The world moves a bit slower on a bike.
Well, compared to driving a car at 70MPH on a highway at least. For the past month, I've been biking to libraries, coffee shops, and restaurants near me to work on a laptop, a way to cleanse my writing palette and rediscover a long-lost passion.
Biking to work is a bit of an elixir, a boost to your mind and spirit. Your heart pounds, your synapses fire. You feel invigorated. When you finally get to work, you have mulled over your plans for the day and envisioned which tasks will take top priority. It's preparatory and respiratory at the same time.
Before I started biking to work, I had to investigate some of my product choices. I settled on a Raleigh Redux 2 that costs $750, which is a bit of a hybrid bike. The one I tested has wide tires that work on any road surface, including the unpredictable gravel road by my house. Yet, it's also light and nimble enough for any bike path. Because I was serious about making this all work, and because I'm a total gadget nerd, I also outfitted the bike with a few choice gadgets.
For starters, I used a Wahoo Fitness Elemnt that costs $330 as my main bike computer. It was useful because it showed my distance, speed, and even calories burned as a biked. More importantly, it was a way to track my progress--how many miles was I biking per day? The gadget straps to the bike and lasted for a week (when I remembered to turn it off) per charge.
To carry the Apple MacBook I was testing, I started out with a Seagull Commuter Sling backpack that costs $175 and works much better than a normal satchel. There are straps that cinch up around you back so the laptop stays put at all times instead of sliding off to one side, which can be dangerous and annoying. Later, I switched to a lighter pack from Brooks. I also used a Griffin Survivor Summit case for my iPhone 6s that costs $50 and a Griffin Bar Mount that costs $20 and has a strap you put around the handlebar. This meant I could listen to music and even chat with Siri with a quick button press while riding. To top things off (literally) I used a POC Tectal Helmet that costs $190 and is worth every penny (hey, safety first).
How you dress for the bike is also critical. Biking gurus know you have to dress in layers, because the wind from the bike makes you feel colder than normal. And, you want to be ready to actually be at work and fit in with the crowd. I went with a wool shirt from Ibex called the Shralp Button Front that costs $150 and looks like something you'd wear at a startup, biking pants from Under Armour called the ArmourTrail Vent that cost $90 and stretch as you pedal. For colder days, I added the UA Storm Hurakan Paclite Waterproof Jacket that costs $200 and protects against wind and rain.
I had the basics down--bike, phone case, satchel, clothing, helmet. Off I went, biking between 20-25 miles per day there and back, rarely stopping during my commute. I learned a ton about why people even bother biking to work, and why I plan to keep biking this summer. Here were my biggest discoveries.
1. You'll get more work done
I will admit the first few days were hard. What have I done? Why am I even doing this? Some of you know I regularly test cars, so leaving behind an Audi TT so I could pedal for an hour doesn't really make sense in terms of my daily routine. You'd think it would be much more productive to drive to work in 10 minutes. Yet, my startling discovery is that I worked faster and harder. I felt energized and ready to conquer anything, as opposed to being highly caffeinated.
2. You'll offset the curse of working at a desk
There is a time investment, but biking is a good way to offset the curse of our age. Many of us sit at desks all day, which turns us into a sludge. It's bad for our backs, bad for our wrists, bad for every part of our bodies -- but biking is one cure. During my test period, I honestly felt more limber at work and able to sit for longer periods without my usual fatigue. It was a spark to counteract long periods of sitting.
3. You'll benefit from the gadgets
If you do decide to start biking to work, know this. The gear you use will make a major difference in whether you enjoy the experience or not. A clunky old bike that's been collecting dust in the garage won't do, especially if you are used to driving a Tesla. The Raleigh bike was a godsend for my daily commute; so were the wool shirts and stretchable pants. About two weeks into my riding schedule, I discovered the Basis Peak smartwatch that costs $200; it automatically knows when I'm riding and can track my calories for the day and report on my overall health and heart-rate stats.
It's amazing how many people do bike to work, but it's much more common to save biking for the weekend. My advice? The work landscape is changing. Biking (ironically) gives you more flexibility in where and how you work because you can jump on for a ride to a coffee shop in less time than walking and avoid using a car. At tech conferences, I've been biking more and more. It's an easy way to avoid the stress of traffic and decompress a bit, collect your thoughts, and get healthier.
If you try riding to work, will you let me know? I want to compare notes.