Welcome to the amazing world of bike commuting! I have compiled a list of 20 great tips for bike commuters. This bike to work guide will help beginners identify their “why” and offer practical tactics to get even the most novice cyclists started.
- Identify why you want to bike commute. There are endless positive benefits to bike commuting but what is really driving you? Healthier time habits, exercise, save gas money – which will impact you the most? Write the MAIN motivation down in your journal or on a sticky note and put it on your fridge.
- Identify your barriers. Only you can identify your current behaviors. While I am an early riser, my morning routine is pretty in placed in stone. Adding the time and intention to pack and travel via bike, I knew would take some adjustment. What are the barriers to you: time procrastination, intimidation, lack of gear or understanding bike safety?
- Pick one of your barriers and brainstorm. Start with just one barrier and list out possible solutions. I have had some people say they are nervous around cars on their bike – thats 100% valid. For this example I would research the following: look at google maps and find bike lanes, light your bike appropriately, learn bike hand signals (you have a legal right to bike on roads), research others countries that exist with bikes and cars, or find bus/trains (most allow bikes on them) that cut out heavy traffic areas!
- Pick a Bike. Consider if an electric bike or a traditional commuter bike will serve you best. Think back to your own barriers…
- Do not buy unnecessary gear. Do not go overboard buying bike commuting gear until you are a few months in and identify what you really need. I promise, just wait!
- Critically observe your current transportation system. What parts of it serve you well – how can you transition the important parts to your bike commute from the car? For me it is leaving a little extra time to enjoy coffee by the lake on my commute.
- Try used everything first before buying new. Depending on your confidence transitioning to bike commuting try and collect used gear first, even the bike. This gear is easy to re-sell if you are not exactly sure.
- Practice making your “go bag”. Identify what you need for work, what is superfluous, and special considerations now that you are on a bike! Create a bag ( I use my old backpack for now) or pannier with anything you MIGHT need for a bike commute i.e rain layers, insulation layers, lights, water, snacks, extra socks etc. With time you will alter the “standards” and become much faster at being ready for any situation. I am still working on mine.
- Practice changing a flat tire. Try it at home so when you are in commute it is not a stressful event – rather it is an event of self-confidence and self reliance!
- Make sure you have an environment appropriate shoe. Flats for most people offer better balance (think cheap Vans or something similar), but what will work for you? Do they HAVE to be waterproof?
- Helmets! Do you have one? Yes, great.
- Lights! Start with something basic, research more as you get into your commute. You will find what you need.
- Phone! I now travel with a phone charger for peace of mind (it is part of my go bag).
- Locks! This was one of the first items I purchased for bike commuting. I had a general cable lock (I still carry because it is a very versatile), but I also invested in a heavy duty ABUS lock from REI.
- Become weather aware. I am in the habit of checking the night before and morning of my bike commute.
- Try a dry run. On a day you do not have work, practice your route. Identify barriers.
- Start small. Set a realistic goal for commuting i.e “Monday and Wednesdays I bike commute”.
- Learn basic bike handle-ing. Easy as riding a bike? Almost! Make sure you understand basic braking and technique. I have plenty on my instagram and this blog if you are unsure. 3 Essential Mountain Bike Skills for Beginners is an article I wrote about mountain biking but these skills apply here too.
- Learn basic bike hand signals. If you can bike on a rec path that is ideal, but eventually you will have to cross a street – be confident and use your hand signals. I see ALOT of cars doing strange things ( i.e stopping in intersections when I have to yield not them) when they see me on a bike , remember cyclists just follow the same rules of the road! Stay off of sidewalks those are for walkers.
- Connect with me! Stay motivated and connect with other commuters. I update my @whenlifegivesyoubike instagram daily.
I hope these 20 bicycle commuter tips motivate, inspire and challenge you to start your own journey. I would love to hear about your bike commuting experience!
Happy biking – Emily.