How to Bike to Work: Tips from a Children's Colorado Doctor and Cyclist
Ditching the car keys and riding a bicycle to work can not only help save the earth's energy but also lead to a healthier lifestyle.
David Keller, M.D., vice chair of Clinical Affairs and Clinical Transformation at Children's Hospital Colorado, bikes to work every day he can, and he offers advice below on how to be a successful bicyclist.
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A longtime bicycle enthusiast, Dr. Keller moved to Denver in October, and immediately planned his route to the hospital. In other places he's lived, including Los Angeles and rural Massachusetts, his bicycling options were limited, due in part to logistics and scheduling conflicts, but also because those cities were not as conducive to biking as Denver.
"Denver has a great bike culture," Dr. Keller said, citing the city's 300+ days of sunshine, avid biking community, and more tolerant drivers.
In fact, according to Bicycling.com, Denver has a "strong recreational cycling community that is now commuting in increasing numbers." (Denver ranked 14 on the site's list of America's 50 best bike-friendly cities; Boulder ranked number 3 and Fort Collins ranked 11).
For the majority of his ride, Dr. Keller rides in a bike lane or on a bike path, and feels safe on the city roads, especially as he notices more and more people commuting like him.
Since moving to Denver, Dr. Keller has biked to work every day he can, restricted by few factors, like ice and temperatures below 20 degrees. On days he cannot bike to work, he takes public transit. And since he began commuting by bicycle, Dr. Keller estimates he lost 20 to 25 pounds, and "improved [his] biochemical profiles."
Dr. Keller's tips for biking to work:
The first time, go on a day when timing isn't critical. If you are worried about making it to work on time, take a practice ride on the weekend. Plan your route ahead of time.
Get to know a good bike shop. They can help you with tires, show you how to fix a flat, and outfit you as needed.
Use Google Maps' "bicycling" option to plan your route.
Wear comfortable clothes. You don't need fancy clothes or equipment to ride to work, but you should feel comfortable. If you find yourself riding a lot, you can collect better equipment as you go.
Keep spare clothes at work. Dr. Keller keeps a suit jacket and an extra pair of shoes at work so he has to carry fewer things back and forth on his commute.
Ride whatever bike is comfortable for you. Potholes are easier to ride over with a heavier frame.
Consider a thicker tire. There is a lot of grass and debris on city streets, including metal shards and glass, and thicker tires handle these obstacles better.
Look for where other bicyclists are riding. That's probably the right route.
Have a backup plan. Although Dr. Keller and his wife downsized to one car when they moved to Denver, he still drives to work when there's ice on the road or temperatures are low.
Know how to fix a flat tire. Bring a patch kit, an extra tube and/or a portable tire pump. Several bicycle shops around town offer free classes on how to change a tire.