Wisdom from Years of Bike Commuting

Given the time of year, I want to approach a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  Commuting on a bike, not that kind, like the good old-fashioned pedal kind.

I figure there are plenty of you that either just got a new bike, or are preparing to undertake a resolution to start commuting to work on your bike. As a seasoned bike commuter, I wanted to impart some wisdom that I have acquired over the years.  In all honesty, take these with a grain of salt, we all know how my last year went with the biking.

History

I’ve been commuting to work on a bike for a good 7+ years now, it pre-dated our FIRE journey.  I started more out of frustration with the traffic where we live, and the fact that I could take a bike path the entire way to my office.  When I started I was riding 17 miles each way.  I could do it in a little over an hour, which oddly enough was the same length of time I could drive my car.. AHHH LA…

Traffic in LA, HOORAY!

Since then, I’ve changed jobs a couple times.  My commute went from 17 to 3 and now it’s at 12 miles one way.

Let’s walk through some of the things I have learned:

Bike

There are several types you can look into: beach, mountain, etc. They all have 2 wheels and pedals.  I have a road bike (you can see it at the top).  It might be a little bit more expensive than some other options out there, but if I’m on it for 2 hours a day, I want it to be comfortable and trustworthy.

Fit of bike – Unbeknownst to me, bikes have sizes like clothes.  I ride a M/L (54-56cm) frame as I’m about 5′-10″ tall.  For another type of bike this isn’t as important, but for a road bike it can make quite a difference in your comfort and riding efficiency.  Too big and you’re stretched out uncomfortably, too small and you can’t get your stroke correct.  Also, your legs should be almost straight at the bottom of the pedal stroke, this is where you get the most power.   Yes, that means you probably can’t touch the ground when sitting on the seat.

Gears – Gears are optional, it’s even trendy to have a fixed gear bike.  That’s dumb, but ok.  Gears are for your advantage.  When you’re riding distances, you want to have your pedal cadence about 60-90 pedals per minute.  This takes the strain off your legs and puts it on your heart, which can handle it over longer periods (think doing lunges vs jogging).  Use the gears to keep your cadence in that range, up a hill or into wind, it gets harder, so down-shift to make pedaling easier.  With the wind or down hill, up-shift to gain speed accordingly.  All while keeping your legs going at the same speed.

Maintenance – Your bike is a machine and it requires regular maintenance.  It’s easy enough to work on a bike with a couple of basic tools.  Simple things I can do at home: spoke replacement, tire rotating, basic wheel truing, fixing flats, patching tubes, etc.

I also feel it’s worthwhile to take it to a professional every 5,000 or so miles (about once a year for me).  Keep up with the maintenance and you will be thankful.

Fixing popped spokes

GatorSkin Tires – This isn’t absolutely necessary, but after fixing about 5 flats over the course of 2 months, I got sick of it.  I picked up some puncture proof tires.  They’re a little pricier than regular bike tires, but I haven’t had a puncture flat since.  I think they’re worth it, here’s more info.

Gear

Reflective Gear – You want to be visible as much as you possibly can.  Commuting through heavily trafficked areas can be dangerous.  Even with reflective gear, you might have some trouble.  I have a road worker’s vest that I put over my backpack.  It’s pretty visible.  I like this because I can wear it, or wrap it around my backpack.

Lights – Commuting typically means that you will be riding around in the dark for at least a portion of the year.  Get some lights, not only so other people can see you, but so you can see where you are going.  I like USB rechargable ones, so I can charge them while I’m at work.  It’s bright enough that I’ve gotten yelled at by cars, which is great, because it means they saw me.

Bag for Tools/Spare – Take a look at the top picture, see under the seat, that’s a spare tube and tire irons so that I can change a flat when I’m in route.  I also have a small pump that goes in my backpack.  These are really nice to have when you get stranded.

Helmet – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE WEAR A HELMET!!!!

It might be ugly, and uncomfortable.  You never know if you actually need it.  I’m writing this post right now because I had a helmet on and they are way more comfortable and stylish than a coffin.

Lock – You may or may not need one, but I’d suggest having one.  You’ll never know if you need to stop somewhere and leave your bike during or after a ride.  I have a cable lock and keep it wrapped around the head tube.

Clothes

While you can wear what ever you want and do not need anything specific, biking clothes can make a bit of difference.  If your commute is less than 3 miles, I don’t know that I would bother with special clothes.

[Mrs.Wow side note: Biking apparel is not sexy.  Think spandex shorts with a diaper.  Every morning and evening I second guess my marriage}

Word to the wise: Dress for the ride home.  It might be sunny and warm when you leave, but once you’re out, you don’t have access to your full assortment of clothes.  Dress for the evening chill, rain or even snow (not for me in LA) on the way home.  You’ll be thankful.

Shorts – Yes, bike shorts.  The ones that are padded for your comfort on long rides, to help you avoid getting saddle sore.  I have a few pairs to rotate through.  In the winter, I have tights and bike pants that I wear over them.  The pants are weather-proof, so that helps as well.

Shoes – I wear clip-ins, but you don’t need them.  I use them because they’re comfortable and make my pedaling more efficient. With clip-ins you can actually get more power.  Not only do you output power on the pedal stroke down, but you can actually pull on the up-stroke to create a power stroke on both sides.  Takes a little getting used to, but it’s immensely helpful getting up hills.

It also means that I can put nicer work shoes in my backpack and not worry about it.

Gloves – I only wear them in the winter since my hands chill off quickly in the cold air.  My gloves are bright yellow, easily seen and can also be used as blinkers.  Pro Tip: If it’s cold and rainy, get some latex gloves to wear under your main gloves. Waterproof, warm and cheap.

Every morning Mrs. Wow is reminded she’s the luckiest girl in the world.

What an irresistibly handsome devil!

Safety

Treat the bike path like a road – This means stay to the right, pass on the left. Give right-of-way, use signals, etc. It will be greatly appreciated by other bikers.

Follow the road laws as much as possible – I’m not a saint when it comes to this, but follow the road laws when you’re on your bike.  Don’t run red lights or stop signs without at least slowing to make sure no one’s coming.  Stay in your lane, or along the side of the road as much as you can.

Find a path that has less traffic on it – There might be a bike path, or a road with a bike lane.  Take it!  Even if it’s a little longer or out of the way.  Avoiding car traffic as much as possible is a good thing.  When many drivers fail to see other cars, that means they will definitely not see a biker.

Use Hand Signals like blinkers – People in their sound proof metal box cars are more interested in their phone or their radio than you.  That means it’s your responsibility to communicate with them as much as you can.  Using hand signals can attempt to communicate you next move.  You don’t have to use the specific ones, but a simple right turn/ left turn work wonders.

Wear a helmet – Did I mention that before? It’s extremely important!!!!

[Mrs.Wow side note: Please wear a helmet!  It may mean the difference between life or death.  I firmly believe that Mr.Wow may not be alive if he was not wearing a helmet when he was hit]

My head was in that!

Other

Be Considerate of People in your Office – You stink!  You just biked 12 miles to work.  Shower if you can, at the very least take a bird bath.  And hang your sweaty nasty clothes away from other folks.  Maybe a closet or something where they can dry.

[Mrs.Wow side note: I wish he had the same consideration for when he’s at home.  A stinky man and stinky bike clothes are commonplace in the waffle household.]

Learn to use your Tools – I was on my way home the other night and a girl had a flat.  I stopped to help.  She had no idea how to use any of the tools that she had with her.  Before you venture out, try changing a flat with your tools at home. It’s important to know what you are doing in the event that something should happen to you or someone else while on the road.

That’s it

I’ve learned a lot over the years.  I hope some of this will help.  It’s been a long ride.  It’s hard for me to go back to driving my car or even the moto to work after getting used to biking.  Plus, I’d lose the 2 hours of cardio everyday.

Enjoy biking, learn from my mistakes and let me know anything missed. Most importantly, RIDE SAFE!

67 Comments

  • wendy December 27, 2017 at 5:18 am

    Great advice, I hope folks get inspired to give it a try.
    I admit that biking in the dark, even with lights, freaks me out on the streets I have to take to work, so I’m more of a seasonal bike commuter. Maybe I’ll try the dark again….
    Panniers may be a good option for some folks vs the backpack… for me, they hold more (lunch, change of clothes, etc) and keep me from getting as sweaty.
    Happy (almost) New Year!

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 27, 2017 at 8:57 am

      I’ve looked into saddle bags. I just use my bike for Triathlons and other exercise so I didn’t want to have that attached all the time. When I commuted on my beach cruiser, it has a basket on the front. And that worked wonders.

      As for the dark, I’m pretty lucky in that I’m on a bike path for about 10 of the 12 miles I ride. So I don’t really have to worry too much about cars, even in the dark. But Sand… sand is a nasty nasty foe!

      Thanks for stopping by and Happy New Year to you as well!!

      Reply
  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach December 27, 2017 at 6:19 am

    Good advice. I cringe when I see people whose legs are bent when they pedal because their seat is not high enough. I see very sore legs in their future.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…2017 Year in Review

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 27, 2017 at 8:58 am

      After having my bike properly fitted, I can’t seem to get over the low seat thing. It’s so uncomfortable to me now. I know you can’t touch the ground when on your seat, but how hard is it to simply stand up and put your feet down?

      Reply
      • Lisa January 11, 2018 at 12:33 pm

        Great article. I wonder if people actually make it a New Year’s resolution – it’s so cold and dark! But if people can make it through the winter, they can make it anytime (though it gets annoying in the spring when there are so many bikers! Then I yearn for the winter.)

        I need to get my seat fitted. Can the bike shop do that for you?

        Reply
        • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:46 pm

          I have to imagine some do, especially if they get a new bike, and are all excited about it. I agree though, if you start in the winter, you’ll really appreciate when the summer rolls around! But it gets pretty crowded, besides I don’t mind the cold so much, just gotta dress for it.

          As far as the seat, I don’t quite know. The seat itself I think is set for sizes, so you probably just have to find one that fits your butt. As far as the seat height and pedal stroke, etc, most certainly they will be able to fit it to you. They’ll get you a proper stem and the rest of it too. Might be a little pricey, but it makes a huge difference. I’ve personally adjusted mine myself. But I’ve gotten to where I know how I like mine fitted, took a while.

          Reply
  • Financial Panther December 27, 2017 at 6:54 am

    Fellow bike commuter here as well! Just rode into work today here in Minnesota, where the current high is 6 degrees – yes 6 degrees!

    One thing I recommend for anyone starting out bike commuting is to just try it out with bike-share systems. Even though I have my own bike, I still pay the 75 dollars per year to get access to my city’s bike-share system, which I just absolutely love. No maintenance. No worries about any locks or gear besides a helmet (which they give for free at events). And they’re safer than regular bikes, so great for the novice biker.

    And I just like to support the infrastructure – the more people that use bikeshare systems, the more people will gain access to biking and the more normalized biking becomes.
    Financial Panther recently posted…November 2017 Side Hustle Report – $1,450.57

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 27, 2017 at 9:01 am

      6 degrees???? You are a better man that I!

      I fully agree with the bike share systems. I really wish I could use one. They have them in certain areas of the city, but there is nothing near me that make it feasible. But, It’s definitely a valuable option, and yeah it really makes sense. I saw them all over in Dallas and was green with envy!

      Reply
      • Financial Panther December 27, 2017 at 2:23 pm

        Ha yeah, but I think I’m gonna leave my bike here at work and take the bus home tonight! Cold and dark with 0-degree temps is a little bit much for my weakling self to handle!
        Financial Panther recently posted…November 2017 Side Hustle Report – $1,450.57

        Reply
        • Mr WoW December 27, 2017 at 3:33 pm

          Well… maybe you are human after all… sheesh. That’s cold!!

          Reply
  • EZ December 27, 2017 at 7:46 am

    If you like hi-tpi tires for puncture resistance, try thorn-resistant tubes. They hold air better too, so you don’t have to air-up as frequently. I’ve always run 700×28 (too many bent rims on Houston’s potholes), so if you try the 23-25’s, let me know how they work on the defy (wouldn’t mind trying them on my tarmac). https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/equipment/cycling-components/bike-tubes-tubeless-bike-tire-accessories/bontrager-thorn-resistant-bicycle-tubes/p/00951/

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 27, 2017 at 9:08 am

      Thanks for the tip!! I will definitely look into the puncture proof tubes. It will help knock down the graveyard of tubes hanging in the garage. Usually I just patch the old ones and re-use them. I usually run on 700Cx23’s so I’ll have to let you know. But, I’m looking into those.

      As for the potholes, I haven’t had too many run in’s with them. But I stay in the bike lanes and paths, which actually are fairly well maintained around here. I just kept getting staples, glass, tacks and any number of other sharp objects that were strewn all over the road. So the puncture proof tires work really well. I tend to get the soft shell. I’m thinking the next go round I might get the hard shell as they will last longer. But man, those tires are a huge pain to get on and off a rim.

      Reply
      • EZ December 27, 2017 at 11:04 am

        I like the hardshells. – the trick with those tires is to get them tight on the rim, then work the tension evenly around. By distributing the tension evenly, you relax the tension (relatively) on the last few inches of bead.

        Also- definitely try bibs (vs. shorts) sooo much more comfy around the waist!

        Reply
        • Mr WoW December 27, 2017 at 11:54 am

          Right… Thanks! I’ll try that. I’ve been tempted to get the hard shells, but I just haven’t gotten around to it quite yet.

          As for the shorts, They’re pretty comfy, but I can look into a bib as well. Thanks again!

          Reply
  • Mrs. Doodlepop December 27, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Thanks for sharing your biking wisdom! We recently bought bikes and one of the first things we got were extra reflectors and bike lights. Never can be too careful especially when it’s dark out. Safe commuting and happy holidays!
    Mrs. Doodlepop recently posted…The Happiest Marathon on Earth
    Mrs. Doodlepop recently posted…The Happiest Marathon on Earth

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 27, 2017 at 9:11 am

      Of course! Lights are important, but even more so are helmets! Please make sure you have one and WEAR IT! I see so many folks with a helmet attached to their backpack, or the side of their bike. That doesn’t help. I learned my lesson and I wear it, always.

      Reply
  • Accidental FIRE December 27, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Great post. Fellow bike commuter, and I also race road and mountain bikes so I’m all-velo all the time. Gatorskins are great indeed, if you stalk them on Amazon you can get them for the price of other tires. They run sales a few times a year.

    And you kinda covered it when you said you take your bike to the shop once a year, but don’t forget to check your chain for stretch and replace. A Park chain-checker tool is very cheap, and if your chain is stretched it will quickly wear out your cassette. I go through SRAM chains about every 2500 miles.

    I can’t tell in the pic, is that a TCR? Nice bike!
    Accidental FIRE recently posted…2017 Summary, Proud And Grateful

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 27, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      I’ll have to load the tires onto my wish list then and get price alerts. I usually just get them when I need them.

      That’s something my bike shop does for me. But I should get a chain checker so that I keep tabs on it more. Just lazy I guess.

      The bike is a Defy. It’s nice, I like it so far. My last one was all carbon, this one is aluminum. But I figure I can make up the difference by losing a couple lbs on my frame… not the bike.

      Reply
  • Mrs. Groovy December 27, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Excellent job on the bike commute and all the tips!

    Do you see many women biking to work? On top of the clothing and the stink factor, we also have the hair frizz factor. I’d need a shower followed by a 2 minute retouch with a hair blower and 10 minutes with the flat iron. I’m sure Mrs. WoW knows what I’m talking about.
    Mrs. Groovy recently posted…See You in 2018

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 27, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      I see some women biking to work, but the thing is that they aren’t typically going the distance I do. So usually they don’t break a sweat. Maybe they’re just not as sweaty as I am.

      And yes… she’ll start getting ready an hour before we need to leave. I’ll hop in the shower as she’s walking about the door and still beat her to the car.

      Reply
  • Cubert December 28, 2017 at 4:33 am

    Oh, I see how it is. People comment on YOUR bike commuting posts, but mine gets crickets! LOL. I must have some pretty lazy readership (or marginal writing chops?)
    Great post! As someone who commutes in the summer by bike and aspires for some Minnesota winter action, all your tips are golden. I admit I tried the gator skins but man, they’re a pain to get on and off the rim. I know what you mean about single gear bikes – I see a lot more of them. I guess they’re easier to maintain and you don’t have to worry about gear lines freezing up on you (a common problem in MN winters.)

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 28, 2017 at 8:15 am

      Well… you have one more comment!

      Everyone go comment on Cubert’s great biking post here: https://www.abandonedcubicle.com/ride-your-bike-to-work

      I’ll say, after reading Financial Panther about riding in 0 degrees F. You guys can keep that. I freeze in anything much below 50.

      GatorSkins are rough to change, the point is that you shouldn’t have to do it all that often. But EZ mentioned thorn proof tubes, which sound interesting and I’m going to look into.

      I guess single speeds are trendy, or what ever… but it kind of defeats the purpose. I see tons of them, and sure if you want… have at it. I personally like technological advances, and mechanical advantages.

      Reply
  • Mr Crazy Kicks December 28, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Im with you, putting a helmet on is a must. A friend of mine cracked his skull when a car pulled into him while he was riding down his street. He wasn’t ever the same after that.

    I also have a mtb helmet that I cracked in 6 places after landing on my head off a jump this summer. It was a stupid move while I was out on my own, and that’s not the only time I’ve done something stupid… Helmets have saved my noggin more than once!
    Mr Crazy Kicks recently posted…Geoarbitrage – Retire Early in Belize, Central America?

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 28, 2017 at 11:59 am

      Helmets are definitely a must. I’ve had my fair share of close calls. This past one was really an eye opener. I really doubt I would be writing this had I not been wearing it. Dead or other wise.

      Please keep wearing it.. but don’t keep doing your thing!

      Reply
  • FIRECracker December 28, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Great advice on biking! Helmet is a must. My sister-in-law ended up in the hospital after getting hit by a car while she was riding her bike. Broke her ankle and had a mild concussion. Good thing she was wearing a helmet or it could’ve been really bad.

    I’ll admit, I stupidly decided to go biking without helmets in Amsterdam. Luckily, we didn’t end up in any accidents and we were going REALLY slowly, but will definitely pick up helmets next time.
    FIRECracker recently posted…Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 28, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      Well at least she didn’t have to fight with our stupid healthcare system!!!

      I don’t tend to wear a helmet when we’re on our beach cruisers just strolling around. But that doesn’t make the pavement any less hard. So, yeah we should probably wear them then as well.

      Amsterdam sure is fun for biking around huh?

      Reply
  • Mr. Need2save December 28, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    As a part-time bike commuter, I think you covered all the key points.

    One thing I would add is hydration. My commute is only 10 miles each way, so I can usually get away with forgetting my water bottle. But there have been a few July evenings where I wished I had not forgotten to bring a water bottle.

    I also need to get better at my own bike maintenance. I can handle a flat on the front tire, but I’m still intimidated about fixing a flat on the rear tire.
    Mr. Need2save recently posted…HOME: Investment or Just A Place To Live?

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 28, 2017 at 5:17 pm

      Hydration is definitely a good one. I try to keep hydrated most of the day so I don’t have to worry about it as I’m biking. But it’s definitely worth bringing up.

      The maintenance is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. I was pretty intimidated to replace a spoke on the rear tire. it included taking off the cassette and the rest of it. But once you do it, it’s not that bad. You should try it.

      Reply
      • Philo February 12, 2018 at 10:47 am

        Regarding the broken spoke…this could be a bad sign. On one hand, since it happened on the cassette side, was it due to the chain derailing past the largest cog and getting wedged in the spokes? If so there may be others waiting to break. If this wasn’t the culprit, then you are in need of re-tensioning the entire rear wheel I’m guessing. Spokes break when they are allowed to flex too much, causing fatigue. The usual breaking spot is at the j-bend. If you like doing this sort of thing you may want to buy a truing stand and the excellent book by Jobst Brandt…The Bicycle Wheel.

        Reply
        • Mr WoW February 12, 2018 at 11:14 am

          Since I bought it used, I think the tension was off in the rear wheel. I popped a couple right when I got it.

          I’ve since had it professionally tuned as I do about once a year, and haven’t had any issues.

          I’ve looked at a truing rack, but I think it’s a little rich for my blood at this point. Since I’m taking it in every so often, I’ll let the professionals handle it now. I just keep it pretty close based on the brake pads and things like that.

          Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll have to look into that.

          Reply
          • Philo February 12, 2018 at 12:59 pm

            Cool. Good for you on the annual bike maintenance.

            Regarding the truing stand I hear you. My first one was a pretty basic one…roughly $40. But I bought it so I could try my hand building wheels. It worked fine.

            Regarding the book, only buy it if you want to really get into the technical side of spoked wheels and building spoked wheels. Otherwise it will probably be boring.

            Cheers.

            P.S. To all of the possibly new (and even you veteran) riders out there…don’t be the guy with a squeaky chain. The chain is the direct link between your power and the bike’s motion. It makes me cringe when I see $8000 bicycles go by with a squeaky chain. Inexcusable.

          • Mr WoW February 12, 2018 at 9:11 pm

            Like anything, regular maintenance is worth while. It prevents bigger problems in the future, something our medical insurance industry should look into, but I digress.

            Squeaky chain is unacceptable. Also, I’m not a fan of the folks that think shaving 4 oz off their bike will increase their speed & efficiency. I feel like they should worry about getting in better shape, and losing a little weight on their own.

  • Mr. Groovy December 28, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Great post, Mr. WoW. I would have loved to commute to work via a bike. But here in Charlotte, that was (and is) damn near impossible. We’re definitely a car city. I wonder how difficult it would be to shut down some well-chosen secondary roads to car traffic during the morning and even rush hours. I’m sure more people would give bike commuting a try if it were safe. Anyway, that’s my pathetic two cents. Hail bike commuters. They are the vanguard of a better world.

    Oh, I almost forgot. I got two more things to say. First, I thought helmets were wimpy growing up. Now I concede that they’re essential. And, second, I refuse to comment on Cubert’s bike-commuting post. Haha! Just kidding. I’m going there now.
    Mr. Groovy recently posted…See You in 2018

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 28, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      That’s really a shame. Luckily enough in LA, there are bike lanes a bunch of places… which I guess goes counter the stereotype. I bet you would have liked commuting on a bike. It’s actually very refreshing and rejuvenating.

      I think we all did. After my run in last year, I’m a big fan. And won’t leave home without one. Also, thanks, I’m sure he appreciates it!!!

      Reply
  • Mr. Tako December 28, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Lots of great advice in this post Mr. WoW. Can’t stress enough how important taking a good route is. Around my area we have lots of bike commuters, and every year I see a few are killed by collisions with cars. Definitely pick routes with less traffic, even if it takes longer.
    Mr. Tako recently posted…Mr. Tako’s Best Investing Posts Of 2017

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 28, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      That’s really awful. I certainly try my best to avoid the street traffic as much as I can. Sometimes it’s just unavoidable. As we learned last year.

      On a bike a few extra miles aren’t really a big deal, so it’s definitely a good idea to take a little extra time to get where you’re going.

      Reply
  • wishicouldsurf December 29, 2017 at 10:22 am

    GREAT tips! Forwarded the article to my significant other who bike commutes about 50% of the time. 🙂 He was just thinking about getting slimed tires. My S.O. loves that there are 4-5 craft breweries on the way home so now and then he will stop off for a half a pint on the way. Y’all showed me that helmet picture before, and it still makes me cringe. Quick question – do you own 1 or 2 cars? (if you feel like sharing and forgive me if I should know this already)

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 29, 2017 at 10:40 am

      I hope it helps!! Craft breweries on the way home!?!!? I would be biking back and forth all day!!

      That helmet picture was in the posts about the bike accident I had. Just figured it was good to reiterate how important they really are. The fact that I would probably not be writing this is not hyperbole.

      At the moment, we have 2 cars. Mrs. Wow has her mini suv that she loves and uses for work (write-off!) and I have mine that I can’t seem to part with (15 yrs old – 175K miles). On top of that, I have a motorcycle (10yrs old), so I really should just get rid of my car, but it’s paid off, and it’s cheap to insure. It basically sits in the driveway collecting cobwebs until I need it to get something when she’s not home.

      Reply
  • wishicouldsurf December 29, 2017 at 10:49 am

    I grew up thinking having a car was a sign of independence so I think for me it would also be difficult to part with though my opinions on independence have changed. 🙂 I think y’all showed me that helmet pic in Ecuador. And I think it’s a good thing to keep showing it! I can’t believe I survived childhood without a helmet considering all the questionable decision making skills I had while on a bike. Read: over the handlebars on multiple occasions as well as other less dramatic crashes on a regular basis. Keep up the bike riding Mr Wow. Days are now getting longer!

    Reply
    • Mr WoW December 29, 2017 at 10:56 am

      It’s hard for me to give up my car. It’s the only one I’ve ever had and I love it. The independence thing, I can find ways around.

      I’m sure it came up. The helmet and the bike pics are crazy to look at. And to think that I came away with only some road rash and a lack of memory.

      Yeah, bad decisions are the way we learn. I’ve had plenty! I’m lucky I haven’t caused more damage to myself or others through some of my decision making skills.

      And yeah, days getting longer and warmer… which is a great combo!!

      Reply
  • Money Beagle January 11, 2018 at 8:29 am

    I always like reading posts about riding a bike to work. I work 2 miles from home so it would seem that I’m a natural fit for this activity, especially since it’s always been very appealing to me, but I admit I’ve done it exactly zero times. The reason why is a safety issue. The path to work has a major freeway, and I’d either have to traverse an overpass with no bike lane or cross both an on-ramp and an off-ramp, both of which are extremely busy.

    Eventually they may widen the narrow road that currently has no bike lane, and add one as part of the widening project. If that were to happen, I would definitely consider riding, but for now the safety concerns make it a very unattractive option.
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    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      I get that. It’s terrifying to do. I actually end up riding on a couple pretty busy roads. Even the infamous PCH for a while. Have you looked to see if there are other ways that might be less busy? Even if it’s a little longer? On a bike a mile or two doesn’t add all that much time, and it’s way better than being on a busy road.

      But if you can’t get around that, just be very vigilant and wear a safety vest and get some lights. You’ll probably be ok. Just remember it’s on you, so make sure you’re safe. I always yield right of way to the one that causes the most damage.

      Reply
  • Sean @ FrugalMoneyMan January 11, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Awesome advice!

    My fiancée and I bought hybrid bikes last year to use to ride to my parents house (8 miles) and to the gym (3 miles). I really wish I bought a rode bike because there are a lot of bikers who bike on the routes we use, and their road bikes SMOKE US!!!

    Also good for you on the helmet! Nobody likes them, yet everyone NEEDS to use them. We actually had to pull our car over a couple months back because a biker took a nasty fall on his bike on the side of the road and wasn’t wearing his helmet. You could definitely tell he was concussed because of it!

    Thanks for sharing!
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    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 8:05 pm

      So it’s funny, I always hear road bikes are faster and what not. But I’ll tell you what, I don’t think it really matters. It’s all about starting then once you understand the difference and can appreciate it, then worry about it. The point is to get out there and get where you are going. don’t worry about the rest.

      The reason I am writing to you right now is that I had a helmet on. I was concussed so bad I didn’t remember my wife, and didn’t have a memory longer than a minute. It was nuts. But, that’s all that happened, other than smashing my helmet into many pieces.

      Stay safe, and keep wearing the helmet!

      Reply
  • Alex January 11, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Great expansive summary of bike commuting tips. I keep trying to spread the MMM gospel, live within 10 miles of work so you can bike or move closer 😛
    I use gator skins and also tire liners… a bit overkill, but much of my ride is in messy bike lanes with too much junk. This set up has a different problem – where the liner overlaps itself and ends, that end creates a pressure point which eventually wears microscopic holes in the tube. We tried the goopy puncture proof slime tubes. Not only are they really heavy feeling, but often didn’t heal up that well and are almost impossible to patch with all the goop everywhere. You’d definitely notice the weight on the triathlons.
    After a while riding with a backpack I also switched to saddle bags. My back was killing me and the saddle bags are a huge relief. Don’t know how many tri’s you are doing a year, but I also do one or two a year and just take the rack on and off. It’s a bit of a pain, but I find it worth it.
    I also decline to ride below/near freezing. Both my wife and I have had bad crashes on ice, despite riding with caution. I was moving less than 5 mph across some frozen asphalt, but there was a bit of a left to right slope and before I knew it my bike was out from under me sideways. It’s a long fall for my 6’5″ frame and broke my wrist. Wife cracked her helmet good and was nursing bruises for a couple weeks. Not worth it to us anymore.
    Wife and I have matching Urban Light and Motion headlights. They are great. I know you get a lot longer days down there, but up norht it’s also worth noting that true flashing headlights are generally not legitimate nor legal, I see them way too often. Has to do with gauging distance and the use of flashers by emergency vehicles. Pulsing lights that don’t go to zero are ok.

    Reply
    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      I’ve thought about saddle bags, but I like my back pack, it doesn’t bother me as yet. If I end up attempting my dream of biking across the country, then yeah, I’ll have to invest in some I think.

      The gatorskins have been a life saver. I think I might go with the hardshells next time, so they last a little longer. And I heard about the puncture tubes. Don’t know I’m on a path, I do hit the minimal bike lane on the road and there’s some nasty crap in there, but I’ve been alright for the most part.

      Ice for you… sand for me. I’ve had a couple times going around a corner and hitting a patch of sand, and down I go. It’s not really pleasant. I’ve also had the wind blow me off balance and dump me as well. That wasn’t fun either. Then of course I have the idiot move of thinking i can balance at a light while still clipped in… only to fall on my ass.

      I can’t ride with the flashing lights, I can understand why they outlaw them. It might give someone a seizure.

      Reply
  • Emily @ The Not Busy Life January 11, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    I need to get my under seat tool bag restocked for the spring… Thanks for the reminder!

    Reply
    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:48 pm

      You’re welcome… stay safe!

      Reply
  • BAMF Money January 11, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    When I was in Dallas, I biked to work for about 7 years, 4 days a week even in the hot and humid summers. 1 day of driving just to get the car running. Bike commute was only 2.5 miles, but woke we up in the morning. I used to just leave my work shoes under my desk to save some weight in the backpack. Nicely folding your clothes helps keep away wrinkles. And bring a stick of deodorant and maybe body spray to help with BO.

    Never had to worry about the bike not starting in the morning, unlike a car. And the bike commute was quicker than driving in a big city.

    Reply
    • Mr WoW January 11, 2018 at 7:35 pm

      I completely agree. Unfortunately, 12 miles I can’t just deodorant and go. But, I make the most of it, and we have a shower in our office. It really is refreshing and invigorating. I like it better than coffee. Everyone in my office thinks I’m nuts. HA

      Reply
  • Mrs. Grumby January 12, 2018 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for this awesome post! Great info for both experienced and new riders.

    I’ve commuted on and off for 20 or so years. My current ride is 11 miles each way and I try to ride one day a week, weather permitting, and use mass transit the rest of the week. I find the dark, rainy mornings in the northwest are challenging for the aging eyes so this winter I watch for those dry day forecasts.

    One thing I’d add to the gear list for people riding more than a few miles in cold climates is shoe covers. I always thought that chillblains was a made-up thing until I got them on my toes after a 10-mile ride on a day with near-freezing windchill. I could feel my toes starting to get a little numb, but thought they’d be fine. Chillblains are painful and itchy and it took a few weeks before my toes were back to normal.

    Happy and safe riding!

    Reply
    • Mr WoW January 12, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      Never heard of chillblains, but looked it up. Interesting, so yeah, good advice.

      I’ll admit that I’m a little spoiled, you guys bike commuting miles in sub zero temperatures have my utmost respect!

      But, thanks for the heads up, now I know and so does everyone else!!

      Reply
  • Chad Carson January 15, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    I still remember you (and Mrs. Wow) telling the bike crash story. No one in our family would dream of getting on a bike without a helmet after hearing about that.

    Very cool article! I’m bookmarking this for when I get back to Clemson and can ride my bike more. Here in Cuenca it’s all by foot!

    By the way, “where are my keys?” Isn’t that what you asked like 50 times after the crash?

    Reply
    • Mr WoW January 15, 2018 at 7:40 pm

      Yeah, that was a terrifying experience… for her, I hardly remember any of it.

      Glad, you enjoyed it. Hopefully it will help you out. And for you, make sure your bike is the right size otherwise, you are really going to be hurting.

      I think I kept asking her if my bike was broken, to which she replied about 50 times… “Yeah, you aren’t riding it again.” Don’t remember… brain damage 😉

      Reply
  • James February 2, 2018 at 4:09 am

    Hi MR WOW,
    I recently bought my very first road bike so I googled cycling for VERY beginners.. I must say that your video was very informative and full of useful tips. Thank you for posting this, and sharing your knowledge! I look forward to putting all of this info. to good use. 🙂 Happy trails, and thanks again!

    Reply
    • Mr WoW February 2, 2018 at 7:24 am

      Great, glad it was helpful! Hope you grow to love biking as much as I do.

      Please be safe and wear a helmet!

      Reply
  • Alek June 1, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    Awesome article, and nice advice! By the way, your road bike is really very good. I always recommend the Giant bikes to my readers too.

    Reply
    • Mr WoW June 2, 2018 at 9:40 am

      Thanks. I love it. It makes the commute that much nicer. It’s a sturdy bike for the money!

      Reply
  • Isaac June 29, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    I bike twice a week to stay in shape. Honestly, it’s one of the best exercises you can do, other than swimming. I’m not a big cycler, but I do love doing it, especially now in the summer. Great post!

    Reply
    • Mr WoW June 30, 2018 at 11:11 am

      It is certainly fantastic exercise. That’s why I try my best to do it every day, to and from work. I actually miss it when I don’t have a chance to do it.

      Keep it up!! The summer is the best time to get outside and enjoy!

      Reply
  • bilas August 8, 2018 at 7:13 pm

    Awesome article, and nice advice! By the way, your road bike is really very good. I always recommend the Giant bikes to my readers too.

    Reply
    • Mr WoW August 14, 2018 at 5:54 am

      My Giant bike has been my trusty steed for a good year and a half since I’ve owned it. It’s a great bike and well worth the price. I like Giant bikes.

      Reply
  • Cannon Law October 17, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Well

    I´d say each factor is relevant. We sometimes give more importance to gear or clothes. However if you ant to have a memorable biking experience each detail is important

    Thanks for sharing. I was actually missing some details in my outfit

    Reply
    • Mr WoW October 17, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      This is certainly true. You can make anything more comfortable with the right gear and clothing.

      Reply
  • Adam Sandlar October 23, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    Hi,
    Mr. Wow
    want to thank you at first.
    All the important points with details, amazing.
    Keep it up Mr. Wow
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  • The Benefits of Walking to Work - Ms. Fiology October 29, 2018 at 3:30 am

    […] Wisdom from years of bike commuting, by Waffles on Wednesday […]

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