10 Tips for Safely Biking to Work
Brush up your cycling knowledge with these tips from cyclists, commuting educators and safety experts from across the country.
WHN Reader TIP — Wet Weather: “If you’re in an area where the weather can change quickly, a rain coat might be good to keep in your bag. Also, the addition of fenders can be helpful, as you’ll get filthy without them when you ride through a puddle or in the rain.” Torin R., West Hills, CA
Getting the Right Gear
WHN Expert TIP – Take It Easy: “Don’t get caught up trying to have the correct equipment, like the best bike or fancy carriers and crates for your bike. Start out with a backpack to carry things. Make sure that you’re enjoying your bicycling and your commuting before you go wholeheartedly into it. There are great community bike shops that have used bike equipment for sale, we’ve heard a lot of great things about Craigslist or even just ask your coworkers.” Chris Cameron, Commuting Instructor, Cascade Bicycling Club, Seattle WA
- Get a bike that suits your needs. Whether it’s a road or mountain bike, $50 vs $500, choose a bike that fits you and your lifestyle.
- Get a good helmet! Read our Helmet Tips to choose a snug, safely fitting helmet.
- Grab extra gear to make your ride a bit easier. Our cyclists and safety experts recommended having the following (don’t worry about having all of it now – you can add as you go):
- Air pump
- Backpack/messenger bag/baskets to carry gear
- Cycling shoes
- Front and rear reflectors (a must!); front and rear blinking lights (especially for after dark riding)
- Lock and key
- Rear-view mirror(s)
- Reflective cycling gear
- Spare tube
- Tire irons
- Tire patching kit
- Water bottle holder
WHN Reader TIP — Protect Your Melon! “A helmet is a must, as should be protective eyewear (sunglasses or clear glasses). I’ve been hit in the lenses on more than one occasion by rocks kicked up by cars. And the glasses will also protect your eyes when you ride through a patch of bugs or hit a bee. Gloves are good to protect your hands if you fall – or to keep you warm if it’s cold.” Torin R., West Hills, CA
Knowing the Rules of the Road
WHN Expert TIP — Fair-Weather Fan: “Start as a fair weather commuter. It’s important that you enjoy the experience. If you don’t enjoy it, you will always have an excuse not to ride, so ride in on pleasant days, take a day off if you feel tired and ride a route that is as stress-free as possible. After you get comfortable with bike commuting, you can broaden your definition of fair weather and try riding in conditions that aren’t ideal.” Doug Shidell, avid cyclist and publisher of Bikeverywhere.com.
- Take a commuting class. Many large metropolitan areas and local bike clubs offer classes for first-time commuters.
- Cyclists must follow the same rules and laws as cars. “The most important thing a bicyclist should know is that you should ride a bike like you drive a car,” says Shidell. “If you don’t do it in a car, you shouldn’t do it on a bike. The worst offenses are running stop lights or signals, weaving in traffic and riding the wrong way in traffic.”
- Prepare for accidents. Even if you’re careful, accidents can occur. Know what to do if it happens to you.
WHN Expert TIP – Flat Tires: “Flat tires occur often enough that you should be prepared to deal with them. If you are mechanically inclined, learn how to fix a flat. Then carry along a spare tube, tire irons and a pump. If you don’t want to repair a flat on the road, carry a cell phone with a phone number of a friend with a car or a taxi company.” Doug Shidell, avid cyclist and publisher of Bikeverywhere.com
Practicing Makes It Perfect
WHN Expert TIP — Do a Practice Run: “Ride in on the weekend to make sure that you know the bike route. Carry the gear that you expect to need for work. Make sure you know where you are going to park your bike, change clothing if necessary and store gear during the work day. A practice run helps you overcome some of the hurdles in a non-stressful way.” Doug Shidell, avid cyclist and publisher of Bikeverywhere.com.
- Map your route.“You can avoid a lot of traffic and hassles by looking for back roads and bike trails,” says Shidell. “Ask your local bike shop about bike maps or good bike route suggestions.”
- Check the weather and make any necessary changes. Grab extra water if it’s hot; make sure your lights are working if it’s after dark; grab rain gear if it’s raining.
- Pack the essentials. Make sure you’ve got your ID, sunglasses, cell phone, water bottle and any other items you’ll need for your ride.
- Do a quick check on your bike.
- Make sure your tires are inflated properly and that your wheels are tight. While inflating the tires, check for glass, cuts and wear on the tread. If the tire looks worn or you see some deep nicks in the tread, replace it.
- “You should also make sure your brakes are adjusted properly and that your tires can spin between the brake pads without rubbing.” Torin R., West Hills, CA
- Know how to do basic bicycle maintenance.