The No-B.S. Guide To Getting Started Bike Commuting
I got on a bicycle around age four and never stopped.
As a kid, my best friend and I would tear up the paths in the woods by our neighborhood. When they got too familiar and dull, we’d hack new paths, build new jumps, get a little bruised and bloodied, and repeat day after week after month.
As a teenager, it grew into an obsession. Bigger and badder local trails, a season of downhill racing (speaking of bruised and bloodied!), and endless hours talking shop on bike forums.
It was loads of fun and taught me tons. It was also 100% car-dependent as soon as I wanted to venture outside the neighborhood. It tells you something about suburban America that we saw bicycles — the funnest and most energy-efficient mode of transportation ever invented—primarily as a sport to hop in the car and drive to.
Only in adulthood, after moving to a central part of a big city, did I realize cycling was an immensely practical way to get around. Yeah, it was damp and hilly in the Pacific Northwest, but I was fresh out of college, flat broke, pretty fit, and in need of something more direct and reliable than our mediocre bus service.
Thus began the bike commuting phase of my life.
I’m not here to convince you to try it. There are plenty of reasons it might not make sense — some of which I’ll discuss toward the end. But if you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the water of bike commuting, I’m going to share everything I wish I’d known several years and several thousand miles ago.
The best bike to commute on
…is the one you already have. You’re new to this; you don’t know exactly what you need or prefer, let alone which bike will best fulfill those needs and preferences.
For perspective, even though I’d cycled for a couple decades before I started bike commuting, it still took a while to figure out what worked. The needs and purpose and trade-offs are completely different when you’re riding city streets at moderate speed with some cargo versus bombing down singletrack descents and grinding up mile-long climbs.