|The bike-to-work alternative: Save
money and stay fit
Safety is another big issue. Per kilometer traveled,
a cyclist is 12 times likelier than a car occupant to be killed,
according to a 2003
American Journal of Public Health. The National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration's most recent numbers show that there were
773 cyclist fatalities in 2006, up from from 732 in 2001.
First and foremost, you'll need a bike. It doesn't have to be expensive,
but it does need to fit you and be durable enough to survive a regular
But don't assume that bikes are cheap. Prices vary.
You can pay a couple hundred dollars for a used, inexpensive road
bike or more than $10,000 for a road racer like Lance Armstrong's.
Most people can find a new bike -- mountain or road -- for generally
between $500 and $800, though you may be able to find cheaper models
at discount stores.
Some people use modified mountain bikes without suspension,
a cross or hybrid bike (which combines the characteristics of a
mountain bike with a road bike), or a touring road bike. Town cruisers
generally aren't built for speed or for long commutes but for riding
around town. They're souped-up versions of the bike you rode as
a kid, but with a big plush saddle and
usually one or three gears. Fancier ones have exotic paint jobs,
chopper handles and other gimmickry. Electra carries a line of town
cruisers, from a basic
model to fancier ones.
When in doubt about what to buy, ask a more experienced
cycling friend or get advice from your local bike shop. Also, even
if a less-expensive bike isn't perfect for commuting, you may want
to use it for a while before you invest in something pricier.
You'll also want to look into what tires are best
for your commute. Knobby mountain bike tires increase traction but
will create too much friction and will slow you down. They are overkill
on city streets. While knobbies are out, so is their polar opposite:
thin, light race tires. Instead, strike the middle road. Try to
get a sturdy, non-knobby road tire that's not too skinny. Remember
to replace tires every 1,500 miles or so or as they become worn.
In addition to a bike, you may want fenders to protect
yourself from water or mud splatters, a bell to warn people of your
approach, a mirror (mounted on your helmet or on your handlebars)
and a bike lock if you will be parking your bike in an unattended
area. If there's a chance that you'll be riding at night, you'll
need reflectors on your bicycle. Bike lights are also a good idea
and are often required by law for night riding.
You also have to figure out storage on your bike.
You'll need a place to stow your emergency equipment -- hand pump,
tire irons, tube -- as well as anything else you need to bring to
work, such as a change of clothes or files. Probably the lowest-cost
way to go is to use a spare backpack, if you have one, or a large
fanny pack. Hydration systems also usually offer some storage. Most
bikes can be equipped with panniers (saddle bags which affix to
a rack mounted in the rear or over the front tire). A large basket
mounted to the front may suffice.
As gas prices continue to rise, you'll likely see more and more
bicycles on the road. Just about anyone who knows how to ride a
bicycle can use one to commute to work, even if only occasionally.
It can also be a great way to decompress after a hard day at work.
Preston of the League of American Bicyclists, says,
"Just do it. People make it a lot more complex than it needs
to be. You don't have to buy a lot or do a lot to start commuting
Next up: "12
steps to get your bike commute started"
Freelance writer Jenny McCune is president of the
Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club in Bozeman, Mont. She owns two mountain
bikes and two road bikes, including a Trek Madone WSD 5.2 with a
carbon fiber frame and Shimano Ultegra components, an investment
of about $3,000.