How To Start Biking To Work

This isn’t going to work for everybody, but if you live within biking distance (and in the vein of Stephen Wright, anywhere’s biking distance, if you’ve got the time) and have a place to de-sweat at or near your work, you can bike to work.  Here’s what you need to get started.

1) A good map of bike-friendly routes in the area.  Alexandria’s is here.  The rest of the Greater DC region can be found here.  If you don’t have a safe bike trail or wide streets or a dedicated bike lane, you can substitute nerves of steel and ride on regular streets.

2) Know your traffic safety laws for bikes.  Here are Virginia’s.

3) Get a few pieces of gear.  You need, minimum, a bike, a lock, and a helmet.  Check out used bike shops and Craigslist.

For safety reasons, you’ll also want to have reflectors, a headlight (white LED light), a blinking taillight (red LEDs), a tire pressure gauge and tire pump, and a basic set of tools for changing tires (patches, those wedge doohickies you pull off the tire and tube with).  This stuff can generally be found at a big box place, but you’ll get good (if rabid) advice from a local bike shop.  Things will be more expensive there, of course, so weigh your wallet vs. the benefits of supporting local shops.

Second-tier useful bike stuff: a car bike rack, in case you need to be picked up sometime.  A basket or under-seat baggie or panniers for carrying your bags around.  A padded seat cover, self-explanatory after a bumpy ride.

4) FInd a helpful cyclist.  Maybe someone at your work rides in, or one of your friends is handy with bikes.  Talk to them, get their advice, and maybe even take them gear shopping with you.

Not sure if you know a cyclist?  Do you know anyone with really well-developed thighs?  Do you know anyone who’s oddly comfortable with spandex?  How about helmet hair?  Look for clues like these.

It’s a pretty simple program, and it works for me. Any other tips, cyclists?

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2 Responses to “How To Start Biking To Work”


  1. 1 ecocheap August 26, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    I love biking in to work. There’s so many different aspects to it to like… the exercise, which I enjoy thoroughly – I always try to go a little faster each time I come to work – although if you’re into sprints, I suggest making sure there’s a shower available at work.

    Then there’s being outdoors – probably the thing I enjoy the most about my commute, except for the clouds of gnats on the trail in the evenings. There’s nothing better than getting on you bicycle on a crisp fall morning (since this summer has been so mild, it’s been reminding me of how amazing it really is in the fall) and the hour just goes by so quickly! I’d much rather spend an hour on my bicycle than 30-odd minutes driving my car. No comparison.

    If you’re wanting to get into commuting, but aren’t sure of where to start, or how to overcome obstacles (like no showers at work?) OR you like to spend more time talking on the internet about bicycling to work more than it takes to actually bike into work, check out http://www.bikeforums.net and scroll down to the commuting section, although there’s something for everyone – even the safety nuts out there! (yes, I rock the bright reflective vest in the winter!)

  2. 2 virescent August 27, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for the link!

    Reflective vest? I need to get me one of those.


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