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Tips for commuter cycling

Learn to Ride grads.jpg
"Learn To Ride" class graduated Sunday. (Washington Area Bicyclist Association)

Thousands of commuters will participate in Friday's Bike to Work Day, and the Capital Weather Gang's forecast looks very good. The Bike to Work convoys are a great way to test the experience of commuter cycling, but here are some tips from experienced cyclists that will get you launched on any day.

Chris Eatough
BikeArlington program manager
-- So much can be learned in a bike safety class, like the one in the photo above, including tips for interacting with traffic and avoiding common accidents, such as dooring and right hooks.

-- Map your route. Google Maps now offers bike directions. But it's a good idea to test the route to make sure it's right for you. There may be sections of the route where you would prefer to create your own detour.

-- Travel light. You can leave a lot of stuff at work, including the bike lock, work clothes and shoes.

-- Resist the temptation to over-buy riding clothes and equipment before you know what you really need.

Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post staff writer. See his story on sharing streets.
-- Wear a helmet, and don't ride up the gutter when traffic is stopped for a stop sign or light. Everybody does that, and it is one of the main reasons cyclists have collisions with cars turning right. The driver didn't know they were there because they snuck up while the light was red.

-- Learn how to change a flat before you set out. Having the tools is pointless if you don't know what to do with them. Here's a link to an instructional video.

-- For people who have not biked in a while, I would recommend that they do some recreational riding for at least of couple of weeks before tackling the commute. They need to be fully focused on the commute, and not on how their new bike works or how their old muscles are complaining, when they go out to tangle with new routes and the cars on them.

-- The bike lock is important, but they also should ask about taking their bike inside their workplace.

Sebastien Guilmard

D.C. cyclist who advocates commuter cycling.
-- When you decide to make the leap and commute to work by bicycle, the golden rule is to start slow. Many times, I would suddenly decide to bicycle to work. It started out great. But then it would take longer than expected, I would take a wrong turn, start getting cramps, sweating, and by the time I got to my destination, I was late, exhausted, a little on edge. The return commute would be a little better, but by the time I got home, I would be really sore and spent. The bike would be shelved for another year.

-- The first day is critical. Try out your route on the weekend, when you have no time constraints. Take your time and explore different routes. If you have not biked in a while, start out with a few miles, then gradually build to your full commute.

-- Bring water and snacks to keep you going. I also find a small mini-pump, a couple of tire levers and an inner tube patch kit critical in case you get a flat tire (about twice a year for me).

-- Always carry a little cash in your patch kit.

-- Start early to avoid the sun and heat and bring sun protection for your return home.

-- Check the weather before leaving home. On your first day, make sure it will not rain and that it is not the hottest day of the year.

-- Dress in layers so that you can remove clothing if necessary. You generate heat on
the bicycle, so you will generally require less clothing than if walking.

-- The bike you select is important. You need a comfortable bike that is proportioned to your body. I would avoid thin racing tires and recommend a wider, all-weather tire that is more forgiving and comfortable.

-- Being comfortable on your bike is critical. It will allow you to stay focused on the road and the many obstacles you will encounter.

-- Leaving home without food in your stomach, tired, and without proper attire will distract you and increase your chances of having an accident.

-- Some bike paths and sidewalks are in really poor shape so stay attentive and be ready to slow down or make a quick stop.

Related postings
Bike to work resources

Metro prepares for 'Bike to Work'

By Robert Thomson  |  May 20, 2010; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  Biking  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Input sought on Va. transportaton
Next: NTSB to release cause of Metro crash


Stay off the sidewalks and follow traffic laws.

Posted by: jiji1 | May 20, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

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