Half of the fun in life comes from overcoming the obstacles that keep us from doing what we want to do. This is true about cycling to and from work every day. There are at least two things that come to most people’s minds when they think about the difficulties of using their bike as their main mode of transportation: 1) How do I clean up after cycling in Thailand’s beautiful, but also hot and humid, weather? 2) How much time will it take to cycle to work instead of using a motorized form of transportation?
The answers to these questions are going to be different for everyone, but in the end they come down to two things that you need to know: 1) your environment and 2) yourself. I can’t tell you about your situation, of course, but I can show you how my colleague, Peter, and I deal with the challenges of cycling to and from Chiang Mai University where we teach English.
Cleanliness: Ideally, you would be able to cycle to work and have a place where you could keep the clothes and personal hygiene products you will need so you don’t have to carry them every day, be able to shower, change clothes, and sit in the air con (or at least in front of a fan) for a while before you have to go to work.
If your situation is anything like ours, though, there isn’t a place to leave your clothes and cleaning products, a shower, or air con available, or it doesn’t open until several hours after you need it. All that’s really necessary, however, is a bathroom with running water and a few key tools in your backpack.
Aside from a change of clothes and deodorant, I usually bring a washcloth and anti-bacterial wet wipes. Peter finds that a towel and a bit of soap do the trick for him.
After getting to my comfy bathroom stall, my first rule for cleanup is ‘get naked fast’! All that extra heat I’ve worked up from cycling has to go somewhere and the more skin is exposed the faster it can leave my body. I also find it essential to pack my clean clothes in a plastic bag. There are two reasons for this: 1) you never know when it’s going to rain in Thailand, and 2) even if it is not raining, I sweat through the thin backpack that I carry them in. I also have a separate plastic bag for my cycling clothes. I definitely don’t want to use the same bag for both. One should smell good, and the other bad, and unfortunately the good smell always loses.
For the first layer of sweat, wipe off with the dry washcloth, then rinse the washcloth and go for another round. Disinfect yourself with the antibacterial wipes or soap up and rinse off as the last step of cleaning up. Then it’s time for the deodorant and you are ready to dress and go find that fan. Peter and I both find that the clean up and cool-down routine takes about 20 minutes, and then we are presentable for enlightening the minds of eager college students.
Time: The question of how long it will take you to get to and from your place of business depends entirely upon what kind of cyclist you are. Personally, I like to enjoy the country-side while I’m riding to work, while Peter is looking to get in an hour of exercise each way. The only way for you to really know how long it will take is to do a dry run, and then add 20 minutes in for your clean up and cool down routine and you have a good estimate.
Motivation: One last thing you should keep in mind when you are commuting to work is your reason for doing this. Are you trying to work exercise into your lifestyle to stay healthy? Do you enjoy seeing the beautiful Thai countryside? Is it because you want to be more green and save the world from dangerous pollution? Maybe you enjoy the feeling of being able to propel yourself along under the power from your own body’s muscles? Or perhaps you find that driving around in a car is boring and expensive?
Whatever your reason, be sure to make your motorized options for your commute to work inconvenient. No matter how motivated you are right now, those days come when it is raining outside, your muscles are sore, you didn’t sleep well the night before, or you have a headache, and it would be easier to get in your car or on your motorbike and drive. While having a backup is a good idea, say a songteaw driver that is willing for you to call him at 5am to come get you and take you to work, if it is too easy you will probably choose the easy option more often than riding your bike. Focusing on why you are commuting by bicycle can help you push through those hard days and be successful in your cycling goals. Happy commuting!