Bike commuting

Car-less Commute: The No Gimmicks Guide to Northwest Bike Commuting

Studies have shown that it’s healthier for you, that it saves you money and that you may just be a happier person because you do it.

So why aren’t you bike commuting?

Well, there’s the rain and the sweat, for starters. There are also those 5,000-pound dangers called cars to contend with and the fact that you may show up for your 9 a.m. meeting looking a little less than freshly-pressed.

Bike commuting
All that aside, however, bike commuting really is attainable for anyone who’s willing to put a little thought and effort into it.

“It’s not a challenge at all to do it,” says Erik Deady, owner of The Bike Commuter, a Portland bike shop. “And the benefits are vast and many.”

To help get you started, here’s our no-nonsense guide to Northwest bike commuting. Check it out and then put it into action on the perfect day — Bike to Work Day.

The best bikes

Think you need the latest, lightest and most expensive bike to commute to work? Think again. While top-end commuters can run from $700 into the many thousands of dollars, Deady says entry-level models, equipped with fenders, racks and other commuting features, are available for around $400 to $500 or less (Recycled Cycles in Seattle is a good place to start). An even better idea — start with the bike you have, but just make a few modifications. Add racks, panniers and fenders and outfit it with thinner road tires.

Bike fender

Know your way

Many cities offer great biking maps and route suggestions (check out these online bike commuting resources for Seattle and Portland). Google Maps bike directions are fairly accurate and helpful. Try your route out a few times in advance, too, so you know it’ll work with your schedule.

Bike wayfinding signs

Fix it on the fly

You never know when you might blow a tire or slip a chain. Learn how to take care of these glitches by signing up for a class or researching online before you hit the road. Slip a tire patch kit and a multi-tool into your pannier or bag. Packing a small air pump and a plastic tire iron is important as well.

Stay safe

Bike commuting comes with plenty of benefits, but it also puts you on the road with lots of cars, trucks and other bikes. Ride safer with a helmet, lights, reflectors and brightly-colored clothing. Make sure you’re aware of all local cycling laws, as well.

Bike helmet

Stay clean

Sweat, dirt, rain, dust — it’s all a part of bike commuting. Some folks luck out and work for bike-friendly companies that have showers. For everyone else, put together a portable kit with wet wipes, deodorant, soap and anything else you might need to freshen up. Some cycling jackets have longer tails to keep your back clean, and you can keep oil off your pant legs with simple Velcro straps.

Don’t fret

If you think you live too far from work or that it’s just too dangerous to commute, don’t give up. Consider driving or taking mass transit part of the way, then ride from there. Most buses and trains have bike storage, and more compact, folding bikes can be a great option for this kind of multimodal commuting, too.

Bike commuting in SeattleFor more bike commuting resources in Seattle, check out Commute Seattle or the city’s bike program; in Portland, visit the Bureau of Transportation’s bicycling page.

Looking to commute with your kids to school? Check out our guide. 

Jon Bell

Jon Bell writes about the outdoors, fitness, health, and a range of other topics from his home in Lake Oswego, OR. He is also the author of "On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak."

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