If you’ve recently decided to start commuting by bike, then congratulations. You’re joining over 800,000 people in the US who’ll exercise, save money, and help the environment every day.
Bike commuters are a minority today, so learning some of the best habits on your way to work is important.
In this article, I’ll share 12 tips to make commuting to work by bike safe and enjoyable.
Use front and rear lights
Studies have demonstrated that cyclists aren’t as visible as they think.
Keep the front and rear lights on even during the daytime.
Aim for 400 to 600 lumens for a front light and 50 to 100 lumens for a rear light. There are many bike lights to choose from today, and you definitely won’t go wrong with leading brands such as Cateye, Exposure Lights, or Cygolite, among others.
More reading : Why Use Bike Lights During Day and Night
Plan your route
As cycling has grown in popularity recently, many cities have expanded their cycle lanes and networks. While you probably won’t be able to plan your entire route on cycle paths, lots of local transit authorities publish free or inexpensive maps of your local network.
Apps such as Ride with GPS or Map My Ride are great resources for planning your route.
Planning can help you avoid needless delays, and if you know where you’re going, you’ll be able to make your ride quick, efficient, and stress-free.
Plus, planning will help you avoid roads with high traffic and narrow lanes that are harder to navigate.
Planning what you carry and how is just as important as planning your route. Of course, you’re likely to sweat, especially in warmer weather or on longer rides, and you’ll enjoy not turning up to work smelling like a locker room.
It’s best to pack light and avoid unnecessary luggage for commuting.
Pack a change of clothes in a specialized bag like those made by Henty, which keeps clothes clean, fresh, and dry while also saving space for light electronics and miscellaneous items.
For heavier equipment like laptops, do yourself a favor and invest in a sturdy rack-mounted pannier.
Wear comfortable clothing
Check the weather and temperature by looking outside and checking the forecast beforehand.
Choosing the proper cycling clothing for your commute will depend mainly on good judgment and experience.
Your checklist should include a good quality helmet, sunglasses to block UV rays and reduce glare, a tough but breathable jacket, cycling shorts, and full or half-fingered gloves, depending on the season.
Cap all this off with a sturdy, comfortable pair of shoes with waterproof covers. If you use clip-in pedals, you’ll need the correct cleats, but if you’re using platform pedals like those used on many hybrid bikes, you should be fine with a pair of durable sneakers.
Lock your bike securely
Many offices are adapting to the revived interest in cycling by offering bike storage in secure, lockable sheds or indoor storage. If your office building offers these options, make sure you have access before you start commuting by bike.
If you must leave your bike outside, ensure a reliable bike rack nearby or some other sturdy fixed point to lock your bike.
Get a tough U-lock, and don’t skimp. Remember, you’re securing your vehicle.
Fuel yourself and stay hydrated
Don’t forget that even though your goal is to get to your place of work, commuting is still a workout. Your body will thank you if you fuel yourself before you bonk on the way.
If you’ve chosen to commute by bike despite having an especially long distance to cover, more power to you, but remember that even short routes can become challenging if you’re struggling against heat, humidity, rain, or snow.
Before your blood sugar drops and your energy is sapped, eat foods like granola, energy bars, bananas, and a little fresh fruit like berries or apples. You can allow yourself a moderate amount of coffee, too.
When commuting by bike, leaving a little earlier than you would expect is ideal.
Don’t be surprised if you run into unexpected delays like having to re-plot your route or you get a flat tire, requiring you to take several minutes to resolve the issue.
You wouldn’t want to do anything so unprofessional as turning up late, so save yourself some embarrassment and inconvenience by setting out 15 to 20 minutes ahead of time to gain the advantage.
Prior planning involves covering yourself on all the particulars that might otherwise get overlooked. The challenge and fun of bike commuting come with their considerations, so check the weather forecast at least a week in advance.
You should plan out your clothing for the week so you have plenty of fresh clothing for your rides and the office seven days in advance.
You can also alternate bike days by leaving your bike at the office one day to ride it home the next, hitching a ride with a coworker.
Keep the bike well maintained
Your commute won’t get off the ground without a well-maintained bike, and you don’t want to take a chance of getting stranded due to an avoidable mechanical failure.
Ensure your bike chain is lubed and cleared of debris, ensure your brakes are in good working order, and check to see any loose or missing parts.
Visual inspection before and after every ride can reduce the risk of frustrating equipment failures. Getting bike tools and spare parts like extra inner tubes and a patch kit wouldn’t hurt.
Ride with someone
Riding with a friend, whether a seasoned bike commuter or a fellow rookie, can be a great way to find a kindred spirit, have someone to rely on for assistance, and share tips and supplies with.
Ask around your neighborhood or your office to see if any of your friends, neighbors, or coworkers are heading your way regularly and join them on your commute.
If they’re used to the route, they can offer you valuable guidance, and if they’re just as new as you are, you can put your heads together for planning the route.
More reading : Benefits of Joining A Local Cycling Club
Obey traffic laws
Most of us learned traffic law during driver’s ed, so it might be a surprise to learn that cyclists are also subject to road rules. It’s a critical time for cycling, with the non-cycling public still learning about it and drivers getting used to the idea that the road isn’t theirs alone.
Be polite and don’t give anyone any excuse to do you wrong by respecting red lights, signaling promptly and clearly, and staying off pedestrian paths.
More reading : How to Prevent Crashes in Bunch Rides
Watch out for doors
Dooring is a cyclist’s nightmare, causing injuries and damage to bicycles and cars. Vital to your safety while riding is watching out for open doors in roadside parking.
Bike lanes in most North American cities haven’t adopted the innovation of putting parked cars between themselves and moving traffic.
You’ll need to balance staying in the cycle lane and watching for open or opening doors. If possible, ride three feet away from parked cars, and be prepared to shout a clear warning to anyone about to step out of their car.
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