Biking to Work
If you're planning to commute to work via bike, brush up your cycling knowledge with these tips from cyclists, commuting educators and safety experts from across the country.
Get the right gear
- Get a bike that suits your needs. Whether it's a road or mountain bike, $50 vs. $500, choose a bike that fits you and your lifestyle.
- Equip it with the essentials: front and rear reflectors, front and rear blinking lights (for riding after dark), reflective cycling gear, rear-view mirror(s), lock and key, ID, sunglasses, cell phone, water bottle and any other items you'll need for your ride.
- Add a backpack or bike bag for essentials. You can add more storage equipment once you know commuting by bike is for you.
- Get a good helmet and wear it every time you bike.
WHN Expert Tip: "There are great community bike shops that have used bike equipment for sale. We've heard a lot of great things about Craigslist. Or just ask your coworkers." Chris Cameron, Commuting Instructor, Cascade Bicycling Club, Seattle WA
WHN Reader Tip: "A helmet is a must, as should be protective eye wear (sunglasses or clear glasses). I've been hit in the lenses on more than one occasion by rocks kicked up by cars. And the glasses will also protect your eyes when you ride through a patch of bugs or hit a bee. Gloves are good to protect your hands if you fall - or to keep you warm if it's cold." Torin R., West Hills, CA
WHN Reader Tip: "I've had a helmet save my life while on a bike. Remember—when on a bike, your head is 5 to 6 feet off a very hard surface. That's a long way to fall!" David Bernstein, producer and host of The FredCast Podcast.
Consider extra items, such as these recommended by cyclists and safety experts:
- Cycling shoes and gloves
- Bike repair items: spare tube, tire irons, tire patching kit air pump
- Water bottle holder, bike carrier, crates or baskets
WHN Expert Tip: "Flat tires occur often enough that you should be prepared to deal with them. If you are mechanically inclined, learn how to fix a flat. Then carry along a spare tube, tire irons and a pump. If you don't want to repair a flat on the road, carry a cell phone with a phone number of a friend with a car or a taxi company." Doug Shidell, avid cyclist and publisher of Bikeverywhere.com.
Learn the rules of the road
- Contact local bike clubs for classes for first-time commuters.
- Follow the same rules and laws as cars, and know the proper hand signals. (Visit League of American Bicyclists for more information.)
WHN Expert Tip: "The most important thing a bicyclist should know is that you should ride a bike like you drive a car," says Shidell. "If you don't do it in a car, you shouldn't do it on a bike. The worst offenses are running stop lights or signals, weaving in traffic and riding the wrong way in traffic."
Map your route.
- Do a practice run on your day off, with the gear that you'd need for work. Once at your destination, locate a secure bike parking area and a place to change your clothes.
- Check out the same route during your usual commuting day and time. Evaluate the distance, traffic volume, road width and condition, and terrain, suggests the League of American Bicyclists.
- Investigate other routes such as back roads and bike trails.
Be prepared for weather changes
- Bring water if it's hot; wear hat and gloves if it's cold; grab rain gear if it's raining.
WHN Expert Tip: "Start as a fair weather commuter. It's important that you enjoy the experience. If you don't enjoy it, you will always have an excuse not to ride, so ride in on pleasant days, take a day off if you feel tired and ride a route that is as stress-free as possible. After you get comfortable with bike commuting, you can broaden your definition of fair weather and try riding in conditions that aren't ideal." Doug Shidell, avid cyclist and publisher of Bikeverywhere.com.
WHN Reader Tip: "If you're in an area where the weather can change quickly, a rain coat might be good to keep in your bag. Also, the addition of fenders can be helpful, as you'll get filthy without them when you ride through a puddle or in the rain." Torin R., West Hills, CA
Do a quick check on your bike.
- Are the tires inflated properly and the wheels tight?
- Do the tires need replaced? (Check for glass, cuts, nicks or wear on the tread that indicate it’s time to replace the tire.)
- Are the brakes adjusted properly: do the tires spin between the brake pads without rubbing?
Here's more useful information: