Bicycle Commuting: The Real Deal

The time has come to admit something to you all: Bicycle commuting is a lot easier when you work for yourself and set your own schedule. I actually never really realized this until last week when I got a part-time job and wanted to stick with my commitment to continue bicycle commuting. Wow, it isn’t as easy as it used to be, when I had no schedule to worry about and could go anywhere in my sweat pants!

My new job is just about 3 miles from my home – an easy bicycle ride. I also have the good fortune to have my shift scheduled for the middle of the day (usually), which means that in the winter time, it’ll be the warmer part of the day for both “ends” of the commute.

New tires

However, there are a lot of new factors I’m dealing with, that I didn’t realize before (when I was spoiled!).

For one thing, I’m always worried that I’ll be late. I tend to leave excessively early, getting there at least 20 minutes early. But I suppose better early than late!

Eating is an issue, too. Though my middle-of-the-day shift is great for traveling during the winter, it stinks as far as my eating schedule goes. I am not able to eat at all during my shift, due to how busy the schedule is. So I eat breakfast at 7:30 AM, a snack around 10 AM, then a small sandwich when I arrive at work around 11:30 AM, and then…I don’t get to eat again until 4 PM. It is hard to ride home when I’m so hungry, but I don’t like to eat right before I ride. So I end up eating a HUGE meal at 4 PM, then another small meal at 7 PM. Yeah, this job is going to majorly screw up my metabolism!

And now we come to the issue of appearance. I have to wear a low ponytail in order for my helmet to fit right, which means I either have to leave my hair like that all day, or restyle it at work. I also don’t feel as free to wear skirts as much as I’d like. But I have a few skirts that seem to be working fine, thankfully.

Storage is yet another issue. I don’t know why, but I always seem to have a lot of stuff that I travel with. My large messenger bag, water bottle and of course, with the autumn weather (super cold in the mornings, very warm in the afternoons), I end up needing yet more room for my coat and scarf on the way home. I have been putting everything in and on top of my handlebar basket but it has been awkward. My load of stuff gets pretty heavy and sometimes, my bike has fallen over (when I stop to adjust my helmet) from the weight.

Finally, the bike rack at work is out in the open. I’m worried about that when winter comes. I don’t want my bike out in rain or snow for hours.

Most of these things, I can’t really do much about. I’ll be asking if I can bring my bike indoors in inclement weather, but maybe it’s just something I’ll have to deal with. And the one problem I CAN fix – storage – has theoretically been solved. But that’s another story for another day.

In the meantime, I bought new tires for my mountain bike, since the old ones hadn’t been replaced in at least 7 years. It’s definitely ready for further commuting. And I’ll talk about my new commuting option in the next post, so stay tuned!

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8 thoughts on “Bicycle Commuting: The Real Deal

  1. OK, Dr. EcoGrrl in the house :-) 1) timing. you’ll get used to it, just time yourself and add 5 minutes and you’ll be fine. 2) wear your hair down, bring a headband, do the low pony…or get it cut & add some layers put in that hair and it will make it wayyyy easier as it will bounce back quicker. 3) highly recommend getting a lycra jacket – it feels thin but you stay remarkably warm; in the cold of winter, a fleece vest is better than a big jacket – your forearms don’t usually get cold, so it’s less bulky yet does the trick (i wore this in 17 degrees last winter); get a neck warmer instead of a scarf to avoid bulk (but you might discover you don’t need it, i dress about 10 degrees cooler as my body always heats up within minutes of starting the ride.). 4) skirts – girl yes you can! pop on some bike shorts underneath it and when it gets cold, some leggings (i found the super thin ones at macy’s for $5/ea on the clearance racks and they’re just thick enough but still look like tights) underneath and some super cute knee highs if you want to rock those (plus bonus warmth)! 5) transporting outfits – focus on cotton knit, think like you’re packing for carry-on at airport: roll it up. i only change my top when i get to work, and bike in my ‘bottoms’ for the day. old navy has some killer deals on cotton knit (t-shirt) skirts which are perfect for riding, both long & short. 6) bike in the elements – plastic bag over the seat to keep it dry and you’ll be fine. it’s okay, bikes are allowed to be outside all day! only recommendation is if it gets under 20 degrees, that’s when i noticed my brakes started to freeze up from being outside for extended time, so make sure you clean and grease everything more than you would during the rest of the year, and if you haven’t gotten a tuneup yet, do it – these shops will get it in great shape, and usually for about $40ish. can’t tell you what to do about metabolism as it sounds like you usually eat every few hours, but maybe think about something with electrolytes to keep you going in the afternoon? there, whew! :0)))) you’ll do great. like anything, just takes creating that routine, making adjustments, and you will look back and go whoa, how did i ever do it any other way? :)

    • @”Dr.” Ecogrrl: Thanks, doc! LOL. Those are fantastic tips. I have definitely learned a lot about dressing for biking – I keep finding that I need less than I think. And like you said – I don’t tend to need heavy jackets when my vest works well. I need to start looking for some good leggings, too. Thank you thank you! I’ll keep you posted!

  2. My huge barrier right now is getting the key to the bicycle room in my work building. Management in this building isn’t very accessible. Also- I very rarely bike since walking seems to work just fine too….

    Another issue I’ve been feeling bad about is our yoga in the parks- during the evening we’ve been driving… because I’m so tired from working all day and then the thought of only getting home for 20min, hopping on our bicycles, practicing yoga and riding back (at dusk!) makes me even more tired.

    Let me know if you find a good storage solution, since my work bag has a LOT of stuff that wouldn’t fit in my basket… :)

    (ps- did I say lately how awesome you are???) :D

    • @EcoYogini: I totally understand what you’re talking about when it comes to biking, working all day, being tired, etc. Sometimes, I just take my car because I’m so darn tired, or I have to run errands later and don’t want to bike all day long. I think whatever little biking we can do is SOMETHING and that’s a good thing! And thank you thank you! You are awesome, too!!!

  3. Wool is also a great material for winter. Having a wool base layer (leggings & tank top) makes a huge difference and is so much better than other materials at regulating your temperature (and it’s a natural material!). It’s a little more expensive but is worth it by far. Ibex, Smartwool, & Icebreaker are all popular brands & you can usually find deals online.
    Getting a rear rack & pannier/collapsible basket could definitely help with the “too many things” problem. Wald makes a good collapsible basket & there are plenty of good panniers out there. This will also put the weight on a more stable part of the bike, rather than all on the front. There are also front wheel stabilizers that will help with “wheel flop” if its a persistant problem/you continue to use the front for heavy things.
    Also, not sure if you’ve seen this blog, but LovelyBicycle! ( is a great resource for bike commuting and I’ve referenced it many times for resources/advice. The discussions in the comments are also very interesting and informative. Let’s Go Ride a Bike ( is also pretty good, though I’ve found focuses more on photos than info (though those photos are beautiful).

    • @Lauren: Thank you so much for the links. I haven’t seen Lovely Bicycle but I’ll be sure to subscribe to the feed. I love LGRAB, too. I’ll be updating you on my storage solutions soon! Stay tuned! :)

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