May 21, 2009

Back in the Saddle

We've all heard the saying "It's just like riding a bike" but commuting via bike...it's not just like riding a bike. Well at least not like I remember it when I was young. Back in the day I would ride all day long with my friends and nobody worried about whether or not they would make their destination on time, if they would be too sore the next day, if it was safe, or if they would look presentable after the ride. As adults these are things we worry about and they often discourage us from bicycle commuting. After a few weeks of commuting by bike I have learned a few things that may help you give bike commuting a try or improve your experience.

The Time Factor
Many of us don't have the luxury to arrive at work anytime we please. Whether the distance of your ride is too long to commute solely by bike or you need to work up to fitness level needed for the daily ride you may have options. In the Denver/Boulder area we are fortunate to have the RTD bus and light rail service. All of their busses are equipped with bike racks and you're permitted to bring your bike on board the light rail. My regular commute would be about 13 miles to and from work and 26 miles a day is a bit much for me (right now). However combining my biking with the RTD has trimmed that down to about 12 miles round trip. Much more manageable for someone new to this adventure.

Check out what your local mass transit may offer. I was originally a bit intimidated by the process but once I became familiar with the RTD and it's schedules I have really begun enjoying it. I like the people watch and I am learning more about the community than I would in a car.

The Comfort Factor
There are a few elements that go into comfort. The initial element is the bike itself. For the best results go to a true bike shop. You can take your current bike in and have a fitting done. They will make adjustments and can make suggestions for the proper tires or other items like the saddle(bike seat). The saddle I had was fine for recreational riding but I needed something different for commuting. When I went to the bike shop they measured my sit bones and I found out my previous saddle was too wide. After a few days in the new saddle I have minimal soreness. While your instincts would say if you're sore get a cushy padded seat the reality is that may not be what you need, consult the experts and trust them.

Beyond the bike you need to feel comfortable which in my case means hydration and layers. I have a Camelbakwith 787 cu. in. of storage space and a headphone portal so my IPod is protected and the cord is manageable. This allows me to store my daily essentials and snacks. I can also fit my Marmot Precip jacket. I love this jacket because it's a great layer when it's windy or raining and features underarm ventilation which I need even when it's chilly.

The Safety Factor
Safety goes beyond wearing a Helmet though for the record I have to say it WEAR YOUR HELMET. A helmet does no good left at home or attached to your pack. Put it on your noggin. Helmets save lives!

Okay, that being said even with helmets accidents happen. It's a grim topic but people do get injured and in a time of emergency you don't want medical professionals guessing if you have allergies, insurance, or who to contact. I was lucky to find the Xtreme Sports ID bracelet. Upon purchase, $8 initially and $5 annual renewal, you register the bracelet online and input all of the information that is needed during a medical emergency.

Even better it's not like the metal bracelets that bring images of "I've fallen and I can't get up" to mind. The bracelets are a light weight plastic, come in a variety of colors and sizes, and are so comfortable you can leave them on while you sleep and in the shower. They feature the medical alert symbol, an 800 number, and your personal ID number so your information is easily retrieved. I recommend the bracelets for more than just biking. If you're a solo outdoor enthusiasts you can use the online tool to send a message to your emergency contacts and let them know where you are going and when you expect to return. They're great for any sport or even for kids to wear daily in case of an emergency or separation. Want to win a child's size bracelet?
Read the contests section below for details.

The Presentation Factor
I plan on talking a little more about clothing and hairstyles that will take you from the commute to the office with ease in future posts. For now, let's focus on the sweat issue. Few of us have a shower at the workplace, I know I don't. I rely on items like Rocket Shower (previously reviewed here) and Action Wipes to get me from the bike path to the desk without scaring off my colleagues and customers. Both products offer a body spray in a light fine mist that help eliminate bacteria which stops odor from starting. Action Wipes also features wipes, similar to a baby wipe in size but a better texture and the Action Wipe formula made for athletes. I have a sample of Action Wipes Spray to give away as well, so check out the contests section. To buy Action Wipes now and get a 15% discount code vist www.actionwipes.com, just enter "cupcake" at checkout.

Keep Moving Forward
Just like any other activities you will have some discomfort and frustration when starting out with the bike commute. I have had many moments wondering why I was doing it. Then I see animals playing, smell aromas that remind me of happy childhood moments, and see my community in a way I never have before and I realize it's not just about my health or the environment. I am learning and growing with every ride. Get out there and do it!!! (Also check out my previous post to be prepared for a flat tire on the road)


The Contests - Deadline for Entry is June 1
Xtreme Sports ID (Child's size): I have a pink marble bracelet to give away. Perfect for the little one who's curiousity has them wandering off or a child with allergies. Email me at Contests@mycupcakemafia.com with Xtreme in the subject line. Include your name and contact information.

Action Wipes Spray: For this contest, just shoot me an email at Contests@mycupcakemafia.com with Action in the subject line. Include a brief story about your best bike commute experience (that will be shared on Cupcakemafia.com) and your contact information.

4 comments:

APV said...

Hey! Great post. And so relevant for bike month.

I just wanted to add to what you said about bus and light rail options. Many cities (especially the more bike-friendly ones) offer maps of roads with bikes lanes on them, such as what Boulder offers here: http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8853&Itemid=2979#BIKEPED, San Jose (where I live) has here: http://www.vta.org/schedules/gmaps/index.html, and the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) have here: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/bicycles/where-to-ride.asp

You're also absolutely right about getting into a professional bike shop to make sure you're bicycle is as comfortable as possible. Besides proper saddle width, seat-post height, saddle angle, stem height and length, frame size, and many other factors go into how a bike makes you feel after even a little while on the road or trail. Most shops should help you out with these adjustments for free too! Just walk in and tell them you want to make sure the bike is setup right.

While you're there, you may have them do a basic tune-up. If your bike has gears and brakes you'll at least want to make sure they're in working order before heading out for a commute. Nothing stops a good intentioned rider more quickly than frustration with poorly performing equipment!

Again, great post! Found you through @boulderdiaries on Twitter.

Action Wipes said...

Thank you so much for the mention of Action Wipes and the sports spray give-away. Action Wipes are made with an all natural formulation that includes eucalyptus and tea tree oil, that's how they get you so clean. They're also much larger (9"x10") than a baby wipe, so you can pretty much clean your entire body with just one. For those readers that would like to check them out, I've set a 15% discount code at www.actionwipes.com Just enter "cupcake" at checkout.

MathewG said...

Talissa, I love reading your blog, and this post was so fun and educational too! You've inspired me to get my bike in shape and get myself out to enjoy the Colorado sunshine.

Tali said...

APV - Thanks for the great information :D

Martha - Thanks for the great discount!!! What a wonderful treat!

Mathew - Thank you darling. It's so good to hear from you. XO