Get Pedaling: Tips and Advice From the Urban Ecology Center Staff

Written by Urban Ecology Center
    Tuesday, 07 May 2013
Get Pedaling: Tips and Advice From the Urban Ecology Center Staff

In honor of Bike to Work Week, May 13th-18th, we thought we’d offer some tips from our own bike-commuting experts! Many of our staff members bike to work year-round (read about our Eco-Buck program here) and have offered bike commuting tips on gear, all weather riding, safety, hauling stuff and bike security for both novice and expert bikers alike!

The tips and advice in this post were contributed by many staff members who have years of personal experience with bike commuting. Matthew Gnas, Marketing Communications Specialist, also offers some of the helpful biking wisdom he collected from over 13 years of working at Wheel & Sprocket.  

General Advice

  • You do not need to be a cyclist to commute; you’re a cyclist because you commute.
  • You do not need special equipment; you just need a bike.
  • You do not need a special “commuting bike;” you just need to ride.
  • That said, a few specific items can make your bike commute easier and more enjoyable.

Motivation and Inspiration

Whether inspired by nature’s scenery or by living a healthy lifestyle, our staff find inspiration to bike to work in many forms. Why are you motivated to bike to work? Leave us a comment below!

“I’m inspired to commute by bike for fresh air, to feel the change in seasons, gearing up in the morning and unwinding in the evening…plus I like the rebellious feel of donning a bicycle helmet at the occasional off-site business meetings!”  

- Beth Heller, Senior Director of Education and Strategic Planning

“Biking is a way to get to know the city better. Other bikers are always willing to share their favorite routes and the best (or worst) streets, and because I'm relatively new to Milwaukee I've really valued these insider perspectives. Biking also slows me down and lets me explore, so I can interact with people and places in a way that is not possible from a car. And while I occasionally feel a little road-rage, biking more often makes me feel excited and exhilarated rather than angry or anxious.”  

-Laurel Cutright, Environmental Educator

“One of my most memorable days biking was in July of 2012 where I enjoyed watching a doe and fawn walk along side the Oak Leaf trail and after spending 15 minutes observing them continued south and enjoyed a gorgeous sunlight sky with deep ribbons of purple, pink and crimson behind the Milwaukee Art Museum. This was a special ride home for me and one I will certainly remember and cherish forever.”  

-John Suhar, Assistant to the Executive Director


Photo Credit: John Suhar

From essential gear to bike etiquette, our staff offer some helpful advice to help you dust off your two-wheelers and get pedaling through the many trails and bike lanes in Milwaukee.

What to Wear and How to Clean Up

While you don’t need fancy gear to be a bike commuter, some pieces of equipment might ease your ride!

  • If you have a short ride (under 5 miles) and ride at an easy pace, you don’t need special clothes.
  • A packable jacket or wind breaker in case the weather turns is really nice to have.
  • Have a longer ride? Cycling-specific clothing like padded bike shorts and moisture-wicking jerseys significantly increase comfort.
  • Want to ride in the rain? Waterproof rain gear (like a jacket or a poncho) is essential. Don’t want to ride in the rain? That’s okay too. (Ken Leinbach, our Executive Director recommends a rain poncho, boots and a hat.)
  • Consider stashing a few days worth of clothing at work and changing there, maybe bring it with you on a day you drive. Less stuff to lug back and forth!
  • Shower at work? Lucky you! No shower? Keep baby wipes and deodorant at work to quickly freshen up. 
  • Fenders are great; even if it’s not raining you might still encounter puddles.

“Find a way to bike in winter. Bundle up and don’t be afraid of the cold. Be wary of ice and snow, but defeat the cold by biking in it!”  

-Dan Graves, Environmental Educator

Need to Haul Some Stuff?

  • Backpacks and messenger bags are nice for small, light loads and short rides.
  • Saddle bags or panniers are better for larger, heavier loads and longer rides. Plus you can use them for running errands like grocery shopping. Bonus!
  • For just the essentials (wallet, keys, phone) seat bags or handlebar bags are best.

Safety First!

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • A good head light and rear tail light are essential for riding at night. They don’t have to be expensive.
  • High visibility clothing is a good idea, but if you don’t want to wear blaze orange or screaming yellow, use your lights in the daytime too.
  • An ankle wrap is great for keeping your pants from getting caught in your chain.
  • Stop at stop signs, signal your turns, and don’t weave into unoccupied parking spaces. Cars can only accommodate you if you behave predictably.
  • Try to make eye contact with drivers and intersections; then they know you’re there.

“Be predictable and be seen! I recommend wearing bright colors and anything reflective. Lots of drivers simply forget that bikers share the roads, so I try to make eye contact with drivers who I know will be turning or moving toward me. Follow the rules of the road by following traffic laws, signaling, and moving with traffic.”  

-Laurel Cutright, Environmental Educator

“It takes a bit of discipline to get into the habit, but it is well worth the effort. Also, remember to share the trail. Pedestrians may walk in unpredictable directions and could be easily startled. A quick flick of the bike bell will often solicit appreciative, friendly responses and will make everyone’s day safer!”  

-Beth Heller, Senior Director of Education and Strategic Planning

Secure Your Bike!

  • If you can, store your bike in a secure location indoors.
  • If you’re locking your bike outside, make sure it’s in a highly visible area with lots of foot traffic. 
  • Use a solid U-lock. Yes, they’re heavy and bulky, but your bike will still be there at the end of the day.

“If you’re biking to work for the first time, try doing the ride once before you actually commute to work to check out your route and see how long it will take you.” 

–Regina Miller, Environmental Educator

“The best advice I have is to encourage people to just try it. When I worked out at my old job I never bike commuted because I thought it was too far away. When I started working at the Urban Ecology Center, everybody asked me if I was going to bike to work, which got me thinking that I should just try it and see how it goes. So I did, and found that I really liked it (and that it wasn't as hard as I thought!). I now bike about 13 miles a day to and from work in the summer, and it's relatively easy. When I tell people I do that, they're always amazed, but it's really not that impressive to bike that far… you just have to try it.” 

-Mike Larson, Visitor Services Coordinator

Our final piece of advice is to relax and have fun! A ride is a great way to get your body active and energized for the day ahead and a nice way to decompress when the day is done.  Need suggestions on a good trail?  Check out this post by Visitor Services Assistant, Omar Bonilla-Ortiz.  We hope you'll find a way to hop on your two-wheelers and enjoy the ride.    

 Want to get energized for Bike to Work Week? 

There are plenty of ways to share your stories and experiences with other bikers during Bike to Work Week!  Check out the opportunites below!  

Bike-to-Work Week Commuter Station

We want to thank you for biking to work! Stop along the Oak Leaf Trail for a quick bite and a sip of coffee along your bike commute.

Monday, May 13th – 18th | 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM
Click here for more info. 
Special thanks to Alterra Coffee Roasters and the Bike Federation.

Vulture Space Annual Bike Donation Drive

Donate your unwanted bikes at the Center during Bike to Work Week. All week long you can drop off bikes to benefit Vulture Space, a non-profit, do-it-yourself bike shop that depends solely on donations. The collected bikes will be redistributed back to the community. Look for the bike corral available all week.

Monday, May 13th – 18th | 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Click here for more info.

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