Loving the Commute: Edition #5

06
Apr
2012

We’re back with another segment in our “Loving the Commute” series by my man, Aaron Madrid. Commuting by bike is such a great segment of the cycling industry and we’re so happy with the response we’ve been getting from all of you so far in editions 1 through 4.  I’m pleased to announce that both Aaron and the Loving the Commute series are now a regular part of our website.  Welcome to Aaron as an official teammate of Loving the Bike.

Planning for the Smart Commute

by Aaron Madrid

Planning ahead can be one of the best solutions to the most problems with commuting by bike. Planning your leave time, how to carry all your gear, and which route to take, are things that a commuter will find they constantly think about. It seems arbitrary, until you head out 5 minutes later than you should have and discover that this is the same time everyone in your city turns down your road, or you feel that first few drops of rain and remember only too late that your trendy looking messenger bag isn’t waterproof. Commuting can be intimidating, but smart planning can be the difference between an easy, enjoyable ride, and the end of your bike commuting career.

I split my planning into several phases, depending on a variety of factors which I will cover now.

Phase 1: The Right Route

I live in a fairly densely populated area, on a busy street. There is a bus stop just a few houses down from mine. (One lesson I learned quickly riding through town…stay away from busses.) The bus runs every half an hour. I can take a 10 mile route through the country and up a few steep hills and face less traffic, or I can travel through downtown, then through a major college campus, then out a busy highway for 6 miles. If I wake up early enough, I will take the 10 mile route, though more often than not… I do not wake up early enough. That means sharing the roads with a large variety of motorists as they travel into downtown and onto campus for work. Once on campus, I can either stick to the main roads and get honked at by people running late to work, or take a few back roads and risk getting hit by sleepy students. I usually choose this part of the route on the fly depending on current traffic. Most of the time I take the back roads to climb a couple of my favorite steep hills. Thinking about all of this ahead of time allows me to know that it takes 13 minutes to get from my house to the top of that favorite hill and normally only another 5-10 to make it the rest of the way to work. If I take the route that results in my being honked at repeatedly, I can shave 3-5 minutes from my total time thanks to shorter hills. My path of choice is more often than not, directly proportionate to the amount of coffee I have had prior to getting on the bike.

Phase 2: The Right Time

That’s right; you have a choice over when you leave your house. I know it seems shocking to think that you might be able to leave for work at a time which would put you at your desk before the exact time when you are supposed to be there. Its ok, I promise you won’t get a write-up. I determined that leaving at 7:30am will put me at a stoplight on the route of all the busses leaving their depot for their daily routes at precisely the same time as them. Leaving at 7:40am put’s me passing a high school as they are unloading their busses halfway through my route. Leaving my house at 7:50am results in lots and lots of honking as 4-wheelers speed to work to try to beat the clock for their 8:00am jobs and avoid the lashings they will surely take. If I leave work at 7:55am to 8:00am, the roads are virtually empty. It is truly amazing how traffic that I know was there just 10 minutes ago, has seemingly vanished. Take a guess when I leave for work?

Phase 3: Gear for your Gear

There comes a time in a commuters’ life when you stop and say, “How am I going to get all this stuff, from here, to there…on my bike?” In fact, it’s a question that has some of the most power for stopping your commute in its tracks if you aren’t prepared. For the first time in my life, I lay out my next day’s gear, before I go to bed. No, I am not concerned that my jersey match my shoes, I am however, concerned that I don’t have to sit in my desk in my cycling clothes all day. There are two main schools of thought when it comes to bringing your gear with you, the backpack/messenger bag, and the pannier. On a “full bag” day I might bring a change of shoes, lunch, a laptop and associated wires, pants, and probably a shirt or two. All that stuff gets heavy, and bulky in a backpack, especially when you are using a Hydrapak Jolla which carries a “camel-bak” style water bottle in it as well. I love my Jolla, but that much gear is a little much. A full bag day calls for panniers. Many bikes come with attachments to help secure a rack to the rear of your bike. Then you just need to acquire some “saddle bags”, or “panniers”.   You can find panniers that are trendier and brightly colored, or as nice as your Uncle Sam’s briefcase. Either way, panniers are the way to go when you start to get more than 10 pounds or so in a backpack. While the Jolla and similar bags do a great job of keeping the water out, they don’t hold all that gear well, and they get heavy. Try climbing hills with straps cutting into your shoulders. In addition to the obvious, adding extra weight on your back tends to make your back sweat more, even if you don’t normally get too much of a sweat worked up on your ride in. If it’s just your iPad and a change of clothes, the Jolla is the way to go. Not only does it securely hold everything, it also holds plenty of water in an isolated compartment that ensures no accidents happen, and you don’t get dehydrated on those hot summer mornings and evenings.

You see the point, it’s all about planning. If you are about to give up your car for the commute, before you do take a couple of days to notice the traffic patterns at different times during your commute. The night before your ride, think about what you have to bring with you, maybe even pack your bags prior to going to bed. In addition to being properly prepared, it also gives you the opportunity to roll out of bed and onto the bike with fewer steps in between.

Be safe, stop at the stop signs, and have fun! See you on the roads.

Enjoy Your Ride

Tags: , , , , , ,

Pin It

9 Responses to “ Loving the Commute: Edition #5 ”

  1. Mark Beaconsfield on April 9, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Again, nicely done Aaron. Some really good points there as to how 10mins can change the traffic conditions on the roads. My commute is usually during non-peak times and mostly along bike paths away from any major roads. Fortunatly, I dont have to carry much gear with me. I have two backpacks, a smaller one and a larger one, depending on the weather conditions and if I have to carry extra wet-weather gear.

  2. Mike on April 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Another key part of my plan is to look at the weather radar on weather.com the night before, same time I’m getting my gear together.  That way I can dress for the days temps while on the bike and in spring when we get a big temp swing from morning to evening, I can have the right combinations.  If it looks like showers, I check it again closely in the morning and afternoon just before I climb on the bike.  Amazing how accurate the radar is now.  If it’s isolated showers, I can actually dodge them by timing my departure.  Of course steady rain over the whole state means I pull on a jacket and suck it up.

  3. Mike on April 6, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Another key part of my plan is to look at the weather radar on weather.com the night before, same time I’m getting my gear together.  That way I can dress for the days temps while on the bike and in spring when we get a big temp swing from morning to evening, I can have the right combinations.  If it looks like showers, I check it again closely in the morning and afternoon just before I climb on the bike.  Amazing how accurate the radar is now.  If it’s isolated showers, I can actually dodge them by timing my departure.  Of course steady rain over the whole state means I pull on a jacket and suck it up.

  4. Darryl is Loving the Bike on April 6, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Another great Loving the Commute post, Aaron….and it’s so nice to officially have you as a Loving the Bike Teammate.  I’d really like to know the stats of how many people have become bicycle commuters since we started this Commuter series….I know you’ve helped nudge at least a few over to this kind of lifestyle.  Well done, Aaron.

  5. cyclelogical on April 6, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Great advice on bicycle commuting! We always enjoy seeing great write ups on the how to of commuting by bicycle…. just a FYI on gear…we are launching a killer casual/dress SPD commuting shoe (the americano) in August for men..a great biking shoe that also can be worn at the office. http://www.cyclelogicalgear.com

  6. cyclelogical on April 6, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Great advice on bicycle commuting! We always enjoy seeing great write ups on the how to of commuting by bicycle…. just a FYI on gear…we are launching a killer casual/dress SPD commuting shoe (the americano) in August for men..a great biking shoe that also can be worn at the office. http://www.cyclelogicalgear.com

  7. cyclelogical on April 6, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Great advice on bicycle commuting! We always enjoy seeing great write ups on the how to of commuting by bicycle…. just a FYI on gear…we are launching a killer casual/dress SPD commuting shoe (the americano) in August for men..a great biking shoe that also can be worn at the office. http://www.cyclelogicalgear.com

  8. Keith Edmiston on April 6, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Thanks for the write-up Aaron.  Good points, especially regarding traffic patterns.

    I would humbly add that the mapping feature on Google gets better everyday, and a savvy cyclist can use that in the planning of trips that aren’t everyday trips.  I just did this last night for a bike/train/bus commute to my monthly Woodworking club meeting.  I planned through Google Maps how to best route myself through some busy North Austin streets during traffic hour, copied the map click-for-click in to my Garmin Connect account, then loaded the course from there on to my Garmin Edge 500.  Cool!  I was able to simply turn when it told me to and behold…I had arrived. 

    Here’s the clincher: when I said earlier that Google was getting better, I meant it.  Clicking on the “cyclist” logo rather than the “car” or the “bus”, resulted in it paying attention to the fact that I was riding a bike, and therefore found me a route that had about 90%+ cycle-friendly streets…most with a full-on bike lane.  Love me some Google Maps…and Loving the Bike!

  9. Julie Starling on April 6, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Nicely written!

Leave a Reply

Sponsors

Featured on these top sites

Blog Partners

Cycling 360 Podcast

Popular Threads

Causes

Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.

Answer:

Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

Nutrition Tips