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Bike to Work Week
Save money, improve your health and help the planet by just changing your commute.

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It all started with a friend who hated doing cardio. Getting in shape is a little like a three-legged stool. Each leg is vital to providing support. There are three legs of fitness.

  1. Proper diet gives you the right amount and type of energy you need.
  2. Resistance training builds and strengthens your muscles.
  3. Cardio exercise helps the heart and burns fat.
Skip one of the three and it's much harder to get great results.
So to my cardio hating friend, I suggested instead of machines, why not just ride a bike to and from work each day? His office was only 10 minutes away, so that would be a simple commute. He tried it.

After just one week, he was hooked. The first thing he said was, "I can't believe how relaxed I am when I get to work! And it's a great way to de-stress at the end of the day."

Four weeks later, I added some time to that commute. Instead of riding directly to work, I suggested he take a longer, more scenic route. He added on 5 minutes, then 10, until eventually he took 25 minutes each way. Within four months, those last 12 pounds were gone and he had a routine for life.

Over time he's realized the savings are more than just physical. When he needs to run errands, for short trips, the bike actually saves time. And now, with gas prices at record highs, my friend saves money as well.

If you want to try riding your bike to work, start by getting the right equipment.

Bicycle HelmetAt the top of the list is a helmet. You've only got one head and you won't get far without it. Buy a helmet that fits snugly and sits level on your head. Whatever model you choose should be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation. If you think it makes you look like a dork, remember this sobering statistic. Up to 88 percent of bicycle-related brain injuries could be prevented with a well-built, proper fitting helmet. Plus, in some states and localities, it's the law.

Bike Light Front and back lights. It's only a matter of time before you're caught out after dark. If you've got the lights, it's not a problem. Look for rear lights that flash so traffic won't miss you. For the front light, a smaller LED (light-emitting diode) may be enough if you're riding where there are plenty of street lights.

If you're venturing into darker or more rural areas, consider something brighter that properly illuminates the road ahead. It's also a good idea to look into lights that have a quick remove feature, so you can take them with you when you park the bike. Lights are the number one thing stolen off bicycles.

Bike Lock Get a lock if you want to keep your bike. Consider the manufacturers that offer a guarantee if you use their lock and the bike still gets stolen. Then be smart about locking it every time. Attach the frame to something sturdy, like a bike rack. Don't chain your bike to standard parking meters (it can be lifted off) or fire hydrants (it's illegal). If you have quick-release components like tires, you might consider securing them with a second lock or cable. Wherever you park, use common sense and make sure people walking down a sidewalk won't trip over it.

A Small Bicycle Toolkit A small bicycle toolkit can make the difference between riding or walking your bike home. A flat tire patch kit, air pump and tools to adjust your seat, handlebars and a loose brake cable can all generally be attached to the bicycle frame. For long commutes, you may also want to carry a spare inner tube and extra batteries for your lights.

Bike Bell Choose a bell to give people a gentle reminder. Because bikes tend to be very quiet, people don't always hear you when you approach from behind. A small ring of the bell lets people know you're coming. Remember to exercise caution though, because many people walk around with headphones on and they may not hear the bell. Always assume nobody hears you and maneuver around them with caution.

Things that are nice to have (but aren't required).

A cycle computer. It tells you how fast you're moving and how far you've gone. Fancy models will tell you your exact cadence, average speed, maximum speed and even calorie count.

An upgraded seat. The stock models that come with many bikes tend to be hard and narrow. Get one that gives you plenty of cushioning and doesn't absorb water when it rains. Men should look for seats that don't cut off circulation to their privates.

Click Here for How to Size Your Bike and Cycling Tips

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.