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Bike to Work Month: Gear up!

Welcome to Part 2 of my BIKE TO WORK series!


No matter what you do, it is important to have the right gear. However, a trip to the bike shop can be intimidating. Luckily, there are some very basic things that every cyclist needs to get started.

The Essentials

Get a Bicycle

For real. You need it. I started out by borrowing my brother's bike. It was an old salvage job that sat out in the weather for a while. It was really hard to ride and always had some kind of problem. However, with a $0 investment fee, it was perfect for starting out.

But eventually you will need to put your money where you mouth is (or the seat of your pants are...) and buy yourself some real gear. Since the bicycle is going to be your most expensive investment, it's important to make an informed decision. There are several factors that you should consider, like:

  • Is this for commuting, exercise, pleasure or some combination?
  • How much bike maintenance are you comfortable doing? 
  • How portable does your bicycle need to be?
  • Brand
Here's how I answered these questions:

What's it for?

I decided I needed to buy a bike that was primarily for commuting. Sure, I'll use it to ride for pleasure, but I do not use it as an exercise bike per se. That cuts out those touring and mountain style bikes. I wanted something stable and simple.

Also, I wanted fenders. Without them, I'd be wearing the road on my legs. Dirt, mud, water--everything would be liable to splash up on me. I needed fenders on my bike. Either they needed to come with it or be installed after the fact.

Maintenance

I wanted something I could easily maintain. Here's a general rule of thumb: The more moving parts, the tougher it will be to maintain. I chose a single-speed bike with a single brake lever. There's only one gear to worry about and no derailleur. This means the gears, the chain, the tires, the tube,... everything is easier to take care of right off the bat. 

That's not to say everything worked out perfectly with no hitch. I found ways to make things complicated. But, could you imagine if I had bought a bike with more parts?

Portability

I wanted something super portable. It had to be lightweight so I could carry it up stairs if needed (done that). I wanted to be able to load it in the SUV if my wife came to pick me up (done that). So I settled on a folding bike.

Yes, folding. I can fold the handlebars down to the front wheel, fold the front wheel back to the rear wheel and slide the seat all the way down. After that, I can take the bike into my office or slide it in into the back of my SUV. Pretty cool!

Brand

Like the car you choose to deliver you safely across town, the bicycle brand you pick is pretty important. I found that Dahon is one of the leading manufacturers of folding bikes. So I chose the Dahon Boardwalk for my ride. It looks a little funny, but I enjoy the aesthetics and it suits my needs.

Remember that guy who is the dad of the Penn-State cyclist? He approved of the purchase.

A Helmet

No, persons over the age of 16 technically are not required to wear a helmet. But they should. I have had several close calls over the year (too many to count) and I have been hit once by a car (she said she didn't even look my way). So here are my safety rules. I only have two.
  1. Always wear your helmet.
  2. Always assume they didn't even look your way.

A Bag

I recently purchased a pannier bag. They are basically saddlebags that go on your bicycle's carrying rack. I haven't developed an opinion yet, but I can tell you that I arrived at work with less sweat on my back.

However, when I started I bought a simple Adidas backpack. It was waterproof, had discrete compartments for stuff, and was highly reflective. It served me very well until some low hanging branches ripped it to shreds.

You'll want a bag that can hold your work clothes, lunch and technology. I like my Adidas bag because it has two straps that snap across the front for extra security. It also has a separate compartment originally designated for shoes that I use for my riding clothes.

That's really all you need to get started. There's other gear you might consider as you continue.

Other Gear (Technology, mostly)

Fitness Watch

I like to track my rides in Garmin. I have a Garmin Vivoactive watch that works great for running, walking and cycling. It also has functions for swimming and golfing, but I do not do those sports enough to really have a good opinion on its performance in those areas.

It's good to know how long it takes you to commute back and forth. You can also analyze the map to see if there might be a more efficient route. Remember, cycling to work is a commute and efficiency is critical. You can also how your fitness level improves.

Relive.cc

Speaking of maps, relive.cc is a really good application that plugs into Garmin devices (Strava too, I think). When you finish a ride, relive.cc creates a map and displays your ride in a video. It's really cool and fun, especially when you know you went fast.
Here's a Relive.cc video from our trip to Shark Valley.

IFTTT - Location

I use IFTTT on my phone to share my location with my wife. IFTTT sends a notification to a GroupMe channel whenever I:
  • Leave work
  • Arrive at work
  • Arrive at home
Yes, it will trigger whenever I pass by work or home in a car. But judging by the time and day, Erin can know if I safely made it or not. She can also check on me if it gets late and I haven't made it home yet.

About Water and Exertion

I didn't say anything about water. Since I only ride five miles to work and it usually takes less than half an hour I do not hydrate on the road. However, I usually drink a glass before going out and as soon as I arrive at work I fill a water bottle and get to drinking. I also have protein powder at work in case I need a snack for recovery.

I also (as mentioned) do not push myself when riding to work. I keep a comfortable pace so I do not sweat so profusely as I would if I were pushing my body to the limits. This is also for safety reasons.
  1. I go slower so I can observe and react.
  2. I go slower so I can have another gear to kick myself into should I need to get out of the way fast.

*This post does contain affiliate links, it costs nothing extra to you but does give a small percentage to help keep StorybookErin.com going. We thank you for your support!* 

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