Happy National Bike to Work Week! Here Are Some Tips for First-Time Cycling Commuters


It’s a special time for cyclists: National Bike to Work Week! While a lot of New York’s bike enthusiasts are used to the commute, we wanted to put together some tips for novices who might be making the trip for the first time — and give you enough time to get your gear together. The Voice chatted with Derek DeBoer, Bicycle Habitat’s manager/bike expert extraordinaire, about what to look for.

Village Voice: What are some important things people should look for in bikes for commuting, specifically in New York City?

Derek DeBoer: In this City — and I’ve worked in other towns, in more suburban situations — people really enjoy fenders even if it’s dry out. There’s so much dust and dirt on the street here, it can be a problem especially if you are commuting to work.

VV: OK, so for people who really have no idea what they’re doing, is there anything specific they should look for in a bike for commuting?

DeBoer: Most people like a bike with a few gears. It’s nice to get you over the bridge, whether its Manhattan or Brooklyn, whatever your route. A lightweight bike is something to look for, so you can get over the bridge without being frustrated.

VV: Any advice for people making the commute via cycle for the first time?

DeBoer: Obey the rules of the road: Most of them are the same as cars. You don’t want to run red lights. There are bike lanes on all boulevards. Also, get a bike map, and maybe try to stick to the green lanes or the bike lanes because it’ll make you feel a little more confident. I would definitely suggest wearing a helmet, and I would suggest having a light on there and a bell. Make sure the lights are on if it’s dawn or dusk. And you might want to get a pant strap for your pants, because it will keep them from getting in the chain.

VV: How can you tell if it’s your bike is OK or if it’s not a good fit?

DeBoer: I would go back to comfort. You have make sure your position on the bike is correct, by raising the feet and/or lowering or raising the handlebars. If it’s a horrible fit, we’d maybe suggest selling that bike. Tire pressure is also very important: At the proper pressure, you have less chance of getting a flat.

VV: What about carrying stuff?

DeBoer: If you go for a rack, you would want to figure out how much you’re going to be carrying. More weight is always better for the rear rack. Something lightweight is OK for the front basket. Generally for a novice rider or a novice commuter, it is easier to have more weight on the back. In the front, that gets a little harder to control, especially if you are a beginner. A lot of people do like wearing backpacks or messenger bags. If you’re just getting into it, getting a good backpack is probably the easiest way. Some messenger bags work, but a lot of times there isn’t a cross strap. It could fall forward and could be very scary for a beginner. Generally backpacks fit better to your body.

VV: Anything else?

DeBoer: When you are a new rider, you want to pay attention. Don’t be on your cellphone. Don’t have two headphones in — it’s illegal! Just pay attention to what you’re doing because other people aren’t.