Tuesday, May 13, 2014

So, you want to cycle to work.. Part 2

In part 1, I covered some background on what got me started cycling to work. Now, I am going to share some of my thoughts on the highs and lows of riding a bicycle to the workplace..

Okay, you are raring to go, but are your employers ready? 

On any given day, bicycles or any form of personal transport are not allowed into the office.
There are designated parking spaces for bicycles.
In this case, factories do have them.
You will find a wide open space where bikes are parked. And from this perspective, cycling to work is a norm..
So, the argument here is purely from the urban and city dweller's context.
Will your employer allow a bike in the office?
If you have spent a substantial amount of money on your bike including all the bells and whistles, surely you wouldn't want to bolt your ride in the basement. The risks are simply too high.
Near my office block, there at least two salarymen (Japanese term for office workers) who cycles to work.
Every evening, I can see at least one of them, a roadie, making his way home.
They must have struck an agreement with their management to stash their bikes at the workplace.
In my case, the top echelon are supportive of employees taking the green initiative.
There was snag in the beginning. Someone raised the issue of bikes being brought to the office. I gave the head of security my reasons. He demanded for paperwork, my colleague drafted a letter which was signed by the company's CEO, end of the story. Bikes are allowed.
So, my take on this: Be nice, negotiate. 
Don't behave like just because you cycle to work, the entire universe owes you a living. 
Nice begets nice. Word!

Bicycles at a factory near Tangkak, Johor

Parking my 16" folding bike near my table at work
So, which bike? 

My weapon of choice: a folding bike.
Why? It can be folded, carried into the office and if need be, tucked underneath my table.
For this job, the 16" bike fits the description extremely well.
It folds small and doesn't get in people's way.
But to do a 43km round trip from my home in Subang Jaya to Menara Star in PJ, one has to be really physically fit.
So, to sum it up, I have ridden 16", 20" and 24" bikes to work.
I have also incorporated the "bike to work" thing as a means to test new bikes.
You can cycle a road bike or a mountain bike, just as long as you have a place to store it safely.

This 2008 Dahon Curve SL is one of my favourite commuting bikes

Be kind, clean up...

Sometime back, some dude took a lashing on me. 
He said I posted a picture where I was smelly and dirty.
Come on! The last thing I want to do, is to give my co-workers a hard time.
I pack a spare change of clothes and it does help to shower (there are shower rooms in the company's gymnasium) or do a wipe-down.
Petty things like body odour can be a small issue and create dislikes among co-workers, so, be mindful...

Doing it, and be prepared to take the risk and face downtime...

Okay, say you are ready to cycle to work, there are some issues that stares at your in the face when you ride along busy roads and on bike lanes.. Here's what I know: 

  • Be early, try leaving your home before peak hours
  • Be street smart, avoid busy roads if you can, use alternative routes
  • Make it a point to be seen. In this case, use lights, blinkers and wear a bright shirt
  • Safety is paramount, be sure you ride with head protection (yeah, I know, its a choice and some psychos with issues will go after me for "imposing" my opinion. Fuck them!)
  • Always carry your bike tool, tire lever, spare inner tube, first aid kit, puncture repair kit
  • And whenever in doubt, call off the ride. If you own a folding bike, bag it and switch to public transport.
  • Always make it a point to informed your loved ones that you are on the road. That way, they are kept in the loop.

Share the road.. Really!

It doesn't mean that if you are a cyclist, other road users must drop on your feet.
To earn respect, you must give respect.
Give way to pedestrians, motorcycles and cars. Observe the traffic rules. Do not attempt to jump the traffic lights.
If you make a hasty decision on the road, you might end up getting hurt, or go home in a body bag. There is no two-ways about it.

The benefits of cycling to work

  • You burn fat, not fuel
  • More parking spaces for your co-workers
  • You spend less on gasoline and parking fees
  • You don't contribute to environmental pollution
  • You end up physically-fit
Short, medium, long? 

So, what is the ideal commute distance? 
From experience, some dudes cycle about 10km a day from their home to their office. I making reference to a guy who has his own business.
Some dudes conduct a multi-modal commute. They bag their bikes, take the train and ride to work from the train station.
In extreme cases, I knew a scholar who rides about 80km from his home in Kajang to the city centre. This outstanding individual have calves as big as coconuts!
I cycle an average distance of 43km from my home to the office. 
It takes me 1hour 30minutes one-way.
And along the route, there some hills, flats and roads paved with debris such as broken glass, nails, metal shards and so on.
But, with the advent of technology, my tires are made to resist punctures. So far so good.
And for the record, I am not a fast rider.
My average moving speed is 13km/h. And I am comfortable with that..

Lastly: "Be Prepared"

Don't be an idiot, carry your tools and bike recovery kit, our weather is uncertain, always pack your rain gear. If your bike is equipped to accept a luggage rack, a pannier would do the job of transporting your spare change of clothes.
And do make it a point to learn on how to recover from a puncture. Best to do it yourself rather than depending on watching YouTube.
Well, I hope I have covered some grounds here, feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I'll be glad to answer them to my best ability.

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