Biking to Work
Commuting by bicycle is a great way to save on expenses like gas, while reducing the pollution associated with cars, buses and trains, especially during the summer when the heat makes us vulnerable to spending more.
It may be intimidating for some to consider joining the ranks of the two-wheeled class, but just a few simple pieces of gear are all you need to get to the office without busting your budget.
Here are eight commuting essentials to make your summer ride to work as smooth as possible.
Photo Credit: Digital Vision
Finding a Bike
Bikes come in such a wide variety of styles and prices that anyone can find a ride to meet their personal needs. If you already have one – be it a beach cruiser or an old mountain bike that’s been sitting in your garage – you can ride it to work.
If you don’t have a bike, your budget and the nature of your commute will largely determine your options.
A good commuting bike should come with a few essentials: It should be comfortable, sturdy enough to withstand being locked on poles, and have at least four to seven gears to deal with changes in elevation. If you have actual hills to ride up, a solid 15-20 gears is probably best.
If you know your commute will require some time on public transportation, there are plenty of folding bike options priced around $500 from manufacturers like Dahon.
In general, bike manufacturer Specialized is one of the leaders in making commuter-friendly bikes around $500, a bargain in places like New York, where a monthly subway pass costs $104. One good model with a comfortable riding position that is equally suited to the road and the dirt trail through the park is the Sirrus, so find a bike shop near you and ask for a test ride to find the right model.
Photo Credit: Digital Vision
Buying a Lock
Unless you can wheel your bike to your cubicle, you’re going to need a lock for it.
Not all locks are created equal, so let the replacement value of your bike determine the level of protection you need, and the price you should pay.
Kryptonite, by far the leader in bike locks, offers options at all levels, with higher-end models offering automatic theft insurance if the lock is broken. A basic U-lock costs about $20 and will provide up to $500 of compensation, while a top-of-the-line chain and lock combination will cost about $150 but will cover up to $4,500 towards a new bike if the lock is somehow destroyed.
Photo Credit: Kryptonite
For most of us, riding to work means riding through city streets, which seem to accumulate glass, wayward screws and all sorts of pointy bits that can pop your tires. Even if you know how to fix a flat, you don’t want to show up to the office covered in brake dust and chain grease from doing it.
Puncture-resistant tires should puncture your flat tire fears for good. Specialized makes a full line of Armadillo tires to suit pretty much any type of bike, and while a pair will run you from $80-$100, they will pay for themselves in all the patch kits and replacement tubes you won’t have to buy.
A less-reliable, but more economical solution is to line your tires with Kevlar tape, which can make any tire more puncture resistant for as little as $15-$20.
Photo Credit: Specialized
Work-Appropriate Bike Clothes: Business Casual
Having to dress appropriately at work shouldn’t deter bike commuters from taking the plunge. There are wrinkle-resistant, moisture-wicking collared shirts for men and women by makers like Ex Officio that come in a variety of colors for $50-$80 a pop, plus these shirts have antibacterial coatings that will minimize any odors worked up by your ride.
Similarly, for around $60, you can get Ex Officio’s wrinkle-resistant, moisture-wicking pants that are perfect for keeping you fresh without compromising the office dress code.
Photo Credit: Ex Officio
Work-Appropriate Bike Clothes: Business Formal
If your office dress code has been keeping you from getting on that bike, then British cycling apparel brand Rapha has you covered. The cycling blazer, which is also available as part of a custom-tailored three-piece suit, will cost about $600, but it is as functional as it is beautiful.
Made from an innovative 100% wool fabric that will resist stains and wrinkles while ensuring breathability, the jacket is pleated in the back to provide a range of motion while on the bike. You’ll be ready to roll into work and stroll right into the boardroom for your morning meeting.
Photo Credit: Rapha
Anyone who has ever ridden a bike to work has probably been caught in a rainstorm. But thankfully, it doesn’t take much to retrofit your bike for a wet ride to and from work. A detachable plastic fender like the ones made by SKS will set you back about $30 for front and rear coverage, though minimalists will need only a rear fender to avoid the embarrassing stripe of dirty water the back wheel can kick up onto your back.
Photo Credit: Amazon.com
Safety should be a priority for new and seasoned bikers alike, and one of the most effective tools in your arsenal should be a trusty plastic whistle. Instead of that bell you used to have on your handlebars that requires you to shift your grip and even take your eyes off the road to look for the little button, a whistle is a louder and easier way to alert cars and pedestrians to your presence. Whistles should only run you around $5.
All bikers should obey the same traffic laws as cars, but however diligent you are with safety, a car might not see you or a pedestrian on a cellphone might start jaywalking without looking both ways. A quick blow on the whistle will let them know you’re there and help avoid any collisions.
Photo Credit: Comstock
No matter how far you ride, chances are you will heat up and sweat a bit on your ride to the office, so you shouldn’t rely on that box of Kleenex at your desk to get rid of moisture. Instead, keep an MSR PackTowl at your desk, a compact microfiber towel that soaks up more than it looks like it would. A small towel that is perfectly adequate for a quick wipe-down costs only $10.
Photo Credit: Amazon.com