There are so many benefits to riding your bike to work. It’s a way to wake up and get the blood flowing, it’s exercise, it’s green (no carbon footprint), and, most importantly, it’s fun.
If you’ve been thinking about commuting by bike but are intimidated or “don’t have the time,” read on, because we want you to join the club!
The League of American Bicyclists is an amazing resource, as they offer courses in cities and towns across the country specifically tailored to bike commuting, along with plenty of info on their website to help you get started.
“Commuting by bike is great for individual health, great for the environment, and a cost-effective way to get around,” says Alissa Simcox, director of education for the League of American Bicyclists. “When you’re on a bike, you become more aware of your surroundings and have better access to things.”
Two popular courses are Traffic Skills 101 and Commuting. We asked Alissa to give us the rundown of what you’ll learn in each class.
Traffic Skills 101. “This is our most popular class,” says Alissa. “It’s part beginner, but it’s also for those with experience. We find that people who have been riding for a while might not necessarily be riding safely and legally.” This class focuses on:
- • Handling skills. How to mount a bike properly, change gears, start and stop, how to turn. Learning to turn the bike with your body.
- • Emergency drills. How to avoid crashes and hazards.
- • Rules of the road. Discovering your role in traffic. Learning and practicing etiquette, including the League’s 6 Rules of the Road.
Commuting. “This class is not about recreational riding; it focuses on every aspect of bike commuting,” says Alissa. The class covers:
- • Gear: Selecting bags (panniers/baskets), what to wear (making sure you’re visible), what to pack (how to prepare for weather changes), lighting, and accessories.
- • What to do if you don’t have a shower at work.
- • Buying or setting up the right bike for you.
- • Maintenance: How to change a flat and make small adjustments.
- • Principles for riding in traffic: Being predictable to drivers and other cyclists, using signals to communicate, lane positioning, and following traffic rules.
Visit bikeleague.org for a schedule of courses.
Motivation: Getting Over the Excuses
Bike commuting takes commitment; much of it is all about getting into a routine and planning the easiest and safest route to ride. Yes, it’s easy to hop in your car, particularly on those hot and sticky or cold and rainy days, but then you’re missing out on all of the great benefits. Here are some ways to work through the excuses:
- • Commit to riding one to two days a week and then build from there.
- • On a weekend day, do a practice ride. Map out your test route. See how long it takes you to pack up your bike and pedal to work. Then plan accordingly and know what time you’ll need to get up and not feel totally rushed.
- • Enlist an office mate to ride with you. Coordinate a meeting place and ride together. When you have someone counting on you, you’re more likely to ride. Once your other office mates see you riding, they might be enticed to join in, too.
- • Check if your city has a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator on staff. Then ask him/her for bicycle maps and best commuting routes for two wheels.
Gear: The Basics
You’ve committed to commute, but what bike should you ride? You can convert one of your old bikes into a commuter (see below) or treat yourself to a commuter-specific ride
When shopping, look for the following features:
- • Low equipment maintenance. Bike has a belt drive (no greasy chain to deal with); internal hubs (easy shifting from gear to gear); and built-in lights front and back that charge when you’re pedaling (no batteries required).
- • Comfortable to ride. Bike isn’t too heavy, seat is cushy, and frame has a step-through design for easy on and off.
- • Protection. Fenders to protect from spray on wet roads, and chain guard to protect legs and pants from grease.
- • Storage. Comes with rack for panniers or baskets.
Work in a city? Want to take your bike on the subway? Want to store your bike in the office? Live in a small space? If you answered yes to any or all of the above, consider a more compact foldable bike.
- • Has 24″ wheels (standard mountain bike is 26″) and internal hubs for easy shifting
- • Unfold/fold time: 10 seconds
- • Weight: 31 pounds
- • Comes with a rear rack
The best way to carry your laptop, tablet, lunch, workout clothes, etc. is with panniers. Why get all sweaty with a pack on your back?
Ortlieb Pelican. 100 percent waterproof, easy buckle closure, removable padded shoulder strap. $150/bag; ortlieb.com
Hang a Cyclelogical Mento ($50) sturdy, reflective grocery pannier on one side and a Minima ($40) reflective tote (turns into a purse!) on the other side. cyclelogicalgear.com
Create a Commuter
Have an old road or mountain bike? Turn it into a commuter. Just add the following:
Rack. Urbana’s RNR boasts unbeatable compatibility with any mounting point-seatpost combination and, made of steel, is strong enough a load up to 150 pounds. urbanabikes.com
Fenders. Keep your front and bottom dry from dirty road spray. Planet Bike offers an array of options. planetbike.com
Headlight. Light & Motion’s Urban 500 is as bright as they come with 180 degrees of amazing visibility and multiple settings. Recharge light warns when power is low. Big plus: It’s easy to take on and off your bike. $159; bikelights.com
Taillight. Planet Bike’s Superflash Turbo. A taillight offering visiblity up to one mile with long-lasting red LEDs and a flash mode no one can miss. $34; planetbike.com
Fun Commuter Accessories
Giro Reverb, fun, retro-styled, doesn’t look like your typical techy helmet. $60; giro.com
Showers Pass Portland Jacket. Why does your jacket have to look like everyone else’s? The Portland is fully waterproof with, most importantly, style. $200; showerspass.com
Keen Coronado Cruiser. This canvas and leather summer shoe keeps you looking and feeling cool, plus it features a panel of soft rubber underfoot for a good grip on your pedals. $80; keenfootwear.com
Merrell Evera MJ. Designed to perfectly fit over a bike pedal, these classic heels can pedal easily anywhere. $100; merrell.com
Polarized Oakley Overtime. Funky, polarized, and practical. ….$180; oakley.com
Don’t know how to change a flat? Visit the Cycling Toolbox on our website! Or ask a savvy cycling friend or mechanic at your local bike shop. It’s a must-know skill.