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In honor of National Bike Month, we’ve teamed up with Priority Bicycles to bring the most popular commuter bike models into the Gear Patrol Store. We’re so excited about the promotion because we’ve been testing and reviewing Priority for years and have yet to find anyone doing it better. That’s why we chased down Gear Patrol’s Outdoor and Fitness Staff Writer Meg Lappe, who’s been riding her Priority Classic Plus Gotham Edition bike to work ever since her month-long test over a year ago. We learned why she loves bike commuting with her Priority bike and picked up a few tips on how to make your commute a smarter one.
Q: When did you start riding to work, when did you start commuting, how long have you been doing this? Tell me the whole story.
A:I started bike commuting last year, I want to say around May. We were testing out a Priority commuter bike, the Priority Classic Plus, that’s basically zero maintenance. The tires are puncture-proof and will never flat, and go by the same name. After that month of testing, I was hooked and finished feeling more comfortable riding on a bike after trekking back and forth every day. I used to live in Williamsburg and that bridge crushed me every single time I rode — it’s tough on a bike! Today I ride the Classic Plus Gotham, the all black one. I really like it. I can carry it up three flights of stairs if I really need to, but I also have one of their U-locks, which I’ve just been using for the past year and it’s fared pretty well.
Q: Walk me through your commute and where your bike lives when you’re not riding.
A:It’s about four miles. I live in Cobble Hill. It takes roughly 40 to 45 minutes with traffic lights and everything. I live across the street from a Trader Joe’s and there are four bike racks right across from that. So, I lock it up there. I will say, in the winter, I do not bike commute. So, I lock it up inside, outside my apartment door on the railing. But yeah, for the most part, it lives outside.
Q: Talk me through that: What’s your protocol for locking up your bike in the city to keep it from disappearing?
A:I have two locks. The first is a U-lock that Priority sells which I put through the back tire and frame. The second lock is a standard cable lock that I typically put through like my basket and front wheel and frame — as a back-up of sorts.
The Gates Belt Drive System is rustless and requires no grease.
Q: How do you cross the East River into Manhattan?
A:So, if it’s before 7:30 AM, I will bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. After 7:30, it’s way too crowded for me to bike across. So, then I’ll go across the Manhattan Bridge. The Manhattan Bridge has a separate side of the bridge that’s just for bikes versus the Brooklyn Bridge that’s open to commuters, tourists and cyclists alike. It can get pretty crowded there.
Q: After you come across one of the bridges, do you use the bike lanes or are you just on normal roads? Are the bike lanes well marked?
A:Google Maps has a great feature that I use a lot; If you tab over to the bike icon it will show you the preferred bike routes around the city. It’s never led me astray — thus far.
Q: So, how long does it take you to cover the four miles?
A:I try and give myself 40 minutes just because then I’m not profusely sweating when I walk in the door, but also then it gives me time to lock my bike up, etc. And with biking, I’ve found you always have to give yourself 5 to 10 extra minutes just because you do have to abide by lights, and you never know if a road is going to be closed for something.
Q: So, you touched on something that I think is also very interesting about commuting to work: “How do I look presentable once I get to the office?” So, do you have any tricks? What’s the skinny on that?
A:So, I am pretty lucky. I pay for a membership at The Wing, which is a women’s co-working space, and they have showers. But if I don’t go there, then I will come straight to the office. I keep body wipes, deodorant, all that kind of stuff in my desk drawer. I’ll typically bring a change of clothes with me in a backpack (I use a run-specific backpack just because it’s easier to hold onto) and refresh in the bathroom. It’s great if you have a gym membership or somewhere that you can shower, but it’s not necessary when you have the right accessories on hand and give yourself enough time to cool down post-ride.
Q: There must be times that you bike to work in the morning, but then work goes sideways or something pops up and the bike has to stay overnight here. What’s the extraction plan for the bike that’s locked up at the office? I mean, you just reverse that plan and decide to bike home on a certain day?
A:Yes. I keep a change of clothes here to do the reverse commute. Just an extra tank top, a tee shirt, shorts. And I pretty much always have sneakers here in case I need those.
Q: Let’s talk about your helmet. I know you use the 174Hudson Stack, which is cool because we’ve had it in the Gear Patrol Store for a few months, but I’ve never actually had a conversation with somebody who uses it on a regular basis. What is it about the Stack that you like versus a traditional sort of helmet design? Do you use the folding mechanism?
A:I do use the folding mechanism. I like it because I can just crunch it down to a size that’s no thicker than, a thick textbook, I would say. Then it can go in my backpack. It’s super convenient. It’s not that bulky which is especially nice if I’m going to an event after work or a fancy dinner or something. I’m also not a serious cyclist at all. So, to me, the helmet also signals to other cyclists that I am a commuter.
The 174Hudson Stack helmet reduces to nearly half its size when stowed.
Q: So, most of our readers know this from our This Week in Gear series, but you’re very active, you’re training all the time. You recently ran a half marathon, right?
A: I just did a half marathon in March. Now I’m training for another half marathon at the end of this month.
Q: So, would you say that you have to be super fit to commute to work?
A:No, I don’t think so. The biggest hurdle for commuting to work is being comfortable on the bike and a big part of it is being in the right mindset. When I started riding I was way more nervous than I am now. The more time I spent on my bike, the more comfortable I became. It’s also just a great way to get to work and I prefer it, time and time again, over the subway. I also love using my bike because I go to a lot of events (press previews, lunches, new workout classes) during the day and something that would take 15 or 20 minutes on the subway takes less than 10 minutes. I save a lot of time and money, and I really like that.
Q: So, what about Citi Bike? Did you ever use Citi Bike as a way to commute before you got your Priority?
Q: Why? It’s not that expensive and there are ample stations across the city.
A:You’re not the first person to ask me that, but I like having my own bike. First of all, my Priority Classic Plus is only 26 pounds. A Citi Bike weighs about 45 pounds. Having something that’s tailored to me and that I know is reliable is really important. I also enjoy the freedom that my bike gives me. Sometimes I want to go places where there aren’t convenient docking stations or where high use means there aren’t bikes available. Last but not least, I’ve had my Priority for almost a year now and I haven’t had to do any maintenance outside of keeping good tire pressure.
Q: Any other tips or tricks?
A:Get a bell. It’s great for alerting people on busy streets and bike paths. And of course, always obey the rules of the road!
For a limited time, get free shipping and a $50 gift card to the Gear Patrol Store when you purchase a Priority Bicycle.