Bicycle Commuting

1 to 4 miles of in-town riding is no big deal, even for cyclists who are not particularly active otherwise. If you want to integrate your commute miles into a fitness regimen then 7-10 miles is a good balance between commute time and training. Commutes of up to 30 miles are workable a couple times a week, or try and catch a ride one way. Some buses will carry bikes but space is limited

Commute Bikes
If you have a bike that you ride for recreation or fitness, but want to commute by bike on a regular basis, consider getting a bike that you use solely for commuting. Commuting is hard on a bike and it does not make sense to ride to work on a $3000 road bike when you might have to lock it to a communal bike rack.

Flat bars give you a more upright position and may be more comfortable over short distances but 10 miles riding into a headwind calls for drop bars.

Single speeds are simple, low maintenance and durable but are tough to ride in hilly cities such as Portland and San Francisco. Multi-speed bikes with internal gear hubs are the next best choice but can be expensive. Rarely does anybody need a bike with triple chain-ring.

Fenders are great even when it’s not actually raining. Bike tires can throw up static water from wet roads and along with road grime will ruin your dress clothes. Much of the water coming off the front wheel will hit your shoes and bottom bracket, spraying your legs and the rest of your bike. Most fenders are not long enough to prevent this so consider adding a mud flap. While you’re at it, add one to the rear fender also. Why the rear? Common courtesy if you’re riding with fellow commuters.

Routes, Traffic & Drivers
If you commute regularly, take the same route and leave at the same time. Drivers who are commuting with you will eventually learn to see you at certain places at certain times. If you recognize them give them a wave, if you are ever in trouble they may stop to help.

Riding at Night
It’s not about you seeing where you’re going, it’s about being seen. The bigger and brighter your lights, the bigger you will appear to normally blind motorists. If you ride a lot at night, consider a bike with a generator hub, supplemented with a bright LED headlight for when you stop at intersections. For sheer brightness and power you can’t beat HID lithium ion re-chargeables, expensive but worth it. Mount a few red flashing LED rear lights at different heights, at least one at driver’s eye level.

If you are lucky enough to have shower and changing facilities at work, getting sweaty is not a problem. If not, loose clothing is better, or leave a few sets of clothes at work. Winter is harder as if you dress warm enough to start out, you will be hot when you arrive. Reduce your effort by leaving earlier and riding more slowly.

Bags, Racks & Panniers
Back in the old days you would have to carry a briefcase, now it’s a laptop. It’s way more comfortable to ride without the encumbrance of straps round your neck and a bag or backpack on your back. Although bike messenger bags are very utilitarian and give that you that urban warrior look, racks with panniers allow you to avoid the sweaty patch that a messenger bag will give you. Besides, panniers provide you a place to put the baguette when you stop at the boulangerie on your way home.

City Riding
I grew up riding a bike in London. Mixing it up with lorries and the famous red double decker buses meant I would arrive at my destination covered in diesel soot. Today, London is famous for it’s bicycle friendly mayor and the huge increase in the number of people who get around by bike. It takes a while to get comfortable riding in close proximity to vehicles that tower two stories above you. You do not need a bike messenger attitude when you ride in the city but you do need to be confident and assertive.