There are so many reasons to bike to work: You put less mileage on your car. Burned gasoline gets traded in for toned legs. You feel more connected with the outside world before a long day at the office.
If it’s your first time trying to commute by bike, these tips will help you make the practice an enduring one:
1. Do a Trial Run.
Try biking to your workplace on a weekend. Measure how long it takes to ride at a moderate pace — there will undoubtedly be days when you need to make up for a bit of lost time. Try a different route on the way home and compare the two.
2. Factor Traffic Into Your Route.
Less traffic saves you time and provides safer riding conditions. Obstacles like fire hydrants, gravel patches, and puddles are in your control — drivers on the road are not.
Is there a dedicated bike path you can utilize for part of your route? Is there a side street with less commuter traffic? During rush hour, use apps such as Google Maps to find slow traffic areas. Sometimes there’s a separate bike path so that you can blow past gridlocked cars, while other times it’s safer and faster to find an alternate route.
3. Wear a Helmet.
Helmets are the seatbelt of the biking world. A quality helmet is meticulously designed to crumple so that your head doesn’t. You may go your whole life without a helmet saving you, but remember this: it only takes one crash.
If you’re worried that helmets are goofy, allow us to relieve you of this notion. They’re commonplace and commonsense. Practically all bikers wear them, and today’s helmets are stylish and help increase your visibility on the road.
Note that helmets are only designed to do their job once. If you crash in your helmet or drop it onto the floor from a countertop, you need to replace it immediately. The glue and foam inside the helmet work together to protect your head. Because these two materials naturally break down over time, you should replace your helmet every three or so years.
4. Don't Go Nuts with the Clothing - Especially For Short Commutes.
You could spend the better part of your retirement savings on fast-wicking, breathable, space-grade bike clothing and gear (and you’re certainly welcome to), but you can probably bike to work in your work clothes. Just throw something bright, reflective, and visible on over your shirt for safety.
If you’ve got a longer or more athletic commute, you should consider biking clothes and/or rain gear. One article of clothing you’ll definitely want is cycling shorts. They come with padding in the areas that contact your seat and feature a luxurious lack of seams in these areas.
5. Carry Your Laptop and Documents in a Messenger Bag or Backpack.
Keep your focus on what’s in front of you and keep your work materials safe from the weather. A good messenger bag is stylish and doubles as a briefcase once you reach the office. Alternatively, a backpack keeps your valuables on your back, where they won’t shift around. Either one is an essential tool for a bike commuter.
6. Get an LED Taillight and Headlight.
If you commute in darkness or even half-light, get a red taillight and a good headlight. These will keep you safe in traffic and aid visibility in the dark.
7. You Don’t Have to Commute Both Ways Every Day.
If you’re only a short distance from work, you may want to bike both ways five days a week. But if your commute is more than 45 minutes long, and you’re a considerable distance away, you could try any iteration of the following routines:
- Bike to and from work every other day
- Bike to work and catch a ride home — then catch a ride to work and bike back to your house.
- Take your bike on public transit and bike part of the way to work.
Don’t compare yourself to others who bike to work every single day. As you build endurance and get more comfortable with it, you can up your biking if you want to. Every mile you bike is a mile well spent.
8. Learn How to Handle a Flat Tire.
Always be prepared for a flat tire. All you need is a few tools and some know-how.
9. Keep a Cell Phone on You.
If your bike malfunctions or you need help, you don’t want to be stranded without a phone. You may even get a flat tire and not have time to deal with it before work. You can catch a ride with a coworker or get a cab. Because you’re probably on your way to work before everyone else, a coworker will likely be able to swing by and pick you up.
10. Include Time for Changing and Cleaning Up Once You Reach Work.
If you need to change your clothes before you start working, factor it into the time it takes to get to work. If your workplace has a shower and your commute is your morning workout, then allow time for this ritual before the workday starts.
It’s helpful to have your work clothes already at the office for changes. Additionally, get a travel towel to take with you. These are extremely absorbent and will keep you from filling your backpack with a full-sized towel. If you can keep a towel at work, a regular towel is fine.
If there’s no shower at work, you may need time to give yourself the “touring musician’s” shower — a moist towelette or a washcloth with a bit of soap and water in the bathroom.
11. Don’t Get Clotheslined by a Parked Car Door.
Assume that every car parked on the side of the street will swing their door open as you pass by. Often, people don’t check behind them to see if a bike is barreling down the bike lane at them.
12. For Those of You Worried About Biking Fashion Trends:
The following activities are bike-fashionista approved:
- A bike basket or pannier to hold your commuting materials
- Splitting your bike commute with public transit
- Rolling up your right pant leg to avoid the chain sprocket
- Riding with someone else
- Toughing it out in the rain
The following are not popular in the biking world:
- Sidewalk riding
- Not wearing a helmet
- Impairing your situational awareness by listening to music
- Weaving through stopped traffic
- Smelling bad
That’s it. You’re ready. See you on the road!
Works Cited: Herford, M. “Everything You Need to Know About Biking to Work.” February 6, 2019. Bicycling. https://www.bicycling.com/news/a20031666/14-commuter-pros-share-their-secrets/