This post includes a few things about getting started bike commuting. The thesis is something like: If you have a bike and a safe route, you can probably commute right away, and then add-on other things (like a rack, fenders, or different tires) over time.
The most important thing - a safe route!
The most important thing is a safe route! In my experience, roads with bike lanes, or–even better–greenways (for runners, walkers, and bikers) are best, followed by neighborhood roads, followed by city roads with street parking.
For other roads (those without a bike lane or those not in a neighborhood or those with street parking), I would like for at least two of the three characteristics:
- speed limit below 40 miles per hour
- not too busy
a wide shoulder
If a road does not have two of these, I would try to only go on it during one-off situations.
I think you can commute with any bike. So, to start, I think almost any bike works. More on this in a moment!
The next group of important things - the essentials
I think the next group of important things is there pieces of gear:
- A helmet
- A lock
- A taillight
You can buy inexpensive versions of all three, or more expensive versions of all three that may be lighter, last longer, or look cooler. If you’re in an area that needs it, do consider a more expensive lock (which actually may be an exception to the general trend of more
$$$ things being lighter) Either the inexpensive or expensive versions are probably a-okay.
You can commute without any of these three, but when I don’t have one or more of them, I’m usually stressed about it. I’d add a backpack to this list, but you probably already have one.
Things that you can get as you cycle more
After a helmet, lock, and taillight, some things that are definitely useful, but are not absolutely essential:
- Fenders (front and rear, for keeping water off of you when it rains)
- A rear rack (for attaching pannier bags)
- Panniers or other bags (there are some cool briefcase or backpack-like ones) to attach to a rack
- A front light (for seeing and being seen when it is dark or at dusk)
- Nicer tires (particularly for riding in wintery conditions - I actually don’t think studded winter tires are necessary, as wider, nobbier tires are good)
- A bell (almost in the essentials category - especially if you’re biking in a busy area!)
A commuting (what’s that anyway?) bike
Along with things that you can add as you cycle more, I think a commuting bike can be useful. In my experience, there is not really a category for commuting bikes, but rather are a number of categories of bikes that can serve as possible commuters. In particular, hybrid, touring, cyclocross, and city bikes can all meet the bill; I think the most important factor is the capability to add things like those in the above group (fenders, rack, etc.). Also, finding a bike you like and that looks cool is important, too.
The last group - non-essentials
After the essentials and the things that you can add-on as you cycle more come things that are absolutely not essential, but can make the commute more convenient and comfortable:
- Some kind of light-weight, waterproof jacket (does not need to be cycling-specific, though cycling-specific jackets may have some nice features like reflective stripes and bright colors)
- Waterproof pants (definitely not essential; definitely very nice when it is raining hard)
- A power-generating (dynamo) hub (to power the front and rear lights; a luxury!)
To sum up, this post was on some ideas for getting started bike commuting. To get started, you need a safe route. You almost certainly need a helmet, lock, and rear taillight. There are a number of things that make cycling and commuting more fun or easy, though, like a new bike, you can get them over time and as you find the need for them.