Getting Started

If bicycle commuting is new to you, this is a great program to get you started. The workplace teams are a great source of information and inspiration to keep you riding throughout the month. For seasoned commuters, it’s all about the challenge and camaraderie with fellow riders. Challenge yourself to recruit new riders, challenge your workmates to ride more, and challenge other local businesses to out-ride you this spring.

Bicycling can be fun and healthy

  • Save Money: bicycling is one of the least expensive ways to get to work compared to the variable costs of driving a car.
  • Save Time: by combining your exercise time with your commute time, you can save time overall.
  • Less Stressful: enjoy the scenery and travel on minor streets and trails to your worksite. You’ll help reduce congestion on major streets instead of being a part of it.
  • Convenient, Low Cost Parking: bicycling can get you from your front door to the door of your office building. There is no need to hunt for a parking space.
  • Improve Air Quality: bicycling helps the environment by reducing traffic congestion. As more people bicycle, more autos are removed from the road.
  • Environmentally Responsible: if you bicycle commute one day of a five-day work week, you have reduced your automobile emissions by 20%!
  • Well Trained Human-powered Transportation Machine: by having trained during your regular commutes, you will be ready for riding in organized events such as the Edible Pedal.

Resources

  • Choosing a Commuter/Utility Bicycle
    You can turn ANY bike into a commuter utility bike just by wearing a backpack and carrying a lock. But if you really want to run errands and carry stuff to work, we suggest getting a bike you can set up with fenders and racks or baskets you can use as a dedicated commuter/utility bike.
  • Bike Set Up/Maintenance/Inspection
    If you plan to use your bike as a commuter/utility vehicle, adding a rack and panniers or baskets, fenders and lights can make it easier for you to carry stuff, stay clean and be seen.
  • Pannier bags, which come in a variety of sizes and shapes, hang on your bike’s racks and enable you to carry your briefcase, laptop, lunch, extra clothes, groceries, etc.
  • Baskets, whether in front of the bars or in back on the rear rack are also a great way to increase your bike’s cargo capacity.
  • Fenders just aren’t for rain. They keep any road wetness such as irrigation run off from being thrown up your backside.
  • Lights, blinking and steady lights on your bike can help you be seen by other traffic whether it is day or night.

Dressing for Commuting

If you do not have far to ride, what you normally wear to work might do. Dressing in layers allow you to peel off layers as you get too warm or add on layers if the weather becomes cooler during your ride. You can also carry your clothing to change into upon arrival. Stack your clothing pieces onto each other and roll them, rather than folding them, will help reduce wrinkling and creasing. Some bicycle commuters prefer to wear cycling jerseys and shorts if they have a long way to ride.

How to Ride as a Commuter/Utility Cyclist

  • Route Selection: chose routes with lower speed limits and less traffic such as side roads, residential streets and trails.
  • Pacing: it is not necessary to pedal hard and fast as if you are trying to get a workout. Getting some exercise is nice but you also may not want to arrive at work sweaty or soil your clothes in the process of commuting to work (unless there is a shower facility at work). The average bicycle commuter travel between 10 m.p.h. to 15 m.p.h.
  • Follow the Rules of the Road: respect other users of the road by following the rules and laws as if you are driving a vehicle.

Worksite Support

  • Showers: if your workplace has a facility where you can shower then great. Otherwise, carry a towel or washcloth for wiping off after your commute.
  • Bike Parking: most worksites have bike racks and some employers may allow you to keep your bike near your workstation.
  • Storage: there may also be bike lockers or cages for storing your bike during the day while at work or should you need to leave your bike overnight (in the case of bath weather) and take other modes of transportation home.

FAQs

  • How can I tell if bike commuting is right for me?
    Most people who do not ride a bicycle cite fear of traffic as the major reason. By riding on low-stress side streets you will find your new commute mode more fun and less stressful. Riding a bike, like any kind of activity, gets easier with practice.
  • What is a reasonable distance to commute by bicycle?
    Many consider three to five miles an optimum distance for bike commuting, although many seasoned cyclists commute fifteen miles or more each way. Base your decision upon your own experience and abilities. Since most urban cyclists travel a little faster than 10 miles per hour, you should be able to bicycle 3 miles in less than 20 minutes, or 5 miles in 30 minutes.If you live more than five miles from work, and feel it’s too far to bike the entire distance, consider bicycling to a carpool, a vanpool or a transit center or bus stop. This is called a “multimodal” commute.
  • What routes should I take to bicycle to work?
    Plan your commute route thoroughly. Your objective is to find the most pleasant routes to your work site with lower speed limits and less traffic. Drive your route to see if you would be comfortable bicycling on that route. Then practice on a holiday or when traffic volumes are low like during the mornings on weekends.
  • Where will I park my bike while I am at work?
    Choose a bike rack near the most visible primary entrance(s) and make sure your bike is securely locked through the frame and wheels. Some workplaces offer long-term bike parking facilities for bike commuters who plan to be at work all day such as bike lockers, a covered bike pend or a storage room. In some instances, employers may consider allowing you to park your bike near your work station.
  • Can I take my bike with me on the bus?
    All RTC RIDE and RTC INTERCITY buses are equipped with racks to hold two or three bicycles. Bike racks are convenient and easy to use and there’s no additional cost for using the rack. Learn how to load and unload your bike by visiting the Bikes on Buses on the RTC website.
  • What kind of bike do I need for commuting?
    Any bike in good condition is suitable for commuting. Commuter bikes of choice have upright handlebars, fingertip shift levers with 7 to 18 or more speeds and effective brakes. Mountain bikes with wide, low pressure tires offer a very smooth ride, but the knobby tires and low-gear ratios do make them slower. Hybrid bikes are similar except the tires and gear ratios are designed for city streets. Both mountain and hybrid bikes are very comfortable for commuting, and the design allows cyclists to assume an upright sitting position in traffic. For longer commutes and minimum rolling resistance, some people prefer road bikes with dropped-style handlebars and narrow, high-pressure tires. Finding a way to attach a cargo rack or other carrying devices to some racing bikes can sometimes be difficult.
  • How can I make my bike more comfortable to ride?
    How your bike fits you is even more important than the type of bicycle you choose. Riding the correct size bike is as important as wearing shoes that fit. To make your bike more comfortable to ride, adjust the seat height to allow comfortable leg extension with only a slight bend in your knee when sitting on the seat. Adjust the seat angle so that it’s level. Loosen the mounting bolt underneath the seat to adjust your forefoot position over the pedals. Adjust the handlebar height for a comfortable riding position. Handlebar stem-lengths vary to accommodate all combinations of arm and torso lengths.
  • When riding a geared bike, select the lowest or easiest gear that your feet can spin smoothly while maintaining pressure on your pedals. This reduces strain on your knees. Pedal constantly instead of intermittently to keep a steady heart rate, thereby avoiding muscle cramps and fatigue.
  • What accessories do I need for bike commuting?
    • Bicycle Helmet: a bike helmet can prevent head injuries when worn properly. Be sure your helmet meets protection standards set by the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), or the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM). And replace it whenever it sustains a hard impact (even if you cannot see the damage), or every five years due to deterioration of the protective Styrofoam liner.
    • Sunglasses or Other Eye Protection: to protect your eyes from bright sunlight, bugs and fine road debris thrown up by tires. Protective eyewear is especially important for those who wear contact lenses.
    • Bike Lock: for all short term and some long term parking you’ll need to carry a lock. U-locks are best, but are heavy. Consider leaving one at work where you park.
    • Racks, Bags or Baskets: a bike with carrying capacity can make it more convenient to get to work and carry your lunch and items you may need for the day. Panniers are removable carrying bags which hang from the sides of the bike rack. Smaller rack-packs attach to the top of the rack.
    • Water Bottle and Cage: for any commutes, you’ll want to drink water to avoid dehydrating. A cage on your bike can keep your water bottle handy for easy access.
    • Lights:  Nevada law
    • Fenders: will help you stay clean and dry when the streets are wet from rain or irrigation run-off. If your bike doesn’t have integrated fenders, there are removable fenders you can install.
    • Warning Device: use your voice, a horn, whistle or a bell to alert others of your presence in traffic. A friendly bell or the words, “passing left” is appropriate before passing others on a trail.
    • Pepper Spray: if you’re likely to encounter loose dogs along your route, carry a canister of pepper spray such as “Halt” dog repellant, the harmless cayenne spray used by postal workers. Otherwise, stop and dismount, keeping your bike between you and the dog, then walk away slowly shouting “No!” and “Stay!” in a very commanding voice.
  • What should I wear for bicycling?
    Wear clothing that is comfortable and will not get caught in your bike. Use a Velcro strap or rubber band your right pant cuff to keep it out of the chain. Keep shoelaces tucked into your shoes and beware of skirts that can get caught in your bike chain or spokes. Many prefer to wear bicycle-specific clothing such as cycling shorts and jerseys, especially for longer trips. Layering is a good approach so you can take off or add on pieces of clothing as you get hot or cold.
  • How can I commute and dress professionally for work?
    Take a week’s worth of work clothing in once a week and store it in a locker, or carry your clothes with you on the bike. When carrying them with you on your bike, roll clothing or use tissue paper to prevent wrinkles from folding, or use a garment-bag type pannier.
  • How can I learn to be a more effective bicyclist?
    An excellent first step toward safe bicycling is to take an Effective Cycling class from an Effective Cyclist Instructor who is certified by the League of American Bicyclists. Even experienced bicyclists find this class helpful, and such courses are crucial for beginning bicyclists.
  • How should I interface with bus traffic and large vehicles?
    Make sure the bus driver sees you. Always keep the bus driver’s rear view mirror and side mirror in sight. Never pass a stopped bus on the right. Passengers may step off in front of you. Do not come to a stop on the right side of large vehicles such as buses and garbage truck; the driver may not see you should they decide to make a right turn. Stay behind it or pass on the left when it is safe to do so. Stay a safe distance behind stopped buses since they sometimes roll backward when starting up.
  • What is the best way to stop my bike in an emergency?
    Firmly apply both brakes and use your arms to brace against the deceleration. Good technique involves moving back on your saddle as far as you can comfortably go, to keep the center of gravity as far back as possible.
  • What should I do to protect myself if I am in a crash?
    Similar to when being involved in an automobile incident, get the License Plate Number and State of the other party, the driver info including name, phone number and insurance company, the time and location of the incident and name and contact information of witnesses. If you are injured, contact Josh Zisson for a referral to a qualified bike law specialist in your area.
    accident-report
  • What should I look for when inspecting my bicycle?
    • Before each ride you should check the tire pressure unless you have tubeless tires. The recommended amount of p.s.i. (pounds per square inch) is usually printed on the sidewall of each tire. Eventually you will get used to the amount of air that should be in the tires by squeezing them. If they are softer than normal, inflate them and check the pressure.
    • Check the brakes by squeezing each to make sure they are functioning. Check each brake pad to make sure it is not rubbing on the rim of the wheel by lifting up your bike to suspend the wheel and spin it. This is a good time to see if the wheels are true (not wobbling side to side when you spin them). If they are, the spokes will need adjustment.
  • What tools do I need to carry with me?
    When you are riding your bicycle for transportation, you don’t want mechanical problems to get in the way of you getting to your destination. The most common problem you may encounter is a punctured or pinched tube which leads to a flat tire. You will want to carry a flat tire kit that contains tire levers, spare tubes, a portable bicycle pump or C02 cartridge, and possibly a Presta valve adapters. Most valves at tire gas station pump fit Schrader valves (like those on automobile tires) and with an adapter, you can convert the valve to work with a Presta valve.

©2017 Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance

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