What is B2W?
Bike to work is a conscious choice made by someone to ride a bicycle from home to workplace under their own power, instead of driving a car or taking the public transport. B2W is suitable for people whose workplace is, preferably, not more than 10km; and their job scope do not require them to travel to meet clients regularly during the weekdays.
There are many reasons why many people would like to ride a bicycle to work. However, the most overriding reasons are just two.
- Time – for short commute of less than 10km, riding a bicycle to work is actually faster than driving a car or taking public transport.
- Costs – riding a bicycle saves money over driving or taking public transport. When driving, you need to pay for fuel, toll and parking (which would cost an average of RM300+ per month).
Concerns of B2W
While I may make it sounds easy to commute by bicycle, there are various concerns for inexperienced commuters to B2W. These factors are real for those “interested but concerned”, and should not be brushed off lightly. However, I provide some advice based on my personal experience to alleviate these concerns.
- Safety – this is a major concern for inexperienced commuters when riding a bicycle on the road with motor vehicles. From my experience, you will be more confident navigating with road traffic when you have more riding miles under your belt. The more you ride, the more confident you will be. Another advice is to choose quieter routes which have lower motor traffic. Safety from motor vehicle is a perception problem, but it is real and the main deterrent for many. In my experience, cycling on the road is safe and motorists give ample space for me to ride.
- Weather – many people are concerned with the weather, such as heat and rain. If you start your commute earlier, say 7am, it will lessen the heat effect from the sun. When you leave your workplace in the evening, the sun is already setting and the temperature is not that high. Riding back home is also an opportunity to break sweat or exercise, as you can take a shower at home. If it is raining, you need not B2W everyday. You can choose to drive or take public transport if there is heavy rain or thunderstorm. If you are adamant on riding despite the rain, a raincoat or poncho will prove convenient. A word of caution – do not ride in heavy rain as drivers’ visibility and yours is impaired.
- Parking – bicycle parking is a concern if you do not ride a folding bicycle. With a folding bicycle, you can easily fold the bicycle and take it to your office. However, with a full size bicycle, you have to find a suitable and safe place to park your bicycle. You can talk to the security people, parking/building management or your office bosses to find a way to accommodate your bicycle.
How to B2W?
- Equipment – There are a couple of things you need to have tostartB2W.
- Bicycle – you need a bicycle. An upright sitting bicycle is desirable, and it would give you a wide vision of the road, and make you more visible to motor traffic.
- Fenders – a set of full fenders (or mudguards) is preferable as it will keep you and your clothes clear from road dirt and wet road surfaces thrown up by the bicycle tyres.
- Chain guard – chain guard will keep your trousers and skirts from being greased by bicycle chains when you pedal.
- Rack and basket – instead of carrying a backpack on your shoulder, on handlebar or your back, you can put your things in a pannier bag and hang on the rear rack, or put your bag in a basket. Carrying a bag on your shoulder or back will make you perspire more, while hanging your bag from the handlebar may cause handling of your bicycle less stable.
- Lights – if you ride in the dark, you need to have at least a rear red blinking light and a white front light, to make you visible to other road users. A friction tyre dynamo will save you the trouble of needing to change the batteries. Strap on lights are convenient but remember to strip them off the bicycle when parking in public place.
- Gears – a single speed bicycle is adequate for mainly flat commute. If your route includes some slope, an internal gear hub with 3 or 6 gears will ease the ride on the uphill sections.
- Locks – a 3-foot DIY steel chain wrapped in rubber tyre tube with padlock is the basic requirement, while additional cable lock or U-lock can soothe the worry of bicycle theft.
- Clothing – you do not need to wear special clothes to B2W. You can wear your normal work attire when riding, if you do not easily perspire. Otherwise, you can wear a more comfortable and casual clothes, and change to your work attire when you reach your office. You can roll up your office clothes in your bicycle bag, or you can put them in the office locker. You can also bring along wet wipes, deodorant and face towel to wipe down after you reach the office. Most importantly is to ride your bicycle at a speed most comfortable without over-exerting your body (perspire).
- Routes – choosing a safe route to work is the most important aspect of B2W. When choosing safe route for B2W, do not think like a driver. Choose quieter residential streets, roads with less traffic and underpass or overpass highway crossings. Roads to avoid include highways, motorway flyovers, ring roads and arterial roads. Check in on google maps to view the available options. You can go to http://studio25.my/map/140404_KLCTRMAP_S25.html and check out a unique independent project to map out the bikeablity of streets of KL. You can also get advice on possible routes from many willing and helpful volunteers at Cycling Kuala Lumpur, Bicycle Map Project group in Facebook. It is wise to be able to try out the routes beforehand on weekends to gauge the timing, getting used to the road conditions and general traffic.
- Workplace – if there is ready facility for bicycle parking, that would be convenient to park and lock your bicycle. Shower and locker facility is an added bonus, but not mandatory to start B2W. If there is enough people who ride a bicycle to work in your building, you can request for (dedicated) bicycle parking, shower and locker facility from the building management.
- Contingencies – it would be helpful to a commuter if you know the location of bicycle shops along the route of your B2W. It helps in case of mechanical failure or tyre puncture to get assistance from the shops. If possible, attend some workshops on basic bicycle maintenance, such as changing a flat tube. Crank Post occasionally carries out basic bicycle workshops in KL. You can also carry with you a toolset for emergency repairs, so that you are self sufficient on your commute. You should also keep in handy contact numbers of public taxi services in case you are unable to continue on your commute in between your home and office.
Let’s start B2W!
If you are already keen on taking the next step to B2W, congratulations! If you are ready, please enjoy your ride, and be safe and alert of your surrounding. There are many regular commuters out there who are living car-free and enjoying B2W on a daily basis. If you are not convinced, there are other options available too. Bike trains and ride buddy can also be organised with many enthusiastic cycling advocates. B2W is not for everyone, but if you are willing to try it out, I can promise that you will look at riding a bicycle as transport in a different light.
You can download a PDF version of this guide here.
Upright bicycle (omionabike.blogspot.com)
Bicycle basket (nikkishell.typepad.com)
Bicycle Lock (www.ebay.com)
Bicycle Commuter recovery toolkit (http://www.evanscycles.com/products/scott/tour-pocket-tool-kit-ec030048)