Lifestyle Change – Bike Racer to Bike Commuter

2013-12-28 17.09.45For some of you this is old news, but late last month I took a position at Felt as their Brand Journalist. What that means is in addition to copywriting I’ll lend my voice to social media which includes blogging, internal documents, and random assignments that always pop up (I did the voiceover for the 2014 bike line-up). This is a job that many of my friends know I’d been searching for a long time. I’m really happy and grateful for the opportunity at Felt Bicycles. So now here I am, back in sunny Southern California and readjusting to a different lifestyle.

One readjustment is I’m commuting to work by necessity, not choice. At least that’s what I thought in the beginning.

My origins in cycling are racing and training for the next race. Yes, sporadically I have commuted by bike, it wasn’t until recently that I’ve had to make a lifestyle switch from bike racer guy to a bike commuter.

I don’t have a car yet here in Southern California and my new job at Felt is only 14 miles away. Most of my commute is on a dedicated bike path and then a wide bike lane that takes me to the office. So I figured it was fine.

Now that I’ve been riding back and forth from Costa Mesa to Irvine the daily ride has transformed from a necessity into an enjoyable exercise: I’m getting in miles I wouldn’t normally do and I’m not adding another car to the already congested freeways.

2013-12-11 07.16.31
Dawn patrol on the bike path.

Sure, as I sit on the stoop of the house throwing my backpack over my shoulder and activating my Knogg blinky lights, I’m not all double-rainbows and happy faces. However, as my cadence picks up my mood does change for the better. By the time I’ve arrived at Felt I’m fully awake and genuinely in a better mood than I would have been if I had been in bumper to bumper traffic (which I also did for many years on the 405 freeway).

However, those beginning weeks were a bit hard. I started the job in November and while SoCal is known for its sunny weather, the mornings are cool with temps in the low 40s. I realize as I write this the country is under the grip of a “polar vortex,” but I have ridden in low 30 degree weather, so I can feel your pain and know how to dress accordingly. Regardless of the weather conditions you are facing I have a few tips I thought I could pass along.

  • Cover your head. A majority of your body heat is lost out the top of your head, so cover that dome. I switch between a Castelli skull cap to a Rapha Merino wool winter cycling cap with flaps that come down over my ears and down the back of my neck.

  • Cover your feet. Booties are a necessity and if you need to, put your sock covered feet inside a plastic grocery bag before slipping on your shoes. It’s not ideal for really cold conditions, but it helps in cool weather.

  • Gloves. Having cold, tingling fingers is the worst. It makes every action painful. A nice full-fingered wool glove helps in cool conditions to the extreme of a “lobster claw” three-fingered glove when you really have to embrace the suck and ride in freezing conditions.

  • Neck wear. I use a Hincapie Sportswear balaclava with my head pulled through the opening where your face is supposed to go so it covers my neck. A decent balaclava will keep your body heat from escaping from the top of your jacket – which I’m assuming you’re wearing.

  • Layers. A base shirt, jersey (long or short sleeve), arm warmers, jacket, vest is a combination that you can strip off as you warm up. Don’t be afraid to peel off layers as you ride unless you want to arrive to work a wet sweaty mess.

  • Optics. A good pair of glasses keep your eyes from watering due to cold temps. I wear a pair of Oakley Racing Jackets with a yellow tint. This helps with morning glare and not so dark I can’t wear them for my nighttime commute home.

I’m still working on how to most effectively schlep my work clothes, shoes, toiletries, and food to the office. I’ve tried out a couple of different backpack models and styles from a huge cavernous style (Chrome) to a smaller, but more compartmentalized, Hincapie Sportswear branded Deuter pack. I’ve even used a Timbuk 2 “Slingshot” model messenger bag for days when I don’t need to carry a lot – maybe a few emergency Trader Joe’s frozen burritos for that 3:00 PM lull.

Monday and Friday so far are the days I usually carry the most stuff in addition to the usual: a clean towel, shoes, and clothes, and several days supply of food. Friday I bring home the dirty towel and clothes, along with the shoes, and repeat the process over again Monday.

My commuting rig, but I have removed the Zipps.
My commuting rig, but I have removed the Zipps.

The rest of the week my commuting loads are smaller: some additional food and gym clothes (At Felt we have free access to a local gym so I try to hit that up two to three times a week.).

I’ll try and post stuff I learn from my commute like how I sneak in quality training during my hour long ride to things I’ve seen (yes, there is wildlife roaming free in Orange County and I’m just not referring to animals). I’m trying to figure out how to reduce the amount of clothing I have to bring to work and if I find any cycling/office clothes that fit the bill I’ll let you know. I’ve discovered that shoes are a huge space suck. If I could figure out a cycling shoe that doubles as a work shoe I’ll post them here. Also, anything that helps or makes the commute better I’ll let you know.

If you think of things to discuss give me a holler. I’d like to hear from you. Also, don’t think this blog is turning into a commuter focused site. I’m still going to talk racing and address subjects that need attention.


  1. ladyfleur says:

    As someone with a short commute (5 mi) that I do in my work clothes on a bike with a rack, fenders and front basket, it feels a little silly giving you advice, but here I go:

    (a) Leave some work shoes at work so your cycling shoes don’t have to be walkable.
    (b) If possible, pick up some of your food near work on your way in. That way you don’t have to carry the extra weight the whole way.
    (c) Ride a bike with a rack on Mondays & Fridays so you can carry more stuff, more comfortably. You could even carry everything you need for T-Th so you can skip the backpack completely.

  2. Erik Lewis says:

    I leave shoes, a couple pairs of socks, usually three button up shirts and two pairs of pants at work. I just carry underwear and a t-shirt in my backpack on the way in to work. I don’t sweat much at work so I can get quite a few days out of the clothes I leave there. If you do not have access to a shower, then make sure to have baby wipes for a quick “whore’s bath” in the restroom at work.

    I am a teacher and fortunately my daughter attends my school (and she drives) so I can send my warm morning cycling clothes home with her. I also use her when I need to bring my clean work clothes.

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