A few other bike commuter profiles are nearing completion. Meanwhile, I'm serving up this one to further elaborate on the concept.
Commuter since: 2000-ish
Workplace: University and Raymond (St. Paul)
How many bikes? One for every occasion and surface.
The commuter bike: A Salsa Casseroll 8-speed built by Hiawatha Cyclery. Winter bike is a single-speed Frankenbike assembled from parts from the One on One basement that I also use for grocery and beer runs.
Equipage: Depends on the day. I used to rely on a shoulder bag, but these days prefer a versatile rear rack that lets me carry a shaving kit, 0ld leather brief case or panniers as the cargo gets larger. I keep several generous wraps of velcro on the handle bars in case I need to return with more than when I started.
Essentials: Fenders, spare tube and a variety of lights take away most excuses for not riding. My camera reminds me to keep my eyes open. The shaving kit makes a good, waterproof container for tools, bungees, a pen and pad, emergency cash, keys, seat cover and a microfiber camp towel. A lock and helmet, of course.
Luxuries: Garage door opener. Handle bar coffee cup mount for early departures.
Clothes: I let weather, the occasion and common sense dictate. I'll bring a change with me if necessary. Before, I had a locker and shower at work and would bring in clothes once a week or so when I drove, something I've done since the late '70s when I started running to work. People let this be a barrier to getting started. If you want to do it, you can work out the details.
Typical route: Eight miles through North Minneapolis, down the Mississippi and skirting the U of M campus to the transit/ bikeway corridor into St. Paul. Over about 45 minutes, it incorporates every mode of city riding. There are lots of variations and longer routes, and I'm more likely to take one on the return. See TCBike map.
What got you started? A number of influences came together. My office had a shower for running. I rode intermittently for years, but when One on One opened its shop across the alley from my office, it really got me thinking more about this as transportation and a political act, and not just a convenient form of exercise. I'd also had several early employees who were hardcore, year-round commuters. I kept the Frankenbike in the office so I could get to downtown client meetings more efficiently than driving or walking, and it also made a good winter bike. The impulse just kept growing.
Jim Thill at Hiawatha might pretend to ridicule commuter evangelism, but his combo of life, bikes, blogging, cameras, politics, business and iconoclasm has inspired me more than once.
How often? Since I don't have a regular day job or office any more, I'm not strictly a "commuter," but I use a bike as my primary mode of transportation year-round. Basically, I only drive when a car is the only way I can reasonably accomplish what I need to do, which is not very often.
What makes it work for you? I stopped thinking of this as something special and made it a normal part of my life and my routines — the way driving is for most Americans.
The Best: Going to the grocery store. More frequent, focused trips, fresher food, nicer relations with the people there, maybe by example getting someone to think about their own trips differently — once they realize I'm not retarded.
The Worst: Heading home in a sudden rush hour winter storm that locked up downtown. The streets were nearly impassable, it was dark, and drivers were frustrated and not in very good control themselves. I continually had to pedal, dismount, stumble, try to get going again. The return took at least triple the normal time. Later, I talked to someone who was trapped in his car for so long, he had to get out and find a restroom before he even escaped downtown. My ride was at least an adventure.
The Weirdest: Along the road during a grocery run in Colorado, finding the body-painted headless Barbie who now hangs like a figurehead from my western errand bike's basket.
The Funniest: Doing a face plant on the way to work after failing to secure my front wheel following revelry the night before. Funny an hour later, at least.
Favorite stop/sight: The alley behind my former office. It's shaped like a great outdoor room with 100-year-old buildings for walls and a bike shop attached. It reminds me to watch for the city's other grubby hidden treasures.
Advice? Do what works for you. Don't worry about doing this the "right" way. Things will change with the seasons, your workload, where you live and work and your stage of life. Find a local bike shop that treats you the way you want to be treated and if you don't already have a bike that makes riding fun, find one of those, too.