Is the daily commute wearing you down? Through-the-roof gas prices; traffic jams; non-existent parking; lovely mornings and afternoons wasted inside your vehicle—what's there to do? Commute by bike! It's fun, it's fast, it's easy, it saves money, reduces global warming, and keeps you healthy and happy, too! Even with ample motivation, however, the idea of pedaling to work can seem daunting. With traffic, the ubiquitous SUV, bad roads and weather, there's plenty to worry about. Which is exactly why we put together this guide chock full of our best bicycle commuting tips and tricks. (Hint: Be sure to click on the photos!)
The great thing about bicycle commuting is that just about anyone can do it and on just about any bike, too. Use your mountain bike? You betcha! Road bike? You’ll be at work in no time! Hybrid? Oh yeah, ride in comfort and style! Tandem? Double your fun and invite a co-worker!
But whatever bicycle you choose, you want to avoid mechanical breakdowns when commuting and the easiest way to do so is to make sure your bike is in good working order. What does that entail? A basic, inexpensive tune-up is a great place to start. Come in and we'll give your bike a look-over and make sure that it's in tip-top shape. Besides being more reliable, a clean, well-tuned bike will be easier to ride and more fun, too.
Because flat tires are the most common problem, you'll want to avoid them and be prepared to fix a flat if you get unlucky. You may want to have us install puncture-resistant tires and tubes when you get a tune-up (ask and we can make recommendations for your bicycle). And, you'll want to carry a pump, tire levers, a spare tube (even two if you commute far) and a patch kit (just in case). Another important takealong is an all-in-one multi-tool, which ensures you can deal with minor repairs like loose parts or small adjustments. We have a wide selection of tires, tubes, pumps and tools, so we can hook you up with the best products to suit your needs.
Also, be sure to ask us for help if you want to learn how to fix a flat or do basic on-the-road repairs. We're happy to help!
Tip: Bells are awesome. One of the best ways to be safe around other road users, especially other cyclists and pedestrians, is by installing a bell on your bike and using it to announce yourself.
Racks, panniers, seat bags, backpacks, messenger bags, and more; we have a nice selection of gear to help you and your belongings get to work as easily as possible. What method you choose depends on how much you need to bring. Seat bags are perfect for smaller items, such as your spare tube and tools, maybe a wallet and lightweight shell. If you need to carry more, a backpack or messenger bag may be the way to go. They’re perfect for carrying a lunch, a change of clothes and other little necessities.
If your commute is on the long side or if you need to bring more than a backpack’s worth of stuff, consider setting your bike up with a rack and panniers (sometimes called saddlebags). Panniers are great for hauling a lot of gear including bulky items like shoes, and by putting the load on the bike instead of your back, you’ll stay cooler and more comfortable, too.
Tip: Roll your clothes, don’t stuff them. Not only is rolling more space efficient, it also helps prevent wrinkles.
One of the great things about pedaling to work is avoiding the dog-eat-dog world of driving. There's no need to rush on your bike. So, take it easy, ride at a steady pace and you'll be nice and fresh when you get to work. Even if there aren't any showers, you'll be good to go. And, you can ride home as hard or easy as you like when work is done.
Be sure to leave one or several changes of clothes at work. This way your professional clothes stay clean and well-pressed.
But what if it's raining? No problem. Pick up a set of fenders for your bike and they'll keep you and your machine clean should you get stuck in the wet stuff.
Tip: Baby wipes aren’t just for kids. If your office doesn’t have a shower, or when you don't have time to take one, having some baby wipes handy can save the day. Keep a supply in your desk or restroom and you'll always have a quick and easy way to freshen up.
If you have to park your bicycle outside, remember to always lock it carefully (secure the frame, wheels and any easily removed part like quick-release seats and seatposts, to an immovable object). We have a wide selection of bike locks and can recommend good models for top security and explain how best to lock your two-wheeler, too. All these locks travel with you and are easy to use.
Unfortunately, bike-parking racks aren't always available. If that's the case, ask your boss to install bike racks or designate a room in the building for you to store your bike. It's been shown that accessible and secure bike storage encourages more people to ride to work. It's a win-win for you and your company!
Tip: Take off the front wheel. One of the easiest bike parts to steal is the front wheel. Prevent this from happening by removing it, putting it next to the rear wheel and threading the lock through the spokes. This is easy to do and makes your locked bike more secure.
When commuting by bike, the shortest distance to work may not be the safest or most enjoyable. And, you’re probably not going to take the same route that you drive. So, planning your route in advance is essential.
Take the time to drive your proposed biking route one day before work and then pre-ride it on the weekend to check how long it takes. If you’re having trouble finding a safe, fun route be sure to come in and ask us about our favorite routes and we'll point you in the right direction!
Tip: For commuting in larger cities, bring a map. It’s light, folds small and can help you find better roads if you find yourself on a bad one. Plus, if you're like most cyclists you might decide to explore a bit and get lost and the map will help you get back on track!
As a cyclist you have the same rights and responsibilities as other road users. That means riding with, never against, traffic, stopping at stop signs and lights, signaling your turns and staying in control. It also means that you have as much of a right to use the road as cars do, so if the conditions require it, for example, there are no available bike paths or bike lanes, and the shoulder is not safe to travel on, or there is something obstructing your way, you can take the lane to pass safely. When you do this drivers are less inclined to try to squeeze past and endanger you. This practice is legal and safe and the best way to handle certain traffic situations. Be sure to do it cautiously, though, signaling first and looking back to make sure it's safe to enter the flow of traffic. On a road where motor vehicle speeds exceed yours be especially careful.
Another way to keep safe is with front and rear lights. In most areas it's the law to ride with lights at night, but it's also a good idea to ride with them at dusk and dawn. Being visible to motorists drastically enhances your safety.
Be sure to look up the rights and responsibilities for cyclists in our municipality. A knowledgeable cyclist is a safe cyclist.
Tip: Always assume that drivers can’t see you. When you're riding, constantly scan for drivers and be prepared for unpredictable actions because they often aren't looking for cyclists and don't even see you. If you're always thinking this way and always ready to stop or veer, etc., you'll have a great chance of avoiding accidents. Be sure to also ride at least 3 feet to the left of parked cars (getting doored is no fun at all) and always use the utmost caution at intersections as drivers often pass cyclists and turn right cutting them off, or suddenly turn left across their path endangering them, too.
Commuting by bike doesn’t have to be a major production. Feel free to make it as easy as possible. Try riding in a day or two a week and add days or maybe longer routes as you become more confident and get in better shape. Once you've commuted a few times, you’ll probably be amazed how much easier it is than you thought. And, after just a couple of weeks of riding, you'll be even more amazed at how good it makes you feel at work and outside of work, too. It’s awesome!
A fantastic way to enjoy your bike commuting is to invite a co-worker along. Nothing beats the buddy system for boosting motivation and fun.
Tip: Try ping-ponging. If your commute is too long to tackle at once, try this: drive in one morning, bike home that afternoon, and then pedal in the next morning. This is a great way to get used to bicycle commuting without riding too much too soon.
We’ve heard of most of the issues you'll face taking up bicycle commuting and we have the solutions. If you have questions, we’d love for you to stop by and tap our wealth of cycling knowledge!