Tips for Commuting by Bike

Even after just a few attempts with biking to work I realized there were better ways of doing it. All in all my first attempt at commuting by bike was a roaring success. Everything went surprisingly smooth but there were things I could do better.

This post is assuming you already have a bike that fits you. If you remember from Michael’s Guest Post series about cycling, your best bet for a bike is a road bike or hybrid. Remember: lighter is better!

Remember some basics too: wear reflective clothing, have safety lights on your bike, wear a helmet and use your hand signals!

Commuting to work by bike has so many benefits. You get your workout in without having to go to the gym, or spend hours after work. It fills up your evenings. It’s better for the environment. You don’t have to sit in traffic and seethe with road rage. You can enjoy nature, see new things, and explore parts of your city you’d normally not see. The list goes on and on!

Here is a list I’ve compiled of advice and tips (and things I’d do differently):

1. Do a practice run on the route you will take to work ahead of time. I didn’t do this but it worked out okay for me. I did, however, scout out the best route to get out of downtown Portland.

2. If you can’t test out the route ahead of time, try using Google Maps directions for cycling. That’s what I did since I couldn’t do the route ahead of time. I entered my starting point and destination and it said it would take me 39 minutes on the bike. It took me way less than that, but at least I had an estimate.

3. Bring a change of clothes for once you get to work. You’ll most likely be sweaty. If you have access to showers at work (I do), take one. If not, clean up in the bathroom as much as you can. Keep some sort of hygiene kit at your office (deodorant, soap, baby wipes, perfume etc).

4. Hang up your sweaty clothes to dry out before you have to ride home! I made that mistake on my first ride. I didn’t even think about it and my clothes were a tad…damp…when I changed to drive home. Yuck. I was sure to remedy that on my second attempt!

5. Make sure you have a safe place to lock up/store your bike while at work. Make it very difficult for thieves to steal your stuff! I am lucky because there’s a locked storage space at my office where I can put my bike. I could also fit my bike in my cubicle if I needed to.

6. Layer for winter/cold weather cycling. When I rode in last week, it was about 40 degrees in the morning. I wore a cycling t-shirt, a cycling jacket and another jacket over that. In the afternoon it was 70 degrees so I just wore my bike shorts and t-shirt (no jackets).

7. If you can plan ahead, bring a change of clothes (including shoes) to your office the day before. It’s less you have to pack in a backpack or saddle bag.

8. Have a spare tube and mini pump just in case. I don’t have that on my bike, but Michael does so when we ride together I’m okay. I need to take care of that if I’m going to be commuting a lot, though.

9. Wear brightly colored clothes for safety. If you plan on doing any night riding, make sure you have a light (it’s required by law in Oregon).

10. Roll your clothes, don’t stuff them in your bag. It will take up less space and won’t wrinkle as much.

11. Don’t forget the water! I did the first time…the second time I remembered!

12.  Pace yourself. Give yourself enough time so you aren’t rushed and careless on the bike. And be respectful of all the other bikers/pedestrians sharing the road.

13. ALWAYS assume cars don’t see you and be safe! Be preemptive and overly cautious when it comes to things like “right of way.” Scan the road ahead of you for potential dangers.

14. Make your backpack as light as possible. The night before I planned on riding in, I emptied my backpack and the only thing I added was: my lunch, my wallet (no purse), change of clothes, keys.

15. Watch out for people sitting in parked cars suddenly opening their door! Very scary for cyclists.

Link Love!

Tips For Keeping Your Bike In Shape

Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly Bike Maintenance Checklist

Hourly Discounted Cycling Gear/Clothes!


QUESTION: If you are a bike commuter, what tips do you have to share?

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

12 thoughts on “Tips for Commuting by Bike”

  1. My commute is now 30 minutes to get here, and up to 60 minutes to get home – I miss being able to ride my bike.

    Well, I used to ride my bike 3 miles to the train station, and then walk 30 minutes to my office building – I miss that extra exercise!

    Love all your tips though!

    1. It’s nice, isn’t it? Now that I’ve commuted to work a few times I’m hooked. I wish I was in better shape to be able to do it every day, but I’m not there yet.

  2. COngrats on getting to ride! With having to commute during the middle of the day and under a time constraint, I just can’t do it by bicycle. Consider me jealous! As far as a bike fitting, how much weight should be on your hands? I am thinking I might need a bigger frame, bc to be any kind of comfortable, I have my back arched in a weird angry cat position, with most of my body weight on my hands/wrists. Am I doing it wrong? 🙂

  3. i always look forward to bike to work week! my friend I work with who is training for a marathon got me hooked on this new online community for fitness and lifestyle, i am not sure if you have heard of it yet called – i wanted to mention it since i just signed on yesterday and it’s great for learning exercises, tracking your own progress and motivate your friends.

    hi mom! 🙂

  4. This is a great post. Because I ride downhill (and not so far) to work, I only bring a change of pants in my backpack. Then, when I arrive, I change my pants. When I get home (UPHILL) I change all of my clothes because I’m usually sweating through everything in the AZ heat!
    Assume cars don’t see you. That’s such a good point!

  5. That is great which you started to bicycle to work! Residing 28 kilometers from function, I’m not necessarily interested in cycling (yes it is an excuse! ). This sucks, though: “I’m not thinking about paying $50/month for things i would utilize as a bath facility.

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