This is a guest post from My Fit Wallet.  Her blog chronicles her journey to become debt-free and financially balanced.  She says “I don’t need a fat wallet–just a fit one.”  Ha!  I like that.  If you enjoy this post make sure you visit her blog or subscribe to her feed to receive free updates.

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Save money, get fit, help the environment, increase your energy levels, and impress your friends! No, this is not an infomercial for a miracle product–I’m talking about commuting via bicycle. With gas prices rising, commuting on two wheels makes financial sense.

I realize that bike commuting is not possible for everyone out there. Maybe you work 30 miles from home, you’re not physically able to bike to work, you must travel on dangerous roads, or you have to drop the kids at school on your way. Fair enough. But I think many people who could benefit from bike commuting have written it off as too difficult, time consuming, or a logistical mess. If that last sentence sounds familiar, then this post is for you. I will attempt to lay out the basics and answer some frequently asked questions.

What equipment do I need?
You don’t need fancy clothes or footwear to get from point A to point B, though you can make cycling as expensive as you like. The below items are the basics.

  • Bicycle: You don’t need anything fancy, though I would not recommend picking up a Huffy at Walmart. Spend a little extra cash and get a decent brand that will last. There’s a reason I still see Raleighs and Schwinns from the 1970s riding around town! Visit your local bicycle shop and speak with someone knowledgeable, then check Craigslist before you buy. If you will need to take your bike on the bus or subway for portions of your commute, consider a folding bike.

  • Bag: Pick something comfortable and roomy. A proper bike messenger bag can hold the most stuff, though a backpack will do. My waterproof messenger bag can hold a change of clothes, an extra pair of shoes, my lunch, wallet, keys, bike lock, cellphone, and some papers from work if needed—with a little room to spare.

  • Helmet: Don’t even think about biking without one! Be sure your helmet is rated for cycling.

  • Lights and Reflectors: Every bike should have these. You will need both if you plan to bike through fog, rain, dusk, or dark. I recommend Frog Lights, which are cute little LED lights that attach to the bike frame without any hardware.

  • Lock: A lock is like an insurance policy for your bike. Don’t get a flimsy cable. Protect your investment with a solid, sturdy lock like the Kryptonite Evolution. You won’t regret it.

What about the weather?
Planning ahead is the best way to make bike commuting safe, comfortable, and fun. The night before, be sure you check two weather reports (always good to have a second opinion), and dress accordingly. If the weather isn’t going to cooperate, you can plan to drive the car or hop on the bus, instead.

Won’t I stink all day?
Not if you plan ahead! Not everyone is lucky enough to have a shower at work (me included), but that doesn’t mean your coworkers have to hold their noses through your morning meeting. Give yourself an extra 20 minutes to cool down when you arrive. You can answer emails, check voice mail, or have coffee and breakfast. Keep a washcloth, small towel, soap, deodorant, and a light perfume or body oil in your office to freshen up before the daily grind starts.  (Personally, I think Lush brand’s Olive Branch solid perfume smells amazing on a guy or a girl, even after a workout, without overwhelming everyone around you.) And this seems obvious, but don’t bike to work in the clothes you will wear all day. Take a change of clothes with you, including extra socks and underwear. If you plan to ride some days and drive others, you can even drop them at your office the day before.

Isn’t biking dangerous?
Yes, and so is driving a car. Careful planning and vigilance on the road will keep you safe. Check out your route beforehand and get to know traffic patterns. Determine when and where you will need to switch lanes, turn, or yield to oncoming traffic. If you’re not comfortable biking on a busy road, try a less direct route with lighter traffic. Learn and obey traffic rules, use hand signals, and always wear your helmet.

What if I can’t make it all the way to the office?
If your office is 10 miles away and you’re new to biking, don’t try to ride it all at once. Start slowly and build your stamina. Try biking half the route on a weekend and see how you feel.

How many calories will I burn?
This varies, but assuming you ride at a slow to moderate pace (10mph), you can expect to burn about 26 calories per mile. As speed increases, so does the number of calories burned. My ride to work is 6.5 miles, so that’s about 170 calories one way, biking at a moderate pace. Why waste time sitting in traffic in your car, then head to the gym? You could finish your workout by 5:30pm.

How much money will I save?
That all depends on your situation, but here are some potential savings:

  • car maintenance

  • car resale value (fewer miles)
  • car insurance

  • gas money

  • gym membership

  • health care costs

Add it all up, and you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year—just by hopping on your bike whenever possible. You don’t need to bike commute every day to reap the financial and health benefits. Think of the essential items listed above as an investment you will earn back over time.

If you enjoyed this article, I hope you will stop by My Fit Wallet and consider subscribing to my feed. Thanks to Ashley for hosting!

pic by: tinyfroglet

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