riding bike to work

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?

Seen From the Bike

Tuesday I commuted to work again by bike! I got a little bit of a later start, running about 10 minutes behind but it didn’t end up effecting when I arrived at work too much.

The weather Tuesday morning was “iffy”. It was overcast but warmer than last week. It was that weird in-between temperature where it’s too cold to NOT wear warm gear, but a little too warm to wear it. I was pretty warm and sweaty as a result.

I parked in Sellwood and set out on the bike. The Springwater Trail was much quieter than last week as well.

I only stopped twice to take some photos along the way. My time was much faster and my ride was a lot easier too.

There was a Detour for part of the Trail because of construction. I had to go down Water Avenue, passed OMSI, instead of around it on the trail. Then I picked up the trail again and got ready to cross the Hawthorne Bridge.

Hawthorne Bridge

The Hawthorne Bridge is the scariest part of the commute honestly. There’s TONS of cyclists, runners, walkers, people with strollers, homeless people with carts…it’s completely chaotic and a lot of the cyclists are total assholes–trying to go super fast and pass people when there’s just not enough room. It’s probably the worst part of my commute.


I rode up the Westside Esplanade and then turned off the trail and onto downtown streets. Luckily there’s only a few blocks that I have to go and there are bike lanes. The bike lanes in downtown Portland are a little weird: they are often in the center of the street with cars on both sides. Plus there’s neon green paint on it.

I arrived at work in less time than last week.

Morning Stats:

Time: 35 min

Calories Burned: 273

Miles Biked: 5.7

I felt really good about my second attempt!


The afternoon was sunny and lovely. I decided to learn from last week’s commute home and leave all my warm gear at the office to get the next day. The less I have to carry the better!

I discovered a new way to get home. I rode over the Morrison Bridge just like last week but this time, instead of going down the ramp onto the East Esplanade trail, I just continued on the bridge.

On the other side of the Morrison I reached Water Avenue–which has wide bike lanes. I took the bike lanes passed OMSI and all the way to the Springwater Trail, avoiding the crowds. I might try this route in the morning too to avoid the Hawthorne Bridge completely.

The weather was PERFECT. I was glad I left all my warm clothes at the office. I rode along, feeling great.

Hot and Sweaty! I got back to the car in no time and packed everything up to go home.


Afternoon Stats:

Time: 31 min

Calories Burned: 247

Miles Biked: 5.7

I’m surprised that the ride home is always faster and easier. On the way home I scouted out other routes I could take, parking further away. Michael commented that he felt a difference yesterday on the bike compared to last week. He attributes that to being 6 pounds lighter. Way to go!

Exercise Totals:

Miles Biked:  11.4

Calories Burned:  520

When I got home, Michael and I spent the next few hours working in the garden. We lined the sides of the raised beds, mixed the new and old soil and pulled weeds. We worked until 8pm! I think we’ll be planting a little bit this weekend!

QUESTION: What should we plant in our gardens?