Which way to go?
There are a few things to consider when planning your daily commute.
- Are there bike paths on your route? If so, choose to use them over any other consideration you might have.
- Is there a route avoiding hills? You might want to take it until you get fitter or want more of a challenge in your commute.
- If there isn’t a route with bike paths, sit down and plan your commute on the left side of the route on the quietest roads you can find.
BikeGal.com has put a whole bunch of cycling route links together for you… as some Councils also publish cycling maps and there are a few online options to help you determine your cycling route.
Carrying my stuff
You know how some people like milk in their coffee, some like sugar and some don’t like coffee at all? Carrying your gear on your bike is just like ordering your coffee – we all have our own personal preferences. Good news is: you have a heap of options. Each has its own set of pros and cons.
The Backpack Wearing a backpack strapped tightly to your back is an easy option. You don’t have to attach anything to your bike and you can simply walk out the door, whack it on your back and you’re on your way. On the flip side, you need to keep what you’re packing down to a minimum as it can cause strain to your back, particularly if you’re hunched over for the entirety of your ride with a few kilos on top of your back. Cosmetically it won’t leave you in a great place either as even a ride of a few kilometres with a bag on your back will leave you with an acute case of Sweaty Back (which occasionally results in Salty Back of Clothes if you’re wearing black – ew!).
The Basket The basket is terrific, particularly if you have a vintage styled bike where the design encourages you to spend a lot of time upright.
A rear basket is the most efficient basket in terms of space and you’ll need to make sure it’s securely attached on top of a rear rack (you can buy the rack from about $35 each). The rear basket will usually carry at least a backpack’s worth of goods and even more if you employ some excellent bungee straps to keep everything secure. The unpleasant part of a rear bike basket is that they’re usually permanently secured to your bike which makes parking your bike at a busy bike rack a little on the stressful side. A full rear basket will also make it a little harder on your quads to ride up hills.
A front basket isn’t suitable for carrying anything other than a medium sized handbag, or maybe your lunch. It’s a terrific basket to have if you don’t have to ride very far and you want your bike to look cute. That’s about all it’s good for – front baskets aren’t as large or efficient as rear baskets on the whole.
Panniers Bike panniers have always been the domain of the serious commuter cyclist. They’ve usually got enough room for a fresh change of clothes, toiletries and the last two weeks’ dinner if you so choose. They’re roomy, can carry a lot and are frequently decorated with some visibility markers. They secure themselves (usually with Velcro or buttons) to the sides of your back rack and retail from around $60.
Panniers are great in that by having two, you can carry more and the weight will be distributed easily, but beware: if you have a life outside your bike they can be tricky to negotiate with. They’re big and cumbersome. They’re annoying to haul around and take up a lot of space by your desk, at a restaurant table or standing in line for a coffee. If carrying a lot is what you need, they’re for you. If quick efficiency is your deal, they’re not.
Back rack If you only have a small backpack and don’t fancy riding every day with it strapped to your back, strapping it to a rack on the back of your bike is the go. You’ll need to install the back rack securely (from $35) and become an expert in strapping your bag to the rack with two bungee straps.
Ideally, the bungee straps will be crisscrossed over each other and so secure that if you shake your bike the bag doesn’t budge a millimetre. It’s quick, easy, doesn’t weigh much and saves your back from weight and sweat. The disadvantage of a back rack strap system is: you can’t carry very much.
If this were a dream world, every work space would have an incredibly clean, free shower room where you could leave a set of toiletries and a towel so every morning you could climb off your bike, have a shower and stumble into work. It’s a dream world for some, but most of us have to come up with other options.
When you have showers The more hassle free your cycling life is, the more likely you are to keep at it. If you have showers at your office, buy yourself a separate bag of lovely toiletries to leave there. Fill it with things you enjoy using and you’ll be happy to cycle each day.
Another (less hygienic) trick if you’re having trouble finding the motivation to cycle to work is to leave all of your toiletries at the office all week so you have no choice but to cycle to work and use them.
When you don’t have showers If you’re already a member of your local pool or gym, take full advantage of their plumbing. Otherwise, you have a bit of a challenge if you’re cycling a long way to work and don’t want to arrive sweaty.
Fear not, you can still do it. It will sound gross, but stay with me. Moist paper towels like Wet Ones are about to become your best friends. Have a proper shower before you head off to work on your bike and when you get work, pull out the Wet Ones and give yourself a good clean with them. You’ll be astonished how baby-fresh you’ll smell and feel.
Where to leave my bike?
Most office blocks will have a dedicated storeroom or bicycle section in their car park, but if you’re not working at one of these sorts of offices, you still have plenty of options.
Not only is any pole you can safely lock your bike to a parking spot, but around the City of Sydney CBD there are literally hundreds of options.
You have your classic U-rail parking which you can find at Town Hall (Druitt Street side), Clarence Street (between King and Barracks Streets), Watson Road (near Upper Fort Street), Castlereagh Street (near Bathurst Street) and Cook & Phillip Park.
Have you seen those big, Dr Who-esque looking rings around the city attached to the bottom of thick poles? They’re bike parking rings! There are hundreds of them and here’s your map to finding them: Cycle Ring Locations
If you’re not comfortable with the security of any of the free outdoor parking spots, you can leave your bike at the Goulburn Street Carpark. They have 28 secure spots for the whole city, so you’ll need to be early.