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A Beginner's Guide to Biking to Work

Get Fit, Go Green and Save Money by Biking

-- By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
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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 FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. 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

  • 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
  • MARYSISUNIK
    when you have a job and no car riding your bike is how you get to work in cleveland march-november. gas is out of the question. why give away hard earned money to people who want to kill us. wear gloves and a hat. helmet is a must because cars kill. ive been hit in a cross walk. take a jacket along and wear good shoes. music is a must but only wear one ear bud. the right ear, the left is for listening to traffic. take water as well. a small back pack not too heavy works for me. wear clothes that breathe, the more colorful and brighter the better, once again blind txting drivers dont care about you. maintain your bike daily check your tires and brakes. girls find a cute guy to help you with this. you wont brake a nail and he will feel like superman. now grip your brakes throw your leg over the bar put your foot on that peddle and RIDE. HAVE FUN.THINK.LOOK . EXPLORE. GET HEALTHY. SAVE. BE SMART. - 4/30/2013 9:23:00 AM
  • I drive at least 30 miles for work most days doing home health visits, with equipment that just wouldn't work on a bike, but I do ride on a trail a few days a week. Dodging pedestrians who ignore traffic signs, squirrels and dogs is less stressful to me than riding near cars. - 4/7/2013 7:31:47 AM
  • I don't "commute" as there are areas from my home to work that are VERY dangerous (for instance where the 45 mph state highway and 60 mph inter-state freeway merge), but the public bus has a bike rack, and I do use it to take my bike to work with me on Saturdays and Sundays. The starting terminal for my Bus number is a 10 minute ride from work, and a fairly safe route. When the days get longer, I ride partway home on Sundays, about 15 miles. I have sight issues and don't feel comfortable/safe riding after dusk. - 1/12/2013 3:47:39 PM
  • I did this years ago in the summer between high school and college at a summer job- I am not sold on the stress reduction part though I still shudder 20 + years after the fact at how PIG IGNORANT some car drivers are!! - 8/5/2012 11:35:54 PM
  • I dream of biking to work, but as a massage therapist who has to bring sheets and treatment supplies, that's kind of unrealistic. Maybe if I had an army pack and, like, 50 more pounds of muscle, lol. Oh, well, I do enjoy riding around my neighborhood and to and from light errands, so at least that's something. - 4/16/2012 11:21:20 AM
  • I have been biking to work, 10 miles each way, for the last 8 months. Fortunately, I'm on a paved multiuse trail most of the way. I concur with all the suggestions, and I would probably add a few more. If you are going to be out at night, you need a good light, both to see and to be seen. I carry a 400 lumen light (Cygolite) mounted on my helmet. If you are going any distance, especially on a hot day, carry water. Food is a good idea too, just in case you run into delays, or you feel your energy ebbing. I keep a few Clif bars in my trunk bag for that purpose. I also carry a cell phone and an emergency whistle. For $3, I bought a kids bicycle horn that is much more effective in traffic situations than a bicycle bell -- louder and cheaper too. I know the hours and locations of the bike shops closest to my route, and I know how to get my bike onto a subway train or a city bus. I've been lucky to have been within easy walking distance of a bike shop or subway station when I've had flat tires, but I know how to deal with them if I'm not. I still have a bike repair app on my Ipod, but I probably don't need it anymore. Last but not least, I carry a bottle of bicycle grease and a multi-tool. I don't use them often on the trail because I clean and grease my chain most weekends, but they have been helpful from time to time. - 1/12/2012 6:57:30 PM
  • K_RENEE
    I've toyed with the idea of commuting to work via bike, but I'm skeptical about doing it. I may give it a try. I don't, however, think I'm dedicated enough to ride in bad weather. - 5/8/2011 9:02:45 PM
  • I have biked to work in the past. One option that worked at one point in my life was to drive in one morning with the bike in the car. Bike home that night. Bike back the next morning, drive home that night with the bike.

    That assumes that you can do without your car for the evening...

    But, if you have a long commute by bike, it might make the time commitment more manageable. - 4/20/2011 11:51:01 PM
  • MUDDYMUDSLINGER
    LOVE THIS! I hope it makes more converts to this biking lifestyle! Everything in the article was spot on...especially the stress reduction part, not only to I get to ride it off at the end of the day but I also get a lot of inspiration during that thinking time.
    - 4/20/2011 1:47:02 PM
  • I love my commute...it's 9 miles each way (unless I take the "long" way home...lol). I leave a towel & deodorant at work to use if I get a bit too sweaty on my way in. Then I can PUMP IT UP on my way home! It doesn't take that much longer for me to bike to work than if I drive and I figure I've nailed a good dose of cardio by doing this. PLUS I've reduced my carbon footprint and saved at least $9 a day travel expense: How to pay for my cycling gear...! :-)

    Don - 4/19/2011 4:14:15 PM
  • I would love to be able to commute but when my company moved to a new location, my round trip comute would be 50 miles. While I have and can do 50 miles/day on my bike, it is not pactical to do this daily to work. - 4/19/2011 3:13:58 PM
  • I love this article! My commute is 6 miles one way and I started riding last year. Safety is a HUGE issue to be addressed. In the morning the sun isn't up yet and I was run off the road by a truck who didn't see me. I have since put a headlight and tail light on my bike. I've also lost inches and feel great all day long. I choose to not ride when it's cold so my hat is off to those who face all the elements!!! - 4/19/2011 12:43:10 PM
  • 8 miles is impressive! I often biked to work (when I was still working), but my commute was a measly 1.6 miles. I worked at a University, so there are lots of bike racks (even so, I sometimes had to check a couple of locations for a spot - until I discovered a very hidden bike rack that rarely got used). When not biking, I would walk - and when the weather was bad, I could ride a bus. Our bus system even has racks on the front for bikes, but I've never used it. - 4/19/2011 11:31:27 AM
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