National Bike Month may be over, the time when we in the cycling industry go all-out to preach the gospel of pedal-powered bliss, but we believe that any month on the calendar qualifies as Bike Month! Hopping on a bike for any variety of reasons any time of the year can be a game-changer for personal health and fitness as well as for the greater good of the environment.
Here are some ideas about how to make cycling, as seamlessly as possible, a part of your daily life. The idea is to make it as little of an “event” as possible – just the idea that you can hop on your bike with the minimum of fuss for a myriad of reasons.
There’s likely a surprising amount of quick jaunts that take place within a tight radius of your home. A quick trip to the grocery store/pharmacy/post office/etc. Several years ago Clif Bar initiated their 2 Mile Challenge – to use a bicycle for as many (if not all) short trips as possible within a 2-mile radius of home – and that’s the perfect place to start. Make a mental checklist of how many places you frequent by car that are that close to your residence – then start using a bike instead.
My local grocery store is just over 1 mile away from home and I try to make that quick trip for small purchases by bike. Likewise, I make it a point that any time I take a trip to the public library it’s by bike. Regarding carrying capacity, my preference is just to use a cycling-specific backpack. They are versatile, there’s no mechanical fiddling necessary on the bike regarding racks/panniers, and they can look good to boot.
Just hop on a bike and go – you don’t need to get all kitted up. Take inspiration from cyclists in Copenhagen. A set of platform pedals or toe clips/straps and shoes that work well on a bike as well as walking around are really all you need to make the utility-bike transformation. Regarding shoes, you’ll want something that works great on the bike with either platform pedals or toe clip/straps, and is comfortable walking all-day long off the bike.
Regarding a bike, there’s plenty out there that’s reliable, perfectly utilitarian, low maintenance, and easy on the wallet. Something in the vein of the hybrid/commuter bike will certainly get you where you need/want to go with ease and aplomb.
Commute to Work
Most of us have to leave the house to make our way to work, so why not try to make the trip by bicycle? It’s a wonderful way to integrate exercise into a busy schedule (plus spend more time outside), and for those with short to medium-length commutes the time commitment may be rather comparable.
Depending on the distance you need to travel and the dress code at work, it’s likely that you’ll have to switch clothes when you arrive. However, you don’t have to burden yourself down by transporting all your clothing with you on the bike. Drive in on a Monday with a stockpile of clothes for the week so your ride to work is basically just a regular ride. And ideally your workplace will have a shower facility, but I can attest that a quick cleanup is possible, too, sans shower.
Even longer commutes can provide opportunities for cycling. I once worked in the next city over and took a regional express bus. When I wanted to get some riding in I’d take my bike with me to work on the bus in the morning (it had a front rack), and then I’d ride home in the evening. Currently, I share car-pooling with a co-worker and any number of days the person who wasn’t driving would bring their bike to work in the morning and then be able to ride home in the evening.
Fun with Maps
How well do you know your locale? There’s no better way to explore where you live than by bike when you combine the potential distance travelled with the granularity of what you see. I drew inspiration from the gentleman determined to walk every mile of every road in New York City (imjustwalkin.com), which amazingly amounts to 6000+ miles, to peruse Google Maps in my area to plan out leisure rides to places I’ve never been.
Break the pattern. Turn down a road where you maybe don’t know where it’s going. Or perhaps you do know where that road ends up, but have never seen what’s there along the way. Who knew there was a Hells Angels house on the other side of my town on a road where my usual route had me turn off prior to passing it (true story!).
Out on the Town (Day or Night)
Sure, it’s great to have alone time on the bike, but riding with friends is time well spent. Why not hop on bikes to make that pub crawl happen? Or that First Friday art gallery crawl? It’s motivating knowing others will be out, there’s safety in numbers regarding visibility (try a night ride, all those lights on bikes makes a difference), you burn calories between stops, and you might just inspire others to hop on a bike as well. It’s infectious in every good sense of the word.
So how do you make cycling part of your daily life?