31 Tips for Bicycle Commuters

I've been riding to work off and on for at least two decades. I'm lucky to live in Portland, which is a bike-friendly town (it hasn't always been that way). I used to try to avoid anything that made me look too much like a bike geek. Over time, however, I've discovered that some things work well (no matter what they look like).

Here are 31 tips for using your bike to commute to work.
  1. Wear a bike jersey. Not only looks swag, but dries quickly -- in a locker, or overnight if you wash it out at home
  2. If you have a dress code at work, leave a pair of nice shoes at work so you don't have to haul them back & forth
  3. If you've never before cycled to work, use a bike map to find a good route. For example, here's the map for Portland, Oregon.
  4. Before using a route to work, try riding it during the weekend to time it out. don't be late for work!
  5. Wear a helmet and biking gloves. Stupid things happen. Protect your body.
  6. Set goals. Newbie = just ride once. Beginner = 1 time per week. If you're riding once a week, set a goal for multiple days. Keep building
  7. In Portland bikes are allowed on Tri-met. If you have a long commute, consider the option of busing to work, and then riding home.
  8. For a more calming commute, avoid arterial roads. Find a bike-friendly street on the side.
  9. Avoid backpackitis. Buy a removable pannier to carry your work clothes & lunch
  10. In the road, bikes are traffic. Follow the rules of traffic, it's your right & responsibility.
  11. It’s not all about commuting. Have fun on your bike ride, weekends and weekdays.
  12. Make sure your tires have the correct air pressure. Low pressure = more work for you and more chance to get a flat. Too high = bumpy ride and might be unsafe pressure on the wheel frames.
  13. Assume that the car/driver doesn't see you...because they probably don't. Use lights, reflectors & bright colors
  14. Learn to appreciate topography. Work with the hills on your ride to work, not against them.
  15. Get a bell. It’s cheerier than yelling “On your left” and it’s more recognizable as a bike warning.
  16. When you’re riding on the sidewalk, act like a pedestrian. Don’t go faster than a jogger. Be polite.
  17. Talk with other cyclists - to learn about the route, but also to be friendly during the commute. Say “Hi”!
  18. Watch the door zone. Drivers forget to watch for bikes when opening car doors. ORS says it’s OK to ride 3’ away from parked cars.
  19. Try to ride predictably. Avoid changing between street and sidewalk mode. Also, avoid dipping into spaces between parked cars.
  20. Check your brakes at the beginning of every ride. Be extra cautious after a rainfall.
  21. Sometimes you have to take the lane. Here’s a good post on road positioning skills
  22. When riding across rail road tracks, approach them at a 90 degree angle. Never try to ride along between streetcar rails
  23. Use the ABC Quick Check. A: air pressure B: brakes C: chain Quick: front wheel quick release
  24. If you like your bike and want to keep it, use a U-lock. Always lock the bike frame post to a secure place.
  25. When riding in two-way bike traffic, follow the general rules of traffic. In the US, ride on the right, pass on the left.
  26. Learn left/right/stop hand signals. Use ‘em (when it's safe). Wave thanks! The NHTSA link is here.
  27. Call it a Copenhagen left, Box-left, or Two-stage Left, if it makes you nervous turning left on a busy street, learn this maneuver.
  28. It rains in Oregon. Here are some tips to be prepared. I usually just get wet.
  29. Make it count. Track your commutes. Tell your friends. Join events like the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge. #bcc #bcc2014
  30. Celebrate. Once a week, stop for a treat on the way home. Take a break at a park. Ride with friends.

And bike commute tip #31: do what works. Ride what you've got. Wear what you've got. Don't give yourself an excuse not to enjoy the ride to work. Give it a try.

My old ride to work was along the Springwater Corridor.

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