Bike Commuting is my Superfood

Written by Cyril Jay-Rayon

As the owner of the endurance sports nutrition store Feed The Machine, I know how proper nutrition can help you reach your performance goals. However, if you don't stay active and on the move, especially during the long winter months, don't count on any food to keep you healthy and fit. That's why my secret "superfood" is not a supplement or food at all. It's commuting to work on my bike. And, here's why. Commuting to work on your bike is the best way to find time you thought you didn't have to stay active on a regular basis.

I live in Los Angeles, one of the least bike friendly cities in the US, but I found a good route to ride to work. My car commute is a minimum of 35 minutes to work. When I ride, it's 1 hour and more reliable so I know exactly how long it will take me to get to and from work. So, for less than 1 hour more of commute, I get 2 hours of exercise per day. It took me a while to find a good route but I enjoyed creating the best route over time by trying different roads. I actually have different routes to keep it more interesting. I have my fastest route and then a few other options to add some time or hills when I have time. Mixing up my route keeps things interesting and less of a routine. Like with a lot of things in life, I try not to be too dogmatic so I do drive to work from time to time. After a day of driving to work, I'm excited to commute on the bike once again.

Aside from an effective use of my time getting to work, bike commuting offers numerous other benefits. One of them is that I get uninterrupted time to think. It's amazing how much clarity I get after thinking through a problem on a ride. I often leave home burdened with issues only to arrive at work with a clear idea of how to take on the day. To me, my bike commute time has become an integral part of my decision making process. Another advantage is that no matter how tired I might feel at the end of a work day, I have to ride back. No one is coming to pick me up so I just saddle up and ride. Without exception, the fatigue evaporates within minutes of starting to ride and the shear pleasure of riding returns. When I get home, I'm always invigorated and enjoy my evening much more. I also don't have to motivate to go exercise once I get home. It's already done. An obvious side benefit to all this bike commuting is that the car stays in the driveway saving me on gas, car maintenance, and reduces my carbon footprint.

OK, I have to admit that my current commute is unique and enjoyable because part of it is on a bike path along the beach. Yeah, I know. It's pretty sweet. But, the rest is through busy city streets. And, before this commute, I lived in Seattle where I commuted in the rain and freezing cold in the winter. And, before that, it was even tougher as I lived in Quebec where riding involved snow tires in winter but still doable and exciting. With the right gear, you can commute almost anywhere. As a friend once told me, "It's not cold if you're well dressed".

That said, I understand that life can get in the way of your best intentions. Many of us work long hours and have family obligations. But, it's exactly because of these time constraints that bike commuting is so compelling. One of my teammates on DART-Nuun-FeedTheMachine has 2 young kids and works full-time but still finds time to compete at the highest level of adventure racing. The bulk of his weekday training is through bike and run commuting. It might take some planning and perseverance at first but I'm convinced that once you address some of the issues like where to leave your bike at work, where to shower etc., you'll find that bike commuting will bring you tremendous satisfaction.

I also understand that everyone has different situations to deal with but since the average American spends more than half an hour a day in his/her car commuting to work oneway, most can look at bike commuting as a way to stay fit and healthy despite a busy life.

And, if bike commuting at night is a concern, take a look at the incredible recent improvements in bike light technologies. I feel safer riding on city streets at night because I'm simply more visible than during the day with my Light & Motion set-up. At night, I emit light which I can't do well during the day so I tend to blend in more with my surroundings, especially when drivers have the sun in their eyes.  I like to be well lit so I go all in. I don't cut corners when it comes to being seen. Besides, the cost of the light system is quickly paid for by not paying for gasoline. It's a quick return on your investment. On my helmet I use the VIS 360+. It has a very bright rear red light (where the battery resides) with side yellow lights plus a powerful front light (250 lumens and runs for 3 hours on high) also with side yellow lights. With a light system on my helmet, I can easily shine my light in car cockpits at intersections to make sure the drivers make eye contact with me (something I can't do during the day). The bright rear and side lights high up on the helmet help drivers see you, not only from the rear, but also from the side which is very important at night since many bike get hit from the side. An advantage of the  VIS 360+ or VIS 360 is that you don't have to take it off your helmet to charge the battery if you don't want to. Just put it on your desk at work and charge it with a micro USB cable. Although the VIS 360+ is all you'll need, if you have additional funds, you should consider investing in a light system for the bike itself. That's what I do with a VIS 180 rear light that easily attaches to my seat post (has rear and side lighting like the VIS 360 family) and an Urban front light (200, 400, 550, 700 lumens lights to choose from) that is incredibly easy to mount on your handlebar or stem. The Urban family of lights also features side yellow lights. Both the VIS 180 and Urban lights are also recharged using a micro USB cable (provided). I use Light & Motion lights because, when it comes to my safety, I want to use the best lights on the market. They are powerful, reliable, well designed, and aesthetically pleasing. With this double light set-up, you will be the most visible thing on the road.

Since I've decided to commute to work on my bike, I'm fitter, healthier, and simply happier. If more of us opt for a bike or a pair of shoes to commute to work, we'll reduce traffic, improve the health of our communities, and create a real superfood for our society.

If this blog inspires just one of you to commute on your bike, it was well worth writing. Of course, I hope a lot more of you saddle up!