Each Day Adventure Awaits

Each Day Adventure Awaits 600 600 Carl Gammon

Your brakes let out a tiny squeak as you approach the hordes of cars piling up at the four-way intersection while road crews fill a pothole. “I gotta get that checked,” you think, as you turn up the radio to drown out the clamor outside your vehicle. The talking heads’ voices fill your car with more bad news; struggling private economic sector, international conflict, and rising energy prices. You think there is no way out of this torture chamber on four wheels that will deliver you to your ultimate destination: the computer desk at work.

In your periphery, you see a canopy of foliage surrounding a paved pathway. A lone cyclist turning onto it catches a glimpse of you and gives a polite nod and smile. “Wow, that looks like fun. I wish I had the time to do that,” you muse. You continue to gaze at this idyllic image—the cyclist takes a few commanding pedal strokes, and before long he is out of sight. Only the blowing leaves are in his wake. “Honk. Honk. HONK!” You come back to focus and see a man in a bright orange vest with a disgruntled look waving you through. Your coffee spurts out of the lid as you buck forward in a frazzled panic.
The truth about commuting by bike is that it can be a small step in a series of self discoveries that can transform your life. You can start to reduce your carbon footprint. You can cut down costs associated with vehicle upkeep. You can be healthier. But the most valuable asset associated with traveling by bike is how it makes you feel mentally and physically.

Starting the day with a little fresh air and exercise can make you feel more energetic and will get your right-brain stimulated for fresh ideas and thinking. In fact, I have come up with many solutions and enhancements to our business during my commute. Ending the day with a time of decompression and reflection can help relieve built up stress risers. You can take it out on your legs pushing the pedals rather than being a party to the honking and cursing on the motorways. I find the communion with nature extremely invigorating to my senses and my sense of purpose. I come home in a better mood.

You may be thinking of all the very good excuses that prevent people from trying bike commuting for the first time. Most of these have easy solutions. The added benefit is you are addressing two areas which most people find irritating; daily exercise and commuting to work! Follow these steps to get into it, and you will be successful.

Start Small
Most people are daunted by the prospect of taking a ride in excess of 5 miles each way, 5-6 times per week. You don’t need to be a bike enthusiast or a long-distance racer to do it. Start by taking small rides around the neighborhood to build up your stamina on a weekly basis. Taking your family on an outing on bikes to the beach or other destination (e.g. restaurant, shopping center) you would have gone to anyway is a great choice, and you will get used to going places by bike.

Try commuting to work just 1 day, or 2. There may be days where it is impractical—for instance, when you have a client meeting offsite, and you need to look your best in business attire, or have a large object you need to bring to work. Plan for a day where you are desk-bound or in company meetings. As you learn to be more prepared for things, you can find more solutions to these minute dilemmas. At that time, you can increase the frequency that you ride versus driving your car. There is no one forcing you to quit driving, should you want or need to.

Be prepared
Being prepared to ride, as well as being prepared for work are equally critical. In some cases, you will need to pack your bag (either backpacks or bike packs) with a change of clothing to suit the weather or the day’s activities. There are rack-mounted, trunk-style bags that have hard sides. These are great for packing a business-casual outfit— e.g. pants, dress shirt or blouse, tie or scarf, belt, and shoes. You may also benefit from having a rain poncho or light rain jacket, and a light pair of warm gloves stowed away.

Bags that mount to the sides of racks are called panniers, and are good for these less fragile items. Even in summer, weather in Minnesota is dynamic, and it will be much more enjoyable if you are always warm and dry. Pack extra socks if you need to, and personal hygiene items like hair product or body sprays/deodorant to clean up when you arrive. Wear an outfit that is cool and breathable in warm temperatures. Equally important, is having the ability to change a flat or do a small repair if necessary. It is always a good idea to pack an extra tube, a pump (manual or CO2 cartridge), and a tire lever for flats. Commuting by bicycle 5 days per week for the last 16 months, I have had zero flat tires, but it could happen anytime. I always carry a few emergency tools. I have had to make a couple off-the-bike repairs, but nothing major. This success goes with knowing what equipment will be the most hassle-free, which I will discuss below.

Know your route
Plan your route around bicycle-friendly streets and bike paths, where possible. As a cyclist, it is dangerous to ride on sidewalks and busy roads without shoulders. If you must do this, be sure to ride with the flow of traffic, and always use hand signals when changing direction and make eye-contact with drivers at stop signs. Most cities including Minneapolis/St. Paul and Brainerd/Baxter have bicycle trails like the Mississippi River Greenway and Paul Bunyan Trail. These will be low-stress, vehiclefree avenues where you will have the best chance of that euphoric feeling of freedom associated with bicycle commuting. They will also get you to your destination quickly.

Choose the Right Bike
Your local bike shop’s sales team can help you select a properly-fitting commuter bicycle, and you will have lots of choices. Gone are the days of a catch-all bike with virtually no refinement or features. At today’s bicycle retailers, salespeople are trained to hone in on you—the rider—to select models, components, and accessories to match your needs and style. Assess your needs. Is your commute long and hilly? Perhaps an electric-assisted model or geared road/fitness model would suit you. Is your commute flat and short? A commuter or road bike with less gears or a single speed will be less maintenance and lighter-weight. These are just examples, but you get the gist– a bicycle should be selected based on what it was designed to do.

The tires you choose to equip your bike may be the most important thing. You will get the most resistance to tube punctures if you have a tire that is middle-width, has puncture protection inherent to the tire casing, and is properly inflated to higher pressures. It is not my intent to become exhaustive in a technical way in this discussion—if you would like additional information we would love to have you drop by the shop to talk to one of our trained service technicians and/or sales staff members.

Have an Experience/Adventure… Have FUN!
At last you are free from the shackles of motorized travel and traffic. You are free to explore. Maybe you have allotted extra time, and you can take a longer route. Maybe you want to make a stop for coffee and pastry and chat with locals in your neighborhood. The point is that you did this to be more in tune with the world and nature around you, not to be making a political statement or jumping on the “going green” trend-wagon. Sing a song. Stop to look at wildlife. Think about how you can make your workplace more positive and productive.

At our stores, we respect that no two cyclists are going to be exactly alike. Commuting by bicycle is just one of myriad ways to enjoy what the sport has to offer. We welcome road and mountain bikers, fat-bikers, touring cyclists, recreational riders, triathletes, bmx/freestyle, and racers of all types. We love to see young and old adopt or rejoin the sport for their own benefit and the positive impact on society and the environment. So what are you waiting for? The light’s green. You have the right-of-way to adventure.

About the Author
Carl Gammon is an avid cyclist who started riding and racing in his young teen years. Carl got his first start in the bicycle industry in a small bike shop in southern New Hampshire in 1997, and has been active in the cycling community in several locales across the United States. He now serves as Service Manager at Trailblazer Bikes-Baxter and works with teens recycling bikes with Brainerd Baxter Youth Center. Carl is also an active member of the Paul Bunyan Cyclists bicycle club. You can contact him anytime at carl@trailblazerbikesmn.com.

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