24 months on two wheels


Around two years ago, I was fortunate to not have to work in the summer: I had a research fellowship from May - August through the College of Education at MSU.

As a result, I didn’t buy a parking pass for the summer. I still came in to campus, but since I didn’t have any official, regularly-scheduled meetings, I thought I could bike in when I needed to. I had biked to campus before, so I was familiar with the route and where I would park my bike, but I didn’t regularly commute.

Anyhow, after the summer ended, I kept biking, and realized I liked it. I commuted by bike for the rest of the year, and after some discussions with my spouse Katie, who also walked to work or commuted by bike, decided we needed one car, and sold mine. So this post is about some of the lessons learned from commuting year-round.

1. Most bikes will do

A commuting bike is like a commuting car: Most will work okay. At first, I rodd a hybrid bike. Hybrid bikes will do; mountain bikes will do; touring bikes will do.

2. Finding a good route

At first, I took a different route to campus every day, until I settled on a route. It avoids busy intersections and is mostly along bike paths or lanes.

3. Lights and fenders

I think some accessories, like trip computers and tire pumps, are optional, but two are key. I have a rear taillight for being seen and a front light to see. Fenders might not seem important, but I rode home a few times without fenders when it rained and soaked my bag and clothes. Fenders also keep dirt off the bike and its chain, meaning less maintenance.

4. Helmets are important

I wear one.

5. Other gear (that isn’t necessary)

A rear rack is nice because you can attach a bag to it. It surprises me how much more comfortable it is biking without a backpack or messenger bag. A trip computer isn’t necessary but is nice. A pump and tire patch kit is nice but if you are close to home (or a bus line) a cell phone may be just as useful. In the winter, a face mask or balaclava is good to have, and starting last year, I bought tires with better traction for the winter. These are all things that you can update as needed over time.

tl;dr: I like to bike commute. I’m probably a little less stressed (but maybe a bit obnoxious to others because I talk about biking so much). You can do it (or at least get started) without buying a new bike or investing in too much gear.