It's National Bike to Work Day, are you wearing spandex?
Only a truly lazy person would come up with an argument that elaborate to avoid exercise. But in case the rumour catches on, I thought I'd include the snippet here in light of National Bike to Work Day, which is today.
A persistent rumor claims that riding a bike is actually less efficient than driving a car if you account for the energy that goes into producing the food/drink that "fuels" a cyclist. The Sierra Club's "Mr. Green" calls bullshit on that. (Photo of BB pal Jess Hemerly from aGreatNotion's Flickr stream.) From the Sierra Club:
Even with pricier commodities like beef, the biker rides cheaper than the driver. A pound and a half of cheap, greasy hamburger, sans bun, could power the cruise in question, at a lower cost than gasoline.
The ethanol "alternative"? Well, not really. Instead of burning ethanol in engines, from a transportation standpoint we're far better off ingesting the stuff. Driving 48 miles takes more than two gallons of ethanol, whereas only eight ounces of liquor, a mere half-pint of vodka, can fuel a cyclist for the same distance. Happy trails!
And here's a useful list from Wired explaining how to make the cycling commute more palatable.
Biking to work is great and all, but it's just not practical, right? Wrong. Think of the advantages. No wasted gas, no searching for a parking spot, no waiting in traffic jams. In fact, the bike could end up getting you to work quicker. But there are some things a car does better and so, in honor of the day, we've put together a list of things you can add to make two wheels just as comfortable as four.
If I ride to work, I'll get hot and sweaty
The best way around this is to take it easy. Leave in plenty of time and don't rush. You can bike along at a fair clip without getting hot and bothered, and many work places now have showers. But buying some kit will help, too. If a full-on Lycra suit isn't your style, try a cycling jersey. You'll want something in polyester or another synthetic designed to wick sweat away from your skin. Cotton is fine, but once it gets wet, it stays wet. But the best advice is to slow down.
What about my music?
Using headphones while biking is a bad idea. But music helps a boring journey go quicker, and besides, where else will you find the time to listen to the Gadget Lab podcast? What you need is a bike stereo, and $80 will buy you the iHome2Go, a bicycle boombox. The speaker clamps to the down tube and hides an iPod inside, away from dust and water. Up on the handlebars is a wireless controller for volume and track skipping.
I have too much stuff to carry
A poor excuse. Bike are great for shifting lots of gear, so you can take your briefcase to work and drop in at the supermarket on the way home. And if you have to carry a lot, try a trailer.
Is cycling safe?
No, not if you ride like an idiot. Or ride like you drive a car. Cyclists are vulnerable, so make sure you wear some protection and make sure that driver can see you. This means a helmet and lights. Most bike store helmets will be ok, as long as they are fitted properly. The last thing you need is to have the skid-lid flip off your head when you face-plant into the asphalt.
Lights need to be bright, and they need to be on your bike. They also need to have power. A bottle dynamo is fine, but it stops powering the lights when you stop moving. Our favorite is the Reelite, a lamp powered by magnetic induction. The magnets are clamped to the spokes and as they pass the light housing, electricity is generated. They also charge a capacitor, so the lights keep burning during short stops. The best part? They won't slow you down. Unlike the bottle dynamo, nothing rubs on the tire, so there's no friction.
Get out more
This isn't a piece of kit, but just some advice. Cycling is fun, and also good for you (until an SUV mows you down). And the more you do it, the easier and more enjoyable it gets. Cycle at weekends, cycle to the corner store instead of jumping into the car, and today, at least, cycle to work. The city is a different place from a bike. You'll see new things and actually feel part of the street instead of looking out from inside a fishbowl. And finally, you'll learn what it's like to be a cyclist on the city streets, which means you'll be a lot more considerate when you get back behind the wheel. Happy Bike-to-Work Day!