Beat the Traffic

Promote global cooling with the latest commuter bikes, clothing, and gear

Sep 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

Think there's an energy crisis? Consider the calories burned covering one mile by car—1,000; and by bike—30. Swapping regular unleaded for Pop-Tarts, a bicyclist gets the equivalent of 900 miles per gallon of gas. One hundred million Americans, however, commute by car—84 million of us in single-occupancy vehicles. Stack that up against the paltry half-million (only 0.4 percent of U.S. workers) who commute by bike, and the numbers are even more startling. Altogether, car commuters consume 6,000 times as much energy as bike commuters per mile. Someone please tell Dick Cheney there's a bike shortage.

If you love the smell of diesel smoke in the morning, though, and just can't seem to burn enough oil, then consider something more dear to you, like, say, your personal well-being. Integrating a workout into your daily commute is a marvelously time-efficient way to achieve a superior level of fitness. Maintain a fast tempo to build speed on Monday. Bolster endurance with a longer route home on Wednesday. Throw in hills or intervals to increase power on Friday. All the while snickering as the huddled masses drone away in stale health-club air, pedaling nowhere, feigning interest as indefatigably chirpy Spin-class instructors yell out for more RPMs.
Of course, cycling instead of driving isn't just a boon to body and earth. Urban bike messengers have given two-wheeled transport a hip-hop cachet that you can emulate while perfecting bike-handling reflexes and a sprinter's speed off the line. Ripped calves and buff quads aren't tough to take either. OK, bike commuting isn't practical for everyone, but it is doable for many, provided you have the right setup. On the following pages, we outfit three different styles of commuters: the ride-every-day long-distance hammerhead; the smooth-rolling luxury-cruiser; and the edgy inner-city-messenger type. Whatever your style, for the price of three car payments you can completely kit yourself out. And the only insurance you'll need to buy is a solid lock—which, incidentally, we've also reviewed along with the year's best accessories. Enjoy the ride.

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