Have you ever seriously considered biking to the office? Thanks to the growing presence of bike lanes and urban bike share programs, it’s easier to bike to work than ever before.
Ditching the minivan for a two-wheeler can save time, money, gas, and wear and tear on your vehicle, plus it's a great workout. And nothing is more invigorating than an early morning bike ride. You might not even need that morning coffee anymore (ok we won't go that far).
So how do you make the jump from thinking about it to actually joining the “bike to work” brigade? The key steps are finding a safe bike route, collecting the right gear, and taking some basic safety precautions. Follow these tips, and maybe you can replace your frustrating drive to work with an energetic joyride.
How to Bike to Work: Getting Started
If you live in one of the many cities with bike share programs, decide whether you want to take advantage of these services. When you’re starting out, it’s not a bad idea to ride to work using shared bikes as a “trial run” before investing in a brand new bicycle.
Next, figure out the best route to work. Many bike shops have printed bike maps to help with this, and even Google Maps offers bike route suggestions. If you live in a city with abundant bike lanes, you’ve hit the jackpot! If not, plan a route that is fairly direct but utilizes side streets to avoid the most congested roads.
Remember that biking to work is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not stressful. So practice your planned commute a few times on weekends to get a sense for how safe it feels and how long it takes. Practicing your route will establish a comfort level before you take your first workday ride.
Finally, if you do ride your own bike, figure out where you’ll store it. Ideally, your office offers a bike parking or storage area. If not, a public bike rack can suffice (use a sturdy bike lock).
Gear & Clothing Ideas
Ok, you’re ready to become a bike commuter. What necessities should you take with you each day?
Folding Bike Helmet: Bike helmets are essential, but they’re bulky and awkward to carry around. Enter the folding bike helmet, which is just what it sounds like – a protective lid that folds down so you can stash it in a work bag.
Water-Resistant Rain Jacket: We’ll be honest – the least-fun commute is a ride on a dark, rainy morning. But you can stay surprisingly warm and dry with good outerwear. The best jackets are lightweight, waterproof, and brightly-colored so drivers can easily see you.
Backpack or Messenger Bag: A good backpack will keep personal belongings safe and dry. Most bags have more than enough room for a laptop, purse, or tote bag inside. If you’re the type who sweats heavily, carry an extra shirt inside and change at the office.
Personal Items Kit: Don’t be that person everyone tries to avoid sitting next to during staff meetings. Bring along deodorant wipes to combat sweat and keep yourself fresh after you bike to work. You may also want to bring along some simple hair care products or any other personal items that you may need to give yourself a more professional appearance after a long ride.
Safety Tips & Other Basic Precautions
Make sure the bike is equipped with the basics. Lights and reflectors will keep you visible in the dark, and fenders will prevent water from splashing on your clothes when the streets are wet.
Purchase a good U-lock. Though no bike lock is impenetrable, the U-lock is the most reliable and secure. Avoid chain locks as they can be easily cut by any thief with a small pair of cable cutters.
Finally, be aware of your surroundings! Ride predictably, stay visible, and if you must listen to music, use headphones that allow you to hear the traffic around you.
Put these tips to use, and you’ll never again have to be one of those exasperated drivers sitting helplessly in traffic while a line of bicyclists zips past. Be part of the biking crowd instead!
Remember, safety comes first when biking to work. So don't forget to swipe on our safe deodorant before starting your new morning commute.
Written by Scott Shetler