Let’s talk about commuting! In spite of my skepticism about the weather in Calgary, I’ve been taking full advantage of the warm, dry temperatures by biking to work every day this past month. As soon as I started, I knew I wouldn’t easily go back to walking. It takes me about 15 minutes to get to work by bike, as opposed to a 40 minute walk. I’m such a fair weather biker though that it’ll be interesting to see how I fare when we get some rain or snow. For now, I’m just reveling in these warm temperatures, & grabbing a little extra sleep in the mornings.
Calgary is getting to be such a bike-friendly place, & lately I’ve been hearing a lot of chat about how to get started. I’ve been commuting by bike for a couple years now so I figured I’d talk a little bit about getting into biking & offer some of my tips (from a non-expert point of view). So, here we go: my five tips for getting (back) on your bike.
- Get it tuned up for the season.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve ridden your bike, this is especially important. For one, safety first! (I need to follow my own advice here.) Secondly, I find that if I put money into something, I’m way more likely to follow through. Maybe you just need an extra push to get out there or to talk to some people who know more about bikes & biking than you do. Either way, I think it’ll help.
- Plan Ahead.
Yeah, I know I’m always advocating for planning ahead, but it seriously saves me in so many situations. The addition of the cycle track last year opened up so many options for getting around the core. I’ve been using the 7th street lane since its inception & it makes my commute a lot easier. I feel safer being segregated from traffic & pedestrians alike. It doesn’t end at with the cycle track though, Calgary has a whole network of bike paths & shared roadways. I’m lucky that I virtually never have to bike on anything but during my commute. If you’ve been driving or walking, you may not have noticed how close you are to one, so take a look online & plan out a route that makes sense. It’ll make your life so much easier.
- Wear whatever works.
That’s a weird title for a tip. Let me explain: don’t worry about whether you look stupid. I’m an advocate for wearing what works for you in that moment. Sure, it’s probably a good idea to have a rain jacket & some other gear, but I don’t really believe in buying stuff that’s specific to something unless it’s totally necessary. Personally, I hate having to change when I get to work so I usually wear a dress or skirt & throw shorts or leggings underneath. I keep heels at my desk, but taking off my leggings at the office is about the extent of my “changing”. (I’m fortunate to have an entirely downhill commute, so I coast in without feeling sweaty, but I think we’re honestly way too worried about that kind of thing in North America. Another thought for another time.) If you have a longer commute or more hills, you may choose to wear some more fitness friendly gear. If you look a little silly, don’t worry, I’m right there with you. & you won’t hear anyone’s snarky comments as you sail past them on your bike anyway. 😉
- Act Confident.
You may not be feeling super confident the first few times you venture out, but you have just as much of a right to be there as anyone else on the road. Don’t let others intimidate you. I’m not saying you should always stand your ground, but do where appropriate. Sure, sometimes it may be annoying for a driver to share the road with me & other cyclists, but the opportunity for them to safely pass me usually comes up quickly. Take your space when you can & be as cautious & aware as possible. Even if you’re not feeling confident in the beginning, pretending you are goes a long way to getting you there!
- Join Bike Calgary (or another biking community!)
I find joining a community of like-minded people can be really helpful, especially when you’re first starting out. I generally tweet (#bikeyyc), personally, but sometimes I’ll also stop by Bike Calgary to see what’s up. There are forums where you can talk about your ride, path conditions, gear, events, or simply connect with other cyclists. They promote cycling events as well, such as this Friday’s Bike to Work Day. (Could there be a more perfect time to start riding?) So far everyone I’ve talked to online has been pretty great so I definitely encourage you to connect in some way. Make sure you say hi if you sign up for Bike Calgary – I’m sure you can guess my predictable username.
Honestly, before I started biking to work regularly I didn’t realize how much I’d come to love it. I figured I’d do it here & there, but now I can’t get enough of it! It helps that it’s the fastest way for me to get to work (meaning a little extra sleep for me!), but it’s also a really enjoyable way to start the day. My ride doesn’t really count as exercise in the morning, but it’s certainly more than I get in a car2go. If you were on the fence, I hope this gives you an extra little push.
As for everyone else, would you consider biking to work? & if you do, where you intimidated before you started?