Bicycle Commuting Pt. 1
Wednesday was National Ride2Work day where Australians are encouraged to commute to work by bicycle. It’s a wonderful initiative to draw awareness to the possibility of riding a bicycle to work and to give people an opportunity to try it. There are breakfasts organised by local councils and bicycle associations, allowing commuters to meet along the way and share the experience of riding to work.
My workplace is at home. So commuting by bicycle to a workplace isn’t part of my life. I travel by bicycle to meet colleagues as much as I can but a commute to a regular workplace isn’t part of the picture. A friend joked that I could ride around the block to celebrate the occasion of National Ride2Work day. But… I really wanted to somehow join in. So I decided to create a more realistic experience of commuting to a workplace by bicycle. I decided to shadow a bicycle commuter.
This would have been an easy task if I picked someone who lives close to their workplace. But I didn’t. Instead, I was looking at a 27-kilometre commute (16.8miles). One way!
Commuting by bicycle needs a little bit of planning.
Commuting by bicycle needs a little bit of planning. In some very strange way, it reduces to food, shelter and water, plus direction.
When am I going to eat? Before I leave home? Along the way? At work? What food will I need during the day, given the ride will increase my body’s metabolic rate.
Planning for shelter is about what I’ll wear. Will it be hot, cold, windy, wet? Can I wear my clothes for the destination? Or will lycra cycling pants be more comfortable? Where can I get changed when I get there? What facilities are at my destination for that? What do I need to carry with me and how will I carry it? Backpack? Panniers? Basket?
Plus I’ll need to pack water for staying hydrated – and then keep hydrating. I’m sipping coconut water as I write this post. It’s a good source of potassium and magnesium for rehydrating.
Finally, what direction will I ride? What cycle ways and bike lanes exist? How can I avoid heavy road traffic, difficult intersections and hills! The answers to these questions will be as individual as each commuter. And although it seems like a lot to consider, once those questions are answered, it becomes easier. I commuted by bicycle for a few years when working at Southern Cross University, about 13kms away. It became a familiar rhythm to my working life and one that I enjoyed.
How long will the ride take?
Once I know my direction, I also need to work out how much time to allow. I use Google Maps, which has a bicycle transport option, to determine the distance. The other tool I use is a CatEye speedometer. It tells me statistics about my riding (there might be Smartphone apps for doing the same). The statistic I use here is my average speed. With it, I can calculate how long the ride will take me. So, knowing my typical average speed is 15kms/hr (when carrying a full pannier), the 27-kilometre commute is going to take about one and half hours.
So that tells me when I need to leave home. But how will I know if I’m ‘on time’ along the way? That’s where I use the CatEye again to keep my average speed at 15kms/hr (9.3mph) or more.
So with the planning done, the alarm was set for a 5.30am departure.
I was looking forward to the experience but not without some concern about the distance and the deadline of ensuring the bicycle commuter could be there for her 8am start. You see, this was the first time I’d ridden to this destination. It was also the first time for the bicycle commuter herself!
To be continued...
National Ride2Work day is an initiative of Bicycle Network that takes place annually.