is having the proper lights on your bike. When you’re riding at night or in the early morning, this can be the difference between a car seeing you and not seeing you. Most bicycle commuters go with a blinking red light attached to their backpack or just below the seat on their bicycle, and a bright light on the front of the bicycle as well. Most drivers are more courteous to bicycle commuters if they have the proper lights, because it shows them you’re making an effort to make the roads safe for both of you. Drivers don’t want to hit you anymore than you want to be hit, but we have to do our part to ensure that we stay safe if we expect them to do the same.
Preparing for the unexpected is the defining characteristic of experienced bicycle commuting. Most bicycle commuters choose to carry a backpack or messenger back that can hold an extra jacket, a raincoat or a poncho, and various other things to make your life easier in emergencies or unexpected events. Pay attention to the weather forecast, maintain your bike properly, and plan for the worst. What happens if it starts raining? What if the temperature drops 20 degrees? What if you pop a tube?
Remember that bicycle commuting is what you make it. Be safe, be responsible, and plan ahead. Most of all, remember to have fun! By riding your bike you’re reducing your carbon footprint, improving your health, and helping to reduce traffic in your hometown. What’s not to feel good about?