Bike Commuting (Part 1): An Introduction

I’m happy to hear you are considering bike commuting, a fun and healthy way to get around! Perhaps you’re trying to save money by driving a car less or want to “go green” by cutting down on emissions.

Maybe you want to increase your independence from an unreliable bus schedule and be in control of when you get to work or the store. Or possibly you’ve seen a bike commuter ride by you every day while you’re stuck in traffic in your car and think, “I wish I was doing that!”

Bike commuting in stop-and-go traffic
Not much is more satisfying than casually riding by stop-and-go traffic

You likely have many questions before you begin, though. While bike commuting can be both easy and safe, it is often intimidating to those who have not relied on a bicycle for transportation since childhood. What do I wear? How do I carry my stuff? Won’t I smell bad?

The great thing is that bike commuting doesn’t have to be hard, as all you truly need is your bicycle! Any bicycle in safe working condition will do, whether it’s a mountain bike, road bike, or even that steel Schwinn that’s been in your garage since the 1980s.

What Do I Wear?

Cycling clothes are not necessary for bike commuting
Longer commutes may be comfortable in cycling clothes, but they’re not necessary

What you choose to wear on your commute can vary on the local temperatures, the season, and the distance of your commute. If you have a very short commute of only a few miles or less, you can easily commute in “street clothes,” or whatever it is that you wear for work. If you’ve ever been to a large city such as New York City or Boston you’ve no doubt seen bicyclists riding in full suits!

If your commute is a bit longer in length, or you have a place to change clothes at your workplace, then it may be ideal to wear dedicated cycling clothing like padded shorts and a jersey, or even just clothing made out of sweat-wicking material (such as the athletic clothing put out by brands like Under Armor). Some find this more comfortable, especially if your normal riding involves long hours in the saddle.

How Do I Carry My Stuff?

If you are bringing things with you to work, be it a change of clothes, a packed lunch, or both, then all you really need is a backpack or a messenger bag (Amazon link) to carry all of your things.

If your bicycle has rack mounts or already has a rack installed, then you may want to look into pannier bags to quite literally take the weight off your back and make yourself a little more comfortable.

Won’t I Smell Bad?

Controlling sweat during bike commuting
You won’t always get sweaty on a commuter, but the times that you do having these will be a lifesaver!

Unless you are pedaling hard like you are in a race, you won’t be building up much of a sweat before work. My strategy for bike commuting each day is to leave early enough to be able to pedal at a relaxing pace and have time to change when I get to work without needing to rush.

As a precaution, I always take a small towel and baby wipes with me in case I do get a little sweaty, even though I typically don’t need them.

Are You Ready To Get Started?

Hopefully, at this point, you are a bit less intimidated by the thought of commuting by bike and are considering giving it a shot, and that’s good! Commuting by bike is a healthy way to get around and will help you feel refreshed and relaxed, far more so than getting around by car.

Whether you want to try it one or two days a week when the weather is gorgeous or you want to be an all-weather warrior and commuter rain or shine, this will be the guide for you!

Over the next few weeks, I will go more in-depth into the different aspects of commuting and preparing for commutes, in the hopes that I can make things easier for you no matter your distance or goals.

Coming up next: Planning Your Route: Finding the best (and most fun!) way to get to work.

If you want to learn more about bike commuting and how to use your bike more often, we’ve put together a comprehensive 71 page step-by-step PDF guide that goes into all of the tips and tricks you’ll want to know – The Bicycle Commuting Handbook