Bike Commuting 101: The Bare Necessities

New bike commuters tell us they have a hard time locating the basic information they need to get started among the more advanced and esoteric material on EcoVelo. I can’t imagine why; the site only contains 1,997 posts and 17,425 comments as of this morning… LOL.

All kidding aside, we take your feedback seriously. To address this issue, we’ll be doing an ongoing “Bike Commuting 101″ series that’ll consist of articles geared toward first time commuters. We’ll cover topics such as “Hot to Get Started”, “How to Carry Stuff”, “How to Fix a Flat”, “Maintenance Basics”, and so on and so forth. All of the articles will fall under the new “Bike Commuting 101″ category so they can be filtered and located quickly and easily. The articles will be short and sweet to leave room for input from our awesome community of regulars. So, without further ado…

Following is a list of the bare necessities required to get started bike commuting:

  • A bicycle. Any reliable bike will do, so long as it’s appropriately geared for the terrain. Puncture proof tires (or tire liners) are a good idea.
  • Lights. A set of small, modern LED lights is sufficient.
  • A repair kit. It’s good to carry a small multi-tool, a patch kit, a small pump, and a spare tube for those inevitable roadside repairs. It’s a good idea to practice a couple of flat repairs at home prior to hitting the road.
  • A lock. A high-quality U-lock is a must. Even if a person has secure bike parking, it’s good to carry a lock for shopping, meetings, etc.
  • A way to carry things. This could be as simple as a small backpack or as elaborate as a set of touring panniers. My favorite for everyday use is a simple grocery pannier.
  • Motivation. The most important element is the desire to get out of the car and do a good thing for oneself and the planet.

That’s about it. Of course, a person can get much more elaborate if they so choose, but the fact is, bike commuting is a simple activity that doesn’t require much in the way of specialized equipment or training.

57 Responses to “Bike Commuting 101: The Bare Necessities”

  • twk says:

    Besides reading this blog, new bike commuters could be helped if well equipped bikes were more readily available. When you buy a car it comes with lights, a speedometer, a way to lock it, spare tire, and most importantly a means to carry stuff. Rarely is any of this standard equipment on a bike at a bike shop. The more a new commuter has to do in order to have a good experience, the less likely it will happen. There is probably a good market for reasonably priced entry level commuter bike with basic “standard equipment”. Once someone decides they like it, they can upgrade and explore the many choices of gear out there based on what they have learned about their particular needs.

  • twk says:

    My must have includes a mirror and gloves.

  • RDW says:

    How about some sort of rain gear? The weather can change quickly and unexpectedly in some parts of the country (here in Michigan for instance) and it’s a good idea to be prepared for it.

    I’m sure you’ll be covering stuff like this later in “Bicycling 101″ but… I’d also suggest that new riders take time to check out the laws regarding bikes on the road in their state. For instance I’ve seen a surprising number of people riding against traffic this summer. I think that’s because those of us *ahem* “of a certain age” were taught to ride that way when we were young.

  • Mavis says:

    I think your list is perfect – exactly what you really need without being overwhelming. For many people, it’s a complete list.

    To avoid some frustration though, I’d add a chainguard/chain case for an in-town commute (if you’re riding 20 miles and have to change clothes anyway, you can skip this). And for ladies wearing skirts (or anyone who just wants to make life easier on an in-town commute), a step-through frame is key.

    @twk: excellent point. I think bike shops are missing out by not stocking the Batavus BUB. It’s only a little more expensive that a basic bike-shop bike but it should be an easy sell once you factor in the cost of lights/chainguards/racks/etc.

    And my handlebar cupholder for morning coffee has become my favorite bike accessory! PDW makes a great one – the cheap ones are just annoying and tip the cup over.

  • Ralph Aichinger says:

    To me some way to clean your hands after small repairs (e.g. if you have touched the oily chain) is a must, especially if you’re wearing everyday clothes. Even if you can wash your hands at home or at work, you don’t want to ruin your clothes on the way there by touching them with oily fingers. Or even ruin your handlebar tape, if you use light cork or fabric tape.

    Basically any type of wipe works for this, I’ve got a few always in my tool set. A few grams well worth carried around.

  • Terri says:

    eh em… helmet (please)

  • Drew says:

    Ditto to all of those- also, a helmet can’t be a bad idea. Even if you don’t want to wear it all of the time, if it’s around, you’ll wear it SOME times.

  • Justin says:

    While not typically required by law, I recommend a helmet.

  • Bill O. says:

    I’d say a /good/ chain is a reasonable alternative to a U-lock. A chain allows for more flexibility (sorry) about locking to objects that are not U-lock friendly – and a really good chain is about as good as most U-locks. Not cheap, nor lightweight by any means, but a better choice in some areas.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Personally, I never bring any tools for everyday cycling. If I get a flat, I just walk. Or lock the bike to a post and take a bus or a taxi (easy with a mobile phone). I also think it’s convenient to let a local bike shop do the repairs and maintenance.

    Having said that, doing bike repair and maintenance is mostly easy, and can be fun if you have the time for it.

    I agree with everything else. A good motivator might be to cycle to work once a month or once a week.

  • JRF says:

    Though not something you pack with you, a relationship with a good local bike shop is valuable.

    An essential bit for starting, however, is a route. For someone who commutes via car on a route unsuitable for biking, finding a good safe bike route may be a notable challenge.

    The route is also important as it influences other equipment choices. Whether gloves and mirror are essential or just nice-to-have, what sort of lighting, what sort if gearing, what sort of tires, and so on.

  • Joseph E says:

    If we are staying really basic, I would eliminate a couple items from that list:

    “A bicycle. Any reliable bike will do, so long as it’s appropriately geared for the terrain.”

    – Appropriate gears are nice, but many people commute on single speeds even in hilly cities. You will probably enjoy your commute more if you have gears and know now to use them, but even many people with 3 chain-ring mountain bikes never change out of one gear, so to each his own I suppose.

    “Lights. A set of small, modern LED lights are sufficient.”
    Definitely get lights that use standard batteries, like AA or AAA. An LED flashlight with a strong elastic band works fine.

    “A repair kit. …”
    Despite commuting about 150 days in the past year, I have never used a patch kit or tool while on the street. When I got a flat, I walked the bike or took a bus to the nearest bike shop, or got a ride from a friend.

    People in rural or suburban areas should definitely be prepared to do their own repairs, but in an urban area with good bus service and many bike shops you can let others do your repairs.

    However, I now have upgraded the bike and tires (for fewer flats) and learned to do most repairs myself, to save money and time.

  • Doug R. says:

    I ride day time and night too, therefore upgrade your lights from small led type to a Mister shine 1400 lumine and or a Cyglo 350! These babies can x-ray rabbits on the bike trail! Oh, carry extra tubes and patches because you will always run into a friend who is “pushing” a bike because they did not prepare properly! Lastly, Reflective/Day-Glo vests really do work!

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Terri, Drew and Justin, I used to wear a helmet all the time. Then I read the research and now I never wear one. I’d say the helmet research is both voluminous and inconclusive, and can be debated in one of the numerous helmet posts on this site.

    Helmets are not part of the bare necessities.

  • Shane says:

    I’d probably add a water bottle to the list, though it’s probably not a bare necessity if the commute is short and the weather’s cool…

  • Jason says:

    Great list and great topic Alan!

    @twk: I second the comment about gloves. You only need to fall once and leave some palm skin on the pavement to be convinced of the value of riding gloves. And, they add a marginal amount of comfort.
    @ Ralph: I recently started keeping a shop rag tucked under my saddle above the rails for greasy situations. This way I don’t even have to open my bag with dirty hands to access it.

    I personally would add three more items:

    1) A helmet: Yes, this is controversial and personal preferrence. I rode for many years without a helmet without incident. I was rather against doing so even. But, upon returning to school and commuting mainly by bike, my wife argued that if we were going to invest $(insert large sum here) into my brain, I had better protect the investment! I couldn’t find a rebutle and have wore a helmet ever since. Head injuries are serious and can last a lifetime – if your lucky.

    2) Read Sheldon Brown’s articles for Beginners on his website: Especially the one entitled Braking and Turning. Learning to properly and safely make a panic stop (with the front brake) has helped me avoid numerous potential accidents.
    3) Glasses: Sun glasses, clear glasses, cheap wrap-around safety glasses – just something to keep bugs, rain, snow, dirt and debris out of your eyes. I’m also a mirror convert, but do not leave home without glasses.

  • Sharper says:

    I would recommend sunglasses, but they’re not essential. Same for helmets and gloves.

    My stock answer when asked what kind of bike to buy for a new commuter is to pick up a cheap generic bike off of Craigslist, get it tuned up, and then see how they use it and what they like and dislike. It’s no good swamping new users with specific equipment or components until they get a little bit of experience with the basic stuff.

  • Jim says:

    I second JRF’s comment about exploring good routes – the best bike route to your destination may not be the same as the best car, bus, or walking route. It is worth exploring your options on bike, but perusing local maps (on paper or online) is a good way to find ideas for other routes.

    Also: don’t wear headphones while you’re riding in traffic! I don’t really see this often, but I cringe when I do see it because hearing is such an important part of situational awareness.

  • Stuart says:

    A heightened sense of awareness helps (or is unavoidable at first) as traffic can be a a bit of sensory overload sometimes. It’s definitely important to be comfortable on your bike before you start commuting, avoiding such moves as “hasty front brake to over the bars.” I like to commute on some sort of older mountain bike the thicker tires are comfortable and confidence inspiring, especially for a beginner; first comes comfort and control, then comes the speed.

  • Torrilin says:

    I’d actually class most of that (including the bike!) as not essential. The motivation is key, because without it you can’t get started.

    Know where your job is. On one of your days off, try walking or taking the city bus to work. There will be days with nasty weather or where you don’t feel up to biking. Once you know what options are available, then you can start figuring out what is essential. If you’ve got no backup options at all, your list will look very different from mine.

    For most of my routes and my partner’s routes, our flat kit is a bus pass. We’re also pretty likely to just walk… even if we have bikes with. It’s pretty hard to ruin a bike by walking it, even if it has a flat. Know where the local bike shops are, especially if you’re a nervous nellie about your precious machinery.

    I do really like lights, but if you are a fair weather rider, spending the $20 or so on lights right away might not be the best idea. They can be really comforting tho, so I’d tend to put lights as a higher priority than a flat tool kit. And if you are riding at night, it is about a zillion times easier with lights. Do not be a bike ninja, who passes unseen in the night, dressed all in black, without lights anywhere.

    You will probably carry some kind of bag even if you drive a car to work. Bags that work great in a car are not always great on a bike or when walking. And bags that work on a bike can be a giant pain in a car… so pick the right bag for the job. For a lot of people it works better to have a system of bags to cover different jobs, and things will tend to work better if you add bags gradually.

    The first few bike commutes will have things go wrong, or may feel scary. That is ok and normal… the more you ride, the easier it is to have things go smoothly.

  • townmouse says:

    I agree with keeping the list as short as possible. My advice to a new commuter would be (assuming they’re not attempting anything more than 5 miles or so):

    – any bike will do to start on, you can get a really good one later with all the money you’ve saved;
    – check out the route beforehand if you’re worried, or find a more bikey friend to ride it with you;
    – you don’t have to do it every day;
    – there’s no law against getting off and pushing;
    – if it stops being fun, stop doing it, or find another route.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Since everyone seems to be mentioning their favorite devices, I’ll mention mine: fenders (mudguards in British English). Even if you don’t ride in the rain, you might ride on wet pavement after rainfall, which really throws up a lot of water.

  • Jesse says:

    Not to stir controversy, but I agree that a helmet is essential. I’ve personally been in 2 wrecks that shattered my helmet, leaving my more precious skull undamaged.

    I would also agree that route selection is essential. I live in Seattle, where it’s nearly impossible to get anywhere without a hill or 5. In fact, my last bike commute route took me from sea level on one body of water (portage bay) to sea level on another (Elliott Bay), and I got to choose from 2 killer hills each way, or 3 slightly lesser ones.

    For cities who have been added, I find Google Maps bike routes to be very good. It highlights trails and streets that are marked with Sharrows (basically bikes painted in the street to let cars know to expect bikes). Even then, there are some Sharrowed streets that I won’t go near, they’re just to busy, or so narrow you can’t escape the door zone, or…etc…so on the saddle recon is the best way to evaluate routes.

  • JRF says:

    So actually, in priority order…

    1. Motivation, because with out it all else is irrelevant.
    2. A route, because you need to know where you are going and how to get there and when.
    3. An appropriately equipped bike and wardrobe, after all this is about bike commuting.

    There are a lot of details rolled up in item 3, but so many are dependent on the nature of item 2, general solutions are difficult. It may be useful to come up with a few different classes of routes, and then provide equipment commentary for each. Or for each equipment item, identify route considerations which makes a difference between optional and essential.

    Personally, finding routes was the biggest impediment to starting a bike commute. Then, as my motivation drove me toward year-round all weather commuting in Seattle with a 25-30 mile round trip, clothing was probably the most challenging aspect, along with lighting.

    I recently read (but forgot where) something along the lines of: there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Jesse, I’m glad you’re undamaged.

    I’ve personally been in 2 wrecks that shattered my helmet, leaving my more precious skull undamaged.

    Exactly that issue has been discussed here, in another blog post. We could continue the helmet discussion there if you like.

  • Cycling For Beginners says:

    Great list. I’ve got to have something to drink if I’m cycling very far — so I’d say either a water bottle with cage or one of those commuter coffee cup holders.

  • Adam says:

    I understand that there’s a lot of debate about whether or not helmets confer a safety benefit. Namely, the risk compensation that if we feel safer wearing a helmet we take greater risks which in turn offsets the safety value.

    I would still suggest considering them. I wear a helmet and make my children wear a helmet for several reasons:

    1. I’ve shattered a helmet, had one stop a pointy object from getting to my head, and drug several across pavement instead of my forehead. Thing is, I would have been riding on those roads even without a helmet. Well, actually I might have had to stop after the first one…
    2. My helmet is plastered with reflective tape, which I think adds significant visibility and contour for oncoming and passing motorists to see me
    3. My helmet is a great place to mount my Chuck Harris mirror.
    4. If you’re into readiong bicycle safety studies, you already know that a helmet might be a great place to attach some long hair if you don’t alread have it, which could increase the average distance passing cars grant you.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    @ Adam, I’m glad you didn’t have to stop cycling.

    “I’ve shattered a helmet”

    Ok, we’ve talked about that in a previous discussion. See Helmet Laws and Bicycle Use starting August 13th, 2010 at 11:18 am (the link should take you straight to it).

    @ Jason,
    “But, upon returning to school and commuting mainly by bike, my wife argued that if we were going to invest $(insert large sum here) into my brain, I had better protect the investment! I couldn’t find a rebutle and have wore a helmet ever since. “

    If you’re looking for a rebuttal, you can say you’re worried about rotational injury.

  • kanishka says:

    i always google maps pedestrian mode over bicycle mode. since i don’t do unpaved paths. also, a nice combination is to search in pedestrian mode, but add the “bicycle” option for viewing. i like how it de-emphasizes highways. its almost like a time machine, back when there were only state and US routes.

  • Lee says:


    How about covering these general topics to the commuter 101 series?:

    1. Riding among cars
    2. Riding among other cyclists
    3. Riding among pedestrians

    I can see how this type of information gets overlooked by new bike commuters. But there are essential lessons to learn, including how to position yourself on roads and at stops and intersections, how and when to pass cars and other cyclists, how to communicate with other cyclists/cars, etc.

  • Zweiradler says:

    I think one thing should be made clear to all “newbies” before they get lost in helmet wars:
    Riding with a helmet and NOT knowing any basics of traffic rules and common potentially hazardous situations is certainly far more dangerous than riding without a helmet and knowing the basics of cycling in traffic and how to avoid hazardous situations (like riding alongside a truck).
    A helmet might be able to prevent an injury in some cases if you have an accident, but it certainly can’t do the thinking and riding for you which will prevent the accident in the first place.


  • Alan says:

    Let’s give the helmet debate a rest in this thread. Thanks.

    Obviously, the jury is still out on whether bicyclists should wear helmets. If you’re new to bicycling, please educate yourself on the subject and make an informed decision.

    You can view our stance on bicycle helmets at the following link:


  • Matt says:

    Bike and a backpack. I have done a couple of seminars on bike commuting and wrote up a handbook for one of them, the opening theme being, this isn’t all that hard. Some of it is general, some of it is Twin Cities-specific. The PDF file is called Bicycle Commuting: Making a Simple Thing Sound All Complicated. Another creation from the mid-1970s, not mine, is the comic book SprocketMan. I scanned a PDF of it and it can be found at Sprocket Man (from Raleigh Bicycles). Sprocket Man isn’t the weirdest bike safety thing I’ve ever run into (that would have to be the 1960s movie One Got Fat, basically League of American Bicyclists meets Planet of the Apes) but it is pretty strange, though for the most part the actual safety advice is pretty good and still relevant.

  • Ari Hornick says:

    My bare necessities for bike commuting: Bike.

    If there is wind, you need eye protection. If it is dark, you need lights. If you are carrying stuff, you need a backpack or rack or trailer or handlebar basket or something. If there’s rain, you need rain gear (that’s a whole separate Bike Commuting 101 topic: rain gear necessities.). If you don’t have a safe place to keep it, you need a lock. It’s good to learn a little bike mechanics – at least how to fix a flat.

    When I was getting started, my biggest asset was ignorance. I didn’t know what I shouldn’t try to do, so I tried anything and everything. There’s nothing like experience as a teacher.

    But, the bare necessities without all the if’s, and’s, or but’s is a bike. Go ride it. It’s fun.

  • Ted says:

    Thank You Alan and JRF.. May I, as a new guy, reemphasize MOTIVATION! (preaching)Do we in America lack available equipment, spare cash for a used bike, gear, or lack creative options(public transpo) etc…? No, sadly enough, we have the freedom to pursue thousands of sport/hobby/lifestyle/transpo/career options and yet choose rather to sit at home on the couch getting, um, comfortable. For a week or two…
    During short trips: walk, jog or run. Medium trips: jog or run. Then give yourself the GIFT of a bicycle and see how much easier the trip becomes! How relaxing, fast and efficient! I love my bicycle!

  • Erich says:

    I certainly don’t think anything other than any old bike + determination is necessary. I rode a rickety old MTB for my first few months and did just fine. Heck, even now years later I do much of my commuting on a Singlespeed with only a coaster brake. No lights, racks, bags, locks, tools, helmet. Seems to work fine, 6 miles each way.

    Seems to me the vast majority of people who spend a ton of money on a new bike never end up riding it. Why invest so much in something you’re not sure you will take to? You’ll figure out what you need (and don’t need) as you go.

  • The-Milkman says:

    In these economic times I think the most basic necessity for bike commuting is having a job! : )

  • Christina says:

    I think this could stand to be simpler. For someone who knows nothing about bikes but how to ride one, the idea of figuring out what a tool kit is, how to procure it, how to use it, and how to change a flat is pretty intimidating. Ditto for having a bike “appropriately geared for the terrain”- it’s pretty tough to know what gears you need unless you’ve been riding for a while. I absolutely agree that those things are important but I think they’re more sophomore level. :)

  • Ian says:

    My advice as a first step is to talk to someone at your work who bike commutes. They’re usually more than happy to discuss routes, parking, storage and shower facilities etc. Also, if you have any bikey friends, you may even be able to loan a bike for a few weeks to get you started. Then you can decide what you do/don’t need for your commute. Don’t think like a car driver when you plan your route, and explore it by bike on a sunny weekend. It’s amazing how many more alternatives are available to you on a bike compared to a car, and the best routes may not be the shortest either. Pick a fine day to start and give yourself plenty of time. Remember it’s supposed to be fun, so don’t think you have to do it when you’re sore/tired/sick or the weather sucks.

  • Angela Gail says:

    I agree with what some others have said about keeping the list of necessities very very small if you are commuting a short distance within a city. Just get on your bike and go, you’ll figure out what else you need by experience. If you have to walk because you get a flat or it starts to rain on you, well, you’ll survive. People who are starting out and need to do longer commutes I think have a higher bar to jump over because you need to be more prepared for the unexpected — flat tire and rain most notably.

    Thanks for making a series just for beginning riders!

  • Tim says:

    for Iowa winters: snowboard helmet, ski goggles, & studded tires.

  • Don says:

    I have found that a mirror helps me ride and think like a vehicle in traffic. One would think turning around and being mindful would be easy enough, but I am constantly surprised by how little I hear behind me and how much better a rider in traffic the mirror allows me to be. So at least in city riding, I would count a mirror as essential.

    The thing is, mirrors are annoying, because they stick out and get knocked out of adjustment when you lean the bike up on something. Plus, they often look dorky. But as I continue to tinker with the bike commuting formula — one of my bikes handles lousy with a rack and panniers, so I removed the rack and went back to a backpack on that one — the bell, though lovely, is rarely used, but the mirror stays on the list, as essential as the fenders.

    By the way, for the kind of load a typical commuter needs to carry, I believe the porteur-style bike — or at least front racks– will continue to make a comeback.

  • Don says:

    @ Matt: That pdf primer is excellent! I encourage everyone to check it out and share with others.

    And props to the Twin Cities! I used to live there and bought my first real bike there. I used to love crossing the Mississippi on my bike. A great bike town!

  • Alistair says:

    Maybe AAA coverage, yes in Oregon AAA covers bikes too.

    May moterists set off every day unable to make basic repairs on thier car. They rely on AAA and a cell phone.

    Mostly I’m supporting @Erik Sandblom and @Joseph E points about not needing a tool kit. By implying you need to fix a bike to ride a bike puts a huge mental barrier in front of folks. For flats, our local bike shop charges $12 including labor and a new tube. New brake pads are put on and aligned while you wait – no charge. He even has a bike wash service (how many people wash thier own cars these days?).

    Lets support that infrastucture so people who don’t love bikes as bikes still want to commute on one.

    Cheers, Alistair

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  • Michael says:

    I’ve been using a bike to commute since 1995 or so. Unfortunately, I did not acquire a rack and panniers used and inexpensively until 2006. Never seemed to have the money as a young man in school or working. I always thought too bike bags were this fancy thing the spandex touring people used only. Prior to that, I carried far too many pounds in back-packs, the last of which was HUGE! It is not worth it.

    I think more folks would commute by bike if they could get into a used, inexpensive set of panniers with which to experiment. Thus, my advice is to get yourself a second-hand bike and buy a basic rack, even used, and basic, used panniers. You will learn how to use them and upgrade later to new or higher quality gear. A basic, used rack and panniers should total no more than $60, starting with searching

  • JRF says:

    After getting motivated, and finding one or more routes, just about any bike will due for dry daylight commuting, and that is an excellent place for someone to start. You don’t need anything more in the equipment department.

    What would be helpful is resources to aid a just-in-time accessorizing strategy.

    Everybody has their own ideas of equipment that improves the commuting experience. I think what is needed is not a “here is what you need to commute” but catalog “here are items that commuters find useful and why” where the “why” bit can help the newbie decided whether it is relevant given their particular situation. For example:

    Watter Bottle & holder — After pedaling an hour and a half in 98 degree humid weather, you will get thirsty. Stainless steel bottles are good since every year or so we discover a new way plastics are killing us. Blah, blah blah…

    The newbie who has worked out a 15 minute commute route in Seattle can quickly recognize this as not that relevant for her own situation. But the entry on Fenders may attract careful consideration for the Seattle commuter but be quickly skipped over by the San Diego commuter.

    The catalog could roughly be divided into categories like Safety, Comfort, and Utility.

    Starting with optimal weather conditions and minimal equipment, the new commuter can incrementally figure out the right set of accessories to enhance the experience for their particular situation. There is no need for an overwhelming equip-for-all-scenarios-on-day-one experience.

    An exception to the just-in-time equipping strategy is for someone plunking down a wad of money for a new bike for commuting. Then it make sense to look ahead for some non-immediate needs. Things like how well the frame can accommodate robust tires plus fenders and racks. Or what sort of gear range will I actually need if the racks have 50 pounds of cargo. Or, I’m motivated to ride year-round so maybe disk brakes will be helpful during the monsoon season. The frame design has implications for all these things.

    But if you already have a bike—any bike—by all means start with that and if you come to getting a new bike for commuting, you will have a better idea of what you need for your commute.

  • AndyN says:

    @Alistair: Better World Club offers bicycle roadside assistance, and I find they are better aligned with my own advocacy preferences.

    I do agree about the potential for over-emphasizing flat repair skills. I’ve broken more shoelaces in the last decade than I have flatted tires, and I don’t carry either shoelaces or patch kit for my short urban commute.

    I would modify “A Bicycle” to add “with tires designed for pavement, not dirt.” Pushing big knobbies turns out to be a lot of motivation-sapping work, like jogging in mountaineering boots. Many non-enthusiast bicycle riders aren’t even aware that there are other tire choices available for their “mountain bike”.

  • Ari Hornick says:

    I was thinking about this a little more. This post is for the benefit of people who are not yet cyclists. So, I am modifying my bare necessities from “a bike” to “a comfortable and attractive bike”. Bicycle fit makes a huge difference in someone’s riding experience. Also, never underestimate aesthetics. Ever. For a first bike, better stick with your favorite color. It helps with the motivation.

  • Matt says:

    I still think it’s useful to be able to fix a flat. It’s not difficult, it doesn’t take lots of tools, and it’s the main thing that goes wrong with bicycles in regular cycling. And while I, too, have broken more shoelaces in the last decade than I’ve had flat tires, all but one of those shoelaces broke while I was at home where all but one of those flats happened when I was out and about. Call me a nerd, but in my business travel case I have a spare shoelace because it is a pain when you’re in a hotel and you bust a shoelace!

    Avoiding flats is partially tire choice, and while I may disagree with AndyN on importance of flat repair knowledge, I wholeheartedly agree on ditching the knobbies and getting smooth tires for city riding.

  • Alan says:


    “I think this could stand to be simpler. For someone who knows nothing about bikes but how to ride one, the idea of figuring out what a tool kit is, how to procure it, how to use it, and how to change a flat is pretty intimidating. Ditto for having a bike “appropriately geared for the terrain”- it’s pretty tough to know what gears you need unless you’ve been riding for a while. I absolutely agree that those things are important but I think they’re more sophomore level. :)”

    A good local bike shop will be eager to instruct on gearing, basic maintenance, flat repairs, etc.; this is part of what they do to provide added value and build lasting relationships with their customers.


  • graciela. says:

    I first started riding a bike when I was 18 cos I was going to college in Davis. Everyone rode a bike there so it was the perfect place to learn and get comfortable riding in the street. But 10 years later, i live in LA and I still get a little scared cos of all the erratic car behavior. So my absolute essential after a bike is a bike route. The route you drive may not be the best route to ride. So explore different routes by foot or on one of your drives to/from work. Would you notice a cyclist if you were driving? Would it be tricky to drive with a cyclist right next to you? Those are the kinds of streets to avoid. So I like to stick to paved bike only paths or streets that are not busy and/or have nice cushy bike lanes. My bike route adds 2 miles than my driving path but I’d rather feel safe than feel paranoid.

    And please ride in the street following traffic laws. I know it’s tempting to ride on the sidewalk or you think it’s okay to ride on the wrong side of the street for just a moment but this is how you will get hurt or you’ll end up hurting someone. I have a hard time walking on the sidewalk with all the slow people in the way, nevermind if I’m on a bike. And going against traffic should be a no-brainer but I see this all the time and it’s bad for the cars, bad for cyclists that are going in the right direction, and bad for the guy who is going to get hit by someone making a right who didn’t see them because they came from the wrong side of traffic.

  • Haris says:

    Your bicycle photos are just marvellous. Thanks for sharing.

  • Alan says:


    Thank you!

  • Michael Feicco says:

    Hi everyone,

    I am starting my bike commute this week and am very excited. I am an avid cyclist. I have been riding mtn or road bikes for over 25 plus years and am very comfortable on a bicycle. I also have commuted in the past at previous jobs but this current place of employment will be different. I am a realtor and a car is part of my job! To show clients homes and go on appoinments. But I am going to commute 2 days a week for now and then expand after that. I really do think reading everyones comments is great as it helps hearing everyones input as opposed to learning the hard way. Ecovelo is also a great blog…I thank everyone!

  • Clive Chapman says:

    Nice site, found you via Bikeradar. I’ve been commuting for 17 months now as part of a weight loss program. Dumped 7 stones, that’s 98Ibs for you North Americans and sold my car last September.

    I think the most important thing for newbie commuters is to map recce a few good routes then get out and ride them.

    Don’t be put off, just ride!

    You’ll soon become commuting veterans and wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

    I’ve pedalled through 2 UK winters now, both the worst in generations, so the other thing I’d say is be properly equipped for the bad conditions.

    As my old Sergeant Major used to say very loudly, “There’s no such thing as bad weather only poor equipment!”

  • Alan says:

    Hi Clive,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story! Congratulations on becoming a bike commuter and doing such a good thing for yourself and the planet. My wife has a similar story and dropped about the same weight a few years ago. It takes a lot of hard work and determination, but it can be done!

    Best regards,

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