Three Rules of Bike Commuting

The Gracefulfitness Guide to Bike Commuting

I love biking.  Soaring down hills feels close to flying and nothing gets my heart rate up faster than pedaling up even the smallest hill.  Thing is, I don’t actually like biking for exercise.  I appreciate the exercise I get from biking but my main purpose on a bike is transportation.  I guess this is why I’ve only been to 1 cycling class in my life and yet have been a dedicated bike commuter since 2003.

Bike commuting is awesome.  It often saves you time and money.  It often saves you stress and road rage.  It provides you with a little bonus exercise for the day.  It is energizing and meditative.

And in July in Virginia it is sweaty.  I got over it.  Everything is sweaty in July in Virginia (and most of the country).  I leave myself an extra few minutes to get to the clinic, get in the ac, and dry off before patients arrive.  Sweat is kind of gross, yes, but as long as I am smelling somewhat fresh it’s something I can live with.

Number one rule of bike commuting: Get yourself a good pannier.

I bought mine for around $50 several years ago.  I load it up (overload it!) with everything from groceries to computers and it shows no signs of wear and tear.  It can seem a little spendy at first but it is well worth the “splurge”.   I love how mine is all black and doesn’t scream “bike bag”, there are lots of fashionable choices out there these days if bright yellow vinyl isn’t your idea of an accessory.

Please DO NOT ride with a backpack.  At least not with any kind of regularity or weight.  As the wife of a chiropractor I have heard over and over how the weight of a backpack on your spine as you are leaning forward puts potentially damaging pressure on your disks.  A pannier is cheaper and a lot more fun than a life of messed up spinal disks.

Number two: Embrace platforms.

platform pedals, not shoes.

I am not a gear girl and so the thought of lugging around bike shoes for clipless pedels is really unappealing.  Yes, platform pedals are less efficient but for most bike commuting it’s not a big deal.  The common mistake when riding with platform pedals is ignoring the second half of the pedal rotation and going for all push, no pull.  Utilize the backs of your legs by pulling your heel towards your butt on your back leg as your front leg pushes down.  It’s certainly a little trickier with platforms than with clipless pedals and shoes but still possible and helpful with efficiency.

Number three: Hello Spanx!  Or bike shorts but compression shorts are nice for the, umm, compression factor. 😉

I love biking in skirts and dresses and happen to wear them to work everyday in the summer.  Compression shorts (Spanx-style) make getting on and off the bike carefree (ladies, you know what I mean).  Leaving them on for work is optional.

Are you a bike commuter?  What would you add to this list?

16 Comments

  1. yay, i love bike commuting. i’m bad about the backpack thing. i commute on my road bike & just can’t bring myself to put a pannier on it (because i do bike for recreation). i try to keep my backpack light & go without it whenever I can manage. on days it’s heavy, i split my commute between the bus & biking. great tip about platforms. i’m addicted to my clipless pedals & lugging around biking shoes is so worth it to me though. compression shorts make all the difference! mine have a huge tear from my last spill. i haven’t replaced them yet, & it’s quite uncomfortable without them. (blinking) lights are a good addition (to increase driver visibility of you) if you’ll be biking early in the mornings or near dusk; plus it’s a law in most places. AND THANK YOU FOR WEARING A HELMET. 🙂 i’m so proud.

  2. I am planning on getting a bike (much cheaper AND great for the environment! cars, what?! 😉 ) so thanks for the tips!
    Although i was planning on wearing a backpack … cute front baskets for the win! yay!
    p.s. cute dress!

  3. Like you, I don’t like biking for the exercise, really. I enjoy it for leisure and transportation. Personally, I’d love to bike around everywhere but this is very much an anti-pedestrian, anti-cyclist town. It’s awfully hot here, too. over 100 degrees most days and insanely dry, so I’ve been battling heat exhaustion on and off all summer, so I’ve been utilizing the car to drive two blocks to work more than I care to admit.

    Also, what’s this about clips? Maybe I just don’t understand because I ride a mountain bike. Or maybe I’m just not hardcore enough! Haha!

    • The heat, and even more so the humidity, has gotten Tate and I in the car more than once over the last month. He wears dress clothes to work and has to get in pretty close for adjustments so the sweat thing is more of an issue for him. Sometimes he just brings a change of clothes and that works alright.
      Are you asking what clips are? They are the little knobby pedals that bike shoes clip into. When clipped in your feet are attached to the pedal. I rode a mountain bike around town for years! 🙂

  4. I might add one thing, not as a commuter, but as an avid cyclist…

    More than pulling the heel to the buns, think of lifting the knee straight up (making more of a capital letter “D” with the pedal stroke). This engages glutes and hammies while keeping the knee over the toe, which minimizes strain….

    That said, I, too, LOVE biking in skirts! My fave summer uni is a tutu over bike shorts. Gotta have some flair.

  5. i really want to be a bike commuter! i live off of a busy 8-lane road in the burbs, so it’s sort of impractical because there’s nowhere to go – i cannot wait for the day to live close by to work so i can commute on two wheels. when visiting cville, i was really in awe of the bike-friendly roads and i’m dying to move there 🙂

  6. No safe place to park bikes around the hospital so I walk commute when I can. I, too, have learned to deal with the sweatiness. I get there early and let myself dry. I also keep a change of socks and shoes at work so my feet can dry out.

  7. Faith – I am a new reader (hi!) as well as a new bike commuter, so this post was perfect for me!

    Today I was riding in a bike lane that ended before an intersection, so I arm-signaled to go into the turning lane I wanted to be in. I ended up getting yelled at (“That’s what sidewalks are for, loser!”) from a car window. So – I wanted to know if you ride on sidewalks or on the road? Thanks!

    • GAH! I absolutely do not understand why some drivers act down right offended at our decision to bike! It’s ill-informed, misguided, and straight up stupid if you ask me. That rant being said, I ride on the road. Cville is more bike friendly than many places, although it could still use improving. However, if I felt endangered on a regular basis riding on the road and the sidewalks weren’t too busy I would definitely ride the ‘walks. It’s important to be respectful and yield to pedestrians because you are riding on their turf if you choose to ride the sidewalk. Also, it’s illegal in many places but I think the risk of a ticket may be worth the risk of confronting jerk-off drivers.

  8. Javier Hollines

    Don’t bike in baggy pants. I have ripped holes in my sweatpants riding to class from being caught in the chain. Shorts are the best for biking (preferably athletic shorts) but cargo shorts will do. Wearing jeans while biking makes it harder to move around and pedal.

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