Bike Commuting Tips

Bike commuting is awesome – the hardest part is just getting started. Here are a few tips to help you make that first move.

Why should I commute by bike?
We all have our own reasons to commute by bike, from health to cost savings to the environment. Here’s a start:

  • Getting your exercise in while commuting saves time, clears your mind, & gets you in better shape
  • You’re in control – no sitting in traffic, no frustration. How fast you get to work is entirely up to you!
  • Parking options are practically limitless on a bike. No circling, no paying for parking.

What kind of bike should I use?
Start with the one you have – any kind of bike can be used for commuting. Depending on the distance and terrain, you may decide on a different type of bike later, or decide to do some simple upgrades to your current bike to make it perfect. Either way, ride for awhile before deciding whether or not to upgrade or get a new bike.

What kind of gear do I need?

  • Tires & tubes – make sure these aren’t too worn. When you’re limited on time, flats are no fun even if you have a pump and spare tube. Consider getting tubes that are more resistant to punctures. Slicker tires will help you ride faster and easier, knobbier tires are better on non-pavement.
  • Fenders – keep the mud and rain off
  • Lock with cable – a long cable helps you lock your bike anywhere, even if there’s no bike rack.
  • Lights – if you’re going to ride in the dusk or dark, you need front and rear lights. It’s a good idea to have a blinking rear light for better visibility, and to have backups in case one of your lights goes out.
  • Tire levers, multi-tool, pump
  • Helmet
  • Water cage & bottle

How will I carry my stuff?

  • A rear rack with panniers (bags that attach to the rack) is an easy way to carry everything you need.
  • Backpacks and messenger bags are good options if your commute is short and  it’s not too hot out.

What should I wear while commuting?
Here are some guidelines based on how far your commute is:

  • 0-2 miles: no special clothing required, wear anything that’s comfortable for you. If you wear your work pants, roll them up, tuck them in your socks, or wear a leg band so they don’t get caught in your gears
  • 3-10 miles: wear some basic commuting gear to stay comfortable, including: hard soled or cycling shoes and clothing that wicks
  • 11+ miles: wear the same clothing you’d wear if you were going for a road ride: cycling shoes, cycling shorts with a chamois, a wicking top.

In case of cold or wet weather:

It’s often colder on the bike than it feels when you first step outside. Your own tolerance of the cold will help you determine how warmly to dress. Some basic guidelines:

  • 50-60 degrees: bring gloves and a windbreaker. Consider arm, leg or knee warmers if you think you will warm up as you ride.
  • 30-50 degrees: Add more layers, warmer socks, gloves or mittens, hats or ear warmers
  • Below 30 degrees: Options include winter jackets, pants, boots, neck warmers, balaclavas, snow goggles, hats, chemical hand and feet warmers, shoe covers
  • In the rain, wear a rain jacket with a hood, a helmet cover, rain pants, waterproof shoe covers.

What about my work clothes?
If you’re not going to ride in your work clothes, you can keep your work clothes looking neat. Options include:

  • Fold your work clothes neatly and then wrap them in a plastic bag. Your dry cleaner can do this for you.
  • Leave clothes at work each week
  • Have your dry cleaner deliver your clothes to your office
  • Consider showering after you arrive, or do a quick clean up with baby wipes or water from the sink.

How do I know the best route to take?

  • Usually you won’t ride your driving route – pick side streets, roads with bike lanes or wide shoulders, and bike paths.
  • Although it is legal to ride on many of the sidewalks in Boulder, this can be very dangerous. Bikes yield to pedestrians – go slowly and only do this when necessary. If you’re not riding in Boulder, check with your local police department to find out the rules on where you can ride.
  • Plan your route by using local bike maps, asking other commuters, or asking the friendly staff at Full Cycle!
  • Test your route on a day when you’re not working to get used to the ride.
  • You may want to try different routes to keep it enjoyable

How can I make this as safe as possible?

  • Ride alert – don’t wear headphones
  • Obey all traffic laws and act like a driver – stay in your lane, use signals, be cautious and courteous.
  • Don’t hug the curb – give yourself maneuvering room
  • Avoid debris, but be careful not to swerve into traffic
  • Ride defensively, but relaxed
  • Be aware of cars passing you to turn in front of you

Getting started
Start off commuting in fair weather and with daylight on both ends  to get used to the basics.

Step 1 – get prepared

  • Get your bike tuned up
  • Buy any necessary accessories
  • Work out clothing and shower arrangements
  • Plan where to park your bike, test your bike lock
  • Have a back-up: add the phone number for a taxi into your cell phone, check the bus schedule

Step 2 – test the route

  • Carry everything you’ll carry to work
  • Track how much time you need
  • Track your level of fatigue (you may need to eat a bigger breakfast or bring food!)

Step 3 – the day before

  • Bring fresh clothes to work by car the day before
  • Pack your lunch, lay out your clothes, pack your bag and fill your water bottle the night before
  • Check your tires before bed
  • Pack a snack to eat mid-afternoon before riding home

Step 4 – the big day

  • Plan to give yourself extra time in case of issues – flats, detours, anything else
  • Have fun!