What Kind Of Bicycle Do I Need To Bike To Work?

So, you’ve decided you want to bike to work. The first question you may ask yourself is, “What kind of bike should I ride?” I suggest that this is not the first question–what to ride is a tool question, and what you need to ask is an intent question.

Picture of many parked bikes
Photo by Zoonabar

We like to focus on tools because they are external; we can compare and contrast our options; Google some brands, terms, and reviews; do some shopping and then…get something that fails to meet our needs because we haven’t identified what those needs are.

The first question you need to ask is, “Why do I need to ride a bike to work?” Once you answer that question, choosing a bike becomes easier and a lot less random.

A few years ago, a man I knew decided to simplify–take everything back to the basics. (That’s what he called it; his wife’s divorce lawyer had a more technical term.) Part of “simplifying” was not having a car. He decided he needed basic transportation that didn’t require a lot of maintenance, that was unlikely to be stolen, and that would get him to work, to the store, and to some hiking trailheads. He was not concerned about his comfort as all his destinations were within a few miles.

This man bought a used Huffy with knobby tires for $35, bolted a milk crate on the back, and put on lights and reflectors. More than two years later, he is very satisfied with his ride because he identified what he needed, and that old mountain bike fit his needs.

If you are interested in biking to work because you want more training time on your road bike and plan to ride every day, that will lead to a different bike choice than, for instance, wanting a comfortable bike ride a few times per week.

Once you know what you need from a commuting bike, you have two options: use a bike you already have, or get a different one.

Bike to Work On The Bike You Have

According to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, between 15 and 20 million bicycles are sold each year, so chances are pretty good you have one (or two) in your garage. Even if you don’t have one, a neighbor probably does. When a friend asked me about biking to work, I loaned him my old commuting bike so he could try it out. He only used it for a couple of days before buying his own.

If you decide to use your own bike, you should consider having it looked at by a local bike shop. They can make sure it is ready and may suggest some helpful accessories like lights, a cargo rack, or fenders. You may want to look at whether your tires are appropriate…if you are riding on pavement for more than a few miles, consider swapping out those knobby off-road tires for something smoother.

Bike to Work on Something New

If you decide that your current bike won’t meet your needs (or if you don’t have a current bike), you can go used or new. Your local bike shop will have great advice and information, and good bikes can be found at garage sales, in the classifieds, at thrift stores, or on Craigslist. In my next post, I will talk about the wide variety of bikes available for your bike to work and why there are so many.

Whatever you pick, remember that the best bicycle for riding to work is the one you will actually use. If you go for a cheap used bike that doesn’t meet your needs you will not enjoy it and your bike to work career will likely come to a premature end.

3 thoughts on “What Kind Of Bicycle Do I Need To Bike To Work?

  1. For me, fit is always foremost, regardless of the type of bike. Having said that, I like bikes with multiple gears that are lighter and more responsive. My current town bike (I work at home as a writer-editor) was my mom’s for 30 years before I got it–for free. It’s a white, 1970s Peugeot UO-18 mixte bike with one chainring up front and a 6-cog freewheel in the rear. That f d gives me plenty of gearing for flat Alameda as well as some riding in San Francisco. Front and rear cargo racks plus panniers make for easy load hauling (shopping at the farmer’s market or the hardware store). Almost all of the Peugeot’s components have been upgraded–often from my bin of used parts– to improve the braking, shifting, and wheel strength

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