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Bike Commuting Tips from the 19,000-Mile Man

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By Jonathan DeHart

In my view, commuting by bike certainly has its advantages. It benefits your health and fitness in addition to helping clear your head before heading into the office, or after a long day at work. As a community, we should take advantage of the tremendous network of trails in our region.

Of course, commuting by bike doesn’t come without challenges. One of which is commuting in less than optimal conditions. Below is a list of tips and tricks I’ve developed over six consecutive years of commuting #onthecircuit:

  • Wear bright clothing (even a reflective vest or one of those vest that light up with little blinking lights). I see a lot of dark-clothing-clad bikers in the city, many riding without helmets. Yikes!
  • Use a powerful headlight, blinking rear light and blinking rear helmet or vest light when riding during times with less daylight. Lights are especially important when navigating connecting roads with auto traffic.
  • Command a single lane when the shoulder is not sufficiently wide. However, be prepared to relinquish the lane if an aggressive driver ups the risk ante. Use a rear view mirror on your helmet!
  • Plan for the unexpected – pedestrians, joggers, skaters and animals (horses, pets, geese, raccoons, etc.). People and animals can do the craziest, unexpected things!
  • Plan ahead to stay warm enough, but not so that you will be too warm and generate too much sweat. Go for layers!  Plan your clothing for when you’re warmed up. In cold weather, the first mile or two will always seem cold. You’ll warm up when your body’s heat systems are fully fired!
  • Take a break on days when there’s any ice on the road. It’s not worth the risk and tire chains don’t work well on a bike!
  • Ensure that you can keep yourself dry in cold rain. Carry waterproof booties in the winter.
  • Save up to purchase clipless insulated boots for temps in the 30s and below. You can often get good markdowns on these at the end of the winter. Happy feet make for a happy ride!
  • Carry extra clothing, tools, tubes, etc. in bike bags (panniers). That’s so much easier than in a pack.
  • Be extra cautious with wet weather riding; or muddy or icy conditions.
  • Give those you’re passing some advance notice – “On your right!” or a whistle.
  • Should you have an accident, do all you can to enlist others’ help in collecting names and phone numbers of those involved and/or witnesses.
  • Acknowledge every considerate, kind deference by others on the trail or road.  Each smile, nod or wave helps to educate others on the culture that we commuters are trying to foster.

Jonathan started walking and running on the trails in 1987 when he moved to the Jenkintown area, and from 2006-2012 biked about 19,000 commuting miles on the Circuit – 6,000 miles on the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT). To learn more about his journey, check out our previous Q&A with Jonathan here

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