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So you are thinking about biking to work – good for you! It is a great way to get some exercise, save some money, increase your happiness, enjoy the world around you, and do something good for the environment. Despite knowing all the benefits, it still is not as easy as just jumping on a bike. There are basically three things that you need to consider as you prep for your first ride to work: attitude, bikes and gear and appearance logistics. Overwhelmed already? Don’t be – keep reading for some suggestions on how to manage all of these.
- First and foremost, you need to overcome yourself. If your mind tells you that you can’t do this, that it’s too hard or complicated or you don’t know what you are doing, stop and think about all the other things you have accomplished in your life. Chances are, some of them were much harder, more life altering, or more dramatic. Women are stronger than we think, and our self-doubts sometimes get in the way of our success. According to journalists Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, confidence comes from doing; the more successes you achieve, the more confident you will become. Your first bike ride to work will be your hardest; it will get easier as time goes on.
- Part two of overcoming yourself and becoming more confident is to learn to be comfortable in traffic. Read up on the traffic laws in your jurisdiction; maybe carry a printed copy with you for reference. Then take the lane and don’t apologize; own the road – this is no place for shrinking violets! This is definitely easier said than done, but as mentioned above, the more you do it, the more quickly you will become confident.
- Testing your route before you need to do it is another way to build confidence. After you map it, either with Google or paper maps, drive it, or bike it on a weekend. Becoming familiar with the route when you are not worried about getting to work on time will mean a less stressful first day!
Bikes and Gear
- What will you actually need? A bike, of course! Everyone has different ideas about the type of bike to use, from a skinny tire road bike to a brightly colored upright Dutch-style bike. Take some time to test out different ones before you commit, maybe borrow bikes or try bikeshare You won’t automatically know what works best for you (sort of like dating!). But ultimately you want it to be a bike you love, one you are happy to see every morning.
- There are some gear basics that you will need: a bike lock, lights and fenders. You especially want to know the best way to lock your bike. You need a white light on the front of your bike and a red light in the back. Fenders are a bike-to-work must because they will help keep water and mud off you, ensuring you arrive at work in the same clean condition you left your house. There is a wide range of lights and fenders on the market, so simply pick what works best for your budget and style.
- Weather protection means different things to different cyclists as well. Some prefer rain pants and a rain coat, while others prefer stylish rain capes. Warm water-repellant gloves are a winter biking must, and many swear by shoe or toe covers and balaclavas. In the summer, consider biking to work in a moisture-wicking top, then changing upon arrival.
- A rear rack on your bike means you can then add panniers or baskets to carry your stuff, rather than wear a backpack, which will make you sweatier. It may take some experimentation to come up with your ideal method (rear basket, front basket, two panniers, one pannier, etc). There are plenty of stylish yet practical options out there (and some less practical), so you have the opportunity to personalize your bike. Self-expression is part of the joy of biking, after all!
- How to look professional once you arrive at work is one of the biggest challenges. Most women keep a second set of toiletries and makeup at work, along with extra clothes and shoes. If your office doesn’t have a shower, see if there is a gym nearby that you could use, or use shower wipes to freshen up in the bathroom. You may become more comfortable with relaxing some personal grooming standards as well, wearing less makeup, for example (just don’t give up the deodorant, for your coworkers’ sake!). You may also want to develop an arsenal of responses for the inevitable “What are you doing?” questions that will arise from curious or perplexed coworkers – “Why do you ask?” might be a good initial response.
- Helmet hair is a big turn-off for many women, with good reason – it is hard to feel polished and professional with sweaty mangled bangs. Some women swear by tying a silk scarf over their hair before donning a helmet, while others switch their parts under their helmet, so that when they get to work, it is less munched when they flip it back. Braids, twists, ponytails, and other ‘dos are all worth experimenting with – and keep hairpins and headbands at work just in case.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, keep in mind that you do not have to bike to work every day. There will be days when it simply doesn’t work for you. That is perfectly okay! Be flexible and be realistic, and most of all, remember that you are biking to work because it is fun and healthy – not because you must.
You can read more from Elizabeth on her blog, tinlizzieridesagain.