How To Bike In The City: A Few Basics

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Urban cycling is becoming more popular due to the many benefits it offers. Not only is urban cycling fun and healthy, it’s also more affordable and often times convenient compared to driving a car. Without the worry of parking, insurance, and traffic jams, it’s no wonder many prefer urban cycling over owning a car. No matter if you use your bicycle to  go to school, the grocery store, or daily commuting. We’re going to tell you how to bike in the city with a few helpful basics.

Urban cycling is usually very safe as long as you show respect to other cyclists and motor vehicles. Obey all rules of the road, the same way you would if you were driving a car. Stop at all red lights and stop signs. Be alert and cautious while riding through intersections. While riding in the road, ride in a single file while riding with other cyclists, and use the bike lanes whenever they’re available. Try not to ride on the sidewalks unless you have to, in order to keep yourself and pedestrians safe. And be very cautious of vehicles coming out of driveways because it can very hard for them to see you.

Here’s how to bike in the city

With the following basics along with the gear and accessories that we’re going to recommend, you’ll be well on your way to being a safe, urban commuting super hero.

Choosing a Bike

You can use any type of bicycle you prefer to commute on as long as you feel comfortable riding it, and it meets your basic needs.

That means you can use a road, mountainhybrid or a specialized bike such as a cargo or e-bike.

Just don’t forget to add a rack to attach your panniers and  bike fenders for riding in rainy conditions.

For those that don’t have room for a bicycle, you can look into getting a folding bike. Or use a bike-share program that may already be in your city, or coming soon.

The great thing about renting a bike is that you don’t need to store it.

Or worry about it getting stolen while using for short trips. When you’re finished using the rental bike, you just leave it at a secure docking station.

For more on urban commuting, see our Bicycle Commuting Guide.

How to bike in the city while carrying stuff

Running errands on your bike will require you to carry essential gear.

The ability to carry gear will allow you to bring clothes, tools, food, and even a spare tube or tire.

Here’s some accessories we recommend you carry on your urban cycling adventures:
  • Daypack or messenger bag: Extremely versatile, is great for for light loads and short trips. A daypack or messenger bag can go wherever you go, with or without the bike.
  • Front basket: Adds Euro style and carrying capacity for a few items. A smaller option for the front of the bike is a handlebar bag.
  • Rear rack and panniers or basket: For heavier loads over longer distances. Some panniers double as a shopping basket or shoulder bag. Best for commuters and committed urban cyclists.
  • Cargo trailer: For serious load hauling from the farmer’s market or home improvement store.

To learn more about the different types of gear and accessories and which is best for you, check out our bicycle gear section.

How to bike in the city while keeping your Bike Secure

Nobody wants to come out of a store or job and see their bike gone.

With the following tips, we’re going to help you minimize the possibility of being a victim of bicycle theft:

Get a proper u-lock, and make sure you know how to use it.

There’s different types of locks for different purpose, so it’s important that you get the right type for what you intend to use it for:

A light cable combination lock suffices for short-duration parking outside a store.

For higher risk areas or multi-hour parking, use a heavy duty, keyed U-lock.

  • Take advantage of secure bike parking services when available at events like concerts, sporting events and markets.
  • Park your bike inside your workplace or a store, if possible. Ask permission first.
  • In high-crime areas, consider using a bike with low curbside appeal. A low resale value is less tempting to thieves.
  • Keep your accessories secure. Use a bolted seatpost clamp, not a quick-release clamp. Remove and pocket your bike computer and lights while away from your bike.

Tip: Keep a lock either attached to your bike, or in your pannier or cycling daypack so that is always available to use.

For more information on how to lock your bike, check out How To Lock Your Bike – The Right Way!

Bike Clothes

Urban bike commuting doesn’t require you to wear special clothing such as cycling jerseys or padded shorts.

Padded shorts, clip-less pedals, and cycling jerseys can be a huge benefit while going on long bike commutes.

For short commutes, anything goes. You can wear whatever you feel comfortable in, or whatever matches the venue you’re going to.

Avoid clothing that can be dangerous such as long scarves and billowy skirts or long jackets.

These types of clothing can get tangled in the rear wheel or brakes.

On bikes without a chainguard, long pants can get caught up in the chain or get oil marks.

  • Pants: If they are not tights, either roll up or tuck the pant leg into a sock on the chain side, or secure with a rip-and-stick strap to prevent the leg from flapping onto the chain.
  • Shoes: No need for cycling shoes. Regular shoes are more versatile. A grippy sole will help keep your feet on the pedals. If you wear smooth-soled shoes, a strapless pedal toe clip will prevent your feet from sliding forward.
  • Jacket: The discomforts of rain and wind can be lessened with a suitable wind or waterproof jacket. For serious wet weather protection, add rain pants and shoe covers.

As urban cycling becomes more popular, clothing that blends cycling function with city fashion will become more common.

Stretchy wind resistant fabric, discrete reflective accents, and hidden roll-up pant tabs help you ride, work and play without looking like a professional spandex road racer.

How to bike in the city safety

Riding safely in traffic requires being aware of your surroundings, obeying all laws, being visible, and of course predictable.

Be visible: Wear reflective clothing such as a bright jacket/top and helmet. Have fully charged front and rear bicycle lights with at least 300 lumens. And make sure you use them when it’s completely dark or gloomy out.

Be legal: Always obey all laws such as stoping at all red lights and stop signs. Give the right of way to other cyclists and motor vehicles. Ride with traffic, not against it. Use bike lanes where available. Ride in single file. Ride on the street or in a bike lane, not on the sidewalk unless it’s permitted. The sidewalk may feel safer, but you must stay alert for pedestrians and driveway traffic.

Be predictable: Don’t ride erratically or weave in and out of cars. Use hand signals when you intend to make turns. Don’t block lanes or impede traffic flow, unless the safest action is to “take a lane.” When riding with family or friends, focus on the traffic and not the chat.

Bike Maintenance

Basic cleaning/maintenance involves two simple things:

  • Air: All tires gradually lose air. Tires need to be pumped up to their recommended pressure once or twice a month, regardless of use. Invest in a floor pump with a built-in gauge to make this quick and easy.
  • Oil: The drivetrain will work quietly, smoothly and with less effort when kept lubed. Apply chain lube once or twice a month, depending on use. Let it soak in, then wipe off the excess with a cloth.

Tip: Take your bike to a bike shop near you for regular maintenance. An annual service will prolong its life and minimize potential breakdowns

How to Handle Flat Tires

Punctures happen, but not nearly as often as you might fear. Your options are:

  • Prevention: Choose tubeless tires which are far less prone to puncture flats.
  • Plan B: Have a contingency plan. It might be calling a friend to pick you up, or catching a bus or train with your bike to finish your trip. Or locking your bike up, calling a cab and attending to it later.
  • Fix it: Learn to fix a flat, and carry the relevant equipment (tire levers, spare tube, patch kit, hand pump). A repair usually takes 10 minutes or so.


Where to buy a bike:

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