The Slacker's Guide to Bike Commuting

This article isn’t for the detail-oriented bike commuters. It’s also not for the hardcore, race-to-work riders either.

This one is for those of us that don’t like to plan ahead. Bike maintenance isn’t our thing. We consider rain showers wash-day for our bikes. And we certainly aren’t using our daily commute as training for a race.

Commuting by bike is first and foremost supposed to be fun. Gas prices, ‘going green’ and health reasons can get people into bike commuting, but it’s the daily enjoyment that keeps us in the saddle day after day. And let’s face it, planning ahead and wearing Lycra doesn’t sound much like fun to a good many of us.


So for my fellow slackers, here’s your guide to bike commuting:

  1. Ditch the patch kit, grab the cell phone – The worst thing about bike commuting is dealing with flat tires; standing on the road next to your bike with a tiny, frustrating mini-pump trying to force air into your tire. So forget the patch kit and use your cell phone. If you get stranded on the way to work, call a buddy at the office to come get you. If you’re on the way home, call the significant other. It’ll take less time than fixing the flat on the side of the road and you’ll get to use your floor pump in the comfort of your own workshop.
  2. Check the weather, consider the car or bus – Let’s face it, riding to work in a downpour causes a lot of problems. It soaks you and everything you brought. Takes a lot more time to get ready for work. All in all, zaps all the fun right out of bike commuting. So if the weather sucks, don’t feel bad about grabbing your keys or walking to the nearest bus stop.
  3. Leave the lycra, wear your normal clothes – When I see another bike commuter on their way to work in full body spandex, it just looks difficult. The time changing, the extra cargo to carry, etc. My normal commuting attire is what I work in everyday. I roll up my pants and head out the door. Simple and comfortable.
  4. Use lights that run on generators – Dealing with batteries in your lights can be frustrating and dangerous. They will always go out on you right at the darkest point in your ride home. Consider spending the extra money on some Reelights or Pedalites. Both are great options for adding visibility to your bike without ever worrying about batteries.
  5. Don’t be ashamed to walk the bike – Your morning bike commute is not the Tour de France. There’s no grand prize and yellow jersey at the finish line. There’s no reason to grind up those hills if you stayed up until 3AM last night watching X-files reruns and eating cereal. (Am I the only one that does that?). Feel free to get off the bike and walk up some of those hills. We’re trying to keep this fun, folks.
  6. Take the flattest route possible – Remember that the shortest route is not necessarily the best. By using a tool like you can view the elevation map of your route. Play around with different variations to see what makes for the easiest way to the office.
  7. For a long commute, consider driving part of it – If you’ve got a commute that’s too long for your physical condition or time restraints, try finding a public parking lot where you can stash your car. Drive halfway and then bike the rest.

You may also want to check out my Guide to a Simple Bike Commute.

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