Updated: December 22, 2017
Biking can be an excellent option for commuting to work. Depending on the distance and pace you may fulfill your exercise needs for the day, burn calories and beat the traffic and parking headaches. In addition, not only are you saving money, you’re also being more environmentally friendly. There are many arguments for biking to work and we’ll walk you through 5 simple steps to help you decide if biking to work is right for you.
Step 1: Determine if the distance is feasible
One of the most obvious considerations for biking to work is distance. Distance can be the driving factor on whether commuting to work is a realistic option. Distance can be a limitation from both a time investment and physical ability standpoint. To estimate the time of your route use Google Maps as a starting point but make sure you select by bicycle as the routes are likely much different. The estimates provided by Google are based on averaging 10 miles per hour. Depending on your bike, road conditions or physical ability, you’re likely to ride between 8 and 12 miles per hour. Make some calculations of your own to estimate the upper and lower limit of your commuting time.
Step 2: Consider the weather and prepare for commuting in the elements
No matter where you live there should be a way to enjoy biking to work for at least part of the year. As long as you are prepared for the elements weather can only limit you in the most extreme circumstances.
- Rain: While rain can seem like a deal breaker it is far from it. Fitting your bike with quality fenders can go a long way in keeping the wetness kicked up by your tires from soiling your clothes. In addition, you may want to install a chain cover to further reduce the sling of water on your pants from the chain. Covering your shoes with waterproof shoe covers enables you to wear your normal footwear and keep your feet dry. Lastly riding with a proper raincoat, gloves and pants, even if worn over your workwear will ensure you stay dry and clean.
- 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, few look forward to it. While there is a lot of overlap with riding in the rain, riding in the snow can be particularly tricky due to the low traction. Low traction can be frustrating and downright dangerous. We recommend making sure you have tires that perform in the snow and if you’re still experiencing issues, experiment with deflating them to maximize grip.
- General cold temperatures: Layering is always a smart way to prepare for a riding in the cold, however, you should plan to be slightly cold when starting off your ride. As you get into your ride, you can expect your body temperature rise to compensate for the lighter clothing.
Step 3: Scope out road conditions of your route
Road conditions and surfaces play into the type of bike or bike setup you should use for commuting.
- Rough city riding: If your roads are rough, requiring you to hop curbs, or traverse beat up city infrastructure you may want to invest in a purpose-built city bike. Many of these bikes have beefy tires and shock absorbing steel frames that can make rough road riding a breeze. Check out best commuting bikes for our top recommendations for 2017. If you need to frequently maneuver traffic than it important to consider a bike with flat handlebars aka flat bars. Flat handlebars as opposed to drop bars give you the maximum control and leverage to steer around obstacles and give you the feeling of control and nimbleness you need in the city.
- 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 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.
- 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 support a healthy lifestyle. Take the time to scan the area around your place of work for a purpose-built bike rack solution. Parking garages are also a good consideration. Many of them have bike racks near the first floor. If you struggle to find any we recommend using various bike rack location apps. 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 coverage may vary for your area.
- Think outside the box: If locating a convenient purpose built 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
Never cut corners on safety, especially on an urban commute where you’re sharing the road with cars, pedestrians, and unforeseen obstacles. It just isn’t worth it. Take the time to make sure you have the following essential safety items: Helmet, front and rear reflector, reflectors on the left and right of your bike (common on wheel spokes), pedal reflectors, and cycling gloves. These items are essential to safe riding and many cyclists choose to up the ante with blinking taillight lights and bright headlights ensuring maximum visibility. Visibility is the key to safety, both in the daytime and at night. Anything you can to be visible will be the best interest of your safety.