4 Things to do Before Commuting by Bike

If you’re thinking about becoming a more active commuter and have chosen cycling as your activity, then there’s a few things you should do before you sell your car and commit full time. This is my list of top 4 things to do before you jump in with both feet.

Purchase a Bicycle

No duh. Of course purchase a bicycle. It’s actually not as easy as it sounds. Evaluate your hardware needs first. There’s a bewildering number of bike options out there. Here’s my tips to help you along.

New or Used

Buy two used bikes from Craigslist with interchangeable parts if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and spending time in the garage. Designate the best looking one as your “bike” and the other as your parts. You’ll probably have to make adjustments before riding the first time. And keep the speed down for a while in case it falls apart under you.

If you prefer to just bike on your bikes and not have to touch them with a grease gun, the go to a pro bike shop and buy one. You’re going to use this bike hard so don’t buy one from a store where you have to take it elsewhere to be assembled.

Mountain, Road or Other

Mountain bikes are more versatile than road bikes. You can ride it 4 seasons. The tires are fatter and your posture is more comfortable. On the other hand, a mountain bike is heavy compared to alternatives and fat tires have increased friction on the pavement.

Road bikes are easier to pedal. They have skinny, high pressure tires that reduce friction. You better have another commuting plan for winter though. If you take those skinny tires in the snow, you’re going to spend a lot of time on your ass.

Hybrid bicycles are an exciting option. Tires sizes between mountain and road, geared higher than a mountain bike, yet with a more upright seating than a road bike. I’ve never owned one. Sounds dreamy though.

Bicycle Commuter Image
Biking doesn't have to be complicated. Take a few simple steps before you start to increase your enjoyment

Make the Bike Yours

If your first day on a new bike is weird and awkward, don’t let it throw you. You need practice. But heavy traffic is not the place to start cutting your teeth. Ride the bike around your neighbourhood for a couple evenings before taking it out to the show. You want to be confident on your bike, maneuver it easily so when things come up on the road, you’ll be able to react quickly. You also want to be able to manipulate the controls quickly and adeptly.

Plan Your Route

Your biking route to work might be the same as your driving route. But there might be obstacles. It can be intimidating crossing freeway overpasses when there’s on and off ramps. Take an extra day and find a quiet, low traffic route to bike to and fro. When you’re more experienced, then opt for the more direct route. If you have to be in higher traffic areas on your way to work, try to get away from the worst of it. Through parking lots or alleys. As a last resort, get on the sidewalk if you feel your safety is threatened. If you do ride on the sidewalk, go as slow as the pedestrians, or better yet, get off and walk.

Get Your Attire Settled

Actually, this is better done as you become accustomed to making the trek, but I thought I’d mention it here. I’m a firm believer that comfort is king when I’m cycling or running, or performing any other kind of physical activity. If you’re going a short distance and slowly, that might mean no special gear required. If you’re going a little farther and like to get your pulse up when biking, then invest in some technical stuff that wicks sweat and keeps your body temps normal. Comfort today means you’re likely to bike again tomorrow rather than opt for the car.

You can make your first commute a little easier and more enjoyable if you take these precautions and evaluate your needs carefully ahead of time. Well worth the time and effort. Less frustration, safer, more comfortable means more riding.

4 thoughts on “4 Things to do Before Commuting by Bike

  1. Trying to think of things that I did early on.

    * I set a goal of commuting 3 times a week and eventually I started to prefer to leave the car at home.
    * Have a plan for inclement weather. Have some plastic bags in your pack so you can protect items that you don’t want to get wet.
    * I leave a pair of causal shoes and jacket at work and a spare stick of deoderant
    * I leave stock items in my pack, multi tool, bike light, travel bottles of soap and shampoo get refilled once a week
    * I leave my towel at work drying in the change room (until it smells)

    Looking forward to reading about other tips that could help ….

  2. I remember when I first started riding, whenever I would get on a new bike it would take me a day or two to adjust to it. Now I can hop on any bike and ride it like I’ve been riding it for years.

    Although they are increasingly more difficult to find, bikes in the garbage are a surprisingly good source to get a bike.
    If your willing to put some work into them, you could have a $500 bike for nothing. (This is how I got my bike).
    If the bike isn’t any good, garbage bikes are usually an amazing source for parts at least.

    My main bike is a hybrid and I absolutely love the thing. It is amazing for commuting throughout the city, but also handles off-road conditions with ease.
    I use to ride a road bike, though never as a primary bike. They were fun to ride, however I’ve always preferred to sit straight up (or as straight as possible).

    This is something people need to seriously think off when looking to get a bike. I use to enjoy the speed of a bike when I first started out, now I prefer going at a more leisurely pace, usually no more then 25 km/h.

    When thinking of the weight of a bike, they should also consider if they plan on adding anything to their bikes. Carriers, baskets etc. do add some weight. I know this from my current bike which has a front and rear carrier with a basket on the front.

    Route planning seems to be a lot of peoples problem when first starting out. Trial and error might be the best bet. Even to this day there are some roads I avoid completely at certain hours.
    Although I don’t like when cities push cyclists off onto secondary roads and label them as a bike route, if they are available, they tend to be a good option.

    Being a slower cyclist, cycling attire is sort of irrelevant to me. Even when I went on longer trips (60-80 km), I went at a slower pace of around 20-25 km/h and was comfortable.

    Speaking of comfort, a good seat is something people should look into.

  3. Some great extra tips. I think when you get good at this stuff, you forget how much challenge there is to getting started.
    Stuff like plastic bags and new seats are second nature now, but not as obvious when we were all starting out.

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