What do I Need to Know About Bicycle Commuting?

Malcolm Tatum

As people search for more economical and environmentally sound ways to travel, the idea of bicycle commuting to work and school has become an attractive option. Choosing to use a bike for commuting purposes has a number of benefits connected with the effort. However, regular commuters know that bike commuting involves a little more than jumping on a bicycle and pedaling down the road. Here are some things you need to know before undertaking this type of commute.

Regular bike commuters should wear a helmet and invest in tools such as allen wrenches, wrenches and tire levers, as well as extra inner tubes.
Regular bike commuters should wear a helmet and invest in tools such as allen wrenches, wrenches and tire levers, as well as extra inner tubes.

Unless the commute is no more than a couple of miles, it is important to invest in a bicycle that will hold up to a lot of regular use. This means you may have to forego the less expensive models found in discount retail stores and go for a sturdy all terrain unit that is built to last even when used for ten to twenty mile commutes each day. While the initial expense may be significant, the savings on repairs and replacement over the course of a year will easily offset the higher cost.

Invest in a sturdy bike if you plan to commute several miles to work or school everyday.
Invest in a sturdy bike if you plan to commute several miles to work or school everyday.

Accessories are also important if you want to engage in bicycle commuting. In many municipalities, wearing a helmet while operating a bicycle is mandatory. Riding clothing that is comfortable is also important; however, it does not necessarily have to include form fitting bike shorts. As long as the clothing is not baggy and still allows a free range of motion, it will do nicely.

Saddlebags are also extremely important to successful bicycle commuting. These can be used to hold laptops, a change of clothing, and basic toiletry items. Taking along these essentials means that the commuter can wash up and put on fresh clothing upon reaching work. The saddlebags can also make it easy to stop by the supermarket to pick up a few things on the way home.

Keeping basic tools in the saddlebags is also a great idea. There are compact sets of bike tools and repair kits that make it easy to replace a punctured inner tube as well as deal with the minor repairs that are necessary from time to time. Unless the problem is major, having those tools handy can have you back on the road in no time.

Along with basic equipment and supplies, bicycle commuting requires a fair amount of physical strength. This means you may need to build up to the task before jumping into becoming a regular bike commuter. Determine the distance between home and work, then begin to train for the task on weekends. As you build up both speed and stamina, you will also notice your waistline shrinking, your legs becoming more powerful, and your lung capacity improving. Once you find that going the approximate distance between the office and home can be accomplished without leaving you exhausted, you are ready to begin commuting.

Keep in mind that bicycle commuting may mean adjusting your usual route to work. Not all cities and towns include bike lanes along the main thoroughfares. While bikers have the same privileges as people driving automobiles, it is sometimes more prudent to choose streets that not as busy during peak hours. Plan your work commute route carefully, and make sure to consider your safety as well as the amount of time it takes to get to work.

One final important aspect of bicycle commuting is learning about any local regulations that apply to the operation of a bike in your local jurisdiction. Laws do vary, so while it may be fine to ride against traffic in some places, you may be required to ride with the flow of traffic in other locations. In like manner, some cities allow the operation of bicycles on sidewalks, while others strictly forbid the practice. Responsible bicycle commuting means being mindful of local laws to keep you safe on the road, so you do not create situations that are dangerous for you or for other people traveling along the same roads and streets.

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Discussion Comments


@Melonlity -- Fortunately, such obstacles are usually only present in smaller towns. Once an area gets large enough, there is enough demand for bicycle commuting from people living there to cause the government to make allowances for that.

Quite often, those bike trails and paths are public projects and they are necessary for bicycle commuting. That being the case, you've got to have enough people together to convince the government to spend the money building those things. That means you've got to live in an area big enough to have enough people interested in bike commuting.


There are some communities where bicycle commuting is downright impossible. Not only are there no bike lanes, there are major obstacles like overpasses and such that must be crossed to get from one part of town to another. Those major obstacles make it too dangerous to engage in any serious bicycle commuting.

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