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5 Steps to Start Bike Commuting

22 Apr 2020

by Preeti Viswanathan

A recent study showed that commuting is widely regarded as one of people’s most hated activities. Nearly 80% of Americans spend about an hour each day commuting—and they don’t enjoy that hour. Well, the coronavirus did away with work commute all together, right now your daily commute may be from the kitchen to the coffee table. But the questions most of us should be asking of ourselves at this point are 1) How can I reduce the frequency of my commute to work given I have just learned how to be hyper productive at home? 2) If I do need to commute for work, how can this be made less stressful, less expensive, and potentially to my benefit?

Crisis have always fueled changes we’ve never contemplated before – in the 70’s the Netherlands was forced to become a biking country after an OPEC oil embargo, Mexico City became bike friendly after the 2017 Earthquake which left many parts of the city inaccessible to motor vehicles. This might be the moment of lift for the United States! With most roadways shut down to avoid crowds and congestion, as we turn away from trains and buses for essential commute due to hygiene concerns, and as we re-evaluate the costs of car commute given income insecurities, the moment of lift to transition to smart commute – with Bikes, Scooters, or other Electric Vehicles, is here! There’s never been a better time to take the first step towards a biking lifestyle.

It can be intimidating to change your routine, but luckily there are easy ways to experiment with a commute that may become an enjoyable journey rather than a dreaded slog.  

1. Start small, and start NOW:

We’ve all seen city cyclists weave between cars while looking impossibly hip, but none of us start there. When it comes to bike commuting, small changes reap huge benefits. Bike Commute doesn't imply you have to cycle to work everyday, it could also mean that you swap out a car ride to the grocery store or to the gym, with a bike ride to your destination. Start by biking once or twice a week. Get comfortable with the routes and gear and figure out what you need to tweak. Enjoy the process so it’s something you want to do.

 2. Planning is key:

Before contending with rush hour, practice your commute in the evening or over the weekend. Get comfortable with your route, learn the rules of the road, practice hand signals, and research different paths—there may be streets with wider bike lanes, or even a bike path. Prioritize finding the safest, most accessible way to work. Get a sense of how long it will take and give yourself extra time on a workday. Depending on where you live, you may be able to multi-modal commute. Use an app like Transit or Citymapper to plan a commute that combines biking and public transportation.  

 3. Choose the right bike:

 When choosing the perfect bike, you want safety, comfort, affordability and speed. You also need to know what kind of biker you are. If it’s been awhile since you’ve traveled on two wheels, you might prioritize something comfortable and easy, such as a cruiser or cruiser hybrid. But if you’re confident on bikes, you might prioritize speed.

For many urban commuters with a relatively flat ride to work, a single speed bike can’t be beat. Single speeds only have one gear—not great for hills, but adequate for many city streets. They’re relatively inexpensive, they last forever, and maintenance is minimal. They’re less likely to be stolen, and you will look like a pro.

Steel frame bikes are also preferred for commutes. They absorb more vibration than aluminum and are far cheaper than carbon. 

Find your local bike shop and describe your commute and experience. They can help make sure you’re fitted properly to your bike, and ready to embark with your best foot—er, wheel—forward. Consider renting a bike, or several, while you experiment and find what works for you.

4. Dress Smart

You don’t want to show up to work disheveled and in bike shorts, but you don’t have to. If your commute is relatively short, you can get away with wearing street clothes, especially if your dress code allows for casual clothing. If your bike has fenders and a chain guard, your clothes will be protected from debris. If your seat is uncomfortable without padded shorts (also called a “chamois”), you can add a gel cover to your saddle.

If you have a longer commute, need to wear dress clothes, or will be dealing with variable weather, you will benefit from a functional, stylish bag—tip number 5 has suggestions. Consider investing in some bike shorts, they can make a huge difference for longer commutes. You will also want to tuck away some baby wipes and deodorant to freshen up with.

5. Gear Without Fear

Safety should be your number one priority. Invest in a helmet highly rated for safety that will keep your head cool and make you look good. Try these three excellent options. 

Bike lights can go a long way to keep you visible to cars and other riders—especially in the rain and fog. Explore the best light for your needs here.

Finally, Kulie Bike Bags can help solve some of the most perennial problems of bike commuters—including how to safely travel with a laptop and pack a change of clothes. The Convertible Backpack Pannier is designed to easily transition from a bike, to a backpack, to your desk. It attaches to the rear bike rack and is padded for safe technology transport. It has all the organizational slots you need and is comfortable and stylish on the back.

If you’ll be packing a change of clothes and shoes, or multiple notebooks or computers, consider one of Kulie’s Panniers. They come in hardshell or softshell, are durable and functional, and provide ample room for everything you need—and maybe a bottle of wine on the way home.

Backpack Pannier for Commute