How to Bike to Work Like a Pro
You're late for work, traffic is awful, the trains are crowded, and as you wait at the bus stop praying your bus is on time, a cyclist whizzes by. Things would be so much easier if only you could bike to work.
Well, why can't you?
As of 2014, more than 750,000 people in the US were commuting by bike, and the trend is growing. Cyclists love how their daily ride to the office has become a fun, fitness-boosting experience, but is it as easy as hopping on your bike and taking off? What do you wear? What if you smell? Let us ease you into the transition from grumpy commuter to happy pedaler:
What kind of bike should I get?
Just about any bike can be a commuter bike. What matters is the nature of your commute. Is it hilly? Paved or unpaved? Look for a bike that can tackle your terrain with the right number of gears and the right tires (hint: your local bike shop can help). Then focus on personal comfort, price, and other needs like whether or not there's room for a basket or saddlebags.
So I just pedal the same route I drive to work, right?
Not quite. When starting out, you might bike to work on side streets and avoid traffic. But as your comfort level increases, busier roads are likely to be quicker and safer since they're often better cared for. To help find the safest, most direct route, try using the Google Maps bike-route feature, which points out cyclist-friendly roads around town. Or get a bike map—usually for free—from your local bike shop.
I'm nervous about riding alongside cars!
If you're worried about safety issues, wearing a helmet is a good start. But city cyclists should also ride by an important adage: bike like you're invisible to everyone else on the road. Though you may think drivers and pedestrians can always see you, conditions aren't always that good. Going at it this way forces you to be more aware of your surroundings and teaches you to be as visible as possible on the road. Bonus tip: ditch the earbuds.
I'm still nervous! Can I practice a few times before investing in a bike?
Of course! We recommend browsing bike rentals in your town, checking one out for an hour, then doing a practice run on your planned route. This will help you get comfortable with biking next to cars, and it will help you work out the kinks in your route. You'll appreciate this later, when you're not racing to get to work on time.
How can I keep my skirt or suit looking good on the bike?
By keeping it in your backpack or saddlebag instead. While almost anything can work as bike wear, if you're riding for more than 30 minutes (or if it's hot) you'll wish you hadn't put on that cotton tee and jeans. Opt for sweat-wicking fabrics on the bike and carry along your more-fashionable duds. You can even keep a buttondown wrinkle-free by wrapping it tightly around a firm piece of cardboard and slipping it in your bag.
OK, but won't I still smell?
No one gets awarded for pungence at the office. When a shower isn't available, pack along a small towel and a supply of baby wipes. Once you get to work, you can wipe away any sweat and start the day feeling fresh. You can also hang removeable hooks under your desk, allowing your cycling gear to dry before the ride home.
What else should I know?
If you're riding regularly, you should know how to change a tire inner tube. Many roads are full of debris waiting to ruin your commute. Instead of getting stranded, turn to YouTube or your local bike shop and watch some tutorials. After that, you'll be ready to tackle any route.