Beginner bike commuter riding their bike

4 Tips for the Beginner Bike Commuter

It can be intimidating to start biking to work if you’ve never done it before. Beyond getting a bike and a great helmet, we picked the brains of the most seasoned commuters in the Smith office to find out what every beginner bike commuter needs to know. 

1. Plan Your Route 

“Google maps does pretty well with recommended bike routes, but they’re not always the best” explains Eric Thorsell, Senior Engineering Manager, “Often the “shortest” route that Google suggests may not be the fastest because of stops or traffic, or it might not be the most scenic. It’s fun to mix things up with some new scenery too! I have a handful of commute routes depending on how I’m feeling—like if I need to get to the office fast or if I can enjoy the scenic route along the river on the way home.” 

If you’re looking for alternate routes you can also check out apps like MapMyRide, Ride with GPS or Strava.  Once you have your route (and maybe even a backup route) planned out, try it out with a test ride on the weekend. Getting to know the route without the pressure of being on time for a meeting will come in handy when the work week rolls around. 

2. Stay Visible

It’s critical to have lights when you’re riding at night or at dusk, but it’s a good idea to turn on your lights whenever you ride your bike. “I tend to go overboard on bike lights, but it’s super important to make yourself visible on the road.” Says Social Media Specialist Eleanor McQueston, “My bike has a headlight, a taillight, and a light on my front wheel. Not only does it help cars see me but I also got a cute light for my front wheel that flashes rainbow colors which makes my ride more fun.” 

When you’re picking your outfit, think of visibility in addition to comfort. “Black looks cool but if you’re concerned with safety, pick something brighter.” Says Aaron Barker, Senior Product Designer, “You really want to stand out on the road, check out a reflective or neon jacket to add to your bike wardrobe.” 

Another easy way to make sure you’re seen is by adding a high visibility helmet or a helmet with a light to your kit. 

3. Get Ready for Weather

You don’t realize how much muck and water your bike tires kick up until you wear a white shirt on your ride to the office. “Fenders are your friends on rainy days,” says Troy Zeuske, Design Engineer, and the rest of our office commuters agree, “Adding fenders to both front and rear wheels helps reduce splashing significantly.” Says Alonso Tal, Bike Marketing Manager “Having a cycling rain suit is the most effective for staying dry, but a standard rain jacket can be all you need in most cases.” 

4. Pick Your Pack

“I like a pannier bag because I’ve found that not wearing a backpack helps me arrive at the office a little bit less sweaty.” says Eleanor, but other members of our team favor a backpack, “Having a mid-sized waterproof backpack is the way to go, I love the Barrage backpack from Chrome Industries,” recommends Alonso. 

“It comes down to personal preference,” says Eric, “because there are advantages to both depending on your style of riding, but make sure it’s waterproof in the winter.”  

Enjoy the Ride

Once you get into bike commuting, you’ll never want to stop. It’s a great source of movement and you get to know your community and your neighborhood in new ways. “Think of bike commuting as “secret training” or base mileage.” says Eric “It’s amazing how a 20-30min ride on either end of your day will keep your legs and lungs in shape in between your longer or weekend rides, especially if your running late and have to push it!” 

Greg Bauwens, E-Commerce Merchandiser agrees, “It is all about your attitude. As you discover the commuting route which works best for you, you’ll start to discover all the regulars along the way. Remember, we are never “stuck in traffic” we “are” traffic.”