Last week I completed my first ever Fall Bike to Work Week. According to the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition’s (VACC) Commute Tracker, my four return trips between home and work (I only worked four days last week) totalled 73.446 km and avoided 14.807 kg CO2 emissions. Over the course of the week I learned that I don’t mind cycling in cool or rainy weather or in the dark, but I’m still not keen on cycling on days when there is a threat of icy conditions. I don’t think I’ll become a year-round cyclist after last week, but I definitely built up the confidence to extend my cycling season and expect it may lengthen further in the coming years.
Here are my reflections on fall cycling gained from my participation in last week’s Bike to Work Week:
Make sure your bike is in good riding condition. Thanks to two VACC courses (one on fall and winter riding and the other on basic bicycle maintenance) I picked up some important tips for caring for my bike in cold and wet weather and learned how to look over my bike to ensure it’s in good working order. The Demystifying Your Bike (basic bicycle maintenance) course was particularly helpful in this regard since I learned that my bike needed some work as soon as possible; everyone enrolled in the course was directed to look at my bike to see very worn down brake pads! Immediately after the class I decided to invest in new brake pads, one good tune-up, and a new back fender (thanks Bike Doctor). The skills I picked up in the class (cleaning and oiling my bike, checking my brakes and gears and fixing a flat tire) will come in handy in the future now that my bike is back to being in like-new condition. Riding during Bike to Work Week was a dream after the tune-up.
Be visible. Invest in bright lights and realize that their primary purpose is to let vehicles see you. It was very difficult to see some cyclists when I was riding in the dark. Be safe out there! I was pleased to learn that instead of issuing tickets to cyclists for having no bike lights last week the Vancouver Police Department worked with the VACC to distribute bike lights to cyclists. My friend Mike posted a very detailed comment about the importance of lights for fall and winter cycling on my initial Bike to Work Week post and it’s worth a read.
You don’t need fancy cycling clothing to ride to work at any time of the year. All you need is comfort and I observed that this varied for everyone riding last week. I saw cyclists in shorts, yoga pants, mini skirts with colourful tights and leg warmers, tall rubber boots, dress shirts and ties, full-on cycling gear, etc. Don’t let not having the “right” gear prevent you from cycling — just try out different attire to see what works best for you. I happen to like my warm cycling sweater and waterproof cycling coat because the pockets are in handy places and I love the venting built into my jacket, but I was nearly as comfortable on one of my rides just wearing a hoodie and jean jacket. Some accessories that I liked having with me last week (but are by no means a requirement for fall cycling) were my shoe covers on one particularly wet ride and a thin hat that fit nicely under my helmet for the cooler mornings. Gloves were also important, but I found my neoprene ones too warm and damp after longer rides and they weren’t very maneuverable. One of the VACC course instructors mentioned that some cyclists really like wool gloves so I might try a simple pair of these in the future.
Fall is a beautiful time of year in Metro Vancouver. While it’s important to steer clear of obstacles on the ground such as large piles of leaves that may hide potholes or other hazards, there is a lot to love about cycling here in the fall. The leaves are stunning at this time of year and it was a pleasure to be outside and up close with all the colour. When you ride on some of our bike routes, such as some spots along 10th Avenue, it’s magnificent to be out in the fresh air immediately underneath tall trees and a canopy of yellows, oranges and reds. Cycling and walking are good for us physically but I was reminded last week that these activities are also emotionally uplifting, particularly when we we’re fortunate to have sunny hours in our fall days.
I hope all of you had a fun and rewarding Bike to Work Week. Thanks to my friends who took up the challenge with me last week. If you want to meet some other Metro Vancouverites who participated in Bike to Work Week, head over to Vancouver Is Awesome to view the commuter profiles included in last week’s V.I.A. cycling posts.