Bike to Work – Test ride route before the big day

Six weeks to cycling readiness

The delicate scent of a spring flower or freshly cut grass, the laughter from kids playing and drone of lawn mowers around you, the light breeze on your arms as you whirl around the neighbourhood on two wheels.

Dusting off that old bike – or buying one – is already paying off as you are enjoying new sights, sounds and smells that you would never have experienced in a car.

Your legs and lungs already feel a bit stronger and you’re falling into a better rhythm on the bike – maybe shifting gears doesn’t send the neighbourhood cats running anymore.

Now that you’ve got a recreational ride or two under your belt, you’re ready to try commuting to work for Bike to Work Week May 30-June 5.

Whether you live a few blocks away from work or across town, must climb several hills or have a relatively flat pedal along the E&N Trail, doing a test ride before you begin cycling to work and back is essential.

A test ride will ensure you don’t show up to work late or completely gassed on Monday morning because you’ll have a good idea how long it takes to get there and how strenuous the ride in is, said David Grey, chairman of the Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition.

“A critical point is how long is it going to take you to get to work,” he said. “I think it’s important to leave yourself enough time at the end of the ride to freshen up.”

By this stage, you have tuned up the bike, figured out what you’re going to wear and how you will carry everything, picked a route – one without too many hills or crazy traffic – and studied the rules of the road, so now all it takes is putting all of this knowledge into action.

For the test ride, Grey suggests going on the weekend or some time when you’re not pressured to get to work at a certain time and ride at a leisurely pace – make sure you gear down for hills and on flat areas, try to ensure you’re in a low enough gear that your leg muscles are not working too hard to propel you forward.

“I recommend taking it easy,” he said. “If your bike ride is under 10 kilometres, cycling isn’t really all that physically demanding unless you’re really out of shape. There’s nothing shameful about getting off of your bike and taking a rest if you need one. It very rapidly gets easier as you begin to bike on a daily basis.”

On your test ride you should definitely bring everything you would normally need for the work day – work clothes, lunch and extra clothing for varying weather conditions, said Grey.

Once the commute is all timed, you can rest better on Sunday evening since you’re familiar with the route and the length of time it takes you to get to work, he said.

“I think you’re going to be more confident on that Monday morning if you’ve done a test ride,” said Grey.


Can you keep a secret – this is fun

To casual observers (in passing cars) cycling to work is all about sacrifice and self-righteousness.

They see you struggling uphill, facing down the windstorm or dodging puddles. You’re getting fit, reducing congestion, fighting climate change – setting a good example.

And drivers all suspect that you’re intolerably smug about it.

But here (if you don’t tell my wife) is the secret: cycling is a blast. That’s why other people do it for fun.

Find the right route and you get a twice-daily break. No phones. No stress. No second opinions. Just you, a bit of fresh air and the odd hill in your favour. Lap it up. And keep the secret.

Richard Littlemore, director

Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition