10 Essential Tips for Bike Commuting

If you're not already doing it, you've probably at least started thinking about riding to work. That's great! With a little preparation, riding your bike to work has all kinds of benefits. And it's a lot more fun than sitting in a car, stuck in a traffic jam!

If you're new to the whole commuting thing or just haven't done it in a while, I've put together our top 10 bike commuting tips to help you get over the learning curve sooner than later.

1. Plan your route.

bike-lane

Narrow, busy roads are no fun when you're on a bike. Big trucks and careless cars zooming by while you try to stay within a 1-foot shoulder can create a lot of anxiety, and for good reason. So before you start, check out a map and run through the options. If bike paths or roads with bike lanes are available, use them, even if they're not the most direct route. A couple of added minutes each day are much less worse than getting hit by a truck, and the commute will be much more enjoyable if you have plenty of space.

2. Use your hands.

Cycling hand signals

Learn and use cycling hand signals. Even if you don't want to use the standard signals or think they're confusing, at least point to where you're going. A little communication goes a long way, and you can't expect motorists to read your mind.

3. Make sure other people on the road notice you.

Whenever possible, make eye contact with motorists and pedestrians. When that happens, there is no doubt that they've seen you and will be less likely to do something stupid. If you can see them see you, you will be able to better predict their next move.

4. Listen.

Sure, a little music or your favorite podcast in your ears might make the ride more enjoyable, but if it's drowning out the sounds of the traffic around you, you're living dangerously. Your ears can tell you when a car or another cyclist is coming up behind you and prompt you to get over and give them some space.

5. Get some lights.

Lights aren't just for night riding. Two or three blinking LED safety lights add much-needed visibility at dawn, at dusk, and on overcast days. If you ever have to stay a little later than you planned, it doesn't hurt to have a decent headlight to light your way home, too.

6. Expect a flat.

Make sure you have a patch kit, a pump (strongly consider CO2; it's faster) and a spare tube. After all, a flat is inevitable at some point. Luckily, you can carry your anti-flat paraphernalia in your commuter bag or a small saddle bag that stays on your bike, so it shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

7. Embrace your inner old man. Get a rack and pannier.

commuter-rack

A backpack or messenger bag may look cooler, but they make you sweat a lot more than you need to. Plus, they're annoying when you're crouching and reaching. So if your bike allows it, you really should consider getting a rear rack and a good commuter pannier. Trust me: it will make your ride much more enjoyable.

8. A change of clothes, please.

Unless you live only 5 or 10 minutess away, do your co-workers a favor. Take a change of clothes and change when you get to work. You may not notice the stench emanating from your body, but they will.

9. Shower.

Even better! If your office has a shower, use it. If not, consider picking up a package of shower wipes. Just keep a set of toiletries at work so you don't have to waste precious bag space every time you ride to and from work.

10. You are not a car (even though you need to behave like one).

Yes, cyclists are technically supposed to follow the rules of traffic, but the simple fact is a bike is not a car. Remember that, especially when you're turning left or merging. A helmet can only do so much; using your brain will protect it a lot more than a piece of styrofoam. Yes, some motorists will be stupid and careless or downright jerks, but a vehicle that weighs a couple thousand pounds will always beat one that weighs twenty, so don't get too confident.

Bonus tip: Have fun!

Don't let all the tips above intimidate you or make you think it's too dangerous. With a little forethought, commuting by bike can be a safe, fun and efficient way to get to work.


by Nathan Moulton

Nathan is the content manager at Bikewagon. He has written or edited product descriptions for thousands (probably tens of thousands!) of bike parts and accessories. Nathan joined the BWCC faculty in 2008.