Bicycle Commuting 101

Bicycle commuting is an easy way to increase physical activity, save money, improve air quality, and avoid the stress of driving. With a little bit of preparation and the proper gear, bicycle commuting is possible year round.

 

Things to Remember When Bicycle Commuting

These four general principles should guide your decisions as you get started bicycle commuting.

Alertness – Many drivers are not looking for bicycles. It is up to all road users, drivers and cyclists, to look out for potential hazards. Scan the road in front of you and check over your shoulder occasionally to see what is taking place behind you.

Visibility – Be seen. Wear bright-colored, reflective clothing. Add lights and reflective tape to your bicycle. Throw another light on your bag and helmet. Visibility is especially important if your commute takes place during the dawn, dusk, or nighttime hours.

Predictability – Bikes do not have blinkers to let other road users know where they are going. Use hand signals to let others know when you are turning or slowing down. 

Rules of the Road – People on bicycles should follow all rules of the road. Ride with traffic. Stop at signed or signaled intersections. Riders may also take the entire lane of traffic when it is safest to do so (e.g. debris, no shoulder, no bike lane).

 

Your Bicycle

Commuter bikes come in many shapes and sizes. Your local bike shop can help you adjust your bike to make it more comfortable for commuting. Make sure to do an ABC Quick Check before each ride:

Air – Inflate your tires to the proper pressure, which is listed on the side of the tire.

Brakes –Make sure your brakes engage properly by pulling the lever and moving the bike forward and backward.

Chain – Make sure the chain is free from rust and free from gunk.

Quick – Ensure the quick release levers are closed on both wheels.

Check – Take a quick ride to check it all over

 

Your Gear

A few other bicycle things will help to make your commute safer and more enjoyable.

Helmet – Wear a properly fitted helmet.

Repair Kit – The most frequent repair you will have to make is a flat tire. Make sure to have a travel pump, spare tube, and tire levers or a patch kit.

Lights – Utah state law requires a white light on the front and a red reflector on the back of the bicycle when riding at night. Additional lighting is always recommended, including a red rear light, wheel reflectors, and reflective tape.

Bell – A bell lets people know you are there, especially if there are any blind corners.

Fenders – Fenders are the best way to keep dry if you end up riding in the rain or on wet roads. There are multiple brands and styles to fit various bikes.

Bags – Depending on what you need to carry, you can use a backpack or add a rack and panniers to your bicycle. Both have their own merits of comfort and convenience.

 

Your Clothing

There are two options when it comes to clothing when you commute by bicycle:

Option 1 – Wear your work clothes on your ride

Tuck in your laces and roll up your right pant leg (or use a velcro strap) to keep it out of the chainring.

Option 2 – Change when you get to work

This is a better option if you have a longer commute and a place to change/shower when you get to work

Regulate your temperature with layers and start your ride being a little cold in order to prevent getting too sweaty. You will warm up as you ride. A rain shell and rain pants are useful in inclement weather. Adding brightly-colored, reflective clothing will help to keep you visible.

 

Your Route

Careful selection of your route will also help to make your commute safer and more enjoyable. Bike Utah recommends using the bicycle feature on Google Maps to create a route to work. If you aren’t familiar with the route, do a practice commute on the weekend.

Need additional advice about commuting? Send us an e-mail at info@bikeutah.org