In response to mfrantiâ€™s post at FMH on bike commuting, I have decided to join with her in promoting bike commuting among the fine publications of the bloggernacle.
To begin my contribution to that effort, I challenge every reader of this blog to try â€” just once â€” either a bike commute or a combination commute of biking and public transportation.
With that challenge, I submit to you my humble Bike Commuting FAQ. This is mostly geared towards men, and I hope mfranti will provide any tips for women either in these comments or in a separate post.
Q: Dan, what does bike commuting have to do with Mormonism?
A: Well, bike commuting is a way for Mormons to show their willingness to take responsibility for their quality of life. In an age where SUV owners are actually setting fire to their cars to get out of ownership arrangements they can no longer afford, and where the news is characterized by mawkish profiles of â€œpain at the pumpâ€ and politicians either going to Saudi Arabia to grovel for more oil or calling silly Congressional hearings to whine at oil executives who manage no more than 12% of the worldâ€™s oil prodution, bike commuting is a way for us to reject the worldâ€™s flailing, pathetic response to financial adversity that results from our own consumption decisions. Besides, I read somewhere that if you go to heaven and mention that you lived in the time of $5/gallon gas and drove to work every day, a hush will fall over heaven and the pioneers will fall at your feet, rolling on the floor laughing at you.
Parenthetically, during the 1974 oil crisis, President Kimball responded to the crisis by asking members of the Church to start walking to church where possible, and he and Camilla led by example, walking to their meetings. Just one more reason heâ€™s my favoriteâ€¦
Q: Okay, I am totally persuaded. How do I get started?
A: Make sure you have a bike that actually fits you. This is not something you can tell just by eyeballing it. Go to a bike shop that will actually measure you and fit you with a decent bike that matches up to your body. Think about your commute- is it all road? Do you have some dirt roads along the way? Are there side roads that will take you away from most of the car traffic? All of these things will help you determine what kind of bike you need. I personally own a Gary Fisher Utopia â€” a hybrid â€” that allows me to do both asphalt and dirt/gravel roads in my area of Central Virginia. If you insist on doing a bike commute with that mountain bike that sits in your garage year after year, your commute will be a much harder ride than if you invest in a road bike or hybrid.
Q: Do I need to wear spandex?
A: Not if you donâ€™t want to, but wear something that you donâ€™t mind sweating in. The only MUST-haves are a helmet, and I would say a decent pair of biking gloves to prevent pain in your hands and wrists (For that, I also recommend bar ends).
Q: Should I bike to work in my work clothes? What about guys like me who wear a suit?
A: Good question. Some folks do bike in their work clothes, but I take mine in my Ortleib pannier packs. Some suits or shirts can be rolled up and they will handle the trip fine, others wonâ€™t. In any case, start buying wrinkle-free shirts.
Q: But when I get to the office, do you expect me to put my work clothes on my sweaty body?
A: No way. I recommend you invest in some Neutrogena Menâ€™s Hair and Body Wash. Best stuff ever. Carry in your backpack or pannier packs a rag (for cleaning up) and small towel (for drying off) with a collapsible bowl as a washbasin, and you can clean up very nicely in most bathroom stalls. If you work near a gym, or your company has a fitness center in house, even better- get yourself a full shower and come to work refreshed and full of the endorphines released on your commute.
Q: If I get a flat tire, Iâ€™ll miss work. How do I prevent that?
A: Ask your bike shop about flat-resistant tires or flat-preventing tire liners. And if you want to be extra careful, get both.
Q: Okay, I just went for my first bike ride since I was 13, and my butt is killing me! Thanks a lot, Dan.
A: This too shall pass. When you start biking after a long hiatus, it might take a week or two for your sit-bones to adjust to the tension. You might look into a gel seat cover or a suspension seat post to help out with the impact of bumps.
Q: Dan, since I started biking again, Iâ€™ve lost a ton of weight and I have a lot more energy. I have seen the city where I live in a new way, up-close, and Iâ€™m noticing lots of interesting new architecture, shops, and other cool little sights and smells of my surroundings that I never noticed in my car. Whatâ€™s more, my IQ has been steadily increasing now that my commute does not involve listening to talk radio. How can I ever thank you?
A: Thank me by challenging five people you know to try commuting by bike just once. I belive that most people who try it once will make it a regular alternative to their maddening, traffic-heavy car commute.
In Closing, I should mention that recently, our esteemed blogger Tagore accepted my challenge to go on a bike ride in the city where he lives. I would encourage him to express his newfound testimony of biking in the comments.