Fitness Articles

A Beginner's Guide to Biking to Work

Get Fit, Go Green and Save Money by Biking

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It makes perfect sense. Instead of driving to work and back each day—which uses gas and does absolutely nothing for your rear or your stress level—you bike your way to work, miss the traffic, burn some calories, get an energy boost, and save the planet one pedal stroke at a time. Not to mention that you can actually get a $20 a month kickback from the Bicycle Commuter Act just by exercising your right to get to work on two self-powered wheels. Sounds glorious, right?

Biking does sound great on a 70-degree Friday when your boss allows you to dress casually for work, but what if the weather isn't cooperating? Or what if you have a big meeting and just can't risk getting your nice clothes all sweaty? As fantastic as bike commuting sounds, it can pose some challenges.

This is why we got personal advice from three SparkPeople members who bike to work with the best of them. These seasoned bike commuters shared their top tips, advice and personal stories to encourage you to try biking to work! Before we get started though, a quick note on safety. Obviously safety is of the utmost concern, so if you've never biked on the road, be sure to read these bicycle safety tips.

4 To-Dos Before You Begin Bicycle Commuting
  1. Find a seasoned biking buddy. SparkPeople member Tanya (RESIPSA99), who commutes 8 miles to the office (and back) in rain or shine, recommends that every first-time bike commuter befriend someone who regularly commutes by bicycle—whether it's a coworker, someone in a bike group or a salesperson at your local bike shop.

    "I was lucky enough to have a lot of coworkers who cycle-commute, and one of them shepherded me the first few days I commuted, showing me the best route," Tanya says. "It was a huge eye-opener for me, as prior to that, I had no idea that there was such a thing as designated bike routes. Once I told him that I was really nervous of traffic, he figured out the best route from my place to work, and parts of it I don't think I would have found without him."

    Tanya also recommends using Google's bike map directions to help you find the best path and make use of any designated biking routes in your area.

  2. Start simple. Just like an exercise, it's better to start slow and build over time. If it has been years or even months since you've been on a bike and your commute is a long distance, SparkPeople member Garrett (GRITSTER) says to do shorter rides closer to home until you have the endurance and confidence to commute to and from work.

  3. Do a test ride. Because you can never be 100% sure what to expect your first time out, SparkPeople member Michelle (KESTREL500) suggests that new bike commuters do a dry run or two on a non-work day to make sure they know how long it will take and how they will feel after the commute, taking any rush-hour traffic into consideration. "Then make any adjustments before you need to be there at a specific time," she says.

  4. Don't be afraid to take a day off. You don't have to bike to work every day, so if the weather makes you nervous or if you just don't feel like it, take a day off! Being a part-time bike commuter still does great things for your mind and body. Continued ›
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • The article made sense, but who picked the picture of the cyclist in skirt and heels and holding onto the briefcase at her handlebars! Loco! - 5/14/2016 12:09:19 PM
  • I did this years ago when I had a summer job at a plant my Dad's friend managed. It worked good especially as the job was physical, Then the following summer I got NAGGED into buying a CAR and didn't do it anymore. I miss it at times. - 3/8/2016 8:00:07 PM
    Biking to work is one of my favorite forms of exercise- you are thinking about the destination you are going rather than each passing minute such as on a treadmill so it goes by quickly. I prefer going on designated roads or bike paths because I do not trust every driver out there, but it also means not (usually ) having to worry about pedestrians. Do your research, always wear bright colored clothing, and stay alert- it can be a little intimidating before starting out but it's worth the effort! - 3/8/2016 12:54:21 PM
  • Yeah... just mapped out my commute. 35 minutes in the car or 1h 20 minutes by bike before the sun comes up. No thanks, I'd rather have the extra 30 minutes of sleep. - 3/8/2016 11:14:10 AM
  • Really good tips in this article!

    I started biking to work by stages- I would drive about three quarters of the way, park the car and ride the rest of the way in. Then half, then all the way. it really helped get my confidence up riding in traffic.

    I would also suggest investing in a bike rack and panniers. Carrying your necessities in a backpack can mean a very sweaty back! Messenger bags can be great, but I prefer to let the rack carry the pannier that holds my lunch, my phone, my purse, and any work I've taken home.
    - 3/8/2016 9:00:53 AM
    When I had bought my bike in March, I saved almost $100 (1/6) this year just not having to buy bus passes for work and I shaved 43 minutes commute time going to work. When I started riding my bike to work, it was 30 minutes to get there down to just over 17 minutes from getting off my property to work property. If i was still working at that place, I would be down to under 15 minutes. My bike is heavier since i do need stabilizer wheels on it since I do have balance issues. - 11/26/2015 8:44:18 PM
  • I was hoping for more comments from commuters, not people who don't want to. At any rate, for people with too long of a commute to ride both ways, if you feel comfortable leaving your car at work overnight, consider driving in to work with your bike in the trunk, riding your bike home and back again the next morning. Then you can drive your car home that evening. Still saves on gas and is a healthy choice! - 8/3/2015 5:20:39 PM
  • Girl in example isn't wearing helmet. - 6/10/2015 9:04:14 AM
  • I love riding my bike, but I will only do it for exercise. I have no interest to showing up at an event, or at work sweaty. Next, this certainly is not a suitable mode of transport in the heat of Summer or in the cold of Winter, or if you have things to carry for work like a makeup kit , or lighting, and other set fixtures, etc. Nice idea, but it is not practical for all lifestyles. - 4/26/2015 3:13:44 PM
  • My biggest problem is with the picture. She looks great riding the bike but she does not have a helmet on. That is the number one rule for Bike safety, especially riding on the streets. - 4/24/2015 12:46:24 PM
    There are really only two steps to being a bicycle commuter. 1 Get a bike. 2. Ride it to work.

    I love that the photo shows a woman in a dress without a helmet. She looks like an actual bike commuter, not some weekend racer. Plenty of studies show that the more vulnerable you look while riding, the safer you are. So wear a dress, keep your hair down and forgo the helmet and cars will avoid you like the plague. When are people going to start wearing helmets in cars, where the real head injuries occur?

    I ride 15 miles a day to and from my jobs and I love it. I bring deodorant and a hair brush and make sure I have enough time to air out and clean up at work. I haven't had a car in years and use public transit when the weather is bad or can't handle all those hills in the morning. - 4/23/2015 10:09:38 PM
  • I have been bike commuting for the past 6 years, in South Arizona.

    Take your office clothes in your backpack. A quick rinse in the skin at work does wonders if your sweaty. It's really not that bad.

    Definitely figure out your route. But also don't be afraid of it and remember you will find better faster routes as you go. It might be hard work in the beginning, but eventually it will be as easy as driving a car.

    As for the falling: I've only fallen off my bike once. It was my fault I was goofing off and not paying attention, I then over corrected and panicked.

    Gloves: I wore gloves for a while, but found they were more nuisance then help.

    Clothes, watch the length of your pants and shoe laces. I've had several cases of my laces going too long and wrapping around the peddle. The best thing to do is back-peddle until you unwind the laces. And if you have baggy pants they will get caught in the gears.

    Oh! and watch the heat. Az 110 in the summer. Heat sickness comes on quick, I'm not joking. I have been out on a nice, easy Sunday bike ride, happily peddling and the next second I'm dizzy and about to be sick. Carry water, but better carry Gatorade, and if you need to, get out of the heat ASAP.

    But beyond that, biking is a lot of fun. - 4/23/2015 1:31:32 PM
  • Reasonable Requests from a Motorist:
    1) Don't ride in my blind spot.
    2) Don't lean on my car at traffic lights; it's rude and dangerous.
    3) Don't dart across three lanes of traffic so that I have to slam on my brakes to avoid squashing you.
    4) Don't hold up traffic. And by that I mean don't ride on roads where there's not enough room to pass you. If you're going to cause a six-block tailback, don't get upset when people honk and cuss at you. - 4/23/2015 11:19:13 AM
  • Great article, and as one who has cycle-commuted and plans to again in the near future, the author hit all the bases.

    Terribly unfortunate they chose an accompanying photo of a woman on a bicycle WITHOUT A HELMET, though!

    - 4/23/2015 8:40:19 AM
  • Biking would be cool but I have a 25 mile one way commute in terrible congested traffic. I would be terrified of being hit. And we have extremely hot weather in the summer, I would be a hot mess by the time I got to my office. I would do it if I lived closer to the office or I could go a different route that would be safer. - 12/7/2013 8:24:15 PM

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