Last week I had to bike to a meeting in Atwater Village from Hollywood. I didn’t have access to a car that day and it was one of those mornings where you don’t want to have to bike anywhere but you have to because there just isn’t any other option. As I made the trek over, I started wondering why there weren’t that many other people also biking in the area and how if I had to arrive at an office, the trip would be a particularly gnarly one. Los Angeles is at a point where everyone is pushing toward not-cars, bikes being a big form of locomotion pushed–but how can you, a person with a Monday to Friday, 10AM to 7PM job get to work by bike without looking like a mess or being late, etc.? We’ve made a little list of ideas to help you out and maybe be that final push you need to hop on your bike in order to get to work. Everyone else seems to be doing it: why *not* give it a shot?
1. Gear Up.
There’s a lot of equipment that goes into biking and a lot of the equipment is outside of just “your bike.” As twenty first century working folk, we all bring laptops and iPads and whatnot to work: you need to have suitable bags to carry your stuff. Get a proper book bag, with support, that can carry all of your things, from an extra water bottle to a bike pump to extra paperwork you may need to bring with you. Don’t get a messenger bag that is unstable and will often throw off your center of gravity and don’t opt for something cheap or trendy that will mess up your back as you bike. Moreover, wear the right clothes: fitted pants and shorts (if you can) are best, a hint of spandex always being a plus. Invest in things that were made for your ride, like an Incase Alloy bag and Levi’s Commuter jeans. And, be sure you have a bike that works for you with a lock and small pump and a wrench and Allen key set.
2. Map your trip–And Budget Time
This is one of the most important things: know where you are going and how long it takes to get there. Sounds stupid but it’s really important that you know your route well and surrounding routes in case you are diverted. I always spend about ten minutes before leaving checking out where I have to go if I am unfamiliar and, if it’s a completely alien trip that is far enough in advance, I try to ride it by car or walk it to get a sense of what the street is like. Your iPhone and Google can tell you the best route for biking; however, what the computer says isn’t always best for you–and just because you know the city by car does not mean you know it by bike. And, what Googles says and what you think isn’t always the actual amount of time it takes to bike somewhere. The advice of a Google map often can take you to some very intimidating and busy streets and ones with lots of hills (LA is very hilly, something we all forget until we’re on a bike). Mapping your trip affords you to find the route that is right for you and that will fit your skill level and the amount of time you have to get to work.
3. Pick The Roads That Are Right For You And Cars
Related to mapping your trip, there are as many types of riders as there are bikes as there are streets: pick the road that is right for you. Moreover, pick the road that is best for bikes as well. One annoying reality of biking in Los Angeles is that we have terribly unkept streets, holes and slits scattered in the cement, pranking unsuspecting bikers into an unwelcome flat tire. Similarly, some roads just don’t have room for you, making for a stressful ride as you are dodging car doors opening and two lanes of traffic and heavy car turns, etc. Some roads are just not meant for bikers. That’s fine: that’s why you map your trip! You don’t want to be late for work biking as a result of a tiff with a car.
4. Follow directions.
A few weeks back I got yelled at by a cop on a motorcycle as I was biking because I ran a red light on my bike when no one was coming and had both earbuds in my ears. I had no idea this was “against the law” and, even though I didn’t get a ticket I certainly noted what he said and figured I should heed his warning. Thus, don’t get all bike cocky and run lights and signs and such: act as much like a safe driver as you can. It’s more for your safety, anyway. I’ve almost hit pedestrians multiple times; however, I’ve almost been hit by cars due to my own carelessness even more. Also, don’t be scared of the road and ride on the sidewalk. In some parts of town, it’s actually illegal to ride on the sidewalk. Moreover, sidewalks were not designed for bikes: you can hit a person, hit an uneven spot and get a flat, and you also just look like that person on a bike on the sidewalk who shouldn’t be there.
5. Know Your Nearest Bus Or Train–And A Friend With A Car
In the event that you get a flat tire or that you are just too tired to or from work, you need to have a backup plan. Know how the Metro runs and works in case you need to hop on a train, know a few of the main bus lines in case you have to catch a Rapid, and know how to put your bike on a bus rack. If you really are in a pickle, have a friend with a car on speed dial and give them a ring if you need help–or find your nearest Zipcar (which you need a card in advance of using it, which you should get). This sometimes will require knowledge of how to disassemble and reassemble your bike, which is something good to know as well.
6. Go To The Bathroom
So, you’ve finally made it to work. Great! You did it! Congratulations! What’s the first thing you do? Go to the bathroom. You could drop off your stuff, sure, but before going to a meeting after biking, I always pop into a bathroom to make sure I don’t look like a sweaty, slightly off fool. You want your biking to work to be as seamless and comfortable and easy as possible: you should look that way, too. Take five minutes and freshen up. It’s like a palette cleanser after a workout because, really, biking to work can be a workout.
7. Bring An Extra Pair Of Clothes
Moreover, bring an extra pair of clothes or at least another shirt. Try to dress as ready for bike-to-work as possible or even just wear workout clothes then change at work. I’ve biked to so many places without this in mind and I’m all sweaty and wet and slightly smelly. How great did I look? Like a crazy. In addition to going to the bathroom and cooling off I always change my shirt and–sometimes–my entire outfit based on what I’ve arrived to and how sweaty I was from the journey.
8. Don’t Be Bullied.
There are three types of bullying associated with riding to work: bullied by cars, bullied by friends and coworkers, and bullied by yourself. Don’t let cars bully you as you ride: you have rights as a biker and they should allow you your space and time. Don’t let cars scare you or bully you off the road or into a ditch: do what you need to do! Also, don’t let friends and coworkers bully you. I’ve let this happen to me, caving into getting a car because I felt I “had” to. You don’t have to have a car! Do what YOU want–and they need to respect that! Sometimes you even are afforded specialties like being a little late to work or being able to wear shorts because you biked. And, don’t let yourself bully yourself because you’re tired or don’t want to wake up or don’t think you look cool with a helmet on: just go for it and bike. Fold it into your identity and be that person who bikes. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it!
9. Be Prepared.
You should be as familiar as possible with your bike and how to do fixes like pumping a tire and tightening a seat or handlebar or even changing a tire. A basic knowledge of this will go a long way, especially if you get caught in a bad situation and need to mend your bike. Take a workshop at Bicycle Kitchen or ask someone at your local bike store for advice. Moreover, different weather and travel times of day require different riding. Namely, at night you need lights for your bike: make sure you are prepared and have lights! And alays wear a helmet. That sounds obvious but it’s a must!
10. Take Risks, Challenge Yourself, Have Fun, and Be Safe.
As you continually bike to and from work, start biking to more places, start trying for lengthier trips, and challenge yourself to bike more or to bike faster. It makes it all the more exciting to bike places if you push yourself! I used to always just take the Red Line Downtown and bike wherever from there but, now, I try to bike halfway or bike to or from the entire way. One day, I even biked from Hollywood to Santa Monica! And it took as long as it would have taked to drive there. You just have to do it! And be safe: be the biker you wish you’d be driving next to. Drivers are just as nervous, if not more nervous, of you biking: keep that in mind. And, have fun out there! Biking is supposed to be a fun, leisurely activity, right?
Well, those are ten pieces of advice to help you get to biking to work. And, with this week being Bike Week LA, this is the perfect week for you to start biking to work! And, if you have any other advice or notes or questions on biking to work, leave a comment or send us a Tweet. We just want to morph Los Angeles into the biker’s paradise it was born to be!