How to Bike to Work
If you're looking for an alternative way to commute to work each morning, biking may be your best bet. Biking to work will save you money, keep you more active and it's possible it may even save you time in the long run - depending on the length and type of commute you're currently making.
Biking to work allows you to skip the headaches and hassles of traffic and take your commute into your own hands. It's a liberating feeling to escape the rat race of the car commute and finding parking each morning. Plus, you won't feel as guilty grabbing one of the free bagels in your work kitchen, knowing you got a head start on burning calories for the day.
According to a survey of 2,400 cyclists, 95 percent ride for health and fitness, 82 percent say the environment is a factor, 52 percent are looking to avoid traffic congestion, 46 percent want to save money on gasoline and 34 percent want to avoid parking. All of these are great reasons to start riding to work.
Step 1: Evaluate your commute distance
Distance is one of the first things you'll want to consider when you think about biking to work. You'll want to determine roughly how long you think your ride to work will take before taking the first ride. Distance is also an important factor to consider if you're not a seasoned rider or are unsure of your endurance on longer rides.
To get an estimate of distance and time of travel, simply use Google Maps to map out the route to work. Just make sure you select the bike option for the commute, as this may affect the route you take, ultimately impacting distance and time of trip. You may also want to travel on certain streets that have separated bike lanes or more bike-friendly traffic, even if it's not the most direct route.
Google's bike routes assume you're traveling an average of 10 miles per hour, which we find to be pretty accurate. Most casual riders will travel at a range of 8-12 miles per hour. You can factor in whether you think you're on the faster or slower end of that range, but we find Google's estimates to be pretty accurate.
Step 2: Scope out road conditions on your route
Road conditions and surfaces play into the type of bike or bike setup you should use for commuting. It's a good idea to scope out your bike route before you actually take it to work. The route may differ slightly from the way you typically take to work, so either drive, walk or bike the exact route when you're not crunched for time. You may find rough roads, construction or even road closures you didn't expect. It's important to choose the right bike for your lifestyle and the type of riding you'll be doing.
Rough city riding: If you're commuting along roles that have potholes or are rough in general, you may want to invest in a hybrid bike that's good for city riding but also has front suspension. These bikes usually have a bit fatter tires, which will help you in absorbing bumpy roads and potholes. The suspension will also give you some freedom to hop curbs. A hybrid style bike will allow you to ride more aggressive and playful along city streets, but won't be quite as efficient as a street bike.
Smooth surfaces: If you are lucky enough to commute on smooth surfaces to work, then it may be worth investing in a true road bike. A road bike will enable you to be more efficient, maintain a higher speed and as a result cover a longer distance with the same effort. One thing to consider with a road bike is your clothing. Typically your position on the bike is more aggressive and doesn’t mesh well with restrictive clothing you may wear to the office.
Step 3: Consider the weather and prepare for commuting in the elements
Dealing with less than ideal weather at some point is inevitable when you're a bike commuter. No matter how closely you watch the forecast, a rainy day will eventually come up that nobody predicted. The key is to make sure you have the right bike and the right gear for commuting to work.
Aside from being prepared for the unexpected weather conditions, once you have the right gear and equipment you don't need to avoid rain, snow or cold temperatures. If conditions are severe, it's best to find alternative means of travel, but mild conditions are no problem with the right preparation.
Rain: When you see rain in the forecast you may be tempted to call off your bike commute, but you don't have to. Some may choose to skip the ride on rainy days, and that's a perfectly respectable approach. However, having the proper rain gear gives you the freedom to ride if you choose to. Fitting your bike with fenders will keep the muddy rain from getting kicked up by your tires. Waterproof shoe covers are also a great option that will protect your footwear. Last but not least, a proper rain jacket, pants and gloves will keep the rest of you covered and dry.
Snow: Snow is most often the deal breaker for even the most hardcore cyclists. Between the cold temperatures, low traction, and difficulty to maintain speed, many don't look forward to it. However, it's similar to riding in the rain in the sense that if you're prepared, it's plenty doable and even fun. Make sure you dress appropriately for the weather, and also consider that you may warm up on a long ride and not be as cold as yout think. Dress in layers to adjust if needed. You can also check out our full of winter biking gear list for more information.
Step 4: Plan your bike storage
Storing your bike needs to be part of your strategy. Fortunately, there are many options, it just takes a little research and planning. Make sure you have a quality lock with you. The quality of lock you need depends on a few factors - how much you spent on your bike, how likely the area is to have theft issues and how bummed you'd be if it was stolen. If you spent a lot on your bike, are riding in a city area and can't afford to lose it, get a high quality lock.
Once you've chosen a lock, here's a few tips on finding a rack to lock up to.
Locate a bike rack: City or company sponsored bike racks are becoming more and more common as communities and businesses are looking for ways to encourage bike riding and healthy lifestyles. Start scanning the area around your work building before you take your first ride and you'll probably find some racks nearby. Parking garages are also a good consideration. Many of them have bike racks near the first floor. If you struggle to find any racks, there are a handful of bike rack location apps out there. Many large cities like New York or San Francisco have bike rack apps dedicated to their cities. It is important to try out a few different apps as some can be hit or miss, depending on your city.
Think outside the box: If locating a convenient bike rack isn’t possible, there may be other ways to find suitable parking. Street signs, street lights, pillars, fences can all be suitable. However, it is important to check with the property owner or the city to make sure that is okay, especially since you're planning to use the area for an extended time.
Ask your company: Many employers look to support a healthy lifestyle of their team members and will be more than willing to help find a solution for you to store your bike. There may be a storage room in the office or an unused space that is perfect. Try reaching out to your manager or someone from HR for assistance.
Step 5: Make sure you’re safe
It's important to be very intentional about your safety when biking to work or in any city environment. You're sharing the road with cars, pedestrians, motorcycles and more. Make sure you always bike in the same direction as traffic, relative to the side of the road you're biking on. You should also seek out bike lanes wherever possible. Many cities are adding more bike lanes each year to better accomodate bike commuters.
It's also a good idea to get familiar with hand signals for biking so drivers can also see what you're doing on the road.
- Prior to turning left, extend your left arm straight out to your side, parallel to the ground.
- For a right turn, extend your left arm out to your side with your elbow bent at a right angle so your hand is pointing straight up, forming an L.