5 Tips For How To Commute By Bike

person biking down road on commuter bike

Got the rush-hour blues? Imagine instead enjoying your morning and evening work commute by bicycle! Commuting by bike, whether it’s to work or to simply run errands, provides physical exercise, fresh air, Vitamin D, and an environmentally friendly way to get from point A to point Z. Here are five useful tips that will help you successfully commute by bike – and have fun while doing it!

1. Have The Right Gear

First, if you want a smooth commute by bike, having the right gear is essential. This includes the bike you choose to ride to the clothes on your back. If you are just giving commuting a try, the first five items listed below will be relevant for you to ride safely and comfortably. If you plan to make commuting by bike part of your daily routine, consider collecting all of the listed items for the most optimal experience.

Bike commuter gear: helmet, computer, shoes, shorts, panniers, and water bottle and cage
  1. Helmet – Commuting by bike (especially to your job) will expose you to car traffic. Think about choosing a bright-colored helmet to make yourself more visible to those you share the road with.
  2. Water bottle and cage or hydration system – Biking requires effort! Keep yourself hydrated by always having plenty of fresh water or an energy drink along for your ride.
  3. Bike lights (front and rear) – Bike lights keep you safe. During daylight, flashing modes on lights will help alert traffic to your position. At night, continuous modes will light the way for you. Lights will always help you See and Be Seen – a hallmark of safe riding.
  4. Bike lock – Keep your bike safe! Even if your workplace offers bike parking, you may need to make stops along your route. Have your bike lock along for the ride, just in case.
  5. Cycling shorts (or pants, depending on the season) – Your pelvis is the weight-bearing contact point for your bike. Cycling shorts (along with a properly fitted saddle) will ensure you’re comfortable for any commute distance by providing cushion and support for your sit bones and gentle materials to minimize friction. Available in both form-fitting and relaxed styles to match your style. Shop men’s shorts or women’s shorts
  6. Bike bag with essential repair items – Multi-tool, spare tube, mini pump, oh my! Stock these items in your bike bag so you can keep riding if your bike experiences a boo-boo mid-commute. (See our full list of helpful items to have in your bike bag here).
  7. Bike shoes – Increase your pedal power! That’s right… and they can help keep your feet, knees, hips, and more healthy for the long haul.
  8. A way to carry things – There are several options to carry items you may need when you arrive at your destination – Panniers, Frame and Handlebar Bags, Backpacks, or a trailer. Consider the items you are transporting, how big they are, how heavy they are, and how you’ll carry them safely and comfortably. For example, do you carry a laptop to work? A change of clothes? At ERIK’S, we have staff that use all of the above options. It’s all about personal preference. Watch our video on bike bags here to learn more.
  9. Cycling computer – Check and see if your employer or health insurance provider has a health and fitness initiative. Cycling computers will track your mileage, routes, speed, and time spent riding. You may be rewarded for riding your bike places instead of driving. Also, many computers have GPS features to help you find your way en route. Phones are great and can do a lot, but cycling computers were made for this (i.e., biking!)
  10. A commuting-specific bike – Yes, almost every bike will allow for commuting (to a point). But efficiency and comfort may be restricted. Riding a commuting-specific bike will take you all the way… to work, your friend’s house, to the grocery store, to the next state… with greater ease and optimal performance. When you’re ready for the upgrade, we’ve got a bike for you.
Silver commuter bike by Specialized

2. Know Basic Bike Repair & Maintenance

Chances are you’ll experience a few “bumps in the road” while commuting by bike. You might get a flat tire, or your chain could fall off when you roll over that pothole. In these instances, it’s good to be prepared by knowing how to do some simple bike repairs.

Additionally, if you commute frequently, you’ll want to get in the habit of doing basic bike maintenance to keep your bike riding smoothly. Things like lubing your chain and inflating your tires will be key.

Check out all of our ERIK’S Quick Tips videos to learn the basics with us!

3. Plan Your Route

We are fortunate to live in a time when many urban cities feature an abundance of bike lanes. These “bicycling highways” provide commuters with a safe way to navigate the city with minimal interaction with vehicle traffic. But even if you live in the suburbs or smaller towns, you’ll likely be able to find less-traveled roads where you can bike easily with little traffic. On these quieter paths, you can really hone in on the enjoyment of your ride rather than being vigilant of the cars speeding by you.

Check out our Rider Resources blog for a list of our favorite apps and websites for finding, creating, saving, and sharing routes. And, there’s always google maps! Choose the biking directions option when you enter your destination and hit “start” to be guided turn-by-turn along an efficient path to wherever you’re headed. And be sure to pick up a bike phone holder so you can hear/see route instructions with no problem while riding.

In addition to finding a safe route to ride on your commute, understanding your own fitness level is equally important.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How far is your destination?
  2. Have you ridden that far before?
  3. Can you do it twice in one day for your return journey?
  4. Are there big hills to overcome?
  5. How long will it take to ride there? (Note: Mapping software like Google typically assume an average pace of 10 mph for bicycles)
  6. Do you need extra time to cool down or clean up when you arrive?
  7. Does your destination have good bike parking? (Note: Trees and street signs are not good parking)
  8. Can you meet up with friends or co-workers along the way? This one is important; like most new goals, getting some friends to join you will increase your success.

Answer these questions honestly, and then adjust your route and/or commuting plan to set yourself up for success! The more you commute by bike, the stronger you’ll become, and the further you’ll be able to ride in the future!

If you are ready to take your bike commuting to the next level, a Cycling Computer can be a worthwhile investment. Most models today provide personal stats tracking such as mileage logged, heart rate, and more. And many also offer high-tech GPS functions for finding and navigating routes efficiently.

4. Prepare/Pack In Advance

Bicycle commuting is a completely different beast than going on a casual ride. Preparing in advance can ensure you get to your destination with everything you need in toll successfully.

If you commute to work consider if you need to pack/prepare these things in advance to be ready for your ride:

  • A change of clothes
  • Different shoes
  • Snacks or meals
  • Your laptop and other work-related items
  • Toiletries for showering or freshening up post-ride
  • A backpack or bike bags or carrying all of your stuff

If you run errands by bike frequently consider if you need to pack/prepare these things in advance to be ready for your ride:

  • A backpack or bike set-up with panniers or bike bags for you to carry stuff with you and/or haul things back home
  • A different outfit/shoes and toiletries to freshen up if needed (if you’re biking to dinner with friends, for example)
  • Food (snacks or meals to replenish if you’ll be out riding for a long time)
  • Anything else relevant to where you’re going (important papers you’re bringing to the Post Office, a book to read at the coffee shop, etc.)

When you prepare for your commute in advance (especially if you’ve got an early start time), you can relax knowing you won’t forget anything important. This will boost your confidence in the commuting process and ultimately make your ride more enjoyable!

5. Increase The Fun Factor!

Lastly, consider what could make your commute more fun?

Here are a few possibilities:

  • Share it with others! Create a bike commuting group at work to ride with or invite your friends and family to bike with you more. When you are scheduled to commute with others, you’ll have accountability, safety in numbers (someone will have that pump you need), and folks to chat with, enjoy the scenery with, and cultivate lasting friendships with.
  • Turn up the tunes! If music is your thing, pull up your favorite playlist and get riding! (Please note: We recommend listening to your music through your phone speaker or a mini stereo without headphones. Adjust the volume so you can still hear any potential hazards around you.)
  • Take the long way home! If you don’t have any time constraints, take the scenic way home. Over time, you’ll begin to collect your favorite routes that you can enjoy when the mood strikes you.
  • Buy a new bike or piece of gear that will make your ride even better! Maybe you’re ready for a bike upgrade, need a new helmet, or have been dying for that new pair of shades. Splurge if you’re able and make your commute even better.

Ready to get commuting? Swing by your local shop to stock up on the gear you need or to have your bike tuned up for smooth riding. You can also buy your gear online with us at shopERIKS.com.