Fitness Articles

A Beginner's Guide to Biking to Work

Get Fit, Go Green and Save Money by Biking

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Bike-Commuting Essentials
  • A helmet! Protect your noggin at all times by investing in a quality helmet.
     
  • A bike in good working order (and tools to keep it that way). Michelle recommends investing in a bicycle that is in good working order, but not such an expensive one when starting out, unless you have a really safe place to store it. "Other than that, you should always have a tube, tire levers and a pump in case you get a flat," she says. "Oh, and knowing how to use these is a good idea. Depending on how much else you need to carry, you should either have a rack with a bag that hangs on it or some sort of a backpack or messenger bag. I use a rack and a bag that clips on to it and turns into a messenger-style bag when removed."
     
  • Lights and bright reflective clothing. No matter what time of day you're riding, you should wear some kind of bright, reflective clothing. That way even if you bike in the daylight to work, you stay safe on the way home when that meeting goes later than you expected! "Even if you are wearing your street clothing, pick up a reflective vest and some reflective arm/leg bands that won't mess your clothing and can be taken off when you arrive and stuffed in a pocket," Tanya says.
Avoiding Sticky (and Sweaty) Situations
One of the biggest reasons people don't like to bike to work is because they're afraid of not feeling fresh when they arrive at the office. However, many people solve this by just carrying their work clothes with them in a bag.

"I just leave my house in plenty of time, and I don't ride very hard," says Michelle. "I just kind of ride slowly and enjoy being outside, so I don't sweat. On my way home, I might push it or take the long way, but then I can shower when I get home."

If you do get a bit sweaty, Tanya swears by baby wipes, on-the-go pre-moistened facial wipes and extra deodorant. She also keeps extra shoes, an emergency set of clothes and a hair dryer at work so that if her hair or clothes get soaked (whether from rain or "glowing," as she calls sweating) she can look presentable.

Whether it's driving in, taking public transportation or hitching a ride with a family member, friend or co-worker, it's good to always have a back-up or someone you can call in a pinch if the weather is bad, you don't feel well, or your bike gets a flat that you can't patch.

While you should always follow basic safety guidelines, such as being predictable and signaling your intentions, Tanya also reminds that bike commuters always look around them, rotating where you are looking so that you cover all areas in your field of vision every 5 to 10 seconds. This includes looking underneath and in the windows of parked cars for pedestrians or drivers coming out, taking your time at intersections, coming to a complete stop and always being focused. Also, never assume that a driver sees you, she says.

Michelle says it's also important to ride on the correct side of the road and adhere to all traffic laws as if you were a car.

"When cyclists don't respect the rules of the road it makes us all look bad. Plus it is dangerous," she says. "I am aware that motorists are not always respectful of our right to ride on the road, but, if we are to deserve this right, we need to use it responsibly."
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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

  • 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
  • ALYCIAVEN
    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!

    James
    - 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
  • 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

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