Commuting 101

We have all heard it before, but most trips we make in our cars on a daily basis are just not all that far. Here are some FACTS, according to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle. That means we are putting a lot of pollution   environment to go very short distances. Once you start using you bicycle for short trips you will find that you gain so much! You become healthier, experience less stress and save money!

Our Challenge to You

Our challenge to you is to start replacing short trips in your car by riding your bicycle. Need to run down to the corner store or the library? Do it on your bike! You may not be ready to ride to work the first time out but if you start slow and build you will quickly find out how easy and rewarding it really is.

Biking to Work (and other places)

Bicycle Commuting 101: Planning Makes it Simple from Driftless Region Bicycle on Vimeo.

What You Need

Many people think they need a lot of expensive gear, bikes or clothing to be a bicycle commuter. That’s just not true. Many if not most of us have what we need right in our garage, basement or storage shed.  In this section we will explain what you “have to have” and what you might want to think about adding.

The Bike

Simply put you need a bicycle. Beyond that pretty much everything else is optional. So knock the dust of you faithful old steed and get ready to ride! Here are some things to think about:

  1. Style of Bike: The style (“lifestyle,” mountain, road or hybrid) is a personal choice. Each may have its’ advantages and disadvantages. Today there are many manufacturers making specifically designed commuter bikes and bikes referred to as “lifestyle” bicycles. Lifestyle bicycles tend to present a more upright sitting position and are very comfortable to ride for the kinds of distance most people commute. Visit  our local
  2. Maintenance: Maintenance is an incredibly important part of riding a bike. Just like you take you car car in for oil changes and tune ups, you need to take care of your bike. Luckily, maintaining a bike is easier and cheaper than a car! Getting an annual “tune” up for your bicycle is highly recommend and generally costs less than $50, not including parts.  A good tune up will include the checking of the bike frame, wheels, brakes, shifters and cables. A trained and experienced bike mechanic can spot potential issues that could prevent you from reaching your destination safely.
  3. Lights & Reflectors: Most new bikes come with enough reflectors to meet the legal requirements of most municipalities, but it is always a good idea to make sure you know the law where you ride. Headlights are often require for night riding and come in a very wide range of styles, power and cost.  The right one for you should be based on your budget and how you will be riding. Generally speaking, the faster you ride that more powerful of a front light you will want. Red taillights can increase your visibility greatly from the rear. Before you remove any rear reflectors and replace them with lights, make sure that the light is also a reflector. If it is not, you may fid yourself pulled of and ticketed.
  4. Chain & Skirt Guards: For many years it was hard to find an adult sized bicycle with a chain guard. With the increasing number of bicycle commuters and “lifestyle” bicycles, they are becoming much more readily available. If you already have a bike, talk with your local bike shop about getting an after market chain guard installed. Skirt guards come in a wide variety of materials and like chain guards are starting to make a comeback in the U.S. Located around the front part of the rear tire, skirt guards are designed to keep skirts from becoming entangled in the rear wheel. While there are after market ones available, there are also do it yourself instruction on the Internet.
  5. Tires:
  6. Fenders: Fenders come on many bikes and can be added to most. The range of types and costs vary greatly. Some even come close to being works of art. The style of fender you select will depend on your bike and what kind of bicycling you will be doing. Having fenders will significant increase the number of days you can bicycle commute each year.

Accessories

Here are some things you might consider carying along with you when you commute, whether to work or the corner store:

  1. Bike Lock: Forget that $5 discount store lock. If you value you bicycle, spend a few extra bucks and get a quality bike lock. Cheap cable locks will barely slow down a determine thief. Heavy duty u-locks or heavy chains are generally considered the best chocies. Visit your local bike shop to explore the many options available.
  2. Spare Tube & Air:
  3. Batteries: If you may be caught out after dusk and use battery powered lights, having a few extra batteries may just keep you form riding home in the dark or even getting a ticket. Just stick them in your bag of choice (see Carrying Things below).

Clothing

No spandex required! The cloths you have on right now are most likely perfect for commuting short distances.  But here are some things to consider:

  1. Helmet: For adults whether to wear a helmet or not is option in most states, some states and locals may require them for children. So be sure to know you local laws & ordinances on this issue. DRBC always recommends the wearing of a certified bicycling helmet, you just don’t know what can happen. Just think of your bicycle helmet as the equivalent of you seat belt in a car. Don’t like helmet hair, then carry a cap or or other crushable hat with you to throw on when you remove your helmet. Pony tails of short hair also works well.
  2. Eye Protection: If you do not already wear eye glasses you may want to consider purchasing eye protection. Getting hit in the eye by a bug is not a pleasant experience. Riding at dusk in the warmer months of the year may see you passing through swarms of small gnats, which can hurt beyond all proportion. During the day just about any pair of sunglasses will do, but at night you need to have a clear or near clear lens so your vision is not impaired.
  3. Ankle Straps: Many of us remember our mothers scolding us for tearing you the legs of our pants by getting them caught in our bicycle chains. If your bicycle is not equipped with a chain guard, you may want to consider investing a couple of dollars into ankle straps. There are a million styles out there but most include a reflective strip or element that helps to make you more visible at night. You can do it on the cheap with a rubber band, piece of string or in a pinch by simply tucking your pant’s leg into the top of you sock.
  4. Being Seen: Wearing bright colors at any time of day is a good thing, but it is especially important when riding in the dark. Do not sacrifice safety for fashion. Many cycling specific cloths and equipment are made with reflective elements in them. This is greatly increase you nighttime visibility to motorists. Some bicyclists even wear reflective vest similar to what a road construction worker might wear to give them an even greater level of visibility day or night.

Carrying Things

The inability to carry things is an often cited reason for not riding a bike. Sorry folks, that excuse is and easy myth to bust. Riders right here in the Driftless Regionhave hauled 50# bags of dog food and even 4×4 lengths of lumber on their bikes. Here are some accessories that make carrying things on your bike easy:

  1. Backpacks & Messenger Bags: You can grab you kids old school book bag for a quick run down to the store for a gallon of milk or to grab those late night munchies. Some bicyclists prefer a type of bag called “messenger bags” that were originally designed for bike messenger bags. The style of bag or backpack you choose is an entirely personal choice. Some riders choose not to use bags since they may make your back sweat more.
  2. Baskets: Baskets and the way they attach to your bicycle come in more variety than you might imagine. Handlebar mounted baskets are great for throwing a few things in, like your purse, a light jacket and even a few smaller items picked up from the market. They are not generally designed for carrying large loads, although there are some exceptions to that rule. Many people find having to much weight on your handlebars can impact their ability to control the bike.
  3. Seat Bags:
  4. Racks and Panniers: Racks are designed to have all kinds of things attached to them. They can be mounted over the front or rear wheels and are available in many styles and price ranges.

Winter Riding

Despite the notorious winters we can experience in the Driftless Region, there are a few hardy souls who actually continue to commute all year long. Below are a few tips and gear recommendations to help you prepare for winter riding.

Check back for more information and updates as we develop this section.

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