A Guide to a Simple Bike Commute

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Designing your bike commute to be as minimalistic as possible will make it easier to opt for your carbon free, two wheeled transportation on a more regular basis. It will also reduce the daily stress of between waking up and walking out the door. The tips in this article take more planning to implement, but are well worth the extra effort.

Benefits of Simplifying
A few of the reasons this is important…

  • Minimizes morning excuses – Let’s all be honest, we’ve had those mornings that we woke up with the full intention of riding the bike to work and once we saw the flat tire or realized we hadn’t packed the night before, we grabbed for the keys instead. By simplifying your commute, you’ll reduce the amount of excuses that can crop up to keep you off the bike.
  • Reduces stress – Along the same lines as minimizing your excuses, nothing causes more stress than running around trying to do everything before work, especially if you overslept. When you wake up in the morning and everything you need is in place, it’s a much more relaxing way to get on the bike.
  • Helps you enjoy the ride – If you’re frazzled when you jump on the bike it’s much more likely you won’t enjoy the ride. Once you implement these methods to simplify your commute you’ll be freed to enjoy your commute. That’s really why we do this anyway, right?

How to simplify your bike commute
There are several ways to simplify your bike commute. Even if you implement a few of these, you’ll see a huge difference in your daily ride quality and an increase in your frequency of opting for the bike.

  1. Ride a simple bike – Ride a bike that has tried and true technology that’s not going to cause a lot of mechanical problems. A steel, fixed geared bike will probably go for years without major mechanical problems that will leave your stranded. Opt for a bike without all the bells and whistles.
  2. Check your bike every weekend– regular riding will cause wear on the consumable parts of your bike and you’ll want to make sure you catch any problems early:
    • Tire pressure
    • Tire wear and damage
    • Tightness of quick releases and other fastenings
    • Brakes for wear and stopping power
    • Chain for stiff links, rust and dryness
  3. Clean your bike regularly – At least once a month, or after a particularly dirty commute, you’ll want to to clean your bike of any dirt and grime that can cause problems in the long term.
  4. Always carry flat repair materials – Invest in a saddle bag, pack it with an extra tube, tire levers, patch kit, pump and hex wrenches and always keep it on your bike. This way you always know you have what you need to fix a flat and keep moving.
  5. Store hygienic necessities at the office – Keep an extra of everything you need to clean up from your commute (deodorant, towels, wipes, etc) at your office. No need to daily carry them back and forth.
  6. Leave a pair of shoes at the office – If you ride with clipless pedals or need to wear more dressy shoes at work, store a pair at the office. Again, no need to carry them back and forth each day.
  7. Take all your clothes for the week on Monday – I’ve heard suggestions of driving on Monday to take everything in for commuting the rest of the week. However if your bulkier items (shoes, towels, etc) are already at the office, then five changes of clothes will easily fit inside a normal sized backpack or panniers.
  8. Always keep an extra set of clothes at the office – Keep an extra belt, pair of pants, shirt, pair of socks, bra, underwear, etc at your office at all times. There’s nothing worse than being halfway into your commute when you remember you forgot an essential.
  9. Pack the night before – By packing your clothes and lunch the night before you’ll reduce your stress the next morning. You’ll also be in a better state of mind so not to forget something.
  10. Only pack the essentials – Do you really need three tubes, the Sam’s club bottle of gel and an extra helmet? When packing your bag the night before, ask yourself if each item is a necessity.
  11. Carry smaller sizes – If you don’t have a place to store your hygienic items at the office, try going smaller. Put your liquids like gel and shampoo in smaller bottles. Purchase travel sized deodorant and toothpaste. This will reduce your daily bulk to carry.
  12. Plan your route ahead of time – For most commutes there are several different ways to get from your house to the office. Use a tool such as Google Maps to plan a route that is more scenic, avoids dangerous roads and skips road work.
  13. Check the weather nightly – Keep an eye on your local weather so you can plan to dress for the temperature and precipitation.

Implementing these tips to simplify your bike commute will reduce the stress of getting out the door and ultimately help you enjoy the ride more.

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This article was inspired by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, the guru of simplifying your life.

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17 thoughts on “A Guide to a Simple Bike Commute”

  1. Alberto says:

    Excellent guide! It can practically work as a check list, especially for beginners or not so beginners but absent minded folks like me. I do find the comment on the simple bike to be a bit overly-simplistic (though I gather your meaning). Obviously, bikes need not be steel fixies to be the simplest bikes for commuting. That will always depend on the commute itself and the rider. Where I live, for instance, a fixie might be in a bit of trouble, especially for a beginning commuter, because the hills are just killers. I also appreciate your traditional view on frame material but it need not be so. Steel is no more reliable for commuting than other materials, e.g., carbon, aluminum or what have you. A bike need only be decently good/reliable for its intended purpose.

  2. ryan says:

    actually, I find the bell on my bike quite useful.

  3. Mike in Florida says:

    I make a list for myself and tape it to the inside of my front door. It’s the last thing I see, and it is usually filled with such sage advice as “Remember underwear”.

  4. Mark Evans says:

    As an avid bicycle commuter, this is a great list. Glad to have found your blog, and will plug it into Google Reader ASAP.


  5. Victoria says:

    No need for all this stuff. I commute all but about 5-6 weeks of the year (vacations, I only ride to 20 degrees F, and I don’t do lightning). I commute in my work clothes. No need for spandex, and all the other stuff I “need” when I road ride with the club. I have a bike I use just for commuting, a Schwinn Voyaguer GSX. I use a rack and trunk for rain suit and bike repair items, and 2 rear panniers to carry everything else I need. It’s usually cool in the A.M. so I don’t get very sweaty, and who cares if I sweat on the way home?

    Besides, I told my co-workers that if I’m sweaty and stinky when I get to work, they should 1) adjust to it, or 2)stay away from my workspace. They have cheerfully complied, and the guys who work in our warehouse have created a nice little bike parking spot for me in the warehouse so my bike is safe and sound all day.

    My suggestion to anyone who is within 10-12 miles of work–commute by bike, it’s GREAT!
    Ride well,

  6. Sean says:

    I would suggest a single speed instead of a fixed gear for the most simple. I commute on a fixed gear, but having a freewheel might be easier for anyone getting back into biking as an adult. They don’t have to pedal constantly, even through the corners.

    The ideal bike is one of those old Raleigh three speeds. a little oil in the Strumey Archer each month should keep it going for years. If you can find an old Raleigh or Schwinn at a garage sale, pick it up and get it tuned up. (I live in Chicago less than a mile from Ignaz Schwinn’s old house)

  7. […] References: Tricks and Tips for Bicycle Commuting For Inspiration, Ideas & Chuckles The Slacker’s Guide to Bike Commuting How to Simplify the Bike Commute Itself […]

  8. […] Bicycle commuting allows you to include a workout in your daily schedule and improve your overall health.  While exercising you can ride right past traffic utilizing bike lanes and off-roads trails.  You can also save money by decreasing your gas and vehicle maintenance costs, plus you won’t need a membership to a gym. […]

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