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The Bike Commute: How to Prepare to Ride Your Bicycle to Work

Soaring gas prices have sparked a newfound national interest in a very old piece of technology: the bicycle. I’m in the process of preparing to make my 14 mile round-trip daily commute by bike. While I’m doing it mostly for fitness, fun, and the environment, it will surely save money too. Here are a six tips for anybody considering trying a bike commute.

1. Prepare for safety. First and foremost, your bike commute has to be safe. As much as I don’t want to be at work with helmet hair all day, you can bet I’ll be wearing one. Make sure your bike is tuned up and, if you’ll be riding after dark, you have a headlight and taillight. Reflectors just won’t cut it.

2. Prepare for break downs. If you commute by bike regularly, sooner or later you will get a flat…or worse. A tire patch kit, a portable tire pump, and a small toolkit kit are good things to have with you. The alternative? Carry your cell phone and call a buddy if you get stranded.

3. Prepare to be sweaty. Let’s face it: You won’t roll into work from a bike commute as squeaky clean as if you had been sitting in your car blasting full A/C. Some offices have showers, but many more do not. Bring a change of clothes, some unscented baby wipes, and some extra deodorant, and your coworkers will be none the wiser.

4. Prepare your route. On a bike commute, the shortest route isn’t always best. That means your course to work by bicycle may be different than by car. It’s better to have a slightly longer route featuring calmer traffic and flatter terrain. I use a couple of great online mapping tools to plan my routes. MapMyRun lets you easily map out your bike route using Google Maps, and even provides terrain data. Bikely is similar but doesn’t have terrain data yet. Bikely, however, features a searchable database of commuting and scenic routes already created by other cyclists.

5. Prepare to store your bike.
Always know where you will keep your bike. If it’s outside, invest in a heavy-duty lock. You may even ask your manager and/or office manger for permission to carry your bike into your cube or office.

6. Prepare to save money, get in shape, and reduce C02. The great thing about making the transition to a bike commute—even if it’s just one day a week—is that the benefits are three-fold. You’re getting exercise, saving money on gas, and not polluting. For every 10 miles you commute by bike, you could save up to $2 in gas and burn as many as 1,000 calories. Find out how much you can save on gas with this savings calculator from a fantastic blog dedicated to the subject: Commute by Bike.

Do you commute by bike? How has it worked for you? Any tips you would recommend to others considering it?

Published or updated on August 20, 2008

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.


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  1. Anne says:

    Better World Club is a roadside assistance club like AAA, but they offer bike coverage. If your bike breaks down, they’ll pick you up and drive you up to 30 miles.

  2. Marcia says:

    Great article! We recently started riding our bikes to work (again – first time post baby). These are very good tips. My commute could be shorter, but as it is, it’s safer because I’m on a bike path most of the way (vs. riding on the roads).

    Our commutes are 11-12 miles one way. I used to do the round trip (24 miles) once or twice a week. Now we bike 2x a week, but we each only bike half, and swap the car in between. (We have different work schedules.)

  3. 26 miles is a bit long, but I’ve read of people doing that or longer. You could always drive part-way to a public parking lot and ride the rest.

    Most people I have talked to have bike commutes that are between 3 and 10 miles each way.

  4. Shan says:

    Man, I’m seriously considering biking my commute, or at least part of it. I’m a little apprehensive about it because it’s a 26-mile round trip commute. That seems like a lot to me; I’d love to know what the average commute is for bikers.

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