Boulder’s annual Walk and Bike Month is upon us.
The month includes dozens of community events, including Bike to Work Day on June 26. Some people commute to work by bike regularly, but the task might seem intimidating for the casual biker.
City staff and other experts from bike shops around the community weighed in with the knowledge you need to get started on the occasional — or regular — commute to work by bike.
Attach a white light to the front of your bike and a red light to the back. Use a helmet, and consider mounting a light to it as well.
And, said GO Boulder planning specialist Emily Kleinfelter, remember your ABCs: air, brake and chain. Check the air in your tires, ensure your brakes are working correctly and clean off your chain every week or so. Carry a flat kit and keep your bike serviced, too.
“A good place to start is helmet and gloves, lights, comfortable clothing and a flat kit,” said Alex Zeigler, a mechanic at University Bicycles.
Added Brian Hannon, Boulder Bicycle Works owner and mechanic: “Get the strongest lock you can afford, literally.” He also recommended staying cautious and vigilant, particularly at intersections.
But don’t be intimidated, said Community Cycles executive director Sue Prant. Getting to work doesn’t require much special gear, and Boulder has hundreds of miles of bike routes.
You don’t have to start out by selling your car and using biking as your only form of transportation, Prant said. It’s not a giant hurdle, and you can start by commuting by bike once a week.
“If you’re just starting out, the best thing to do is to take it in manageable doses,” Prant said. “That way you get used to doing it.”
Ride on days when the weather is nice, and stick to daytime rides. Practice the ride on the weekend to get a sense for the route and the time it will take. Alternately, take trips to the grocery store or the gym.
“Just like any new endeavor, practicing is always good,” Prant said.
Carry your stuff
Some people like backpacks; others prefer panniers, particularly for longer trips or grocery store runs on the way home.
“An easy go to is a backpack,” Zeigler said. “Most people have a backpack hanging around.”
Prant recommended panniers paired with a rear rack to ease back strain.
“There is no thing that I get more use out of than my panniers,” she said. “I would highly recommend panniers.”
As for senior transportation planner Amy Lewin, she prefers a convertible backpack.
“My personal favorite piece of gear is a convertible backpack that I can mount on my rear rack while I ride,” Lewin said in an email. “It can help you stay relaxed while you ride and keep you from getting sweaty during the summer, like you might with something on your back.”
Stay comfortable and dry
Depending on the length of the ride, consider keeping a stash of clothes in a bag or at work. Invest in a rainproof and windproof shell and layers like gloves and caps for wetter or colder days. Wicking fabric can help keep you comfortable, and a bright or reflective vest or jacket can help you stay visible. Don’t forget sunscreen and comfortable shoes.
Fenders can also ward against splashing. Hannon keeps his fenders on his bike year-round because they’re lightweight, and he doesn’t have to give it a second thought when the route is wet.
“I’m a big believer in fenders for commuting, and I leave them on my bike all year round,” he said.
Laptop sleeves, waterproof covers or waterproof bags — or the strategic plastic bag — can help keep laptops and other work materials protected and dry.
Map a route
An updated version of the Boulder Bike and Ped Map is available in bike shops around town and will soon be online at bouldercolorado.gov/goboulder/bike-safety.
Other tools include Boulder’s Transit app, Google Maps and Strava.
“Test out a couple different routes and find the ones you like the best and stick to those,” Kleinfelter said in an email. “The more you ride them, the more familiar and comfortable with them you will become.”
Plus, biking can be a puzzle piece in a commute, rather than the whole commute.
“You can include biking as a smaller part of your commute by mixing and matching modes,” Lewin said. “For example, you can put your bike on the bus. I often walk part of the way to work and the grab a B-Cycle for the rest. There are a lot of great options for getting around in Boulder.
Commuting by bike is a great way to start and end the day, get your blood flowing and enjoy fresh air, Lewin said. It’s also an environmentally friendly way to get around and decrease car trips.
Added Hannon: “It’s totally awesome. It energizes you in the morning. It relaxes you in the evening going home.”
Zeigler said he started riding his bike to work and enjoying his mornings more. Now, regardless of the weather, he’d rather be on his bike.
“I was tired of sitting in traffic,” Zeigler said. “I was tired of sitting in my car.”
More information about Walk and Bike Month and the planned community events is available at: walkandbikemonth.org.