A Beginner’s Guide to Bike Commuting

When I first started bike commuting to work I was naive.

I was convinced that all I needed was a reliable bike, adequate water, and enough storage to carry my lunch, a change of clothes, and personal toiletries.

It didn’t take me long to find out that while these considerations were important, I should have focused more time on things like high-quality, puncture proof tires and paying better attention. More on that later, but let’s start with the basics.

Bike Commuting Essentials

Becoming a ‘biker’ can feel overwhelming. If your goal is simply to get to-and-from work on your bike then I highly recommend purchasing the following items:

  • Bike With Multiple Speeds
  • High Visibility LED Bike Lights
  • High Visibility Vest
  • Bike Helmet
  • Water Bottle
  • Water Bottle Holder
  • Phone Holder
  • Bike Panniers
  • First Aid Kit
  • Portable Bike Pump
  • Spare Inner Tube
  • Multiple Bike Locks

What to Wear When Bike Commuting

Comfort should be your top priority when bike commuting. Give your arms and legs plenty of freedom, and avoid wearing a backpack at all costs.

Bike Shorts – Riding your bike takes a toll on your more delicate areas. A high-quality pair of bike shorts provides extra padding and helps cut back on swelling and chafing.
Footwear – Protecting your toes from your bike pedals and chain take priority. I recommend Keens (they allow your feet to breathe, and are easy to slip on) or another multi-purpose durable shoe. Tennis shoes are also suitable.
Sunscreen – Even on cloudy days being outside exposes you to the sun’s UV rays. Take the extra step and protect your skin.
Bike Helmet – You never know when an accident is going to happen. Did you know that there were 70,000 pedestrian injuries in 2015 alone? In addition, nearly 75% of fatal accidents involve a head injury. While awkward and uncomfortable, a helmet can save your life.
Bike Panniers – I started out carrying everything in a backpack. The weight didn’t bother me as much as my skin’s inability to breathe. A good pair of bike panniers makes balancing easier and transport more effective.

High-Quality Tires Are Worth the Investment

It took me at least three flat tires to realize that I was going to need to invest in higher-quality tires if I wanted bike commuting to be a viable transportation option. I was wasting  $20-a-pop on goo inner-tubes and the costs were adding up.

My commute was only five miles, but there were thorns, broken glass, nails, screws, and splinters everywhere. Paying attention to where I was riding certainly helped, but I was still getting flats.

I finally settled on Nimbus’ line of Specialized road tires. They cost $100 a pop, but the investment is undoubtedly worth it. Prior to investing in Nimbus tires, I was visiting the local bike shop twice a month. Now I can get away with a bi-annual trip.

Pro Tip: If you want to add an extra layer of protection to your Nimbus road tires, pay a few extra bucks for a goo tube.  Also, fill up your tires every time you leave home. This preventative maintenance will keep them in good shape.

Paying Attention is a Life Saver

This one can be hard, especially if you’re easily distracted (like me!) but paying attention while bike commuting can save your life.

Make sure you always:

  • Heed traffic signs
  • Never assume that cars can see you
  • Ride in the bike lane whenever possible
  • Keep an eye out for dogs that aren’t on leashes
  • Look both ways at every intersection
  • Watch out for glass, nails, and other sharp objects

Security Considerations when Bike Commuting

If you’ll be utilizing public transportation, make sure to take necessary security measures.

I learned my lesson the hard way when during the first month of bike commuting I put my bike on the front of a city bus, carefully inserted my ear buds, and sat down toward the back for the ten-minute ride to my transfer.

Five minutes later the bus stopped at a light and my attention turned to a lady who yelled: “he took my bike”. What I didn’t know was that someone had walked up to the bus, grabbed my bike and then quickly rode away. If I had locked my bike to the tire, this could have easily been avoided.

Will you be riding the light rail instead? Do yourself a favor and stand or sit next to your bike. Paying close attention is the easiest way to avoid your bike getting stolen.

Freshening Up at Your Destination

Once you actually get to your destination, how do you comfortably transition into your work clothes? If you aren’t one of the lucky individuals with access to a shower at your office, I recommend a toiletry bag that includes:

  • Deodorant
  • Cologne
  • Wipes
  • Fresh Balls
  • Clean Underwear
  • Clean Socks
  • Clean Change of Clothes
  • Foot Powder

Breaking a sweat is part of bike commuting, but you don’t want to stink up the office. These items will help you cool off and mask any unpleasant odors.

Pro Tip: Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the start of your shift. This will give you time to change, cool off, and freshen up before the work day begins.

Biking Home After Work

If you work a 9 – 5, your commute home will probably more challenging due to increased traffic and the sun’s glare.

Wearing your high-visibility vest and turning on your LED lights will help you stand out from the flow of traffic. The going might be slow but following all traffic rules and guidelines is sure to keep you safe.

Did I leave anything out? What tools do you utilize on your own bike commute? I want to hear about your experiences. Let me know in the comments below!

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