Tuesday, April 16, 2013

HTCBB: Preparations a Few Days before the Commute

Continuing the "How to Commute by Bike" series, let's 'brake' down preparations a few days before the commute. It's just a few days before the ride to work, school or around town! Excited? Nervous? Good! With anticipation in the air, a little bit of nerves is alright and to be expected.

Soon, this will be you!
You're trying something new or doing something you maybe haven't done in a while. Preparations to ride started about a week earlier. You should have started to consider a route, your attire, how to transport your stuff and get your bike in working condition. With these things behind you, it's time to get a little bit more serious about the preparations. Read on for some suggestions about what to do a few days before the commute.

  1. Gather your gear. It's best not to wait until the night before to make sure you have everything you need and that it will fit in whatever thing you choose to use. If you travel light, packing might not take long. If you need to bring a change of clothes, are transporting groceries or maybe are traveling with kids in tow, take some time to plan the space you'll need to transport stuff by bike.

    My experience:  Since I've used anything from backpacks to milks crates to panniers to transport my stuff, I recommend taking your time with this one. Try a few backpacks out or make sure that the milk crate is secure to the bike. I've taken off a few times and left my milk carton in the dust. I've also overpacked a bag and busted a zipper. Having enough space to pack your stuff is important.
  2. Choose your route. Know how to get where you need to go. After taking some time to consider a couple of different routes over the last week, decide on one. In choosing a route, consider the safety, distance, speed of traffic (bike or automobile) and time requirements and constraints. Going by bike may take more or less time than your typical mode of transit. Consider this in your planning! To help with the trips, consider bringing a paper map, memorizing the route or use gps applications a smart phone or other device.
    Bags? Check! Basket? Check! Ready to ride!
    My experience:  The travel time between the workplace and home has varied for me. When I was a student, I could get to campus in 10 minutes by bike or, if finding parking was included, 45 minutes by car or 30 minutes by bus. My current situation provides me with a 25 minutes bike commute or a 10 car ride or an hour bus ride. Planning a route and considering alternatives helped me figure out what was best for me. The more I rode the more I learned how to adjust my schedule.

  3. Go for a (short) test ride. Combine1. and 2., and the experience is likely to be more enjoyable. Pack it all up and go for a (short) test ride around the neighborhood or maybe the first bit of the route you choose. This will help you become a little bit more familiar with how it feels to ride with your pack, crate or pannier; how it might feel to manuever in traffic; what riding in a neighborhood street versus a commercial corridor or on a path feels like. Becoming familiar with a route can increase your comfort.

    My experience:  Every time I ride it's different, and anything I can do to make my experience more comfortable helps me stay safer and have more fun. A test ride is a good idea to embark on when planning a new route or ride. It can give you a feel what to expect. And, if it's a short ride, it's a great way to go for a short ride with a friend! Invite someone who hasn't been on a bike for a while.

  4. Check the forecast.  I would be remiss to leave this out! No matter how much excitement is building for the inaugural ride, consider rescheduling if there is a good chance of poor weather. Riding in the rain may start the day or experience off on the wrong foot (or pedal). Forecasts for strong storms or extreme weather may not be the best way to start something new. There's no shame in postponing your ride until a better day.

    Prepared for the weather.
    My experience:  When I was starting out using my bike to get around, one time I got caught in a downpour without any rain gear. The rain was initially light, so I took a few moments to tuck my electronics and school papers deep into my backpack. However, by the time I was half way between where I started and my destination, the drizzle turned into a downpour! I hadn't watched the forecast and I didn't have anything with me to keep me or my stuff dry. By the time I got home I was drenched. I made a promise to myself that, if I could help it, I would never let that happen again! Now part of my weekly routine is to keep an eye on forecasts to help me plan ahead in adjusting how I might get to and from work.
With just a few days to go, you should be feeling pretty prepared. Get some rest, talk about your new plans with friends and get ready for fun! Your commute is just a few days away.

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