10 Essentials for a Straightforward Bike Commute

Bike commuting is a fantastic way to get some exercise, save some money, avoid the stress of traffic, and feel more connected with your neighborhood and city. If you’re gearing up to commute on two wheels, here are a few things to consider... 

If you’re commuting to work, is there a safe place to lock up? 

  • Check with your office building or property manager about available bike parking- secure racks can sometimes be in parking decks or otherwise hard to find.  

  • Make sure you can lock your wheel and your frame to the bike rack.  If you have to pick one or the other because of the design of the bike rack available, be sure to lock your frame. 

  • If the only rack available to you is on the street, make sure it is in a heavily trafficked and visible area. 

When you arrive at work, are there shower facilities or is there a place to freshen up? 

  • Almost all newer large office buildings in Midtown have showers!  If you aren’t familiar with where they are or how to access them, check with an HR representative or property manager. 

  • If you don’t have a shower in your building, a quick splash of water and maybe a change of shirt should be enough to get you ready for the day. 

Do you live or work near a train station? 

  • On days that you don’t feel quite up to riding all the way into the office, pairing your bike commute with the train is a great way to take a break. 

  • Bikes are allowed on all MARTA trains and busses.  If you’re commuting with your bike by train during rush hour, make sure to use the front or back train car, and try to get your bike positioned in the luggage area. For more information on combining a bike and transit commute, read Optimize Your Commute: Take Your Bike on the Bus or Train! 

While considering the logistics of your bike commute in advance will help make things much simpler, having the right gear will also greatly improve your experience. To make rolling on two wheels as breezy as possible, we have compiled a list of commuter essentials: 

  1. Your bike!  You’ll need a reliable bike to commute on.  Whatever bike you feel most comfortable on will work, but we recommend a lightweight, hybrid bike.  Try to avoid thin tires with little traction, which can be easily punctured on city streets, and overly knobby mountain bike tires, which will add friction and make your commute harder.  No matter what bike you choose, make sure to get it tuned up annually so that you can make it from point A to point B with minimum interruptions.  

  1. A helmet.  Always wear your helmet...you only get one brain.  Helmets should fit securely on your head without wobbling around.  Make sure to check your helmet for cracks and wear before each use.  It is recommended that helmets be replaced annually.   

  1. Bike lock.  Safety for you is #1, but you’ll definitely want to consider your bike’s safety as well!  Whether parking on the street or parking in a secure bike room, you’ll want to make sure to have a reliable lock.  We recommend a U-Lock for maximum security.  While no lock is 100% theft proof, a U-Lock requires power tools to be cut off your bike.  Some U-Locks come with a security cable that can be used to lock up both your wheel and frame, even to racks that aren’t designed to make that easy.  So, if you’re parked in a high trafficked or secured area with a U-Lock, you can be fairly confident your bike will be safe.  If you feel like your bike is very secure at work and may not need a lock, you may want to consider other places you may travel or stop at that would require you to lock up your bike.  

  1. Front and rear lights.  Lights are crucial for any bike commuter.  Not only are they required by law, but they make you visible to motorists!  Commuters are often traveling during low light hours of early morning and late afternoon; lights will help you spot obstacles in the road and will make sure you are noticed from a good distance. 

  1. Bike rack.  Make your bike work for you!  By adding a bike rack, you’ll take your first step toward taking the work off of your back and putting it on your bike.  Once you have a rack, the next step will be choosing what you’d like to use it for. Selecting a rack is fairly easy, but make sure that the rack you select will work with the components on your bike.  If you’re unsure, your local bike shop will be able to help you out. 

  1. A bag or basket – Bike cargo can come in all shapes and sizes- from large cross body messenger bags to wire baskets on the front or back of your bike.  While there are certainly pros and cons for all of the options available, we recommend regular commuters get panniers.  Panniers are bike bags that can be hooked to your rack and take the weight of a bag off your back and allow you to enjoy maximum airflow as you ride.  We suggest you select panniers that are waterproof; even if you’re not planning on being a hard-core bike commuter who rides in the rain, puddles or showers can pop up anytime, and no one likes soggy stuff.  When selecting panniers, make sure to consider the things you will be commuting with....are the bags large enough to fit your laptop, books, and other work materials? Do you want to carry extra shoes and clothes?  Will you be carrying a lunch?  Do you want some extra space so you can run errands on your way home?  There are many factors that will help you decide the size and whether you want one pannier or two. 

  1. Fender set.  No one wants to arrive at the office covered in mud!  A set of fenders will prevent that from happening.  You never know what you will be rolling through during your bike commute, but attaching fenders will stop whatever you do encounter from ending up on you and your clothes. Fenders come in lots of shapes and sizes.  If you need help with fender selection, visit your local bike shop. 

  1. Good shoes.  You’ll want to wear a pair of lace up, closed toe shoes with good tread to ride around in.  Sneakers or running shoes will help your foot stay on the pedal and protect your feet (the closest part of your body to the road) from any debris that may pop up as you ride.  Many commuters choose to leave their work shoes in their office, but it's also easy to just toss your work shoes in your panniers and roll on. 

  1. Water bottle holder.  Hydration is key!  Having easy access to your water bottle can make all the difference, especially on summer afternoon commutes.  Bottle holders are light weight and easy to attach to your bike frame.  Putting your water bottle in a holder on your bike frame can also help you avoid unfortunate spills in your bag... 

  1. Clothing to match the season.  Summer commuting may only require that your throw an extra shirt in your bag, but light, water-proof layers can make your bike commuter much more comfortable in spring, fall, and winter.  Light-weight, wind-proof, water-proof jackets are perfect and can be thrown over a cozy sweater or into a bag when not needed.  Gloves can also be a lifesaver when temperatures dip.  More dedicated bike commuters typically invest in waterproof pants and shoe covers as well....maybe something to work towards. 

Becoming a bike commuting pro, like anything else, can take a little bit of preparation and practice.  If you’re feeling apprehensive, we suggest you do a trail run on the weekend.  Pack what you think you’ll need, ride in on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and work through the logistics of your ride without the pressure of having to be at your first meeting.  Doing a trial run will help you realize some details you may have overlooked and will take the stress out of Monday morning. 

For more information on biking in Midtown, including personalized route planning, head over to  www.midtownatl.com/bike or reach out to mt@midtownatl.com