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12 steps to get your bike commute started
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6. Learn the rules of the road for bicycles
Most states have a department of transportation, which offers information on traffic laws, including how they apply to cyclists. Sometimes you can get the lowdown simply by visiting the DOT's Web site. Most states classify bicycles as vehicles, which means that bike riders must follow the same rules as motorists (riding in the same direction as other traffic, signaling turns, etc.).

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7. Investigate parking
Some cities, including Washington, D.C.; Santa Barbara, Calif., and Seattle, offer or are in the process of setting up "bike stations," secure parking stations for bikes, as well as other amenities. Otherwise, a simple bike rack at work may suffice. If there isn't one, see if your employer or the owner of the building is willing to put one in. Sometimes municipalities or local bike shops offer free (or subsidized) bike racks. Also, if office space is ample, you may be able to find a spare corner where your bike can stay while you're working.

8. Devise a cleanup plan
Does your employer offer shower facilities or a discount on a health club membership? If you can't shower on the premises, you may be able to shower at a nearby health club or bike station. If not, you can use a restroom's sink to do quick a splash bath (clean up after yourself if you want to be welcome a second time). Depending on how hot it gets where you live and how long your commute is, you may find that you don't require a massive cleanup to be presentable.

9. Carry flat fix essentials
If you ride regularly, sooner or later you may get a flat tire. Always bring along a spare tube, tire irons and a pump. Before you have to change a tire out in the field, practice at home. Have a more experienced rider or your bike mechanic show you how to do it.

10. Learn emergency adjustments
Although flat tires are normally the worst thing you'll encounter on the road, it's a good idea to know how to perform emergency repairs. Knowing how to put your chain back on, how to keep your brake from rubbing and how to adjust your saddle can make the difference between a good ride and a bad one. Many bike shops routinely offer free maintenance clinics so you can learn emergency repairs and how to keep your bicycle in good working order.

11. Inspect your bike before every ride
Check your tire pressure and pump your tires up to the appropriate pressure, and you'll reduce your risk of pinch flats. Also make sure the brakes are working and that your bike is shifting properly.

12. Perform routine maintenance
Regularly clean your bike, lube your chain and inflate your tires. Chains get stretched and need to be replaced. Tires can lose their treads. Brakes get worn. The wear and tear of riding and hitting bumps can loosen handle bars and other vital parts. Have your bike regularly tuned up at a bike shop. How often you get a tuneup depends on how many miles you are putting on your bike. Try for a checkup every 2,000 to 3,000 miles -- or sooner if your bike stops working properly or starts making noises that you can't explain.

Back to: "The bike-to-work alternative: Save money and stay fit"

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Updated: May 13, 2008
 
 
More stories by Jenny McCune
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