Riding to work

Trying a new way of doing a familiar thing, such as riding a bike to work instead of arriving in a motor vehicle, can be intimidating. Traveling to work involves schlepping stuff to and from home and the logistics are different on a bike. Exposure to the elements impacts people on bikes more intimately than those traveling by car or transit. That said, Islabikes team members regularly travel by bicycle to and from work, with the same purpose as many who travel by car. But don’t take our dedication as an indication that this option is only available to a select few.

Aside from the prevalence of purple, the picture above shows six bikes quite different from one another. We ride the same streets in the same weather, yet one of us chose a 1970s steel Schwinn and another a racy titanium road bike. There’s a bespoke Islabike specifically designed for commuting, three single-speeds, and a ‘90s mountain bike customized for urban riding. Every pair of wheels shown reliably carries its rider and gear to and from work, rain or shine.

Regarding personal accessories, most of the bikes pictured here have a rear rack designed to accept panniers. Some team members use a messenger bag or small backpack and a few throw their lunch in a front basket. Summer commutes provide the opportunity to stuff lunch, a book, and phone in a small cotton bag. Who needs a change of clothes if you ride slowly enough to not sweat, at least not too much? Some of us use specialized cycling shoes and pedals, others ride on flat pedals and wear whatever shoes match their outfit. Bikes are incredibly versatile and as varied as their riders. There’s no right way, or even best way, to use them to take you places.

None of this is to suggest that traveling by bike daily is all puppies and rainbows. Sometimes we arrive wet, bedraggled, and very happy for dry socks. Forget rain pants? You’ll find us lingering after work hoping the squall passes to avoid soaked denim and cold toes. Bike travel isn’t always fun, but we all benefit from the significant physical and mental health boost over other ways of traveling. Beautiful summer evenings invite us to take the long route home along the river. We say hi to neighbors and comfortably stop for an impromptu conversation with a friend we haven’t seen in ages. The benefits far outweigh the downsides in our minds.

The best way to start traveling by bike is to simply ride your bike. Your bike may not be the best or most comfortable, but it has two wheels and will almost certainly put a smile on your face at some point. Just remember the picture of some of our personal bikes and know that all you need to start riding is a bike.