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Tips to start cycling on your commute

You feel the wind in your face, the world racing past as you pedal faster and faster. You lean into a turn, changing direction as you shift gears to generate a little more speed. Your legs burn, but in a good way that will have you feeling tired but accomplished when your ride is over.

Cycling as part of your commute is not only a great way to get in shape but can save you money and help the environment by reducing automobile emissions.

Maybe you can envision yourself cycling to work but wonder how you can maximize the experience. We spoke to people who are already cycling to work for some tips and tricks to being safer, more efficient, and how to adjust to cycling in Tucson during the summer months.

Tips for cycling to work:

  • Always wear a helmet – Never skimp on safety. Even if you are going a short distance, protecting your head is key.
  • Be seen – “Riding with traffic can be intimidating,” said cyclist Hannah Oden, a planning coordinator for Pima Association of Governments (PAG). Consider investing in bike lights or a reflective windbreaker to make yourself more visible and always remain alert. Bike lights are a must if you plan on riding in the dark. “Make sure they are charged,” Oden added.
  • Make a plan – Plan your route in advance and consider riding it on the weekend first to test the route and time it. There are many neighborhood streets, bike boulevards, and multi-use paths that will take you off main roadways and are much safer. “To maximize safety, I stay off of main roads as much as possible,” said bicycle commuter Dustin Fitzpatrick, an air quality manager at PAG.
  • Store your stuff – Oden “highly recommends” investing in a bike rack and a pannier bag (or two) to transport things to and from work. “It’ll save your back and any local bike shop can help with a rack installation,” she added. Another idea is to bring a few changes of clothes on the days you don’t drive to leave at the office.
  • Become handy – Become familiar with how to fix a flat tire and carry some repair tools and a spare tube with you. Practice at home first so you are comfortable should the worst happen, and you get a flat on your way to or from work.
  • Stay clean – It is important to maintain the proper appearance at work, so consider changing at work if you can. Either bring your change of clothes with you or leave extra clothes and shoes at the office. If there are shower facilities at your office, take advantage. For those with a longer commute, a basic hygiene kit can be a valuable resource.
  • Prep for weather – The monsoon is upon us so check the weather. Pack some rain gear if you need it and have a back-up option to get home should a monsoon downpour happen right when you are about to leave work. “There is no shame being a fair-weather commuter,” Oden said.
  • Baby steps – If you are new to biking to work, start small, maybe just once a week, and see how you feel. Then you can add more days. Not sure you can make it the whole way? Consider cycling to a transit stop and riding the bus part of the way.
  • Hydrate – Make sure you have a way to carry water with you, even on short rides. This is especially important during the hotter summer months, but valuable all year round.