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10 Tips for Cycling to Work – Team Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

July 22 2014

paul and charles

Paul Hafford (left) and Charles Piazza (right) – from Team PNSY

Team Portsmouth Naval Shipyard won the “Largest Employer” category in the 2014 Bike to Work Week Corporate Challenge with a total of 8421 miles! I interviewed two team members, Paul “Cycling Savvy” Hafford and Charles “HighKingAdventures” Piazza , who each ride over 5,000 miles annually from home to the shipyard. These guys are certainly in the know and happy to share tips for commuting by bicycle!
1) Make safety your first priority, which will make it fun and keep you in the saddle. Being predictable as you ride helps keep you safe. Inspect your bike before every ride or after a mishap or unusual sound.

2) Wear extra-bright clothing, wicking layers, good quality, not necessarily from bike shop. Wear gloves to protect your hands; inexpensive orange work gloves with padding can be purchased at Home Depot for $12. Wraparound tinted safety glasses can be found online for $24 for 12 (no worry if loose a pair!). Massage lenses with a little dish shop to prevent fogging. Keep a change of clothes at work; a large backpack can throw you off balance.

3) Work with cars by finding less traveled roads with slower speeds. Be assertive and prepared to take control of the lane and provide guidance to vehicles. Motorists appreciate predicable cyclists who communicate their intentions and safety needs. Shout out a loud ‘thank you’ and friendly wave when appropriate.

On roads with narrow or no shoulders, it is best not to focus on the width of roadway you have “taken” in respect to the shoulder. Rather, focus on the width you have “left” between you and the centerline. Leaving too much distance from the centerline encourages the passing motorists to squeeze dangerously close to you instead of driving over the centerline for a clear and safe pass.

4) Know the rules of the road. Take a bike safety course, regardless of your skill level, such as CyclingSavvy.

5) Invest in a properly fitted bike from a local bike shop or retailer that provides after-sale support and service. An investment of $500-800 will pay off in the long run. If you purchase from a private source take the bike to a shop for an inspection/tune-up.

6) Know how to change a flat tire, carry a pump, spare tube (put in plastic baggie with talcum powder to ease inflation), and tire lever. Have your bike annually maintained.

7) To find the best route to work, talk with other riders you work with. Employees at local bike shops and outdoor recreation stores are a great source of information and love to talk about bicycling!

8) Mount a mirror on the handlebar, and battery operated front and rear lights (not blinking, hard for motorists to see your position).

9) Don’t wait for the weather to be ideal for riding; you’ll ride less than half the times you could. Make adjustments to your clothing and equipment to increase your riding days (Lycra inner layers, fenders, lights, balaclavas etc.).

10) If riding after dark, wear reflective bands around the ankles or pedals to be seen by motorists.

When I first met Paul he blew my mind after mentioning he rides over 5,000 miles a year. A quick consult with Google maps shows that is the distance from Portsmouth to Salt Lake City AND BACK. We are the same age and I am challenged to bike 20 miles in the hills of Eliot!

I wanted to know what motivates Paul and Charles to ride such distances. What do they see as the benefits? Neither said it was the exercise, but the thrill of adventure.

For Paul, the sheer enjoyment of riding and the opportunity to greet people he otherwise would fly by when driving were the biggest motivators.“Each ride is an awaiting adventure,” said Paul. “Once I saw a blazing bush of goldfinches that bloomed twice in front of me like the feathers of the NBC Peacock. It was incredible.”

Charles, on the other hand, is motivated by keeping track of his trips and miles on calendar. He said, “Getting to a milestone like your first 1000 miles is a huge motivator. Taking new routes and keeping a spirit of discovery is also critical to staying motivated.”

When asked about the benefits from cycling, Paul and Charles both mentioned the time alone for reflection and appreciation. Paul said he arrives home feeling “very alive, accomplished, and happy” and Charles commented that it’s “like you’ve just finished the best part of a memorable vacation”.

Hats (or helmets!) off to you both! And thanks for the sharing your tips!