Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Why I bike to work.

by Keith Sabini


[Editor’s note: This week dear readers it finally came to this – I had to hire a ghost writer to write this blog. Well I didn’t exactly hire him (more like bribed) but it is true that I did not write this blog entry. Instead I handed it off to my capable, and bed-ridden, husband. Long story short, I woke up this morning to my husband having pulled a muscle in his neck (and this just days after my six year did exactly the same thing..are we a stressed out household or what?!). But we had  an extra array of different family and work commitments to juggle today and me with a writing deadline: this post. Not willing to write another ‘how the blog got derailed’  piece or a ‘wow my schedule so busy’ missive, I looked at Keith propped up in bed with his icepack and laptop. “I’ll do the other stuff” I said, gearing up for the day’s activities, “you write the blog”. So  that’s just what he did. Like a champ he suffered through my editorial comments and so here it, our first guest piece for ETWT on the joys of bike commuting. He loves doing it, and I love him for writing about it!]

Tips for bike commuting

Hello.  My name is Keith.  I am the guest writer for today’s blogpost.  I thought I’d write about something new I’m doing.  I decided to bike commute this year.

My old car pool buddy decided to start taking public transit (you know…the bus) to work.  We only have one car, and personally, I hate riding the bus.  It never shows up on time, and the schedule stinks.  So I thought, why not ride my bike?  It can’t be that far…can it?

Well, every morning I get up and ride 15 miles (~24 km) to work.  It takes about an hour, which is actually faster than the bus!  It’s great exercise and the scenery is beautiful.  More than half of my route takes me along the American River Bike Trail.  Very often I see deer, jackrabbits, and even the occasional coyote.

American River bike trail

In order to get started I had to go out and buy some gear.  For those of you who are serious, I thought I’d make a short list of things I bought and the things I learned in these first three months (hey, that’s almost 2000 miles!)

Things I bought:  waterproof backpack (banjo brothers), clip-in bike shoes, windproof raincoat (a little expensive, but awesome), windproof/water resistant pants (kinda goofy but once again awesome), “ninja mask” to keep my face warm, bike gloves, and toe covers for my fancy bike shoes.

Fancy bike shoes and awesome water proof backpack!

Actually, I use all of the stuff I bought.  Obviously weather dictates what I wear, but I found you really don’t need too much to get started:

If you are only planning on riding in nice weather, then all you need is a helmet, a backpack, a water bottle (when the weather hits 1000 F (380C) you need to drink a lot of water!), a headlight, a tail light, and of course a bike.

A few other things to think about:

  1.  Try to find a way to rinse off when you get to work–If you get half as stinky as I do, then you should clean up when you get to work.  I also keep a stash of toiletries at work.  Lucky for me I teach at a high school.  I get there early enough in the morning so that I can take a shower in the boy’s locker room before school starts.
  2. Keep a change of clothes at work—I’ve got a cabinet at work where I keep all my “work” clothes.  It is easier than carrying clothes back and forth to work each day.
  3. Keep some snacks at work—I have a bunch of high-energy snack stuff to gulp down once I get to work.  Once you get in the groove, you’ll eat a breakfast before you leave, and a breakfast when you get to work.  I’ve got a bunch of dried nuts, dried fruit, and power bars to keep me going until lunch.

My trusty ride.

As far as bike maintenance, I am learning as I go along.  If you only learn how to do one thing, as far as bike repair goes, make sure you know how to fix a flat!  I don’t know if it is  bad luck, but I get two or three flats a week.  Usually I just patch the tube, but occasionally the damage is so bad that the tube has to be replaced.  Here is the fancy gear you need in order to patch a flat, or replace a tube:

A patch kit, a bike tube, and the thingees you use to take the tire off.

You’ll also need a pump.  I know it sounds obvious, but don’t forget your pump!  Make sure you get this repair thing down.  Once you’re pretty good it’ll only take you about 10 minutes or so to fix a flat on the road.

Now let’s talk a little bit about inclement weather.  So far I have had to deal with: rain, wind (up to 25 mph), and cold cold mornings.  Out of the those three, the wind is definitely the worst!  When the wind is blowing that hard it feels like you would roll backwards if you stopped pedaling.

The author in his awesome raincoat/windbreaker, "ninja mask", and helmet with a blinking headlight attached.

For the rain and cold, I picked up a pretty neat wind breaker/rain coat, my bike pants, some gloves, and toe covers for my fancy bike shoes.  Unless it is raining I don’t need the windbreaker until the weather drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.  My toes however, get cold all the time.  I wear my wool socks and toe covers as soon as the weather drops below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  When it gets under 40 degrees, I bust out the snow gloves and the ninja mask.

Originally I started out riding my bike because I hated the public transit system here in Sacramento.  Now, I look forward to riding my bike every morning.  In fact, on the days I don’t ride my bike I miss it.

If you have thought about it, are thinking about it, or are just about ready to take the plunge, my advice to you would be, do it!

It’ll be fun.  frustrating.  rewarding.  punishing.  And exciting!  Then again I think that describes just about everything worth doing in life.  So, get off your pirate booty and ride your bike!

Here are some links to websites that will give you some great information:


Bicycle Commuter’s Guide


3 Responses to “Why I bike to work.”

  1. Heather

    Keith, that is a fantastic and important list of gear. It was great to hear how much you look forward to your ride every morning. This is the first time we are bike- commuting pretty much everywhere for the year and I find myself more connected to the weather, and to nature in general. I hope your neck heals, and give that beautiful wife of yours a hug for me. I missed helping her at winter faire.

  2. Sandra Della Ripa

    What a supportive husband you are to help your wife out with this week’s blog. You make biking to work sound so easy, but I sure hope your neck sprain is not related to your bike commute!

  3. Norman Ross Powers

    Thanks for accepting West Twin’s blog challenge, Keith. It was fun to hear another voice, a guy voice, speaking in this space about “gear” and tire repair and showering down before work! It’s fantastic that so much of your ride is near the river, in nature. You must be able to do a lot of useful thinking during the two hours you commute each day.


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