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Try a bike commute
Biking -- it's the best way to have fun during your commute! Plus, join the National Bike Challenge to make it social and be entered to win prizes!
Learn to Commute by Bicycle With the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition
Any bicycle can be used for a commuter bike, provided that it is well maintained and safely adjusted. Neither the brand nor the style matter; the bicycle should fit the rider well and be able to accommodate a few extra commuter accessories.
Buying a New Bike
For a new bicycle, head over to any decent local bike shop. Independent specialty shops will have certified mechanics and salesmen who can help fit and accessorize a bike for commuting. Large discount stores often do not have the staff or products to help make a commuter bike comfortable and safe for long-time use.
Buying or Refitting a Used Bike
Many classic used bicycles are perfectly good for commuting but may need significant work to update them. Ask a knowledgeable friend or local shop to conduct a complete overhaul of the bicycle’s brakes, bearings, and components to ensure that everything is smooth and safe. Though you might get a good deal, expect to spend some extra money to make a used bike safe to ride.
Style of Bikes
Modern bicycles come in many styles for specialized sport use. Road, touring, mountain, cyclocross, cruising, BMX, and recumbents are just a few of the styles available. Road bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrids (mix of road and mountain features) are the most common styles used for commuting. Some frames come in "step-through" styles as well, which can accommodate riding in skirts. Regardless of the style, make sure that the bike is comfortable and can accommodate necessary accessories.
What to Look for in a Commuter Bicycle
Commuter bicycles should be comfortable over a long distance and in varying weather conditions. For any bicycle, see if it will accommodate moderate-to-wide tires (28 mm or bigger), fenders, and racks.
1-speed or 30-speed
Bicycles have traditionally been labeled by the number of gear options available in the drive train. “10-speeds” used to be a common term for general-use road bikes, but this term is seldom used any more. The most important aspect of the drive train is to have enough gears to comfortably tackle the local terrain. The range of gears, from very high to very low, is also more important than the number of options. In Atlanta, generally having at least 7 rear cogs and 2 or 3 front chainrings is adequate.
Fixed-gear bicycles have become very popular locally and nationally over the past few years. The main difference between a fixed gear bike and a single-speed bicycle is the lack of freewheel in the rear cog. In other words, the cyclist CANNOT COAST or stop pedaling. While many cyclists enjoy this style of riding, it is an advanced skill and should be approached carefully.
What to look for
- Proper Fit – matched to an individual with thought towards distance riding
- Potential for moderately upright riding
- Attachment points for racks, fenders, lights, & other accessories
Getting your bicycle ready to commute
A commuter bicycle tends to have more accessories and equipment than a regular road bike. Luggage for carrying gear, equipment for keeping the rider safe and comfortable, and tools for keeping the bike rolling are all necessary for having a successful commute.
The most important element of a commuter bicycle is the ability to carry necessary gear, equipment, and clothing. The most common type of bike luggage is a set of panniers mounted on a rear rack. Other good options are rear-mounted saddlebags, rack-mounted trunk bags, or handlebar bags (be careful about the effect on front-end steering.) Messenger bags and backpacks are convenient options, but may be hot or tiring over long distances.
Lights & Reflectors
The second most important aspect of a bicycle are safety lights and reflectors. Commuters, especially year round riders, often find themselves on the road early in the morning or late in the evening. All bicycles in the US are required to be sold with front and rear reflectors. Additionally, Georgia law requires battery powered lights for evening or nighttime riding. Invest in a high-quality white front light and rear red light with a blinking features. Adding reflective tape, stickers, flags, or anything else will increase your chance of being seen!
Commuter bicycles will often be kept outside under all conditions. No bicycle or lock is thief proof, but having a strong lock will deter all but the most determined thieves. A “U” shaped lock is the most effective but very strong cable locks may be used for short-term parking. Even better, use one of each - U lock your frame and cable lock your tires! Many cyclists like to cover their bicycle in tape or stickers to obscure the make of the frame but experienced bike thieves will see right through this. Most bicycles are stolen out of opportunity and for a joy ride, not for resale. Make sure to have your bicycle’s serial number copied down and registered with a local organization or law enforcement department.
Wet Weather Gear
One of the most overlooked accessories in the US market is a good pair of fenders. Either plastic or metal fenders will keep the road spray off the rider’s feet and the bicycle’s drivetrain. Fenders are commonly available in most bike shops but can be difficult to fit – don’t hesitate to ask your local mechanic for help! Emergency
Tools & ID
Every cyclist should have basic tool kit to address the common on-road maintenance issues. Flat tires, misadjusted brakes, and loose or rattling racks are the most common problems that will be encountered on a normal commute. A basic tool kit should include: spare inner tube, tube patch kit, pump or CO2 cartridge, and an set of common-size Allen wrenches. A "multi-tool" may include everything you need in one. Practice using your tools ahead of time and ask your local mechanic to show you how to do basic repairs. In addition, always carry photo identification with details about emergency contact numbers and special medical concerns. A cell phone or calling card and some spare cash will always come in handy in the case of an emergency. For foul weather situations, a MARTA Breeze card with extra fares will help get you on a train or bus.
What to wear to bike commute
Nearly any clothing can be worn for short bicycle commutes around 2-4 miles. For longer trips, bicycle-specific clothing offers several advantages: fast drying, tighter fitting, and higher visibility. A wide range of modern high-tech fabrics are available and offer many benefits over cotton. The key to staying comfortable on a bike is layering clothing, allowing the rider to make small adjustments as the temperature or weather changes.
Bicycle shorts are often made of tight fitting lycra or looser fitting nylon. The range of cycling shorts varies widely but most include a pad (called a chamois) to absorb moisture and offer a bit of padding. On casual-style shorts, make sure to look for deep or zippered pockets to keep things from falling out.
Flashy or subtle, wool or synthetic, race fit or casual. The selection of cycling tops are nearly infinite. Look for high-visibility colors, rear pockets for stashing snacks or keys, and quick drying materials for off the bike. During the summer months, a loose fitting button up shirt is often most comfortable. In the cool winter, don’t forget about light-weight wool as a natural option.
A waterproof outer layer is often necessary when the going gets wet. Nylon jackets often shed water while higher-tech fabrics (such as Gore-Tex) are waterproof and breathable while sweating. Many European cyclists ride with a poncho. Waterproof pants are seldom necessary except for long distances in cold, wet weather, and wear out quickly on a bike.
Modern cycling shoes employee a locking cleat that secures the shoe to a special pedal. Often called “clipless,” these systems offer increased efficiency and safety, after a short learning curve. Older style toe clips are a good option for using casual shoes. Make sure that any shoe is stiff, rugged, and covers the toes for increased comfort and safety.
Ride Legally & Safely: Rules of the Road
“Cyclists are safest when they act and are treated as the drivers of vehicles.” – John Forester From Georgia Uniform Rules of the Road Law (Title 40, Chapters 1 & 6, Official Code of Georgia):
- Ride with traffic, on the street if you are an adult
Your guiding lights: Be Predictable! Be Alert! Be Visible! Be Assertive! Be Courteous!
The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is a one-stop shop for questions about commuting, advocacy, and social events around the city. Help Support Cycling in Atlanta
- Ride as close to the right as practicable (but not as far right as possible - you want to leave space to adjust for potholes, debris, or cars passing too closely to your left, and to be visible to cars on cross-streets)
- Obey all signs & signals
- Yield to pedestrians
- Use front white and rear red lights
- Signal all turns & stops
- Become a member of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition
- Give a membership as a gift
- Take a Confident City Cycling class (see website for upcoming schedule)
- Volunteer to help at events, teach classes, or work on special projects