Bike to Work

1. Bicycle

No need to run out and buy a new one (unless you want to, of course!) You probably already have a bike.  It doesn’t have to be brand new, flashy or hi-tech ~ just comfortable and in good condition.

Comfort: Make sure the bike is the right size for you and that you can ride it in a safe and comfortable position - head up, shoulders relaxed, legs not too bent and not too straight. Bike retailers can help you find the riding position that is best suited for your ride, and suggest inexpensive adaptations if needed.

Good condition: Yes, that old bike in the garage could do but make sure it can be ridden! Take it to a bicycle shop for a pre-commuting tune-up.

2. Accessories

Helmet: The most important item you need is a helmet. It will protect you in case of fall or collision. A great helmet is well vented and, most importantly, fits your head: it should be tight enough to stay in place without being buckled yet and still be comfortable.

Lock: In larger cities, use a “U-lock” style to lock the frame (not wheels) of the bike. Only use a cable as a secondary lock.

Fenders: When riding in the rain, you will appreciate having fenders on your bike. They will prevent the water from spraying up your back and into your face.

Lights: Ensure that reflectors are visible on sides of your bike and install a front and rear light set for added safety.

Rack: With a rack, you can carry just about anything. There is a rack design that will fit every bike. Describe your needs to your local bike retailer. When you’re ready, look at some bike bags (called “panniers”) to clip onto the rack.

Water bottle: Riding will make you thirsty (especially on nice summer days) so carry a water bottle or a hydration pack! Eventually install a couple of water bottle holders onto your bike frame.

Bags: Since you will have to carry various belongings (clothing, laptop, food, etc.), you need the right bag. You can start with a backpack although they will make your back sweat and put more weight on your butt. Nevertheless, there are specifically designed backpacks for cycling. Messenger bags offer easy accessibility and convenience but may become uncomfortable with time due to uneven weight distribution.

The cream of the crop remains pannier and trunk bags made specifically for cycling. Those bags notably have the advantage of taking the weight off the rider for a most enjoyable commute. Be sure that your bag choice is waterproof, you will appreciate having dry clothes to put on when rain shows up.

Flat kit: Yes, you may have to fix a flat tire one day. Therefore, be prepared! Carry bus tickets if you don’t want to repair on the spot (most buses have bike racks). If you’re up to the challenge, always carry an inner tube, a mini-pump and tire levers. Try fixing a flat at home so you know what to do if it occurs on the road.

Multi-tool: Get a multi-tool that has basic repair instruments for quick fixes on-the-go. A good multi-tool contains: tire levers, allen keys, a phillips screwdriver, and a chain break.

Mirror: A mirror will help you stay focused on the road ahead while knowing what is going on behind and around you. It can either be attached to your helmet or your handlebar.

3. Clothing 

Fabric: Although you don’t need to have cycling specific apparel to start commuting, aim for clothes that are made of light synthetic fabric. Such garments will be more comfortable since they don’t retain moisture. Nowadays clothes designed specifically for cycling (as opposed to generic sportswear) offer a casual look and feel even off the bike. Once at your destination and if you can store your bike in a secure place, hang your clothes onto your bike to dry throughout the day.

4. Route

Map: Look for quieter roads, local cycling routes and bike paths. Most medium to large cities print a bike route map.

Test ride: Test your route on a Sunday. That will show how comfortable you are on the selected roads and will also establish how much time is needed to cover the distance.

Time: Plan more time than you would need.  Not being in a rush will make your ride safer and will give you more latitude if you encounter a mechanical problem on your way. More time also gives you the chance to cool-down before getting ready to work.

Traffic: avoid the kinds of roads you might take in your car: heavy traffic roads, highways, and roads with multiple intersections.  Plan different routes that will give you the opportunity to cut short when in a hurry, have longer rides to decompress after a busy day at work or simply avoid the routine with refreshing scenery each day!  

Think multi-modal: Work is too far for you to ride from home?  What about driving half the distance and biking the other half?  You don’t know where to park your car halfway through? Bring your bike when driving to work and ride home at night!  You can also mix biking with public transit. Often, riding your bike will be faster than waiting for the next bus (and cycling beats walking to your bus stop).

5. Safety

Before hitting on the road: Take two minutes to check: tires are hard (if they’re soft when you squeeze them, they need air), brakes work, chain is oily to the touch, and nothing on the bike is making a noise. Regularly gratify your bike (and yourself) by dropping by your favorite bike shop for routine maintenance.

When riding: Keep in mind that you are sharing the road with others.  Respect the rules of the road. Think of yourself as another vehicle.  Either share the lane or take the lane.  Ride on the side of the road when there is room for you.  Take the lane when the shoulder is too narrow (riding in the shoulder only gets cars to squeeze you in between them and the side of the road). 

Beware of the “door zone”: Leave enough room between your self and parked vehicles so you don’t get surprised (or hit) by any opening doors.  

Use hand signs to communicate: When turning, point towards the direction you are going. When stopping, put your hand down behind you to inform those following you. 

Be as visible as possible to others: wear bright colours and have reflective material on your gear and bike. 

Look ahead and stay alert: Pay attention to what is coming up: vehicles, children, pedestrians, dogs, other cyclists, potholes, drains, gravel, residues, etc. Be aware of your peripherals. Try to maintain focus ahead and be aware of any oncoming obstacles. 

Plan your actions ahead: Think of your next actions before executing them. Change gears before stopping or climbing a hill so you have no problems starting when it’s time to go.

6. Bike Storage

If possible, store your bike inside your workplace or school for the day. If you are not sure whether or not such place is available, inquire with your employer or the authorities in charge of the building (something could be arranged for yourself and other cyclists).

If the building your work in does not allow bicycles in, ask around; you may find someone who is willing to keep your bike during the day. You could also rent a spot in another building, in a secured parking lot or even rent a bike locker. Also check with area bike retailers, they may offer a bike parking service at a minimal charge.

You have to lock your bicycle outside?  Lock it in a visible, busy spot and under a shelter. if possible.  Select a bike rack that is well fixed to the ground.  Invest in a lock that is very strong (a good lock is always cheaper than a new bike)  You may choose a pole that has several signs on it: people will often look at it and it will be impossible to slide the bike to the top. Don’t lock to wood, chain link fences, or unstable objects.

7. Clean Up

When showers are available, leave toiletries and a towel at work. When showers are not available, make use of a washcloth, moist towels, or talcum powder. Alternatively you can leave a bit earlier and not need to shower. Riding is less work than walking and you don't usually need to shower after going for a walk so take it easy and water and time.

8. Hang your clothes

Once you have taken off your cycling clothes and you are all clean, hang your clothes onto your bike to let them dry. Otherwise, place them in a bag. If you do not want to carry your work clothes when riding, bring extras when driving to work and leave them for the days you will be riding in. Leave a few extra clothes at work; you will be more than happy the day you forget to bring some from home!

When packing your clothes, roll them instead of folding them. This will prevent wrinkles.
You’ve started bike commuting, what’s next?

9. Keep doing it!

Like snowboarding, poker and driving standard transmission, it’s hardest when you start and it gets easier the more you practice. Don’t get discouraged if it feels awkward.

Set objectives to yourself:  Get co-workers and friends to start commuting with you!  When at home, use your bike for short distance trips.  Ride more often to work, eventually everyday!  Join a bike club.  Start bicycle touring  Ask the local authorities for more cycling-friendly designated routes and spaces.  

Your commitment to bike commuting makes a difference; every time you choose to bike commute your simple action is making this world a better place