For anyone who might be thinking about bicycle commuting, I highly recommend it (especially if you live less than 5 miles from where you work).
Here are some tips learned from my first day out:
- Use Google maps to plot your route.
Since March, Google has had a "bicycle" option for creating maps. It's still in beta, but based on my experience, I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get started riding a bicycle in the city. The route it sent me down was amazing! I spent most of the ride on pleasant, shady residential neighborhoods, with either nice wide lanes, or two lanes so that cars had no trouble passing me.
- If you're worried about getting lost (bike routes can be a bit tricky, since you're trying to go around the main thoroughfares), try copying the turns out onto a sticky note that you can stick to your handlebars.
This worked beautifully for me, though I do also recommend examining the map, and even using Google map's "street view" to get a feel for the route before you leave. Also, if you have weak vision, like me, make sure you write clearly enough that you can glance down and read it while rolling along. I got a little sloppy at the bottom of my sticky note, and as a result had to pull off the road and stop to read it.
- Be ready the day before!
Pack as much as you can, and make a list of everything you need to handle before leaving the house. I'm never quite fully awake first thing in the morning, but with a little preparation, I can set it up so that I don't have to think at all. It made the morning that much more pleasant.
- Eat breakfast and bring a water bottle, even on a cool day.
This is one I didn't think about before setting out. Luckily, it was nice and cool, so I wasn't dying of thirst or anything. However, I would have been happier with a bottle of water about halfway through the ride.