Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips
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Why Bike Commute?

Getting Started:
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Getting Started:
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Bike to Work Guide
By Paul Dorn/Roni Sarig

Image of Bike to Work Guide cover


Some other equipment you may consider acquiring as needed:

  • Lights
    Face it, sooner or later, you'll be caught out after dark. No problem if you're equipped with effective lighting. The key word there is effective. If you're riding primarily on well-lit city streets where visibility is fair, you can perhaps manage with only the standard reflectors. Most states require some kind of front illumination. And you'll simply be safer with a headlight and rear flashers. There are a variety of inexpensive LED (light emitting diode) flashers available -- in red, yellow and green colors -- which are very efficient, lasting up to 300 hours on a pair of AA batteries. My present favorite LED headlights are the Cateye HL-EL450N Bicycle Head Light or the Planet Bike Beamer 3. They're worth the modest investment. These help you be seen; but are slightly less effective if you want to see. If you ride in poorly lit areas, you should consider a brighter headlight. For my darker 17-mile rides home, I presently use an amazing NiteRider Lumina 650 Wireless/USB Rechargable Headlight , and a Light & Motion Stella 150N LED. (I like redundancy, in case I neglect to recharge one of these lights.) The MiNewt produces 600 lumens of light, plenty bright enough for my darkest commutes.

  • Lightweight, bike-specific tool kit
    You don't need to carry your entire 40-pound tool kit with you. However, an 8mm or 10mm Allen wrench or a screwdriver could mean the difference between riding home or walking. For the sort of minor repairs you might expect with everyday bike commuting a "multi-tool" -- such as a Topeak Alien Bicycle Tool, which I carry -- is more than adequate. The types of quick fixes you can anticipate could be a loose brake cable, seatpost, or handlebar, a wheel that comes out of "true" (unbalanced), or other minor adjustments. I carry a patch kit, a spare inner tube, an air pump, and a multitool whenever I ride. It's always those times when I don't have these with me that my stem comes loose, seatpost loosens, or something worse.

  • Bell/Horn
    If a motorist pulls in front of me, I shout. Loudly. Often with profanity. But other street users need only a little prompting. A gentle ding of the bell will alert a pedestrian of your approach, and perhaps bring a smile as well. Considerate motorists or pedestrians always get a wave or a peace gesture from me. And, depending on your confidence/aggressiveness and the cluelessness of traffic in your area, an air horn is always a possibility.

  • Cyclecomputer
    These are great for tracking your mileage and gauging your speed. Simple cyclecomputers are fairly inexpensive and add little weight to your bike. They generally will monitor speed, trip distance, total distance, average speed and maximum speed. My present favorite is the Cateye Velo bicycle computer. There are other models that are wireless, or offer more information such as cadence. The Velo works for me.

  • Helmet
    Most of us only have one head. It's a crucial bodily appendage, controlling circulation, respiration, and other motor functions. Therefore, it makes sense to protect your noggin. Buy a helmet. Modern helmets protect better, are well-ventilated, and don't look as dorky as earlier ones. According to personal injury attorney Gary C. Brustin, 85 percent of deaths and serious injuries could be prevented by wearing a helmet. One of your first accessory purchases should be a helmet.

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Comments? Suggestions? Contact || Updated 11.02.12