cycling to work

How I Prepare for My Bike Commutes

The hardest part, honestly, about commuting to work on bike is the amount of preparation that goes into it. It’s not like I can just wake up and get on my bike when I feel the whim and head on into work. Or maybe I can, and I just inherently over-plan everything. So this post is about how I prepare for my commute. I’m forever tweaking things to find a better, more efficient way to do it, but for now this is it.

The Day Before

The day before,  I take my change of work clothes to the office and leave it at my desk for the next day. When I first started commuting, I was carrying everything in a backpack for the day–my change of clothes, my shoes, my lunch, etc and it was way too much stuff. Instead, I take as much of my stuff I can the day before to lighten my load. I also keep a spare change of shoes and pants in the office. I also keep a little makeup bag with things to freshen up with once I get to work. Baby wipes are awesome.

If I can, I also take whatever I am going to have for lunch the day before. The key here: take as little as possible in my backpack! If you bike with saddle bags, this might not be an issue for you.

I usually have some snacks and lunch alternatives stored in my desk anyways. Just in case!

The Night Before

I lay out everything I need and get everything ready for the next day. This is crucial because I have the tendency to forget about things…and it would be bad if I forgot to pack my bra or something! My first commute of this year? I forgot my water bottle, and the temperature got up to 80. I had to buy a bottle to get me home.

I pack my backpack as light as possible to alleviate the strain on my back and shoulders. What goes in the backpack: my wallet with ID and money, my work ID, my lunch, my “undergarments”, my keys, and my headphones for work.

I also lay out my helmet, gloves, jacket or arm-warmers, sunglasses, Road ID, heart rate monitor and my cycling shoes.

The Morning Of

I get up earlier than normal and have a lighter breakfast than usual. I learned the hard way that eating my normal high protein and high fiber breakfast makes me want to vomit on the bike.

I’m usually scrambling. I MUST be on my bike by a certain time in order to get to work on time. Sometimes I can make up time on my bike (especially on the Springwater trail where there are few stops) but I don’t count on that. I like to have a buffer of a few minutes. You just never know what’s going to happen.

Getting dressed in the gear is what takes the most time. And of course, going outside with said gear to test the weather and see if I need more layers…then going back inside to change or add clothes. This part never gets easier.

I pump my bike tires–before every single ride–and make sure everything looks okay to go. Finally, I am off.


The routine for going home is easier. I leave my morning “cold weather” gear at the office with my work clothes, change into my warm weather gear that was underneath my layers and head out. It takes about 10 minutes to get ready to go home, compared to at least 30 minutes in the morning.

As you can see, it’s not quite as simple as just getting on my bike and going. With practice it becomes second nature and I forget less and less. One final tip: drink a TON of water before, during and after biking and also eat something small as a recovery when you are done. Your muscles will thank you.

QUESTION: If you are a bike commuter, how do you prepare? Do you have any suggestions or tips that have worked for you?

Ghost Town Ride

The warm weather streak is continuing in Portland and I got another opportunity to ride my bike to work. I prepared a little bit better this time. It had also been warm for about a week so I figured that arm warmers were all I needed instead of my cycling jacket. It was 52 degrees Tuesday morning, last week my morning commute was 48 degrees.

Michael kindly helped me with breakfast and pumped my tires for me! Queen treatment! It was really helpful because I was running a little late that morning. I set out a few minutes later than I wanted and for the first 1/2 mile regretted not wearing my jacket.

Luckily I warmed up as soon as I hit the first few hills of my commute. This particular commute I got stuck at two lights because there wasn’t enough traffic and the sensors couldn’t detect me on the bike. This is one of my pet peeves about commuting by bike.

I enjoyed my morning commute a great deal. Traffic was light. The weather was warm. My body was feeling really good. I just enjoyed it. I made my way through Sellwood and then picked up the Springwater. Unlike last time, the Springwater was enjoyable. I wasn’t biking into a wall of wind resistance.

The city seemed to be a ghost town. There was hardly any other cyclists out for some reason. The Springwater was nearly empty. The Esplanade loop downtown was eerily quiet. I made it downtown and headed to work.

Despite getting stuck at a few lights, I made it to work pretty quickly. Check out my stats for the morning:

Pretty good if you ask me! I’m happy with my time and average speed. I have a lot of stops before I get to the Springwater trail so I doubt I will ever be any faster than that.

Morning Stats:
Time: 53 minutes
Calories Burned: 540
Mileage: 11.71

You know what else? I’m already itching to start commuting twice a week. Unfortunately the weather forecast for next week looks like rain again so back to Spin I think.

Afternoon Commute

Another warm one! But it was a pleasant ride home. I’m really glad that the Morrison Bridge is open again because that’s how I prefer to go home. It’s a quicker route out of downtown and there’s barely anyone on the bridge but me. Shooosh, don’t tell any other cyclists out there.

Once I’m on the other side of the river, it’s easy sailing for the most part. The route I take to the Springwater is not the best one because the roads are just AWFUL. It’s a very bumpy ride.

The sun felt nice and there was a comfortable breeze on the way home. I made it to Sellwood in no time at all and headed home. My new route is pretty scenic; I pass by a few farms on the way home.

It’s funny because my route home is just a tad shorter than the morning. I guess going over the Steel Bridge in the morning adds more distance than I thought. I also burn less calories on the way home (which is also weird because I feel like it’s uphill on the way home). Here’s the afternoon graph:

Afternoon Stats:
Time: 46 minutes
Calories Burned: 479
Distance: 10.49 
Average Speed: 13.46 mph
Fastest Speed: 25.15 mph

Total Mileage for the Day: 22.2

I’m so happy that my first few commutes have been so great (knock on wood). I am considering adding a second day a week already. I don’t need time to recover and have felt great the day after.

Another bonus to commuting to work on my bike: it frees up my evenings for fun things. It’s amazing just how much time going to the gym takes and I just want to enjoy my free evenings.

QUESTION: How is your fitness changing with the season changes?