Practical Advice for Transportation Cycling

Sometimes, all that matters is getting from Point A to Point B as cheaply, safely and efficiently as possible. You don't need a fast bike, you don't need a pretty bike, and most of all you don't need an expensive bike, you just need one that works.

Friday, January 11, 2013

All Them Excuses

As I write this, it's a rainy January day and I'm suffering from the same flu that about three-quarters of the country seems to have. There are a lot of things running through my mind, most of which are along the lines of,  "is 4 p.m. too early to go back to bed?" What is NOT running through my head is "gee, I really want to go for a bike ride."

It can be hard enough to get motivated to start riding when the weather is nice, and you're feeling well, and many would-be cycle commuters find it really easy to make excuses why they're not going to start riding to work today, or why they need to drive to the store this weekend.

Probably the best way to make sure you start riding everywhere is to simply sell your car (or have it break down and not have the money to fix it, which is a frequent motivator for Yours Truly), but sometimes the automobile is actually useful, and you may not be ready to make that kind of commitment to bicycle commuting just yet.

A lot of the same excuses come up, over and over: "it's too far," "I'm scared of traffic," "the weather is horrible." And if you look around the web, you'll find all sorts of responses to each of these. For example, if the trip is too far, you can drive or take a train part way, and bike the rest. Or there's a whole lot of fancy raingear and lighting out there to help you deal with the weather and the dark.

Over time, I plan to take on some of these things in detail, but here's the important thing to bear in mind: it's OK to not ride all the time. There's nobody saying you have to use a bike for 100% of your transportation needs (well, actually, if you look around the internet, there are people who will say that to you, but they're jerks and you can feel free to disregard them).

If you don't feel up to riding in the rain or snow, only ride when it's nice out. If you work a long way from home, maybe you can't ride to work. Instead of trying to bike the 50-mile round trip to work, start using your bike to make the 2-mile trip to the store.

Because for most of us, once we feel that biking is something we SHOULD do, we're not going to want to do it. Our inner 7-year-old screams "I don't wanna!" and we reach for the car keys. The trick to getting over the motivational hurdles is to start using a bike for the stuff that's fun. Start out riding to Sunday brunch, or to get a few things from the store. Pick errands that don't have a time limit and take a nice leisurely ride, make it a treat rather than an obligation.

And more often than not, as you get used to biking places, a lot of stuff that seemed too far away, or too hard to get to will start looking a lot more accessible, and you'll start riding to more places. Soon, if you have occasion to drive somewhere that you've been frequenting by bike, you'll find yourself getting annoyed at the hassle of looking for a parking spot.

But the thing is, even if you're riding every day and have gotten your routine down, there might come a day when it's pouring rain and you've got to carry something heavy or delicate. If you're doing things wrong, you'll feel guilty for tossing your cargo in the car. If you're a sane individual, you'll say "this kind of thing is the reason I still have a motor vehicle," and not worry about it.

Unless, of course, your car broke down and you don't get paid till next Friday. In which case, wear a raincoat.

Coming  Monday: Broke Bicyclist will start looking at the different types of bikes you can use for transportation cycling, and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

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