Tuesday, January 3

Commuter Counselor: Tell Me About Your Mother

Cannonball X, ready to go the night before

One of the keys to being a successful and consistent bicycle commuter, especially in winter, is to be prepared before you need to head out the door. Nothing will quell the best intentions like realizing at the last second that you've forgotten something crucial. And if most people are like me, they lack the motivation to get up early enough to get everything ready in the morning. I tend to forget important things in the morning that I would not forget the night before.

I realized early on that preparing the night before would ensure I would have an enjoyable commute. And from hard-won experience I knew that being ill-prepared could result in bailing and begging a ride or even turning around and heading back home. No matter how strong your resolve, getting a flat and finding out that you have no new tube and you're all out of patches can quickly kill a bike ride.

Your first line of defense is keeping the necessary gear ON THE BIKE; or at the very least all together and ready to go on the bike. You should always carry one or two extra tubes (in goathead country I recommend two), pump, tire levers, patches (because you never know) and a multi-tool. Know how to change a flat. Know how to do minor repairs that will keep you moving toward your destination.

I'm a bit spoiled on the Xtracycle, in the interior pockets of the FreeRadical I keep all of the above mentions things plus an extra leg band, rain pants, a map of the metro area and my u-lock and cable lock. Give me the capacity to carry the kitchen sink and I'll do it. But these things are always with me.

If you are uncertain about the conditions or your abilities have a bombproof backup plan in case you get either all the way or part-way to work and cannot return. I keep a spare rain jacket at work in case the weather changes unexpectedly when I had planned for sunny skies. I also (sometimes) keep spare tubes, chain lube and tools at work. I've had to patch tubes on my lunch break more than once.

Know the mass transit routes between your destinations. And no matter how heavy, make sure you have adequate locks to lock up and leave your bike for an indefinite amount of time. The one time you leave the locks behind you'll need to leave the bike somewhere and catch a ride home. Murphy's Law never rests.

My routine starts about 9pm the night before. Anything I need to take to work the next morning I pack in the bike or in my backpack. Wallet, keys, work ID, cell phone, etc. I get it all together on or near the bike. Then I get my riding clothing ready. After watching the weather at 10pm or in the morning I may amend my choices, but I make my best guess early. In very cold or wet weather I carry some extra things and I tend to keep those on the bike or in my pack. Extra gloves, dry socks, balaclava, ski goggles, etc, all stay on the bike during a stretch of nasty weather.

I also try to anticipate any drastic changes through the day. If its 30F in the morning, but will be 60F by my evening commute (this is the Front Range, it can happen) I make sure I have a t-shirt, lighter weight pants or shorts and non-wool socks for the ride home. And again, I keep a few emergency spares of certain things at work.

You should also keep your bike in good working order. If you rode the same day and your bike was working well then you should have abundant confidence concerning the morning's ride. If you haven't ridden the bike in awhile then give it a once over before bed. Check the tire pressure! Make sure nothing is loose, out of adjustment or nearing failure. And again, double check and make sure you have the ability to fix a flat and keep moving.

Once all of your gear is ready, the bike is ready and you are mentally prepared to get up and go the next morning then you're ready for bed. Sleep the sleep of someone who has the deck stacked in their favor and wake up ready to pedal into a harsh world with a surplus of confidence.

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