How to Start Biking to Work
It's no secret that we think everyone should bike to work. We live and breath this stuff. So we thought it was time to share the knowledge we’ve gained from thousands of commuters. This guide was put together from our customer survey data, industry research and decades of bike commuting experience. Pedal forward with confidence.
You can also check out our commuter blog for even more info. Here are a few articles to start with:
1 - Choose Your Bike 2 - Get the Right Gear
- What do I need for accessories on my bike?
- What clothes do I wear?
- How do you carry stuff on your bike?
- What is a pannier?
- What kind of panniers and bike bags should I use?
- Messenger Bags
- How far is the typical bike ride to work?
- How long does it take to go 8 miles (12.8 km) on a bike?
- How do I plan the best bike route?
1. Choose Your Bike
Top Choice: Hybrid Commuter Bike
Bikes come in all shapes and sizes and there is a justification for riding them all. However, the majority of commuters ride a hybrid or commuter bike to work. These are a blend between road bikes, touring bikes and mountain bikes. Hybrids offer the best all around attributes for a wide variety of weather and road conditions. They balance comfort and speed and are generally more affordable than road or mountain bikes.
Commuter Tip: Regular Tune-Ups
Just like cars, bikes need regular maintenance to keep you safe and riding smooth. There are few sweeter pleasures than riding a freshly-tuned commuting machine. Take care of your chain, brakes, tire pressure, spokes, gears, headsets and wheels. Show your bike some love with a professional tune up ($30-$75) or do it yourself regularly throughout the season.
2. Get the Right Gear
What accessories do I need for my bike?
- Front light - White
- Back light - Red
- Bell - It’s the law in most of the world, check your local laws
- Bike lock - No cable locks (Invest in a U-Lock or Bordo)
- Water bottle cage
- Bicycle rear rack (highly recommended)
- Fenders (optional)
What clothes should I wear?
People like to get hung up on this. But the truth is, you really don’t need anything special. No lycra required for daily commuting (unless you’re into that). A pair of comfortable shorts, solid sole shoes, helmet, and sunglasses is a good start.
If you bike in the shoulder seasons, you may also want to invest in a good waterproof jacket and waterproof pants. Add in a pair of light cycling gloves when it starts to get chilly.
If you continue biking through the winter, consider a pair of insulated cycling pants, winter mitts, toque/beanie for under your helmet, winter jacket and even a pair of ski goggles if it gets really hairy.
How do you carry stuff on your bike?
How to haul everything on a bike, from a briefcase to a couch
Our favourite cycling author, Tom Babin from Shifter, made this great little video of hauling all the A's, B's, and C's (as in "Couches") by bicycle. Check it out to see the options!
What is a pannier?
A bike bag that attaches to either your front or rear bike rack. (We make these!) You need to have a bike rack installed to use panniers but they are a relatively inexpensive and simple accessory to add to most bikes. Panniers carry the load and free the rider from sore, sweaty back syndrome.
What are the best panniers or bike bags for commuting?
We’re glad you asked! We specialize in a few different types of hybrid panniers for biking to work. Here are two of our signature bags created specifically for the commute.
Garment Pannier - 2.0
The business professional's bike bag. A cross between a traditional travel garment bag and a double sided pannier. Keeps clothes wrinkle-free and organizes everything from laptops to shower gear.
The bike commuter's backpack. Converts to pannier in seconds for on bike carrying. Organized pockets protect your laptop and work gear. Waterproof materials for all weather commuting.
A little more business. A convertible hybrid messenger laptop bag that easily converts and attaches to any standard bike rack.
Now, let's tackle all the basic categories of bike commuter carry:
Created in San Francisco to give traditional bike messengers the flexibility to quickly swing the bag around when delivering packages.
One shoulder takes the brunt of the weight. We recommend taking the load off the back and going with a pannier option.
Yep, any old backpack will do the trick! It really doesn’t get more simple for starting out. As you ride more often you’ll want to find better carrying options. Thats where we come in!
You can put just about anything in here but you might spend some time looking for it. Most standard panniers lack organization and dedicated compartments for your important stuff. They also are a real pain to carry around off with the bike with the majority only having a small handle at the top.
Baskets will typically attach to the front of your handlebars. They are functional for transporting groceries, small bags and loose items. However, they are unprotected from the weather, your cargo is not secured and they aren’t great for carrying other than at the local farmer’s market.
Mainly used for bicycle touring, bike camping and mountain biking. These bags are super flat as to not interfere with your legs or pedals. Sometimes tricky to find the right bag for your particular bicycle frame and not the best solution for general purpose commuting. Great for stashing extra gear on the long haul but not handy for frequently taking on-and-off the bike. Storage capacity is limited for daily work items.
Handlebar bags are easy-access, portable, and convenient. But they are small. Best used for small tools, personal items and complimented with a larger, more robust pannier or bike bag.
Rear Trunk Bags
Rear trunk bags sit on top of your rear rack. They are like a mini duffle bag that attaches underneath the top deck of your rear rack. Generally quite small and mostly used in a bicycle touring setup. Not known for quick dismounting off the bike and won’t hold larger items like laptops.
Crates are pretty handy if you are hauling cargo (or beer!). You’ll see many do-it-yourself models of bikes rigged with plastic milk crates and bungy cords. However they also scream “I’m too cheap to buy anything good.” At their core, they might be the simplest form of carrying stuff on your bike.
Handy little bags that attach under the back of your saddle. Most regularly used by road cyclists for keeping the load light and packing only essential tools for serious training laps. If you forget about this one (which is easy to do!) you’re likely missing your expensive tool or bag altogether when fully caffeinated and ready to get back on the road.
3. Plan Your Route
How far is the typical bike ride to work?
According to our research, the average Two Wheel Gear commuter rides about 8 miles (12.8 km) one way to work.
How long does it take to ride 8 miles (12.8 km) on a bike?
Every rider, route and bike is different. But on average you can expect 8 miles to take about 40-45 mins on your bike.
How to plan the best bike route?
4. Pack Your Bag
What should I pack when biking to work?
Depending on your dress code and job, the nitty gritty might change, but for the most part, every Two Wheel Gear commuter will tell you they have an assortment of the following in their bag:
- Work clothes - Full suit or simple change
- Shoes (Tip: just keep your work shoes under your desk)
- Accessories (tie, belt, cufflinks, jewelry)
- Socks / Underwear (Tip: keep extra set in your desk)
- Towel, toiletry kit, makeup (anything you need to spruce up)
- Laptop & charger
- FOB/Key card
- Bike lock
What are the essential bike tools to have handy?
- Tire pump (choose a good mini hand pump to easily pack away)
- Spare inner tube or patch kit
- Multi tool (screwdriver, hex wrenches, tire levers) - Things get loose over time and need a little love
5. Plan Your Arrival
Where should I park my bike?
Ideally, you may have access to bike parking in your building’s parkade. Find out! Invest in an annual bike stall if possible. Bring your bike into your office or park outside in a public place. For tips on parking your bike check out the Bike to Work Blog.
Biking to work with no shower?
If your workplace doesn’t offer shower and change room facilities, you still have options for getting cleaned up once you hit the office.
1. Find a gym nearby your workplace that does.
A lot of commuters stop at their local YMCA or gym before work. You can shower and sometimes even lock your bike there for the day. Then casually stroll over to the office feeling like a million. Many cities are also starting to offer cycling centers that boast bike lockers, repair centers and shower facilities that can be joined for various membership periods. Google search your city!
2. The ol’ showerless wipe down. This one is self explanatory. You can pack a small towel or wet wipes to give yourself a spruce up in the bathroom.
3. Multi-Modal Transit. Investigate if you can take your bike on the train or bus for a portion of the ride. This significantly cuts down on the amount of work (and sweat) required to complete the trip. You might even be able to wear your work clothes on the commute.
Bike Commuting by the Numbers (Example)
While its certainly different for everyone, tracking your stats on your commute is great way to measure your progress and the impact your having by choosing your bicycle. An example from Jason Ditzenberger gives you a good overview of the impact created by riding your bike to work (most days).
Jason's Bike commuting stats from the month of May 2018:
- 18 days commuting via bicycle
- 4 days commuting by car
- 324 Miles not driven
- 18 gallons of gasoline not used
- 360 pounds of carbon dioxide not emitted
- $54 not spent on gas
- $216 not spent on parking
What about riding in the winter?
We've wrote several blog posts about how best to hack your winter commute:
Frostbike by commuting fanatic, Tom Babin - Shifter Blog will make you want to get out there and take in the crisp, fresh, winter air. Full of commuting inspiration, historic Alaskan bike races, fat bikes, and the most winter bike-friendly city in the world. Recommended read for any dedicated commuter. Buy it on Amazon ($20): Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling
Where can I find more answers to commuting questions?
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