Bicycle Commuting 101 – The Benefits

All week, we’ve shared great information about commuting to work by bike.  Today, we thought we’d give you some reasons why it’s all worth it.  It’s no secret that commuting by bike saves money, is better for your health, and lowers your carbon footprint, but the numbers may surprise you:

According to an article published in Forbes Magazine, the average bike commuter reported they paid an initial $500 to $800 for a bike and commuting related accessories, and had an annual maintenance cost of around $100.  Compare that to the average cost of a vehicle today.  It’s very easy to spend upwards of $10,000 to $20,000 to purchase a car, and then factor in the cumulative costs of commuting by car: $2.41/mile as calculated by Commute Solutions, which takes into account everything from gas prices to insurance to road repair costs.  Say your average commute is five miles round trip and you work five days week.  Within a month, you’ve already spent more than the average yearly costs of riding your bike.  And with the uncertainty of gasoline prices, that number could easily increase.

Another benefit of riding a bike is better health.  Our mechanic lives two miles from the shop, and commutes the 20 minutes to work and back daily.  That’s 20 minutes of increased heart rate daily, which any doctor would tell you is beneficial.  Plus, exercise in the morning has been linked to increased awareness and productivity throughout the workday.

Lastly, we all know it’s better for the environment to commute on bike.  How much you ask?  Shreya Dave, a graduate student at MIT, recently concluded that an ordinary sedan’s carbon footprint is more than 10 times greater than a conventional bicycle on a mile-for-mile basis, assuming each survives 15 years and you ride the bike 2,000 miles per year (or slightly less than eight miles per weekday).  That’s a lot of trees saved, a lot less gas used, and way cleaner air for us all to breathe.

Still not convinced?  Give it a go for a week.  See how you feel, experience the feel of the wind in your face on your way to work, and how much happier you are during your work day.  We’re pretty sure your stress will be lowered not having to deal with driving in the morning rush, and you’ll be way happier looking at your bank statement every month.  And if you find it’s not for you, we urge you to still get out on your bike a few times a week and reap the benefits they provide from a recreational standpoint.

Happy riding everyone!

Bicycle Commuting 101 – Bike Maintenance

This week, we’ve shared a little about what you’ll need to commute on your bike as well as how to do safely while obeying the rules of the road.  Today, we’re going to take a closer look at bike maintenance, covering everything you need to know to keep your ride in tip top shape!  Just follow the steps below, and you’ll enjoy miles and miles of hassle-free commuting.

Step 1: Safety Inspection

Visually inspecting your bike should be done before every ride and if time allows, upon your return home at the end of the day.  Look for any damage such as cracks, abnormal wear, or unwanted debris.  Spin the wheels – do they turn freely?  Are they true with no wobbles?  Next, check the tire pressure; even a loss of 5 psi results in decreased travel times and increased chances of flats!  Now, check your brakes.  Are they stopping your bike properly?  How do your brake pads look?  If they are getting thin, their stopping efficiency may be decreased.  Lastly, make sure all bolts and components are secure with no loose play.  While this may all sound like a lot, you’ll soon establish a routine and it only takes a minute or two to complete.

Step 2: Home Routine Maintenance

While it’s important to get regular shop tunes up on your bike, there are a few things that you should be doing at home to keep your bike running smoothly.  The two most important things you should be doing are inflating your tires to the proper pressure and cleaning & lubing your chain.  Investing in a floor pump is a great way to go for keeping your tires at their recommended psi rating, and will save you time and effort in the long run.  For most bikes, checking your tire pressure weekly will do the trick.

Done less frequently but equally important, lubing your bike chain should be done every 200 miles or after the chain is exposed to rain.  Cleaning of your chain should be done every 1,000 miles.  How does one lube a chain you ask?  Easy:

  • Pedal backwards and clean off the dirty lube and gunk with a rag.
  • Pedal backwards and spray or drip lube on each link.
  • Depending on the lube, wait a few minutes and with a clean rag wipe off the excess. Just make sure you check the directions on your lube bottle, and you can’t go wrong.  We swear by T-9 Boeshield as a chain lube and use it exclusively on all our bikes here at the shop.

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give your bike a bath every now and then.  Commuter bikes take a lot of abuse day in and day out, so cleaning it every now and then is wise.  Plus, washing your bike takes all of ten minutes, so there’s really no excuse to not do it.  Grab yourself a bucket of hot, soapy water, a hose, a soft bristled brush, and a towel and you’re all set.  Wet the bike down first, scrub from top to bottom leaving the greasy parts until last, then rinse.  Be sure to use low pressure when spraying down the bike as high pressure hoses and sprayers can damage or remove grease in critical areas around the bike.  Finally, when you’ve rinsed and dried your bike, lube your chain and voila!

Step 3 – Shop Maintenance

While some bike maintenance can be easily done at home, sometimes it’s best to leave the more technical stuff to a highly experienced bike mechanic.  Just like cars, bikes need regular tunes and adjustments to keep them running day in and day out.  At a minimum, bikes should receive a yearly full tune which includes a full safety inspection, cleaning & greasing of all moving parts, inspection of all cables and shifting components, and adjustments as needed.  It’s a $45 service offered by our shop that really keeps your bike running at its best.

Have questions?  Post them below and we’ll gladly get you an answer from Pete, our resident bike mechanic, who has been working on bikes for longer than a lot of our customers have been alive!  He’s also a pro at bike commuting – he rides in to work year round regardless of the weather conditions – so ask away!