Bike Commuting 101

Man riding bicycle to work
Maskot / Getty Images

You know your bike’s a great fitness machine—but what happens if you ride it for transportation?

First, you get and stay fit without even trying. Consider your daily commute: Assuming you live in the U.S., your round-trip sitting in a car or on a bus, train, or subway averages about 50 minutes. But on a bike, even at a casual 12–14 mph, a 185-pound guy burns 355 calories in 30 minutes.

It’s also a healthy mental break after work. (Be sure to always wear a helmet, to avoid a different kind of mental break.)

The biggest hurdles to bike commuting are straightforward—comfort and safety—and, luckily, easily solved. We turned to Zoë Cheswick, a bike educator at Bike New York, a nonprofit that promotes cycling on NYC’s manic streets, for expert tips. More than just a mouthpiece, Cheswick also walks the walk (or rides it), biking 26 miles round-trip to work up to four times a week. Here’s her sage advice.

Be predictable.

Remember that when you’re riding a bike, you’re considered a motor vehicle. Stop at red lights and don’t  go until they’re green, and use hand signals to make turns. The more predictable you are, the less likely you are to be hit by a car—motorists can anticipate where you’re going.

Check that your bike is ready.

Do the “ABC Quick” check before you take your bike out: (A)ir: Make sure your tires have air and are inflated to the correct PSI, which can be found on the side of the tire. (B)rakes: Be sure your brakes are functioning properly. Try both levers to see that they’re able to stop your front and back wheels. (C)hain: Your chain should look like two parallel lines from above; no kinks or breaks. Ensure it’s not gunked up with dirt, and that it’s well lubricated. (Quick) Release: Many bikes have quickrelease levers on their wheels and seat post. If a wheel lever isn’t fully closed, you might lose a wheel when you roll over a pothole.

Be visible.

Stay aware of your surrounding light conditions. This is especially important during the short days of winter, when you’re likely to be riding in darkness. Mount a white light on the front of your bike and a red light on the back.

Wear comfortable clothing.

Wear something that won’t irritate or distract you. If there’s no shower at the office, brands like Giro and Rapha make great street-style cycling apparel with wicking materials. And use baby wipes!

Let the bike haul your stuff.

Carry your bag and other gear on a rack or in panniers. Wearing a backpack or messenger bag is a recipe for a sore, sweaty back.


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