The No. 1 Secret to Successful Commuting!

Here it is…wait for it….wait for it………CONSISTENCY!!

Yep, that’s it. That’s my big piece of advice for folks who want to commute by bike. Just like any other lifestyle change, it’s the act of doing it over and over, until it becomes routine, that makes it part of your life.

Now, it’s not that easy. “Sticking with it” is all rainbows and unicorns. What it really means is getting into the routine the night before, or even the week before, by packing clothes, packing lunches, mid-morning snacks (I always get hungry by 10 am when I commute), baby wipes, figuring out the timing, the logistics of parking, when you’re going to apply make up (if that’s necessary), bicycle maintenance, and what to do with all the extra cash you’ll be saving by not buying gas. Whew! It doesn’t sound so easy after all. If you’re content with just learning this concept and can figure out the details, you can be done reading now and go for a bike ride. If you need some more tips, read on.

My ride is just long enough that I prefer to ride in bike clothes rather than my work clothes. So, Sunday night I try to make sure I have enough bike clothes clean for the week. I also make sure I have a day or two of work clothes. The weekend is also when I do any touch up maintenance: pump up the tires, lube the chain, make any minor adjustments, etc. Lights get charged and fresh batteries as needed.

Each night I pack my bike bag (one rear pannier, or a bag that mounts to a rear rack on my bike) with the next day’s work clothes, hair goop, a towel, my headphones, reading material for the train. Much of this stuff just stays in the bag. I also bring in my thermos and water bottle from my bike, and make the coffee so it starts automatically in the morning.

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In the morning, I shower, pack my pannier the rest of the way with my lunch, put on my bike clothes, fill my thermos and water bottle, turn on the lights, and head out. Once I reach the train station, I put my bike in its locker, go into the station and change into my work clothes, and get on the train. I take my stuff with me to the office so I can hang my clothes to dry. Also, I change back into my bike clothes in the train bathroom on the way home so I can get right on the bike and get home.

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So this is kind of a lot of work, but I’ve been doing this long enough now that it is more of a nuisance to change out of the routine than to stick with it. The rare days that I have to drive to work really throw me off now, both in terms of the routine and also in my mindset. Driving is such a headache!

I should definitely add that my routine is supported by my amazing wife Abbi, who helps me out in a variety of ways, such as putting away leftovers in single serve containers to make it easy to toss them in, doing laundry, and being generally supportive! Thanks Hunny!!

There are a million tips for bike commuters, especially for newbies. I highly recommend spending some time on the blog, bikecommuters.com There is lots of good stuff there, from equipment reviews to riding tips for bad weather.

Go pack your stuff and start to make riding to work part of your daily, weekly, and monthly routine. It is an amazing lifestyle choice!!

rm

It Ain’t the Farm, It’s the Farmer

Hi. My name is Brian and I’m a bike gadget geek. I write the post just a few days after ordering a replacement dynamo charger, which takes the energy produced by my special dynamo front hub, converts it to electricity, and charges USB powered devices. So, I will soon have a replacement gadget to charge my other gadgets. These other gadgets include my Garmin 705 GPS, my USB chargeable headlight, and my iPhone. These all will go on my bike that is fully decked out with racks, fenders, and, well, other gadgets. My family (okay, mainly me) has a virtual stable of bikes…one for every occasion. My personal bikes include a bike each for commuting, touring, racing, and off road riding.

I have ridden for many years with people who purchase the lightest, fastest, strongest, trendiest stuff to help them go faster. I’ve seen carbon fibre seats, ultra light wheels, lightweight inner tubes, and titanium bolt kits. I’ve seen people switch out perfectly good mountain bike tires because it only showered the night before a mountain bike race instead of the full on rain that was forecast.

Is it necessary? No, of course not. I’ve always thought it would be cool to line up Eddie Merckx, Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong (sans drugs), and Jacques Anquetil on Mount Ventoux on identical bicycles, fire the starter pistol, and let them duke it out. Who would be faster if they had the same equipment? Likewise, it would be great to put everyone in the Tour de France on a heavy department store bike and see how they do.

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When I worked at Breakaway Bicycles in Portage, MI, my friend and coworker, Bob K., was fond of saying, “It ain’t the farm, it’s the farmer.” Bob didn’t have the lightest bike, and he easily had 15 years on the rest of us college kids, but he not only stayed with us, but he could often outpace us on group rides. His bike wasn’t faster, but he was. He would say the same thing to customers, who were ready to drop $2000 on a new set of wheels that were 200 grams lighter than what they had. Easier to drink 2 less beers each week and do a couple extra hill repeats to achieve the same result.

The point of all this is simply to say that what is most important is the ride itself. I am glad to help lots of my friends discover bicycling, and very glad to help them with their purchases. What’s best, however, is when I learn of people who get their bike out of storage, dust it off, lube up the chain, pump up the tires, and just….ride. You don’t need the latest greatest lightest fastest titaniumest carbonest gadgetiest stuff. You just need to get on your bike.

So, get out there. Ride. If you want to buy someone a new set of wheels or a titanium bolt kit, I’ll gladly take it. But, I’m going to log off now. I have to get ready for my morning bike commute, which will begin at 5:50 am. See you out there!

rm

Bicycle Touring Along the Delaware

I’m a big fan of bicycle touring! My most recent trip began on July 21, 2013. Here’s the scoop: my family was invited to a wedding that was going to take place in Stockbridge, MA. My wife, being the awesome wonderful understanding person that she is, gave me the green light to bike up there and meet her and the kids. We were to stay at a house in Hillsdale, NY for the weekend, so that ended up being my destination.

I will do a separate post on the planning, routing, and equipment for bike touring. For now, if you are interested in seeing the route I took, you can check out the following links on RidewithGPS: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5.

For this particular trip, I enjoyed riding along the Delaware River for the first three days, averaging about 50 miles each day. The cycling was undulating, with a few steep climbs on day 3 especially. There are some wonderful quiet roads along this route, and they take you on each side of the river, so there are several opportunities to cross the river. I biked past Washington Crossing, through scenic towns such as Lambertville, and Frenchtown, and criss-crossed the Appalachian Trail numerous times. On day 4 I rode east across the state towards the Hudson, crossing it on Bear Mountain Bridge. The final day was the longest at 75 miles. My friend Tom joined me for the first 40 miles, and after some pretty brutal climbs, I joined up with the Harlem Valley Rail Trail for much of the final trek north. 

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My heavy bike at the Delaware Water Gap

I travel solo and self-supported. That means I carry all my own gear: tent, sleeping bag, food for the entire trip, stove, etc. It creates a rather heavy bicycle, but it’s a great way to go. All together, the bike is a bit over 30 pounds, and all the gear add up to an additional 40-50. Fortunately, the bike is built for it, and since much of the weight is food, I get a bit lighter each day!

It was a very pleasant trip. The weather was hot and humid, with a pattern that included a late-afternoon shower, clear evening, then rain at night, then clear again in the morning. If it’s going to rain, this is a pretty good way to go! I only had one flat tire and no other major mechanical issues. 

One can see lots of wildlife on a trip like this. I saw lots of deer, some foxes, and even a small black bear. I’m sure if I knew my birds better I would have seen lots of great ones. I need to work on this.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll do separate posts on the variety of gear. If you’re interested in doing some bike touring, I highly recommend joining the Adventure Cycling Association. They have amazing resources, including maps, equipment, and even their own guided tours. 

I’ve done several other tours in the past, and try to do one week-long trip each year. Life sometimes gets in the way, but I’ve done my Skyline Drive trip (Waynesboro, VA to DC), my Lake Michigan Loop (South Haven, MI to Ludington, across on the ferry, then down to Chicago), and the Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Towpath from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. It’s a great way to travel!

Keep the rubber side down, friends!

Brian

Let’s Ride!

ImageWith the encouragement of several friends, I have decided to start a blog. I do a lot of bicycling, and I think my friends are getting tired of my lengthy Facebook posts about bikes, so I’m going to put stuff out in the blogosphere.

Most of my cycling is commuting these days. I ride 6 miles each way from my home in East Windsor, NJ to the Princeton Junction train station. I then stash my bike in its locker, change my clothes, and hop on a train for the ride to my office in Manhattan. In addition to commuting though, I do a fair amount of bicycle touring, fast rides (solo and group) and I especially enjoy sharing my love of the sport with my wife and three children.

I’ve been commuting by bike for about 15 years now. The ride has varied quite a bit. I used to live in Michigan, then Indiana, and moved around a bit in each place. My daily commute has ranged from about three blocks to close to 15 miles one way. I’ve always enjoyed riding year round, but I’ve been most consistent since moving to New Jersey in August of 2012.

I’m not entirely sure what this blog will contain, so we’ll enjoy this journey together. If there is anything in particular you’d like to read about, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do!

Brian