How to start biking to work

bike to work

I already got up on my soapbox about why you should bike to work, so now let’s talk about what you actually need to start biking to work (besides a bike, of course).

Honestly, the first thing may be kind of limiting: a safe route.

Google is not always the most reliable when it comes to streets that are actually good for biking – it has routed me onto a six-lane road instead of a street with a bike lane, so do your research. Scope out the route in your car ahead of time or try it on the weekend on a bike to see if you feel comfortable and to explore side streets that may be safer.

I wish it wasn’t this way, and that cities were built for bikes, and that cars were much more courteous, but sadly it’s not.

Next step: Helmet time. 

Yep, this is a requirement. I don’t care how confident you are in your immortality. I don’t care that you think it looks dorky. I don’t care that it’s “inconvenient.” It ain’t worth it. Anytime I’m driving in traffic, my helmet is on. It’s a preeetttyy small inconvenience considering the downside (concussion, death, etc).

Find a helmet you like, that fits securely, and is comfortable. I tried on almost every helmet Target offered and this Bell helmet was my favey.

I loved Bell’s adjustable fit system – you can turn the dial on the back of the helmet to make sure it fits your head perfectly. It also didn’t look totally dorky, and the price was right (the theme of this blog is “I wanted to start biking for as cheap as possible without being unsafe”).

But what about helmet hair?

Dudes, I have no advice for you. I’m sorry. But ladies, I got you!

I have basically given up on wearing my hair down at any point in the summer. I sweat too much for it to recover from the bike ride, plus I realized that not blow drying my hair means I can sleep in another 15 minutes.

My bike helmet hairstyle is super simple. You just need two bobby pins and either a claw clip or ponytail holder (dealer’s choice). I pin the front section of my hair back from my face and then clip the remainder into a low bun. Don’t worry, I’m completely beauty-impaired, so it’s not difficult:

My hair is SUPER thin and naturally pretty straight, and I still look professional (ie not like a swamp rat) when I get into the office after a three-mile ride.

Let there be light(s).

Regardless of your work schedule, eventually Daylight Savings Time will get you and you’ll need lights for biking home after work. Even if you can still see okay without them, you should absolutely have your lights on so drivers can see you.

I started out with this front and rear light set, but I only recommend the front one. The rear light was complete trash. But the front light is super bright and has blinking settings, which can help cars see you and tell how quickly you’re moving.

The only odd thing about the front light is that there are two blinking settings, one of which is basically a strobe light. I never use it because it makes me seriously concerned I will set off an epileptic episode for some poor passerby or driver. And, I don’t need to feel like I’m at a rave.

This rear light is not garbage, even though it is equally affordable. It’s also super bright and has multiple blinking settings. Once I snapped in batteries, it took less than ten minutes to install both of them on my bike.

Lock it up.

There are a billion different lock options, and if you really want to dig into some internet research, you can check out Wirecutter’s exhaustive analysis of the best bike lock.

Admittedly, this coil lock came with my bike, so I didn’t do much market research. But bike theft isn’t so rampant in Denver that I’ve felt like I need to up the ante on how un-breakable my lock is. That coiling bike lock is affordable, easy to store, and gets the job done.

I wind it around my bike seat and keep the keys on my regular keychain so it’s essentially impossible for me to forget either. Plus, I can use it to lock two bikes if I’m with someone who doesn’t have one.


It’s called fashion. Look it up.

In the summer, I straight up wear athletic gear head to toe. Sports bra, sneakers, the whole nine yards. I change in the bathroom when I get to work and keep my work shoes under my desk so I don’t have to carry them in each day.

Sidenote: if you’re sweaty like me, pack face wipes and deodorant with you to freshen up when you get where you’re going. Also, if you have an office with a door, but it also has a window, you can get a cheap tension rod and curtain to make your own dressing room.

In less sweaty months, I just wearing leggings and sneakers with layers up top once it gets colder. Once I’m not getting sweaty, I’m less concerned about biking in the shirt I’m going to wear to work all day. I’ve personally never been able to bike in jeans or other regular pants without major lady part discomfort, but all the more power to you if you can go head-to-toe work clothes on your bike.

Pack mentality.

I quickly reverted to my high school days (literally, I still had my backpack from high school) to carry everything. Particularly in the summer when I have to bring an entire outfit back and forth, it’s just easier. You can definitely make do with your purse on your handlebars, but a messenger bag or backpack will make your life way easier.

I continued to use the same backpack I had laying around from high school and college. Any backpack that fits all of your stuff will do. My old faithful Columbia lasted me 10 years, and I recently I treated myself to a new one from Patagonia that will hopefully last me just as long.

Both packs have a 32-liter capacity (I do not understand why liters are used to measure backpacks) and that has been clutch. I tried a 28 liter and was really surprised that I couldn’t fit all of my stuff in it (outfit, lunch, wallet, water bottle, etc).

One last tip – find your bike on Craigs List! CL is chock full of people with bike buyers remorse.

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.