Remember back before bikes were invented when everybody had to walk or ride horses everywhere? It was a long time ago, so you might have to think pretty far back. I'm talking like late 1800's, some of you kids might not have even been born yet. People used to spend hours, even days, commuting to work, trudging through streets laden with horse poop (some of this is made up). Enter the bike. Since then, commuters have had a viable, healthy, reliable transportation option. This whole automobile phase is getting in the way a little, but with a little preparation and the right equipment, you can still enjoy your daily bike commute.
I wonder how many different letter-shaped locks they tried before the U-lock. 20?
Don't just use a cable lock.
Let's face it, people want your bike. I know, I know, it's your bike and you paid for it, but that won't stop them. I don't care if it's a Cannondale SuperSix EVO or a beat up steel-frame 10-speed, they'll take it any chance they get. That's why you have to take away those chances. The safest bet for locking your bike is a U-lock, as it is the hardest lock to break. I can't recommend it highly enough. Folding link locks are another strong option; they have the benefit of folding up and fitting in a pack pocket. Cable locks are decent deterrents, but should be used in combination with a U-lock or folding lock.
U-LOCK - The safest bet for locking your bike is a U-lock, as it is the hardest lock to break. I can't recommend it highly enough. High-theft areas such as New York deem this type as a must-have. Some NY bike messengers even use two.
FOLDING LINK LOCK - Folding link locks are another strong option; they have the benefit of folding up and fitting in a pack pocket. Packable and tough, just what you and your bike deserve.
CHAIN LOCK - Cable locks are decent deterrents, but should be used in combination with a U-lock or folding lock. They're the easiest of locks to be cut, so be aware and double up.
THE PROPER WAY TO LOCK UP - First off, find yourself a bike rack to lock the bike to. If there aren't any bike racks around, be sure to find a sturdy, permanent fixture. Beware of straight poles such as a parking meter, if you don't lock tight enough, your bike could be lifted up and over the pole, lock and all.
The best way to lock your bike is using the rear triangle. This method allows you to lock both your rear tire and frame to the rack. For the front wheel, you can use a second lock separately or a cable that connects to the original lock you're using. Alternatively, if you have a quick release front wheel, you can completely remove the wheel, move it to the back, and lock it in with the rear wheel and frame. Or just bring that front wheel inside your destination with you.
Listen to your brain: protect your brain. It's the only one you get.
You don't have to sacrifice comfort for added safety.
I don't want to sound like your mom, but wear a helmet. Also, clean your room. And would it kill you to call home a little more often? No matter how skilled you are on a bike, there are dummies out on the road. Dummies driving around on phones and full of rage. Some people don't abide by the "share the road" motto. So selfish. Protection begins at your head. It kinda goes without saying, but road bike helmets are perfect for the commute. Road bike helmets maximize safety while being lightweight, aerodynamic and offering substantial ventilation.
URBAN COMMUTER - Urban Commuter helmets are low profile while still protecting your noggin properly. They tend to offer a matte finish and a more rounded shape for style.
ROAD BIKE - If you already put in the miles on your road bike, then use your road bike helmet for the urban commute as well. They're lightweight, low profile and offer stellar ventilation on the way to the office. They make you look fast too. There might be something to that fast thing, they're actually shaped for aerodynamics.
VISOR - Visors on helmets can be super helpful on sunny days. Some are built directly into the helmet and cannot be removed. Others are a piece of removable plastic, so you can choose whether you'd like it on or off for a particular day. Some still are flexible, giving a ball cap appearance with the ability to flip up or down.
Gotta look good to commute good.
Commute comfortably in all types of weather.
It's true, you can bike in whatever clothes you want, but there are certain clothing options and features that will make your commute safer and more comfortable. Whether you're choosing an outfit that will also work for wearing around your destination, or bringing a change of clothing to change into, there are a few key pieces that will make your ride easier.
WATERPROOF SHELLS - First of all, a lightweight, packable, waterproof shell jacket and pants are a solid line of defense against rain or puddles. Just keep them in your bag for when the weather is crummy. Bike-specific jackets will have reflective bits built right in, adding visibility to yourself on the road. You should also look out for jackets with pit zips, riding in waterproof jackets can get warm, even if it's cooler out. With pit zips you can release heat while staying protected from the rain.
SHIRT - You're going to be wearing a shirt anyway, so why not grab one that is commuter specific? They'll wick moisture as you heat up on the ride and have the major benefit of looking normal when you step into the office on casual Friday or have coffee with a friend. Additionally, these shirts tend to be a bit longer in the back, preventing any drivers-by from seeing the moon during the day. Did I mention reflective strips and logos yet? Yeah, they're usually built into the shirts too.
PANTS - When choosing pants, you'll want a slim fit or legs that roll-up so the fabric doesn't interfere with the bike chain. Or just go with a pair of capris or shorts. Commuter-specific pants will cover more of your lower back for modesty. Some wick moisture, some have elastane built in for a bit of stretch. Those knees gotta bend. The coolest part about these pants is the reflective strips. I know it sounds like I'm drilling this into your head at this point, but these ones are hidden on the interior of the cuff, so they easily hide away when you're at your destination.
Commuter Bags + Packs
No gear gets left behind.
Backpacks can haul more, but make you all sweaty. So much to consider, you guys.
Using your bike to commute to work or school means you probably need to lug some stuff around with you. Whether it's your computer, school books, or simply a lunch and a fresh pair of clothes, you'll need a bag. Remember when people used to use briefcases back when the internet was only on paper? We've come so far. If you don't need to carry around a stack of folders or books, a sleek, lightweight commuter bag will do the trick more often than not.
BACKPACKS - Backpacks can be secured better, but a full one will often impede your head motion, give you a sweaty back and raise your center of gravity. Commuter backpacks will often have a spot for a laptop, an organization panel and often a specific place to hook your bike lock. Sometimes they even have a way to connect your bike helmet to the bag for when you're off the wheels and headed into your destination.
MESSENGER BAGS - Messenger style bags are easily maneuvered to access contents on the go, as well as allowing better airflow to your back. They secure a laptop with ease and have a second strap to keep the bag from bouncing around as you ride. Plus, they look nice and professional when walking into the office. Unless you picked the insanely bright green or orange color.
SEAT PACKS - If you're just the kind of biker that likes to head into town to spend a few hours at the coffee shop, then you don't always need a big old bag to carry around with you. Seat packs attach right underneath your seat at the back. Pack a few tools to fix your bike in a pinch or just throw in your wallet, phone and keys. Super simple and out of your way.
For your safety. And your bike's too.
Be prepared for the darkest parts of your route.
If you're going to be pedaling out past nightfall, you should have a white front light and red tail light. Some states only require a rear reflector instead of a tail light, but this isn't a situation where you should do the bare minimum. Save that for signing birthday cards at work. "HBD dude! Have a good'un!"
FRONT LIGHTING - The front light can also be called a head light, but don't get it confused with a head lamp. For a front light, if your route is lit by street lights, a 100+ lumen light will be able to illuminate the gaps between lights and alert cars to your presence. If your commute takes you through high traffic areas or poorly lit places, you'll want something rated at 400 or more lumens.
TAIL LIGHTING - Your tail light brightens you up from behind and can also be referred to as a rear light. You can pick up a tail light dirt cheap. If you feel like you don't need one, then the price you are putting on your own safety is literally like 15 bucks.
SPOKE LIGHT - Decking out your bike is what your 10 year old self dreamed of and now you can live that dream. Mom and Dad are no longer around to say no to this frivolous purchase, so go ahead and make it happen. Easy to put on and take off, so you can decide in the moment whether or not you'd like to color up the streets with your wheels. Attach one, two, three, do what makes you happy. Heck, go ahead and grab one for your kid too. You're the adult now.
Pumps + Tools
Be prepared for roadside repairs.
Pack the basics for every ride.
Every bike commuter should keep at least a basic repair kit in their bag.... or a cell phone for a quick Uber. A basic repair kit should contain a spare tube, tire levers, and a hand pump or CO2 cartridge. Keep in mind which type of valves you have on your tubes. Older bikes mostly use Schrader valves (like car tires), but Presta valves (tall, skinny ones) are the new standard in most road bikes and cannot be filled with gas station air pumps. Make sure your hand pump can handle your bike's valves or buy a cheap valve adapter. Bikes are relatively simple machines which you can learn to repair by watching YouTube videos. As you master more and more fixes, include the tools needed to perform them in your repair kit.
You're probably a little sweaty and stinky.
GET CLEAN BEFORE HEADING INTO THAT MEETING
Just face it, physical exertion will make you sweat and can be even worse in warm temperatures. If your work has a shower, awesome! Hopefully they have a locker where you can keep a towel and some soap. Just be sure to bring along a change of clean work-appropriate clothing with you. If a shower isn't available, get yourself some bath wipes and clean up a little. Your co-workers will appreciate it.
Now Grab a Bike and Get Out There
In addition to safety, comfort and mobility, you'll probably also need to keep an eye on hygiene and appearance. A lot of jobs require employees to be presentable and not smell like hot garbage. If you have an arduous ride to work, you might want a towel, some antibacterial body wipes, deodorant and a change of clothes. When you get to work, just pop in the bathroom, wipe yourself down, and towel off all while making extremely awkward eye contact with anybody unfortunate enough to walk in.