The Zen Guide to Bike Commuting

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If you think about it, riding a bike is a very zen experience: tires, gears, hubs, working together in harmony, propelling you forward purposefully. With each pedal pushed, each revolution, you interact not only with your bike, but with your mind, body and world. In turn, it raises your health, it raises your awareness and it’s good for the environment.

Keeping that in mind, we’ve created use the Zen Guide to Bicycle Commuting—ten lessons designed to help you gain the insight needed for a relaxing, centered commute.

Bike Commuting

There is No Wrong Bike

While some bikes are designed specifically for commuting, the best commuting bike is sometimes the one that you already have. Pull it out of the garage, make sure it works, and take it for a ride. When you’ve decided to make bike commuting more of a priority, use your experience to help you find a bike right for you.

Pro tip: Change is good. Swap knobby mountain bike tires for a road set to enjoy a smoother ride.

Let Wisdom Lead the Way

Know you are not the first person to ride your bike to work. Take the time to research routes using cycling and online maps. Use community biking forums and even ask your coworkers who ride for recommendations–most cyclists are eager to help.

Pro tip: Experience is key. Calm any fears about your commute by using a weekend day to preride the route. Take your time. Remember your surroundings. Come the work week, you’ll know what to plan for, ensuring a stress-free commute.

The Way Has Many Ways

There is no rule that says a bike commute means you have to ride the full distance. Try driving part of the way, or riding to work and taking transit home. Discover options that save you time and give you peace of mind.

Carry the Ride or Let the Ride Carry You

1. Way of the Messenger Bag – Nimble and streamlined, the messenger bag is great for carrying small loads and lets your back breathe in warmer weather. It also allows you to easily swing the bag around and access the contents within.

2. Way of the Backpack – Sturdy and balanced, the backpack distributes a load equally over both shoulders, letting you carry larger and heavier loads closer to your body. Wearing a backpack keeps the load off your bike itself, so your ride will be more comfortable over long distances.

3. Way of the Pannier – Robust and strapping, panniers let the bike do all the hard work, allowing you to carry the largest loads while getting the gear off your back. This lets you move around with ease and comfort while staying cool–because it’s hard to stay centered if you’re a sweaty mess.

Think About What Is Necessary

Beyond the bike itself, a few accessories are needed to make your bike commute as zen as possible. Make sure you have front and rear lights to see and be seen in all conditions. A bell can be used to signal that you are passing–and works as a stress-reliever when you’re looking to center yourself.

Everything Is Connected

A GPS device is great for leading you down the right path, and it can make your trips more fun when you use tracking features for speed, mileage, and time. Uploading your data on sites like Strava also allows you to track your commute against other users’.

The Tools Keep You Moving, Not the Bike

A saddlebag containing a spare tube, tire levers and a small multi-tool will allow you to fix most problems along the way. If you’ve never changed a flat tire, check your local shop for a fix-a-flat clinic, and always remember to bring a mini pump.

Prepared and Peaceful

As the weather changes, so should your kit. Dress in layers; it may feel cool when you walk out the door, but after you’ve pedaled a few miles it’s nice to be able to peel off a light jacket. And if the weather takes a turn for the worse, take solace in knowing you’re covered for the rest of your ride.

Pro tip: Flexibility is key. Arm and leg warmers work with your jersey and shorts and are simple to take off when you warm up.

Let the Clothes Wear You

Choose the right clothes for the ride. Though it may look silly, technical cycle clothing offers a fit and features that will make your commute more comfortable. Jerseys allow your body to breathe, wick away moisture, and have rear pockets designed to hold snacks, water and other essentials. If your commute is more than three or four miles, a pair of bike shorts with good padding will keep your seat zen the rest of the day.

Become One with the Bike

Adjust Your Saddle – Make sure it’s level and the bolts are tight.

Handlebar – Tighten with a hex wrench to make sure it doesn’t wiggle.

Lights – A headlight and flashing taillight are important to help you be seen, even in the daylight.

Fenders – Check the weather: If it’s wet, fenders will help keep you dry on your ride.

Check the Tires – Inflate until they are firm. Find the correct pressure molded into the tire’s sidewall.

Brakes – Check that they’re working properly and not rubbing. If they feel loose, take them to a shop for a tune-up.

Lube the Chain – Place a few drops on the inner part of the chain then wipe the excess off with a rag.

See more cycling tips at REI.com/learn/expert-advice/cycling.html.

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