These tips are provided by Matt Long, a long time expert bicycle mechanic and commuter and Sales Manager at the Denver Bicycle Cafe Bike Shop.
“I want to ride my bike more but I just don’t have time!”
Well, I’ve got good news for you! You can start bicycle commuting! Commuting by bike can be easy to work into your routine, and requires no special equipment except a bicycle, helmet, ankle strap, and lock. If you plan on riding after dark, Colorado state law and Denver city law requires you to have a white front light and a rear red reflector.
Bicycle Commuting Step-by-Step
If you plan on commuting to work, the first thing to do is find the route you want to take. Google Maps has an overlay feature that will show you bike routes, bike lanes, and off-street bike paths. Google Maps will also give you point-to-point directions tailored for travel by bike, as well as a time estimate. Once you’ve got your route figured out, you can try driving it in your car (for on-street routes) to see what road conditions are like. Some “recommended” bike routes and paths feature pavement of dubious quality that would be better navigated with fatter tires and a more robust frame, while others are perfectly smooth and would be a joy to ride with a light, fast bike.
Now that you’ve got your route figured out and a sufficient amount of beta to make an informed decision, it’s time to make sure your bicycle is in tip-top shape. Attempting to commute on a bike that’s on its last legs is not a great idea. Encountering mechanical issues while trying to make it to work on time is one of the most disheartening feelings ever, causing you unneeded stress, possibly requiring you to find alternative emergency transportation, and potentially putting you into physical danger. Just bring your bike in to the Denver Bicycle Cafe Bike Shop for a complimentary bike service evaluation, where we’ll make sure your bike is safe to ride, or let you know what it needs to get safe.
With a safe, functional bike and your route figured out, the next thing to do is to ride your route on a day off. Be sure to ride in the clothes and shoes you plan to commute in and carry all the gear you need to take with you. This will let you find out how much time it actually takes you to ride the route, work through any problems you may encounter, and let you consider any modifications you may need to make to your equipment or route. You can return home with the confidence that whenever you’re ready to start bicycle commuting you know exactly what to expect from the ride – you may find that you arrive dry and comfortable, or that you arrive hot and sweaty and need to bring a change of clothes with you.
Armed with knowledge and experience, you’re now ready to embark on your latest adventure, bicycle commuting! By this point, you’ve got everything you need to start commuting by bike. If you’ve found that your equipment or knowledge is not sufficient, have no fear! The Denver Bicycle Cafe Bike Shop is staffed with friendly, experienced, knowledgeable cyclists that can assist you whether your needs are equipment-related or advice-related.
A few final pieces of advice for novice commuters: only ride when and where you feel comfortable to do so. Carry RTD transit passes in your wallet so you’ll never be stranded without bus fare. If it starts raining or snowing while you’re at work, just put your bike on the bus or light rail and take mass transit home. AAA Colorado now offers bicycle assistance to its members, providing transportation for the member(s) and their bicycle(s) according to the mileage limits for vehicle tows at your membership level.
Come in to the Denver Bicycle Cafe Bike Shop and share your commuting stories with us!
A great resource and a partner with the Denver Bicycle Cafe to help you explore bicycle commuting in the Denver Metro area.