I currently weigh over 300 lbs and I'm very out of shape. But for 2 years, I've wanted to start using non-automobile transit to get to and from work/school. This summer, I finally embarked on the walk+bus combo after learning that walking 2.2 miles a day one way wasn't something I could do easily or efficiently. So, for a couple months now I have been walking to school(+bus) a couple days a week. Because of where I live and leaving after dark, doing the same trip home isn't safe -- especially for slowpokes like me. ;)
Well, it took a lot of planning but today is day one of commuter biking. It wasn't easy. I will hurt terribly tomorrow. But let me tell you the things I've had to plan for and do to make this a sustainable thing. My plan is to do two days this week, three next, then four, etc.
1. Comfort comfort comfort. Choose a bike that fits you well and won't jar you, if that's traumatic for you. I was lucky to have already purchased a Townie Electra a few years ago. It's still as comfortable now as it was then, despite my gain of 50 lbs since.
Along those lines, make sure your biking clothes are comfortable and that you bring your work clothes separately, at least if you're as out of shape as I am. I sweated so much!! (The temp of 90F didn't help). Also make sure your computer or other bag is comfy. I used my backpack and that's gotta go ultimately. I'll try a messenger style next. Also, have a water bottle mounted!
2. Learn basic bike repair. It paid off on my first trip. My chain jumped twice and I had to put it back (but I think my bike needs a tune up). Get a small set of tools, or at least a pocket knife and a crescent wrench to carry. And watch YouTube videos how to fix your bike in a pinch, including putting the chain back on correctly.
3. Plan your route. And then plan it again. Do dry runs. Make sure you can bike the full distance easily. If you can't, you'll have to work up to it. My dry run was two sundays ago after I did some other bike repair.
4. Figure out where you're going to store the bike. This is a huge issue for me. Ugh. Right now, I have to carry it up and down a flight of stairs twice a day. But I'm going to fix that with a SECOND bike lock and a good outdoor fitted cover.
5. Safety lights. Safety lights. Safety lights. If your reason for biking over bus is like mine (increased safety) make sure you'll be SEEN by cars. I bought USB rechargeable head and tail lights to start. I will add more lights and reflectors soon. Also don't be a fool and skip the helmet. Your brain is the most valuable thing you own.
There's so much I don't have yet for true commuter biking that I've skipped for financial reasons so far -- and I hope my 2.2 mile commute won't necessitate it like it might on a 20 mile ride. As I start biking more and more and leaving my car behind, I'll invest in more tools and equipment. You don't even want to see my current amazon wishlist. Hah.
But if you've ever wanted to break free of your car for the exercise, economy, or environment -- do it. If I can, you can. My knees hurt already and I've been tired all day, but the triumph that I got here faster than the bus and all on my own was pretty incredible. I was sweaty and miserable physically but mentally pumped.
My return trip will be after dark. I admit I'm both excited and terrified but I just have to take the plunge. I just have to do it.