Monday, October 7, 2013

The Casual Bike Commuter

I am a bike commuter.  I am not a hard-core, 25-miles both way bike commuter.  No, I am a casual, heels-wearing, cruiser-riding bike commuter.  I ride no more than 15 minutes each way and it only takes the full 15 minutes if there is heavy traffic, a squirrel migration or flooding.  Usually, I ride about 10 minutes each way.  And, that’s the way I like it.

Being a casual bike commuter allows me to wear my work clothes on my bike and not have to worry about changing at work.  However, there are some tricks to riding even a short while in your work clothes and not looking as though you just biked cross country to protest mint green being an “it” color.  (By the by, that is a totally worthwhile protest).

Basket, Not Backpack

I strongly recommend using a basket instead of a backpack.  I tend to sweat a lot.  All over.  And if I had to carry a backpack my back would be Sweat City at the end of my 10 minute ride in.  No one wants that so I carry my handbag, lunch and book in a basket instead of on my back, saving my sweat for Jazzercise.  

I personally recommend this basket:

Ventura Bicycle Basket via

 It's inexpensive, it’s detachable and it’s pretty darn durable. 

You could also go with panniers but, let’s face it, a basket is cuter.

The Right Coat

Due to the warmth your body will generate during your ride, you can actually go without a coat long after those sissy car commuters are bundled up like Sherpa.  But, eventually you will need a coat and you will need the right coat.  I’ve found the right coat to be an unlined, water resistant coat that hits about mid-thigh and zips all the way to the bottom.  

Something like these:

Left: Rainforest Packable Asymmetrical Zip Jacket   Center: Calvin Klein Hooded Raincoat   Right: Marc New York "Carmine" jacket with removable insert

 You don’t want a coat of the cheap nylon sort, you’ll want something thicker than that, but trust me; you don’t want it too warm or, again, Sweat City.  That is why I suggest an unlined coat or at least one with a zip-out lining so you can adjust the warmth as you move into winter.  And if it hits mid-thigh and zips all the way to bottom, it will help protect your lap from the rain.  If it doesn’t zip all the way to the bottom, it will fly open and you may as well be wearing a bolero jacket for all the protection it affords. 

Scarves and Gloves

For those days where you do skip the coat, I’d suggest bundling up with scarves and gloves.  For the fall and spring, I prefer fingerless gloves like these:

Laser Beam Wrist Warmers via ToilandTrouble

Fingerless gloves work well at keeping my hands warm without them getting hot and, yep, you guessed it, sweaty.  I also feel more confident in my steering when I can actually feel the handlebars.  Of course, sometimes it’s just too cold for fingerless gloves and when winter sets in I switch to long, Thinsulate-lined leather gloves for extra warmth.

Scarves are, I think, a no-brainer for any bike rider.  With the right scarves, you can ride in any weather (Except flooding; scarves don't help a lick with high water).  I wear them in fall and spring in lieu of a coat and in the winter, I layer them under my high-necked raincoat for added warmth.  Speaking of added warmth, layering a thin silk scarf under a cotton or wool scarf keeps your neck and throat warm even in the iciest weather.  That trick was recommended to me by Secret Squirrel last winter and it really does work wonders.

Tights, Not Jeans

I recommend tights over jeans for a couple of reasons.  One, tights dry more quickly than jeans, which is important on those rainy mornings.  I learned the hard way that sitting in wet jeans for the first two hours of the work day is less than awesome.  Tights are also good layering pieces for fall when it’s too warm to wear jeans all day but the ride in is cold enough to need some coverage on your legs.  And, you can take your tights off if it gets too warm later in the day.  You CANNOT do that with jeans.  I mean you can, but you really probably shouldn’t.  You might get fired.

And there you have it; everything I know about being a casual bike commuter without bringing it on down to Sweaty Town. 

Happy Monday, All!


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