Last year, I decided I was going to stop driving to work every day and bike instead, which was about 44km long (round trip) and 2 – 2.5 hours of biking per day. The trouble was, I didn’t really know how to start at first and couldn’t find much online to help me out.
Today’s post is dedicated to those of you who have been on the fence about biking to work or
for anyone who hasn’t even considered it up until now—and why it's such a great habit!
First Thing’s First: You Need Some Stuff Beforehand (And it’s Super Important)
• A bike that makes you feel comfortable and safe.
- I used to have a super hardcore racing bike but I personally didn't find it comfortable at all. I decided to invest in a hybrid bike instead, which is a combination of a road bike and mountain bike. It still gives me all the gears I want, but my seat is much more upright and comfortable and I feel safer and more confident going on bumpier roads. Invest in a bike that suits your preferences.
• Bright-coloured clothing
- Make yourself as noticeable as possible so that drivers simply can’t miss you. Opt for neon-coloured clothes whenever possible to increase your visibility.
• Padded bike shorts
- Biking will be super painful on your butt, crotch, and sit bones at first. These guys can be annoyingly pricey but trust me when I say that they’re worth EVERY. SINGLE. PENNY.
• A rack for your bike
- I tried using a backpack to bring my things to work in the beginning, but I'd be left with red marks on my shoulders and was constantly being thrown off kilter while biking if I hit a bump. Solution: get a rack for the back of your bike to strap a backpack or cooler onto.
• A helmet
- For those of you who think helmets look “nerdy” or whatever, please for the love of God just put the damn thing on your head.
• A water bottle holder
- I mainly use mine to hold my morning breakfast smoothie, which I enjoyed at work afterwards. Very handy!
• A bell
- Yelling “EXCUSE ME” either doesn’t work or just isn’t well received (tried and tested).
• A heavy duty, unbreakable lock for your bike (or, bring the entire bike into your workplace if possible.)
• A speedometer (not necessary, but helpful for tracking speed, mileage and time if you're into that sort of thing)
• A planned route
- Drive into work a few times and scope out the roads that have the widest shoulders, the smoothest roads, or even a bike path. A lot of being confident on a bike has to do with knowing where you’re going and what to expect, so this is an absolutely essential step.
What to Pack in a Bag vs. What to Leave at Work
The bag on my bike contained my lunch for the day and fresh clothes, but I left my heels in the office and a little toiletry bag, which included: a hairbrush, washcloth, face wash, body wash, facial moisturizer (with SPF), makeup, hair elastics, bobby pins, and deodorant. It’s also a good idea to keep a light rain jacket at work since you never know when the weather might surprise you!
Things to Know
1. Say goodbye to good hair days. (Seriously, they will cease to exist.)
My go-to hairstyles were a ponytail or top knot, and French braids work great under a helmet. You can try using dry shampoo, but since my hair had graduated from being greasy to sweaty I felt like dry shampoo wouldn’t work the same. (Correct me if I’m wrong in the comments below though!)
2. Your makeup routine is going to become extremely minimal.
I stuck to the absolute essentials: tinted moisturizer, eyebrow pencil, mascara, and concealer.
3. Your co-workers will see you sweaty and makeup-less.
Trust me, most people will think it’s pretty cool that you biked into work and won’t really be paying that much attention to you anyway.
4. You might need to start drinking (and eating) more than usual.
If your ride to work is relatively long, you’ll notice your metabolism speeding up throughout the weeks. Pack some light snacks with you in the morning just in case. Dates, figs, and other dried fruits are great, portable sources of natural sugars that can be thrown into your pocket to eat during the ride if need be.
REMEMBER: Burning more calories in a day doesn’t give you permission to binge on junk food. If anything, you need to nourish your muscles with more nutritious foods so that your body can handle all the activity.
5. You MUST practice checking your blind spot and doing the appropriate hand signals.
This is much harder than it sounds and requires serious practice. Go to an open area where there aren’t any cars and really take the time to master this skill. Whenever you turn to look anywhere on a bike, your wheels follow you. If you’re turning to look over your shoulder, your wheels will quickly go in that same direction, too.
PRACTICE: Look far ahead to see there aren’t any bumps in your path. Once you’ve confirmed that the coast is clear, calmly look over your shoulder while focusing on keeping your front wheel straight. Confirm that no cars are coming. Slowly look straight again and regain focus. Make your hand signal and change lanes.
6. Biking requires 100% of your attention.
If you want to enjoy the scenery then STOP and look around. And remember, your tires go wherever you’re looking.
7. You’ll be exhausted as all hell in the beginning.
Know that eventually you’ll get into the swing of things.
The Benefits of Biking to Work
1. You’ll save a ton on gas money!
2. You won’t need to workout any more.
3. You’ll get a lot more “me” time.
You can’t text, call, or email anyone when biking, and you can’t even listen to music (you’ll want to hear that massive truck approaching, trust me!) This means you’ll spend way more of your day “unplugged,” which is really important nowadays. As a study at the University of California confirmed, downtime allows our brains to go over experiences, solidify them, and turn them into permanent, long-term memories. If we constantly stimulate our brains with screens, this learning process is disrupted.
4. You’ll connect with nature and be more productive at work.
A study in Landscape and Urban Planning revealed that compared to walking in an urban setting, people who walked in nature experienced decreased anxiety and cognitive benefits like increased working memory and performance. Plus, when you get your blood moving, lungs pumping, and muscles working first thing in the morning, you really set the stage for a productive day.
5. You’ll rev up your metabolism big time.
Biking can help increase your basal metabolic rate—the amount of energy your body uses when resting—which can really help shrink your waistline if that’s your goal.
6. You’ll inspire others to be more active.
It was really neat for me to see that I helped a few people realize that biking to work is totally doable so long as you plan in advance.
The Bottom Line
From experiencing more time in nature to getting more exercise and “me time,” the benefits of biking to work are seriously endless. At first it might seem like a struggle to get ready at work and never have a good hair day, but getting on a bike first thing in the morning can be very calming and lovely. Just remember to be safe. Find a bike that works for you, keep your eyes on the road, and practice checking your blindspot beforehand. And remember to go at your own pace! You don’t need to start off biking every day of the week; start off with what’s comfortable and work up from there if you want to. Pack nutritious lunches, drink water at work, and give yourself a pat on the back for doing some good for your body and the environment!
You Tell Me!
Do you bike to work? What tips do you have for us and what benefits have you noticed? Let me know in the comments below!