Bike to Work Guide for Beginners
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.
1 - Choose Your Bike 2 - Get the Right Gear
- What do I need for accessories on my bike?
- What clothes do I wear?
- What is a pannier?
- What kind of panniers and bike bags should I use?
- Messenger Bags
- Regular Backpacks
- Standard Panniers
- Frame Bags
- Handlebar Bags
- Rear Trunk Bags
- Seat Bags
- Is it hard (unbalanced) biking with only one pannier?
- 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?
- Where should you park I bike?
- Biking to work with no shower?
- Where can I find more answers to commuting questions?
1. Choose Your Bike
Bikes come in all shapes and sizes with special attributes for each and there is a justification for riding them all. However, the majority of our commuters ride a hybrid or commuter bike to work and find that suits their needs best. 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. They come set up with pre-drilled mounts for rear racks and fenders and are durable for daily abuse. The front suspension lets you roll smoothly off the odd curb and the sturdy frame allows you to comfortably carry a well stocked pannier of office gear.
Two Wheel Gear commuters also use road, mountain and cyclocross bikes but not nearly as much spread between the categories. A lot of riders are also choosing electric and folding bikes. Electric bikes help significantly if you have a longer or hillier commute. They're also a great option for older or less physically-inclined riders.
Folding bikes are a great solution if you don’t have space to store your bike, you can simply roll it into the office and stash it in the corner.
Just like cars, bikes need regular maintenance to keep you safe and riding smooth. There are few sweeter pleasures for cyclists 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
- 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)
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.
A bike bag that attaches to either your front or back 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 clip on and off the bike rack and act like saddle bags. They carry the load and free the rider from sore, sweaty back syndrome.
What kind of panniers and bike bags should I use?
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.
Now, there are lots of options out there. So let’s tackle the basic categories of bike commuter carry:
Ride like you’re on the clock. Messenger Bags were created to give traditional bike messengers the flexibility to quickly swing the bag around when delivering small packages without having to fuss with taking a pannier on-and-off the bike or completely removing a backpack to access.
The main disadvantage is that only one shoulder takes the brunt of the weight. This can cause some discomfort. The main strap comes across the chest which is not an ideal fit for women. We recommend taking the load off the back altogether 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 the catch is that you might spend some time looking for it. Standard panniers are great for miscellaneous cargo transport. However, most standard panniers lack organization and dedicated compartments for your important stuff like laptops, locks, rain covers, phones and office accessories. 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 very 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 but they certainly have their place on the right bike adventure.
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. If you are inspired by the crate lifestyle, we love the Flying Frenchman Bike Crate made by fellow local bike lovers, Cumberland Crates.
These are handy little emergency tool bags that attach under the back of your saddle. Most regularly used by road cyclists for keeping the load light and only packing the essential maintenance tools and energy gels for serious training laps. They can be mixed into a solid commuter setup but on their own won’t give you much carrying capacity. They aren’t renowned for quickly popping off at the local coffee shop either. If you forget about this one (which is easy to do!) you can almost guarantee you’re missing your expensive tool or the bag all together when you are fully caffeinated and ready to get back on the road.
Is it hard (unbalanced) biking with only one pannier?
This comes up a lot when we talk about our pannier backpack. The answer is...not really. With a pannier mounted to only one side of your bike, you might notice a small difference on your first few rides. But soon it becomes very natural and you’ll forget you even have it on your bike.
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.
4. Pack Your Bag
What should I typically 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 - Maybe a full suit or just a simple change of clothes
- Shoes - Commuter tip: Keep your work shoes under your desk
- Accessories - (tie, belt, cufflinks, jewelry)
- Socks, underwear - Commuter tip: keep an extra set in your desk drawer (often overlooked in packing for the day)
- 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?
Where can I find more answers to commuting questions?
Get the Bike to Work Checklist in a Handy PDF
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