It just so happened that during bike week I had a few meetings downtown. Too far to walk, and near but not on the subway. So I decided to ride my bike. This might be a small thing to many, but to me it was a big deal. I am full of good intentions when it comes to commuting by bike but when push comes to shove, I’m even more full of excuses. Last week, I broke down my biking barrier and I’m so glad I did! Here’s how you can set yourself up for success commuting by bike.
1. Get a bike.
It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. In fact, “beater bikes” are less tempting to steal. That’s why I still have my bike, purchased from a police auction when I was a teenager. Check out used bikes and end of season sales. For help understanding sizing, different types of bikes, and components, check out MEC’s educational info on bikes.
2. Tune it up.
Get fully tuned up each season. It’s worth it – it will keep the mechanics operating smoothly, making your ride easier and less likely to break down. MEC also has a great bike maintenance primer that is worth a read. You can take your bike to the shop (if you got it new some may come with an annual tune-up free of charge), or learn how to do it yourself. Toronto’s Tool Library has a slew of bike maintenance gear you can borrow instead of having them take up space to be used once a year (like a bike repair stand).
3. Must-Have Gear
These are things that you should have with you to ensure a safe ride.
- Bike lock (don’t cheap out on this)
- White light for the front, red light for the back (even if you’re not planning on being out in the dark, always a good idea to have them at the ready).
- Spare tire, repair kit (more optional if you’re riding in the city and can hop on public transit in the event of a flat tire)
4. No-Excuses Gear
This stuff is totally optional, but I find they really help me avoid the trap of making excuses.
- Paniers and rack – no sweaty back from carrying a backpack
- Fenders – help avoid the skunk stripe up the back if the roads are wet
- Super comfy seat – worth an upgrade, for obvious reasons
- Water bottle holder
That’s it! Once you’ve got the minimal gear required, you’re ready to enjoy transportation independence. There will be other excuses (helmet hair, attire, 5% chance of rain, etc., etc.) but the key is just to start. Google Maps has excellent timing and bike routes to help you plan a safe route and figure out how long it will take (roughly). With some practice and test-rides, you’ll probably find that many of your excuses don’t have much weight behind them.
Once you make a couple trips and realize the convenience of getting in a workout while transporting yourself somewhere, not paying for gas or transit fares, and of course, doing your part to reduce air pollution and climate change, you’ll wonder why you didn’t try it sooner. Where will your bike take you?