Photo by Tim Reese
Photo by Tim Reese

If you live a reasonable distance from your workplace (and sometimes even if you don’t), chances are good you can make your commute by bike, so long as you’re prepared. Here’s how to get started.

Know your options

Commuting along the American River. Photo by Tim Reese
American River Parkway. Photo by Tim Reese

How to plan your commute depends on your job duties and work schedule, travel distance, and your current level of fitness, as well as whether your bike is suited to the trip.

Your best options may include:
– Riding to and from work every day
– Riding to and from a carpool or rideshare
– Riding to and from public transit (or taking your bike on transit one way and riding your bike the other way)
– Riding one or both directions occasionally, as your job and schedule permit

In other words, there’s no “right” way to do this — just the right way for you. Bike commuting isn’t a competition.

We assume you already know how to ride your bike with traffic, and that you’re familiar with the rules for sharing the road. But if you could use some instruction, taking a class on how to operate your bike can boost your confidence. Smart Cycling offers classes throughout the region.

Pick a route


The route you bike to work probably won’t be the exact route you drive (and you definitely don’t want to figure this out on your first day of biking to work).

To find a good route, ask a bike-commuting friend, neighbor or coworker, or put out a request on social media. You can also try the route planner tool at the website.

Once you find a possible route, ride it on a weekend, when it’s quieter and you can afford to take your time. This will also help you figure out how long your ride will be (if you’re like most bike-riders, plan to travel at about 8-10 MPH).

If you’ll be bringing your bike aboard public transit for part of your commute, familiarize yourself with the rules for traveling with a bike.

Plan for parking

You’ll want to be able to count on having convenient and secure bike parking at your destination. Ask your employer about a secure location at your workplace (you may have to suggest one) – bringing your bike directly into your workplace may be your best choice. Regardless of where you park your bike, be sure you know the best practices for protecting your bike from theft.

If your employer doesn’t provide bike parking for employees, point them to our Employer’s Bike Commuting Guide.

Consider your bike


Make sure your bike can get you there and back. One way is by doing an ABC quick check:
A = air pressure — check the inflation in both tires
B = brakes — check and adjust pads and cables
C = chain, cranks (pedal arms) and cassette (rear gears) — clean and oil the chain, check and tighten the crank bolts, check and adjust the cassette

A bike shop can make these adjustments for you, too.

A word about clothes

Bike commuting actually doesn’t require any special clothing (remember, it’s not an athletic contest or endurance challenge). Most bike commuters keep it simple and wear what they wear on the job. The cycle chic movement was launched by bike advocates in Copenhagen, Denmark, to encourage people to recognize that everyday clothes were perfectly adequate and appropriate for bicycling.

However, some people who use their commute as exercise prefer athletic apparel and either carry work clothes with them or keep a set of work clothes at work.