Rookie Commuter: A few final tips

Tim Headshot

Too often, good movies are ruined by unnecessary sequels, and phenomenal television shows tarnish their reputation by carrying on just too long. Having avoided the sewer so far with this column, I think, I don’t want to overstay my welcome and have it end up there.

The 16th week since trading in my car for a two-wheeled, leg burning machine, I think I can say I’m no longer a rookie commuter without much opposition. For my final column, I’d like to reflect on the most important lessons I’ve learned whilst pedaling around Boulder in nothing more than short shorts and tan skin—with hopes of making the transition easier for those starting after me.

Perhaps not quite a veteran, but I at least know what a derailer is now.

Perhaps not quite a veteran, but I at least know what a derailleur is now.

Before you give up your car, get in shape.

I put off riding my bike for as long as possible because if I was giving up my car, I figured I’d drive until the very last moment. Wrong choice.

The inability to walk due to crippling soreness and the necessity for several naps a day was avoidable—if I trained before needing to ride over 20 miles a day. Baby step your way in, your body will thank you.

This bike is your life now, so protect it, like....a bike...that you're totally reliant on.

This bike is your life now, so protect it, like….a bike…that you’re totally reliant on.

Be prepared.

Having a pump, a lock, and a cell phone on hand at all times lets you repair a flat, avoid theft, and call a friend if you get stuck or just need emotional support. Also, wear a helmet and make sure it fits correctly. If it doesn’t, you might be signing up for a lecture from a loved one about how an ill-fitting helmet isn’t even worth wearing.

“Then I guess I just won’t wear it,” I said.

“Over my dead body,” she replied.

Let's face it, you know nothing about bikes. So let someone who does check yours out.

Let’s face it, you know nothing about bikes. So let someone who does check yours out.

Make sure your bike is road ready—really road ready.

If you’re relying on your bike as your sole means of transportation, it has to be bulletproof. Starting out, my seat was wiggly, my tires were low, and the chain was rusty. Luckily, these facts were pointed out to me by bike enthusiasts and experts around town. If they hadn’t been, I might have gotten in an accident….

It's alright to pretend you're invincible, as long as you realize you actually aren't.

It’s alright to pretend you’re invincible, as long as you realize you actually aren’t.

Don’t get in an accident.

Be defensive. Painfully so. You’re on a bike, which means even if you follow traffic laws to a T, you could end up in a wheelchair or worse. And by worse, I mean in court, defending yourself against a stupid ticket.

She's laughing, only because I suggested she get in the habit of a daily ride.

She’s laughing, only because I suggested she get in the habit of a daily ride.

Don’t force your significant other to like the things you like. Unless it’s good for her, then do.

It’s a tenuous balance because how dare you assume you know what’s best for him or her? So make sure you do know what’s best before acting on it. But if it’s getting her on a bike, yes, that’s a good thing. Push through the whining.

Learn to enjoy all weather. Or don't. Whining is fun too.

Learn to enjoy all weather. Or don’t. Whining is fun too.

Enjoy the ride.

Excusing the cliche, commuting by bike is one of the most rewarding choices that my lack of financial stability made for me, especially in Boulder with its many bike paths. Riding at night, in the rain, when sick… it made me more miserable than I ever thought possible. Kidding, it’s been great. And I’d better like it, since I won’t be buying a car any time soon. I may have gotten fitter in these last 16 weeks, but I am just as broke as I was at the beginning.

Oh, one final tip: don’t worry about eating too much. In fact, the real issue is getting enough food rather than too little. So munch away, savor that pasta—dangle it in front of your dinner company while they compare low carb diets.

Cheers, and happy riding.

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