Corona has dominated our lives for more than two years already, but by now it seems we have COVID more under control – thanks to vaccinations and the experiences we collected. Therefore, many of us are asked or decide on their own to go back to the office on a regular basis. But due to exploding gas prices, commuting daily is a new challenge and switching to bike a really promising alternative. But how to best get started with the bike commute? Here are 5 important steps that can help you to switch to bike commuting… and stick with it!
Step 1: Route planning
Especially for those with long commutes, switching to biking is not an easy task and requires some planning. One important factor is the route: You definitely should plan ahead of your first bike trip which route to talk. You might be able to take your normal route which you als take by car, but maybe that is not even possible. Therefore, I recommend that you take some time to check the following questions first:
- Are you allowed to bike your usual route?
- Are there bike lanes?
- Are there alternatives with less car traffic or a nicer scenery?
- Are there bottlenecks along the way where it might be dangerous to bike? Can you avoid these?
- How long will it take you to bike one trip?
Especially the duration of one trip will vary individually, but calculating it with a route planner will give you a good estimation. Ideally you can try out your route e.g. at the weekend to check for road blocks, bottlenecks and try out how long it takes you. That makes it easier to be on time on your first day of bike commuting!
Step 2: Technical preparations
Of course you will need a fully functional bike for bike commuting. Therefore, make sure to check all relevant features of your bike before:
- Is your bike fully functional?
- Is the tire pressure OK?
- Are the lights functional?
- Is the gearshift working as it should be and the chain oiled?
- For E-bikes: Is the battery fully loaded?
- Is your bike clean enough not to mess up your work outfit?
Aside from your bike, also a helmet is absolutely recommended as it can save your life in case of an accident. Does your helmet fit right? Is it not too old? Have you ever had an accident with it? It might be time to get a new one, but any helmet sure is better than no helmet!
Step 3: Mental preparation
Especially if bike commuting is a challenge to you, it might help to prepare mentally for this challenge. If you not only want to bike once but intent to stick with it, there are some tricks to make that transition easier.
For me personally, a trial period with peer pressure did the trick: I committed to biking to work for a full month together with my colleagues. Thereby, peer pressure was constantly making me stick to it. And committing only for a limited time period is much easier than committing for a undefined period. You can use the trial period also if you have no colleagues to join you in the transition: Define a fixed time frame for which you want to bike to work – and then just do it! The self-imposed rule makes it easier to accept and gives you the chance to celebrate if you achieve your goal!
The trial period also gives you an opportunity to reflect afterwards if this works for you and you see a benefit in it – and if not, you can evaluate what went wrong and try to adjust. In addition to that, I recommend not purchasing new equipment before the trial period but wait till you finished it. Then you know whether there is a chance for you to make a habit out of it and it is worth the purchase. In addition, you can purchase those things which make the trip more comfortable or fun for you, like a better bike or new bicycle bag.
Step 4: Combine your bike commute with your job
Bike commuting influences your whole day, especially your work performance. Moving in the morning gets you going, wakes you up thoroughly and can improve your mood. Beside the positive effects it has on your day, it also comes with a few challenges especially for office jobs.
If you have a longer commute, it might get exhausting and you might not want everyone to recognize that on your outfit. Because of this, it makes sense to freshen up once you reach the office. You might want to change or have a shower, if you have toe opportunity. Consider this before you start commuting by bike: What will you need to freshen up and look professional at your job? Do you need to wear special work clothes, and can you bike in them? If you want to change there, can you drop your stuff of the day before or do you need to carry them with you on your bike? What if it rains during your trip?
In addition to that, you need to find out when you should leave in the morning not to be late. Consider what and how to carry your laptop and/or documents which you need for work!
Step 5: The night before
So tomorrow is the day: Your first bike commute! For tonight, it is important to prepare to give yourself an easy start:
- Pack your bag the day before. This gives you the opportunity to do it without hectic and you can consider thoroughly what you might need to freshen up or change. Pack your work equipment and squeeze in a rain cape, just in case.
- In addition to that, also put out your bike clothes already. This helps to really stick with it tomorrow morning and not lay it off spontaneously!
- If you want to listen to music or a podcast on the way, pick one already and prepare the playlist. This gives you something to look forward to!
- In case you are unsure about the route you want to take, check it once more and make it easily accessible for you on the way – you might need it.
- Do you need a water bottle or coffee from a thermos? Also put that out already!
- Check the weather for tomorrow to make sure there is not rain surprising you. If you intent to ride through rain, pack clothes for chaining and DO NOT forget new socks! Wet feet are just the worst….
All these preparations will help you and give you the best chance of a good experience! Now you should only go to bed early so that you are feeling fit tomorrow. Have a fantastic trip!
How to stick with it and make a real habit out of it
These 5 steps are intented to make your transition to bike commuting easier. And hopefully you like it so much that you then really want to keep doing it! That would be great for your health and helps to avoid emissions, which is ideal for our climate! If you feel confident to keep going, you can consider what you might need to really make a habit out of it.
I personally like using a bicycle bag so that I don’t feel the weight of my stuff on my shoulders – it makes me feel more free and light on my bike. Of course also a good bike is essential! It not only needs to be in good condition, but it also needs to suit you and the length of your legs to avoid long-term damage to your joints. The right gearshift make inclines easier and depending on your route and road conditions, a chain versus a belt drive should be evaluated. If you have a long way to go, an E-bike might really help.
How to commute sustainably even if biking is not possible?
If you want to make your commute more sustainable and eco-friendly, please look at my other articles: Here I write about how you can make your car more sustainable and save gas – which especially in these times of exploding gas prices is so attractive and important! You can also read more about bike commuting here.
Did you ever consider bike commuting? Or is it too far for you? Dies your job allow for a bike commute? Discuss with us in the comments!