For those of you that commute by bike because it saves you time and money - and is also more effective than a cup of coffee to wake you up in the morning, these tips could get the most of your trip to and from work.
Gear Up Commuting to work requires you to ride in a myriad of different weather conditions. Even in a climate as mellow as southern Africa, commutes can range from dark, low degree mornings to sunny, 35-degree afternoon rides depending on the time of year. Varied conditions mean you’ll need appropriate gear for all types of weather. Obviously, for the summer months, a rain-suit or all-weather riding suit is a 'must'. Ideally, these should be able to be worn over anything for best results, and some are even designed to ensure that your business suit is unwrinkled when you arrive. For those chilly months, a good winter jacket and gloves should do the trick. You can also add the following as needed:
Plan Ahead and Purchase Accordingly If you’re going to be riding the same routes on a daily basis, plan ahead to make your commute as easy as possible. Find or buy something to attach an I.D. card or toll road transponder to if that is a part of your commute. Get an all weather bag or panniers for any items you’re going to need to transport to work and from home. You no longer have the luxury of tossing everything you need on the passenger seat next to you, so customize your bike to meet your needs.
Stay Alert You know how they say you’re most likely to going to crash within a 5-mile radius of your house? What they really mean is that you’re most likely to crash on roads that you are so comfortable with, you tend to stop paying attention. So be vigilant at staying alert and don’t let yourself get complacent.
Know your Limitations
We've all seen them - riders that can negotiate heavy traffic at the speed of light, but they rarely escape their sometimes reckless riding without a scrape - or worse. Negotiate traffic with due care and respect - both for other road users and yourself. Lane-splitting is legal in South Africa and many other countries, but it remains a risky practice with 'cagers' that don't understand the concept. 'Split' at a speed that slightly exceeds the general traffic speed and conditions, and make yourself visible at all times (I personally ride with full beam and spots in traffic). Learn to read the traffic and intentions of drivers, and be on the lookout for drivers that are texting or behaving erratic. Above all, know your limitations and don't try emulate the other, more experienced and sometimes reckless riders.
Ride the Right Bike Riding regularly through heavy traffic in a variety of weather conditions? It’s probably a good idea to leave the Panigale in the garage and ride something comfortable, practical and economical. Upright ergonomics will save your back and facilitate both vision and control while room for luggage, good weather protection and a comfortable seat should take priority over tribal fairy dragon graphics and a loud pipe. Safety features like ABS and Traction Control are a good idea, too. With regular commuting, service and running costs become a factor, so think about things like fuel economy, tire life (and cost), shaft drive and service intervals (and costs).
If you commute in something Roadcrafter-esque, keep a spare motorcycle jacket at the office if you plan on going lunch out. Much easier than putting everything back on.
Check your tire wear and pressure regularly. You’re using your bike a lot more now that you are commuting.
Keep spare gloves at work. Riding home in wet gloves is a drag.
Keep your work shoes at work and change into them when you arrive. Better than getting road grime on your nice shoes and a whole lot safer.
Make sure your hands are warm before you leave. Wear gloves to unlock any padlocks or to open your fuel cap. Once your hands get cold, there’s no getting warm until you’re off the bike.
Invest in a helmet with a photochromatic lens, it’s worth the money to not have to swap lenses all winter.
Know where the fuel stations are along you’re route. Especially if you’re on a DR-Z400S or anything that notifies you it’s running low by making you switch to reserve.
Consider a top case (milk crate for you KLR folks). It’s worth it instead of carrying that weight on your back every day.
Plan your route for any fun sections of road you might be able to squeeze in. I go one exit too far to hit a nice off-ramp and two roundabouts when I’m on a bike.
If you’re work doesn’t have specific place for motorcycles, inquire with building management or your boss about the best place to leave your bike. Often you’ll get a better spot, but at the very least you can refer them to your boss when someone complains about your bike.
Remember that you are much more recognizable than your bosses/co-workers cars, so ride accordingly. As an ex-Motorcycle Safety Foundation employee learned the hard way, it’s never a good thing to pass your boss at 120+ kph.
Figure out a secure parking situation. Keep a lock and chain at work and secure your bike to something immovable. If your office isn’t bike-friendly, lobby for policy changes. After all, you’re saving your colleagues time and money spent in traffic; motorcycles don’t cause congestion.
Know when to call it quits. Don’t feel the need to risk riding in adverse weather conditions. If there’s rain or rain is forecast, hop on a bus or ask a colleague for a lift. Opting out of riding a couple times a year won’t impact your budget’s bottom line and could save your life.