Pro’s and Con’s
Commuting via bicycle to work is great and you can do it very simply and easily. With gasoline at $3.00 and more per gallon, you can save some serious coin on your bicycle.
I commute about 21 miles to work on occaision. A 42 round trip is a pretty significant undertaking. An 11 mile ride is much more doable. Is it safe to ride a bicycle to school everyday?
Here are the gems of my wisdom:
1. I would try to borrow or buy a serviceable Craigslist bike until you get a bit of experience and get an idea of what you think is best for you. If you haven’t been doing some riding, though, don’t expect any bike to be completely comfortable when you first get on it. Road bikes, in particular, take a bit of getting used to, but will ultimately give you the fastest ride to work.
When you get ready to go to a bike shop, I suggest you try some road bikes, mountain bikes, a hybrid and if they have some a cyclocross bike. When you try a bike, don’t just ride it for a few minutes in the parking lot. Take it for a half hour or hour long ride through town. Some bikes are comfy for a 10 minute ride, but don’t work at all for an hour ride.
2. You are going to need some tools to commute successfully. Get a small toolbag to go under your seat and put the following in it: a spare tube, a patch kit, tire irons and a multi-tool. Get either a mini-pump or a C02 inflator, as well. I also suggest a floor pump for your house since inflating a tire with a mini-pump is OK on the side of the road, but really sucks at home. Finally, put a dollar bill in your toolbag. If you ever run over a piece of glass or a rock that cuts the tire, you can put the dollar bill between the tube and the cut and it will reinforce the tire allowing you to finish your ride.
3. Riding in the dark, you need a tail light and a head light. Depending on your personal need to be able to see the road, you can spend lots of money on a headlight. In general, I find I can see perfectly well at night with no headlight, at all. However, you still need one to be visible to cars. Being visible also requires some spare batteries in your tool bag, in case they crap out.
4. Fenders are not essential, but are great for wet days.
5. Likewise a rack and panniers are not essential, but are great if you need to carry a change of clothes, lunch, books, etc. You can also carry this stuff in a backpack, but a backpack is hot on your back, puts your center of balance higher than normal, and puts extra weight on your back, hands and shoulders.
6. Cycling shorts with a good quality chamois will help keep you comfortable. I suspect 22 miles/day is more than adequately long that you’ll want to wear cycling shorts. For cool mornings your may want long tights or leg warmers. Also you are likely to find a waterproot cycling jacket helps on cool and/or damp days. Unless you don’t mind putting on soggy clothes to head home, I’d try to keep spares at work for those days you get caught in a morning deluge.
7. Cycling shoes and pedals will really help boost your pedaling power. You don’t need them to start out with, but you may want to consider them in the future.
8. The toughest part of my commute is heading home. I nearly always wind up starving on the ride home. I have even bonked on my ride home on a couple of occasions. You have a shorter ride, but it sucks to run out of fuel. So you are going to want to carry a bit of extra food to work to feed the beast on your way home.
Hope this helps you out.