How to Start Commuting

I will always be one of the first people to admit that commuting by bicycle isn’t always easy.


Perhaps I should introduce myself to explain this, I have loved bicycles for a long time. Historically in the summer I have commuted by bike, but mostly my involvement with bikes is making time in my day for my training schedule, and making time in my week for racing. It wasn’t until this last fall that I realized that I could become a cycle-commuter for real. I didn’t really have a proper commuting bike, or any of the gear I needed to make my commute doable regardless of road conditions. My journey to becoming a commuter is really no different than the journey of someone who has only ever ridden bikes for fun, or someone who really hasn’t ridden bikes much at all. It all starts the same way: gathering the right gear and learning the best routes.

When I chose my commuter bike I knew I wanted two things first and foremost: comfort and reliability.

Raleigh Clubman

The comfort portion of this can mean something a little different for everyone, for me it was a drop-bar touring bike but for some it can be an upright step-thru. I chose steel because the soft metal absorbs road-shock on longer rides, the downside is that it is heavy.

As for reliability, choosing a groupset (the parts on the bike that impact shifting) is not as important for commuting as it is in other sorts of riding, but it is still important to consider how this can change the experience on the bike. Brakes, however are super important. There is hardly a circumstance in Vancouver under which I would recommend someone choose a commuter bike that does not have disc brakes, they are vastly more functional in wet weather and even cyclists who are not planning on rainy day commutes will almost certainly find themselves on wet pavement or caught in a surprise rainstorm at some point.

SHimano Tiagra Groupset

When test riding bikes, be sure to pay special attention to the brakes, but also be aware that disc brakes do take some time to break in.

After I had my bike, it was time to think about how to accessorize it. There is a basic checklist I knew by heart from all my time selling commuter bikes. I knew I needed the following: fenders, rack, panniers, lights, lock, and a comfortable saddle. Fenders were an easy choice for me.

Tubus Cosmo Stainless Rear Rack at Bike Doctor 


I knew I wanted to go metal for a classic look on my bike, so I chose a Tubus Cosmo stainless steel rack. It is worth looking into spending the money on a great rack because there is nothing that beats the design of a Tubus rear rack which allows you to hang your panniers lower than most other racks do (improving the balance of the bike and quality of the ride).

Ortlieb BackRoller Classic

I also went for Ortlieb Back Roller Classics, and to be honest there is some regret there. While I would never go any way other than Ortlieb, I tend to be the forgetful type of person who has to open their bags several times over to put things in or take them out. The Bike Packer has a much more friendly closure system (though the back roller does double as my dry bag for kayaking sometimes and for that I am grateful).

Blackburn Light Set

Lights are easy, just be prepared to spend more than you were planning on for something to illuminate the way.

Locks and saddles are a fair bit more complex than other purchasing decisions and are worthy of blog posts of their own. Stay tuned!

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