Whoo, May 1st marks the launch of the Bike Month Challenge! Cascade Bicycle Club organizes this initiative here in Seattle. If you’re just getting started or want the scoop on local bike events and parties, go check out the Bike Month Calendar by Mary Collins.

A few years ago, I never imagined that I’d be interested in committing to a month of physical activity, since sports have never really held my interest. I was that sideline-sitting goth in high school. I still wear mostly black, but in an effort to not get hit by cars, I’ve collected a few day-glo or reflective outer layers. Like I’ve coated myself in candy to attend Siouxsie cover band tryouts. That’s what I picture whenever I get ready for my commute.

There’s an IT crowd reference for everything.

Or biking with CoF. (There really is an IT Crowd reference for every situation.)

Since moving to Seattle, I’ve shifted from casual cyclist rolling around trails on a cruiser to a bike commuter who uses a hybrid to get around everywhere – the grocery store, coffee shops, work meetings, social gatherings, etc. This change was very gradual – it took me almost two years to work up the nerve and get onto actual streets with protected lanes and Seattle Greenway routes.

Now I rely on biking more than any other form of transportation. It’ll be really interesting to log my mileage for an entire month, since I’ve never done that before! Also, I’ll be attempting to ride about 9.4 miles each way to school (and back, maybe), which will definitely be a test of endurance. Phew!

Bike Maintenance and Checklist

Since I’ve started biking, I’ve learned to hold a healthy respect for keeping my bike clean and tuned up. The longer you neglect things like tire pressure, oiling the drive train, and adjusting your brakes, the harder your ride becomes. Before you know it, you’re squealing or clattering down a hill, wishing you’d just put in a little elbow grease.

Bike maintenance has become this very meditative, calming thing for me to do each week. If I had a garage, I can’t even imagine storing a car in it. I just picture having a bike workstand, one of those rolling toolboxes, perpetually greasy rags, a mini fridge for drinks, and a couple of bikes to tinker with. That would be the dream!

Here are a few things that I’ll be checking on a regular basis during Bike Month. This is probably not comprehensive, since I’ll find other things to nerd about:

  • Bike rims and brakes
  • Cable tension
  • Grit-free and lubed chain
  • Tires at right pressure level
  • Nuts and bolts are tight
  • Charged lights (this means bring my USB cables everywhere)
  • Basic tool, tire pump, and lock in my pannier

Bike pre-ride checklist by GOOD

GOOD made this neat pre-ride infographic

Transit Backups

Biking is a great way to commute, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen. Maybe I’ll get up in the morning feeling like shit. Or I won’t have time for the full ride or my muscles hurt or I’m hangry. Or maybe my bike just stops working in the middle of a trip. Things happen.

Just in case my planned bike rides for the day fall through, I’ve also loaded my Orca card with a month-long bus pass. That way, I won’t hesitate to toss my bike onto the bus and get myself home.

Team Effort!

I’m always on the lookout for cycling friends. Luckily my Ada Developers Academy cohort is full of other bicyclists! Over half of us have signed up for the Bike Month Challenge, which is super encouraging. I feel like this is a very healthy way to kick off this upcoming year of programming. I’m definitely looking forward to cycling along with my cohort!

Are you participating in #BikeMonth? Do you have favorite routes / streets? Let me know in the comments – I’m always looking for ways to improve my commute and explore.