Commute By Bicycle

After an initial investment of purchasing a bicycle, you'll realize that biking is a very inexpensive mode of transportation. You'll save money on gas and car maintenance, you'll get in great shape, and your coworkers will think you're awesome. Why not skip the traffic jam and walk into your Protect Yourself from Workplace Monitoring with an endorphin rush?


  1. Find a safe and pleasant route. Don't just assume that the route you drive to work is the best route for biking. Often the best bike route includes back streets and side roads which may make your trip slightly longer but much safer and more enjoyable. Be realistic and honest with yourself. Are you really comfortable spending 20 minutes a day with the traffic from a freeway feeder whizzing by you at {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}}?
    • Your local bike shop will probably have bicycle route maps. Get one and map out your route to work. If there are no bike route maps, get on your bike on a non-work day and scout out the area.
    • Consider incorporating streets with bicycle lanes when starting out. Dedicated bicycle lanes are great for beginners, although more confident cyclists often consider riding on the road to be both faster and safer. "Taking the Lane" is when the rider rides down the center of the lane so no car is tempted to squeeze past with questionable spacing. Be aware of other users on bike paths, such as folks with strollers or dogs. Announce that you are passing on the left when overtaking someone on the bike path (a cough or ringing your bell is a minimum if not a pleasant "I'm on your left!"). Do not sneak up behind someone overtaking them without warning them. It is more courteous to announce your presence, and well in advance.
    • You may find that your route to work in the morning is more highly trafficked in the afternoon and that you need different routes to and from work.
    • If necessary, combine bicycling with public transit. More and more transit systems are finding ways to accommodate bicyclists. If yours isn't up-to-speed, consider purchasing a folding bike to bring with you on a bus or train, or using two bicycles (one between home and your stop or station, another for between the stop or station and your workplace).
  2. Do a test-run of your bike route on a day with light traffic. If you don't have a bike yet, borrow one and make your test drive before purchasing one; it'll give you a better idea of what kind of bike you'll need.
    • Try some alternate routes, if possible. Make a note of how long each route takes you.
    • Avoid streets with excessive potholes or junk in the road.
    • Avoid questionable neighborhoods where your safety might be at risk. A public, open space is always better than a hidden alleyway.
  3. Determine where you can lock your bike while you are at work. Ask your manager or supervisor. Maybe there's a closet or storage area where they'll let you leave your bike for the day.
    • Otherwise, find a street sign that does not pull out of the ground or a post to secure your bike onto with a good lock (or more than one, to further discourage theft).
    • If you lock to a traffic sign, remember that it might be possible for a thief can unbolt the sign and then slide your bike up over the top.
    • The best thing to lock to is a complete loop of welded metal that is securely anchored into brick or concrete. Second choice would be a pole with welded cross members wider than the longest dimension of your lock.
  4. Acquire a bike. Find a local bicycle shop. There, knowledgeable people can help you decide what to buy. See the "Choosing a Commuter Bike" section below for more advice.
    • If you buy a cheap bike at a discount store have it fitted to you so you're comfortable. If you buy an investment bicycle you may have a smoother ride, but you will always be worried if someone is going to steal your bike. What you buy will be for the same reasons you buy a cheap car.
  5. Purchase the best lock to protect your bike.
    • Stay away from cables, which can be cut one wire at a time (quickly, too), combination locks, and locks using a cylindrical key.
  6. Research the local bicycling laws of your area. This is essential to remain safe and within the law.
    • Many places assign bicycles the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle.
    • Most of the time, riding on the sidewalk can not only increase your chances of running into something or someone, but it can also earn you a traffic ticket.
    • Even if stop signs are optional in your area, you can never be sure how a car will react if they are at the intersection, too.
    • Register your bike if required.
  7. Learn how to make simple bicycle repairs before you hit the road. A flat tire, loose brake cable, loose seat post, or loose handlebar, an unbalanced wheel, or other minor adjustments may pop up while you're commuting. Be ready for them.
    • Prepare and carry a lightweight, bicycle-specific toolkit. Include metric Allen wrenches that fit your bike's bolts, a screwdriver, and/or a multi-use tool designed specifically for bike maintenance.
    • A pair of latex, disposable gloves can come in very handy because it's hard to get the grease off your hands once you arrive at work.
    • A lightweight air pump or CO2 cartridge inflation device, tire levers, and a tube patch-kit do not add much weight, but on-site repairs can be time consuming. A spare inner tube is nice, but it's only "single-use" without a patch kit.
    • A good compromise is to have a spare tube for on-the-spot repairs, and then use the patch kit to repair your tube when you get to work, so that you can then use your repaired tube as the spare for the commute home. You may even want to invest in "flat free" tubes or tire liners.
    • Puncture-resistant tires work well if you plan to commute daily, especially over gravel or where there may be broken glass. They are worth the extra money.
  8. Take safety precautions while riding.
    • Keep a reasonable distance between your bicycle and parked cars. The most common accident for commuting cyclists is running into a suddenly-opened car door.
    • Don't make any sudden turns, or weave in and out of traffic. Make your course steady so that drivers can anticipate your position.
    • Use hand signals to indicate a turn or, better yet, invest in an electric turn signal or use the old courier method of physically inserting yourself in front of the car that may turn into you. Road users are legally obliged to make signals in most countries, and even if you are not, it is necessary for your safety to make sure that the people around you are aware of what you are about to do.
    • Don't allow a tailgating car to bully you into squeezing into the side of the road when it's not safe. It's better to slow down traffic than to put yourself in danger. When there's enough room on the road for you to pull to the side safely, do so and let the cars behind you pass.
    • Exercise caution when riding in the rain. Metal surfaces are slick and your ability to stop isn't as good.
    • Many cars not using their turn signals will turn a bit before stopping- learn to look for this indicator. The driver's movements can also offer clues to their next moves.
  9. Plan for hauling your things. You will need something in which to carry your work items. There are many types of bicycle luggage carriers. Switch Backpacks or messenger bags might work, but the lack of airflow against your body may generate more sweat in warmer climates.
    • Look for a stabilizing strap around your waist or ribs to keep the bag from shifting while you pedal.
    • Look for panniers (a pair of bags or boxes hung over the rear wheel) that are waterproof so that you can protect your things from the rain. Even with a waterproof bag (which can leak around the seams or openings), it's smart to wrap your clothes in plastic bags, as well as keep spares at the workplace- shoes, socks, and underwear at least, a full change of clothes if there's room.
    • Folding shirts can lead to big creases, so if you need to look smart, try rolling your clothes instead of folding them.
  10. Consider wearing riding clothes and safety gear during your commute.
    • Often in cities, bicycles are not easily accommodated and drivers are not used to sharing the road. Many people feel much safer with a cycle helmet. A bike helmet will protect your head when you are mounting and dismounting (common times for falls), and it will make you more visible to motorists. It will also offer some protection for your head if you have a crash when riding.
    • Helmets are "single-use", so throw yours away if it's done its job in a crash. Cracks or flaws are not always discernible to the eye and a new helmet is cheaper than a new head!
    • Many people choose not to wear their work clothes when they're riding to work if the weather is unpredictable or hot (see Tips). Prepare an outfit specifically for See the Bright Side of Rainy Days.
    • Generally, what you wear depends on your budget and comfort, but during bad weather, it's important to be prepared. Stock up on ponchos, rubber overshoes, and waterproof gloves. Look for jackets with ventilating zippers under the arms. Grocery bags can waterproof a helmet in a snap, as well as your seat if it has a porous cover. Waterproof socks or overshoes are useless unless you have pants to direct the rain over and away from the tops of the socks. Wool is more expensive and takes special care but it provides a wider range of comfort in the weather than other clothes, even keeping you warm when wet!
    • Don't wear anything that can get caught in the chain or wheels. Tuck your shoestrings into your right shoe, and get a strap to wrap your long pants cuff around your right ankle so that nothing gets caught in your chain ring.
    • In humid areas, use wicking polyester materials to keep sweat from fostering a skin fungus. Allow these clothes to dry fully, rotating out two sets every other day, wash them with mild detergent, and dry on low heat.
  11. Hack your bike as needed. Some "extras" could make a huge difference in the quality of your ride.
    • Consider installing fenders on your bicycle to prevent puddles from splashing onto your bike and your body. The "rat-tail" fenders that clamp onto your seat post are only minimally effective. Invest in a set of full fenders--stainless steel, though heavy, is the best, most durable solution. Next best is aluminum bonded to plastic. Polycarbonate fenders will also do the job, but they are of significantly lower quality. Also, be aware that some bicycles (especially those designed for racing) have very little clearance for installing fenders.
    • Comfy seats are worth investing in on upright bikes but don't get one that's too big, or they will get in the way and chafe. Seats with a recessed area down the middle reduce pressure on our sensitive areas. More padding does not mean more comfortable; if the saddle is too soft, numbness can become a problem. Experiment and see which saddle is right for you. Stay away from gel-padded seats; they break down under exposure to the elements and create an impossible mess.
    • Get a mirror. You wouldn't drive a car without a rear view mirror, would you? You can find mirrors that fit on your handlebars, your helmet, even your glasses. Get at least one of these.
    • At some point, you might end up having to ride in the dark. As a precautionary measure, install lights on your bicycle. You don't want to be riding on the roads at night with standard reflectors, and riding a bicycle without lights after dark is illegal in some countries. Install a white light on the front and red light on the back of your bike for after dark. LED technology is very advanced now, offering great lights at easy prices. Look for units that use AAA or AA batteries (which can be swapped out for rechargeable batteries). Lights with their own rechargeable batteries are more expensive and generally brighter; these are for seeing where you are going.
    • If you have a nicer road bike, and don't feel comfortable locking it outside, consider the purchase of a full-bike bag, which will allow you to roll your bike - wheels and all - into the bag, and carry it inside. The bags weigh only about 5 pounds, and can be carried quite easily in a backpack. If your building has security guards, consider a nice holiday "bribe"--they'll call your bag "the big laptop."
  12. Stick with it. Your legs (and rear end) might be sore for a few days or weeks. Don't give up! You'll get used to the workout soon, and you'll start noticing new muscles in your legs. Keep moving forward and enjoy the scenery.

Choosing a Commuter Bike

  1. Don't get sold on buying a mountain bike just because there are a lot of them. Bike shops are accustomed to stocking bikes for recreation, not for commuting, and the features on mountain bikes don't really benefit you as a commuter unless you're the aggressive type and need a more sturdy steed.
    • Swap out the knobbies for durable slicks in this case but don't bother with full suspension. If most of your riding will presumably be done on pavement, you're better off with a hybrid, comfort, touring, road or singlespeed, designed for riding on pavement.
    • You may also want to consider a recumbent bicycle. Ultimately, the most important factors when choosing a bike are comfort and efficiency.
  2. Hybrids and comfort bikes are the same thing, but have a wider version of the road bike wheel and tire (hybrid) or smooth version of the mountain bike-sized wheel and tire (comfort).
    • The hybrid is a bit more efficient where the comfort bike takes the bumps better; both feature a very comfy and upright pedaling position, good for taking the strain off your body.
    • Touring bikes are beefier versions of road bikes but with more relaxed pedaling position, though usually not as relaxed as comfort/hybrid bikes.
  3. Converted road and track bikes are quite the rage in flatter areas, with a single gear to maintain and no shifting to learn. Track bikes have a fixed gear, so no rear brake is needed once you've gotten the hang of these stripped down speed machines.
    • Watch out for your knees, though: a fixed gear means the pedals are directly linked to the rear wheel, eliminating the bike's ability to coast. Advanced fixer cyclists can ride a fixed gear bike in reverse by back-pedaling.
    • On a recumbent, whose lower center of gravity also takes getting used to, this more powerful pedaling position is infinitely more comfortable. These faster recumbent bikes have pedals higher or level with the seat. Lower pedals indicate a more comfort-oriented recumbent. Most recumbent bikes offer better aerodynamics than other bikes once you get up to speed, as well as a seat-back to add leverage against the pedals.
    • The lower point of view makes you wish you could see through cars sometimes and must be recognized. Longer recumbent wheelbases are more stable, where shorter wheelbases are quicker and more maneuverable; test rides are generally offered at good recumbent shops, so take your time choosing and testing if you're looking to avoid the body pains of upright bikes.
  4. Carbon fiber bikes generally don't allow bolt-on accessories, such as panniers and kickstands. This means that if you buy a carbon-fiber bike you will most likely have to use a backpack, which can be hot on a summer day. Also, it may be more likely to fall over without a kickstand.


  • Consider taking bicycle maintenance and safety classes.
  • Make sure your saddle is set to the right height. This will ensure you get the most out of your workout to work. Pedaling is more effective and efficient. Most importantly, it will avoid many knee or hip injuries. At the correct height, your knee should just be slightly bent when your pedal is in the lowest position of its motion. Every once in a while, stand up on the pedals, just to get your knees straight.
  • Consider driving in on Monday and Friday. This will allow you to cart in some clothes and other necessities that you then won’t have to carry and you can cart all your dirties home with you on Friday. Make sure you have an out of sight place to keep both clean and dirty.
  • If any of your friends at the office comes in the same way, see if they would be willing to pick you up in case of mechanical emergency.
  • Bring a washcloth and a plastic bag with you; when you get to work you can wipe off and stash the wet washcloth in the bag.
  • Many communities have bicycle clubs. You can use these to connect with other bikers and get help and advice. Check Google and Yahoo! Groups for e-mail listservs.


  • Most drivers don't realize the effect of a car horn on a biker. A sudden horn can ruin your day if you are trying to concentrate or if your mind is wandering in other thoughts. Unlike steering a car, a sudden jolt of the handlebars on a bike could cause a fall and possibly serious injury, especially at high speeds. Be prepared for a horn.
  • Larger vehicles, especially municipal buses and garbage trucks, won't see you if you pull up alongside them. Be very careful in these situations, because they can ruin your day if you're not!
  • In winter, you might be going home in the dark. Make sure your bike has lights lit and has reflectors at the front and rear, and on the pedals and the front wheel spokes. In the UK, you are required by law to use bike lights after dark and your bike must have a rear reflector and pedal reflectors as they greatly improve your visibility to other road users.
  • Look out for bad or distracted drivers. If biking near a road, don't always expect vehicles to see you.
  • If a collision does happen, follow the protocol of any traffic accident (file a report, cooperate with police, etc.) and visit a doctor to make sure you're all right.
  • Led lights are cheap and inexpensive and increase your chance of being noticed by traffic especially if flashing.
  • Just like when driving a car, when you obey the rules of the road on a bike, other vehicles (cars) know what to expect of you. So stop at all stop signs, make careful lane changes, etc., and always be aware of the traffic around you. Remember that, even though you are not in a car, you are still a road user, with all the rights and responsibilities that that entails.
  • Commuting by bicycle is generally a safe and healthy activity, but collisions are always a possibility. Travel with your ID as well as your health insurance card and an emergency contact.
  • Wear brightly colored clothing or a safety vest to be more visible, especially if any part of your commute is likely to take place in darkness or twilight.

Things You'll Need

  • Bicycle
  • Bicycle lock
  • Bicycle helmet
  • Brightly colored clothing (optional)
  • Something in which to carry your work items
  • Spare tire or puncture kit in case of a flat tire (or have change for the bus fare)
  • Lights for night and a fender to protect against mud splashes in the rain
  • Rain gear in wet weather
  • Electronic or communicate items.(e.g.GPS,cell phone)
  • Rear view mirror
  • Bicycle lights
  • Bicycle pump
  • Reflectors at the front and rear, and on the pedals and spokes of the front wheel

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