The bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created:  Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon. 

Bill Strickland (The Quotable Cyclist) 

Today at work, I was discussing the virtues of cycling as a commuting option. I’ve already guilted one work friend to cycle every day, and was looking to convert more colleagues.

I discovered some colleagues live in one of the neighbourhoods that I blog about. In fact, they are closer to work than I am. So why aren’t they cycling?

It’s too far … I sweat too much … It’s going to rain today … I’d have to buy pannier bags and they’re expensive.

This post is about convincing them, and anyone else within 5 km of work, to cycle there for at least four months of the year.

Typically, I cycle from the time the snow has melted and the streets are swept, until the snow is back on the ground. And that’s not the first forecast of flurries. The only thing that will stop me is a thunderstorm in the morning or a weather warning.

It’s not too far. I’ve timed how long it takes me by bus, by car, walking and cycling. Cycling is by far the fastest form of commuting because you can avoid the lights by cycling along the river pathway. You can lock up your bike in front of the building, leaving you the shortest walking distance once you stop. By bus, you still need to walk to either the Transitway or your starting bus stop and walk from the final stop to the building. Then there’s at least one transfer to get across the river. By car, you will hit traffic and multiple lights, and then you have to walk from your parking spot, which again will not be in front of the doors. Walking 5 km takes about an hour. So this really is only an option for after work if it’s not too hot.

Everybody sweats because it acts as a temperature regulator. If you do sweat a lot, you can always shower at work. If it’s really hot, you’d probably sweat walking to the bus stop and then sit among sweaty people on the bus. If you don’t have access to showers at work, bring a fan to cool down at your desk. On really hot days, bring your work clothes in a bag. Even better, if you have a place to store your clothes for the week, bring them in on the weekend so they stay wrinkle free.

It’s not going to rain. Weather forecasts are notoriously wrong. And people read “40% chance of rain” and say it’s going to rain. Take a positive attitude and think that it’s a 60% chance of no rain. Unless it’s raining when it’s time to leave, it’s not raining. If you don’t have a breathable rain jacket to keep you dry, buy one when you’ve saved the money that you would have spent on parking or transit.

Pannier bags don’t have to be expensive. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can buy then new or used. These are the ones I’d like to buy next. And once I have them, the old ones will go up on kijiji. Check out thrift stores and second hand shops. Look on forums. There are lots of great bike stores in the neighbourhood: Bushtukah, Pecco’s, MEC, Cyclelogik, Fresh Air, Tall Tree Cycles and Westboro Sports Centre.

Now that we’ve debunked the myths about why you can’t cycle, let’s talk about how to really enjoy it.

Set realistic goals. It’s going to be a tough slog while your legs get used to it. But set a goal for yourself, and it will all seem worthwhile.  You could aim to particiapte in the Ottawa-Kemptville MS 150, the New York City Five Boro Bike Tour or the GranFondo.

Then you can go cycling on weekends as well. Why not head out to the Old Mill at Ashton? That’s about 80 km return, enough to enjoy a big pub lunch and beer and burn it off on the way there and back. Or head off to the Swan on the Rideau, about 70 km return. A nice destination heading east is Petrie Island, about 60 km return, and mostly on bike paths. I usually plan my destination based on wind direction. Head into first and the ride home will be so much more pleasant.