Tips From a Seasoned Bike Commuter
Barry Martin, MD, likes to begin and end his workday on a bike.
Even with long days as a surgeon at Avera Medical Group Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, it’s his way of becoming energized for the day and then winding down on the way home, while also getting in a workout.
It’s a tradition he started while working in Germany when he and his wife only had one car.
“It was nine miles to work with great bike paths so I started biking and I just never stopped,” Martin said. “It’s great because I can clear my head and feel energized when I get to work and shed the cobwebs on the way home.”
He continued commuting every day, rain or shine, for 15 years in Washington, D.C., before moving to Sioux Falls where he can take advantage of the city’s expansive bike path.
For Martin the benefits are numerous.
“It’s not only the health benefits, it’s also good for the planet,” Martin said. “It really becomes part of your lifestyle and it’s enjoyable once you get the hang of it.”
The summer months are a great time to test the waters on whether you want to make bike commuting a part of your daily routine. The idea of bike commuting can be intimidating so Martin suggests keeping it simple at first.
Here are his tips for getting started:
- Be safe. Wear a helmet and be visible with bright clothing and head and taillights. You can get bright, rechargeable lights so you’re always seen. Don’t wear headphones or anything that will obscure your hearing or vision.
- Having the right bike is important. But it doesn’t have to be expensive. Martin suggests a road bike with a more upright riding stance. His tip: Cyclists are always upgrading so it’s easy to find a good used bike. Check online sales sites or local bike shops or swaps.
- Find a good route that’s safe. If you can do most of your commute on the bike path or less busy roads, that’s great. Practice your route before your first commute so you know it will work and how long it will take.
- Know the road rules. Cyclists are allowed to ride in the street with ongoing traffic. If you decide to do this, follow the rules of the road to stay safe. Stay aware of your surroundings and traffic around you.
- Keep an extra change of clothes at work. This way you’re ready for anything and you don’t have to pack as much in your bag.
- Give yourself time to clean up and change. You may not have a shower at your workplace, so you’ll have to get creative. Wipes or a clean towel can help you wipe down.
- Don’t worry about the gear – yet. You may think you need all the gear, but it’s not necessary in the beginning. A simple lightweight backpack will do until you know you’re committed. Then you can invest in packs (panniers) that will attach to your bike so you don’t have to wear a backpack.
- Clothing is key. One find Martin said made a big difference was lightweight wool bike clothing. It’s antimicrobial and won’t smell up your office. It also wicks away sweat.
With these tips you’re ready to get started. Once a week or every day, every mile counts!