Biking to work can be a great way to add exercise into your day, mentally prepare for your day and decompress at the end of the day, and to decrease your carbon footprint.  It is also kind of fun.  If you’ve never done it, however, here are a few tips to make it simple – and successful.

First things first.  How far is your home from work?  If it’s relatively short, you probably don’t need to do anything but identify your safe route.  If you work farther away, consider a mixed commute – drive, carpool, or take the bus part of the way and bike the other part.  Flexibility and creativity are helpful.  For your first attempt, you could even grab a ride to work with someone (with your bike) and bike home.  Secondly, just because you have decided to do this, you don’t have to do it every day.  Set a goal of trying it once, or once a month – a frequency that isn’t overwhelming.

Here are a few more tips to consider:

  • Scope out a safe route: Look for bike lanes and/or shoulders along your route. Keep in mind the amount of traffic at the time of day you will be traveling. Know that sometimes the safest route may not be the shortest. The Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail can be a more direct link between some communities. Also, consider a dry run on a non-work day, than you will know how long this trip may take you.
  • Dress for safety: you do not need special bike clothes, just something comfortable that doesn’t get tangled in the gears. However you DO need to dress in bright, visible colors so vehicles can see you easily. If you will be traveling at night or dawn/dusk, bike lights in front and behind are a must. Anytime you are on a bike, you will need a helmet too. You only get one head. Protect it.
  • Preparing for work clothes and other needs: Planning in advance is helpful – especially for your first attempt. You can bring what you need to work the day before, so you do not have to carry a change of clothes or other necessities. However, a backpack stuffed with a change of clothes/shoes (for farther distances), wallet/phone, or whatever you might want to freshen up works just fine. If you are biking a shorter distance (1-2 miles), don’t forget you can bike in work attire. Remember to bring a bike lock and to identify a secure place to leave your bike while at work.
  • Choose to do it on a day that works: We live in VT, so keeping an eye on the forecast helps. Choose a day that you won’t need a car while you are at work, or to run home at lunchtime to let out the dog. It takes a little coordinating, but not too much, and once you do it once it becomes much easier the second time.
  • Recruit a friend: Sure you spend the majority of the ride in single file, but it is nice to have the company and two bikes are easier to see than one. Plus, you are less likely to back out at the last minute if you have made a commitment to someone else.

Bike commuting can be really rewarding, especially in our beautiful state.  It slows things down, allows you to see the route from a different perspective, and definitely gives you bragging rights at work.  You will feel great and likely smile all day, maybe even sleep better at night.

By Amy Brewer, Health Educator at Northwestern Medical Center