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5 Tips for Commuting by Bike in San Diego

How to handle National Bike to Work Day like a pro


May 20 is National Bike to Work Day

With our region’s year-round good weather, San Diego is one of the greatest cities in the country for commuting by bike. Whether you’re riding along the I-5 corridor, cruising along the bay to downtown, or crossing any of our many canyons, a two-wheeled, pedal-powered commute has more benefits than you may imagine.

“I love the mental health part of it,” says James Sinclair, Principal Engineer at biotech Vertex Pharmaceuticals, who rides almost 200 days per year—16 miles each way—from Carlsbad to Torrey Pines and back. “I arrive at work refreshed, alert, and ready for the day's challenges. For someone like me that works at a desk or in labs all day long, the bike commute is the perfect way to get in quality outdoor recreation time, every day.”

Even if you missed riding today during National Bike to Work Day, here are some simple tips to help you make your next pedal-powered commute a safe and fun one.

1. Plan your trip

Figure out your planned riding route and any scheduling issues for public transit lets like trolleys you may need. iCommuteSD has a cool interactive map that can help you identify paved paths and other preferred routes for bike commuting. If possible, try the ride on a day off first so you can have a realistic idea of how much time and energy it will take.

2. Prep your ride

Make sure your bike is in good working order. Pumping your tires up to the maximum recommended air pressure listed on the sidewalls will help keep you rolling fast, especially if you are giving your mountain bike pavement duties. Your local bike shop can help with a tune-up if you’re not quite sure why there's a nagging knock coming from your drivetrain. Make sure you've got a helmet and clothes that'll work, and bring lights and some basic tools in case you get a flat.

3. Lighten your load

Bring your clothes into work the day before, and leave a pair of shoes at the office along with toiletries so you aren’t lugging both items on your back— hopefully you have access to a gym for a shower. Similarly, leave your laptop at the office if you can— any unnecessary weight you are carrying will slow you down. A small backpack, hydration pack, or even frame-mounted bag can help carry whatever you can’t leave at the office the day before.

4. Stay safe

Ride defensively. Pay attention to what’s going around you, and remember headphones or earbuds are illegal. iCommuteSD has good information about safe riding, and, of course, always remember your helmet.

5. Don’t forget the dirt!

Local parks, canyons, and open spaces make for great dirt commuting routes too. Once you’ve ridden the length of a canyon like Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve from Poway to Sorrento Valley, dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 52 or 56 loses its charm.

"Riding to work through Peñasquitos Canyon, you experience nature and get a sense of peacefulness, with all sorts of animals like coyotes, mule deer, snakes and birds," says Dan Budd, Chief Financial Officer at Radiographic Equipment Services, Inc., who regularly rides the nine miles to and from Poway to his Sorrento Mesa office. "It starts me off in a good mood and helps me wind down at the end of the day."

With so many trails, paths, and bike routes around the county, you can make any day Bike to Work Day, and the benefits are endless.

“I know for me, I will always choose a nice bike ride along the ocean over sitting in the car, stuck in rush hour traffic on the 5,” says Vertex Pharmaceutical’s Sinclair.

May is National Bike Month. We're celebrating the many reasons to ride this month with a series of blog posts exploring biking in San Diego. 

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