Commuting tips

Going to work by bike? Welcome to the growing group! Some are doing it by obligation, for health, because of money, political reasons, because it feels good or to save the earth. The following are but tidbits of ideas on commuting.

My idea is to help fellow commuters to share our combined experiences. Just here at Arkel do 85% of our staff commute to work on a bike, with dedicated indoor parking!! If you don’t do it already, by all means try it—for whatever reason you want!

our Quality Control specialist . . .
and author of these commuting tips



 What to wear

What to wear depends on where you live, of course. The Canadian climate is not the same as the California climate, but some basic rules can be carried over.

Work clothes are pretty much off, except maybe for some very short commutes. Two things make that unpractical: sweat and wrinkling. Most of us will sweat somewhat, which is not really appealing when wearing a shirt, but even if you don’t the pedaling motion will wrinkle well-pressed pants in no-time, like behind the knees and at the crotch. Instead wear light, comfortable clothes or breathable cycling wear to maximize your experience.

Maybe you have a place at work to hang or store your cycling clothes. Maybe you don’t. If you don’t then keep some room in your panniers for them. If you sweat a lot and have to store your riding clothes in your panniers, maybe it would be wise to carry a spare pair of shorts. Spandex are great because they're light and you can wash them in a sink, and they dry in no time.


The classic spin on work clothes is to prepare a complete set of matchable outfits for the week ahead and drive the lot to the workplace once a week and bring back the old ones for washing. If you’re like many of us here at Arkel who don’t even own a car, it’s not realistic. Commuting can still be accomplished without great pains, as we all at Arkel are good examples of that. For instance, our California guy, Daniel, has his shirts cleaned and “boxed” so there is enough space inside the individual plastic bag they are folded in, to also fit a pair of folded pants, underwear, t-shirt, socks, tie and a belt. For him the T-42's fit everything perfect and give him enough room for a laptop, business files, books and his lunch! Everything is so tight that nothing moves during the ride for a wrinkle free look. He even uses the plastic bag to put his bike clothes in.

Paul, our General Manager, commutes with our Briefcase. He uses one compartment solely for clothes. By compressing the webbing he effectively stabilizes everything for fresh garnments at work.

 Safety first

First and foremost. always wear a helmet. It's cheap brain insurance and it's only a question of time before you will use it, ask anyone!

Wear bright colors. They are not only more visible during the night, they are more eye-catching during the day too. You can’t be too visible. When riding at night not only should you have all the equipment required by law, but also make sure to adhere to the “see and be seen” mentality. Use active lights front and rear. Make sure your panniers have reflective stripes, wear reflective leg bands and don’t shy away from a reflective vest. It looks dorky, but not more than a suit in a coffin. Your loved ones will thank you.

Obey traffic laws. We can’t stress this one enough. One day it will save you life. And if it don’t save yours, it may save others by demonstrating the proper example and not antagonizing motorists. Stop at all red lights and stop signs, even when there's no traffic. It's a good habit to get into.

Obey traffic laws: Keep off the sidewalks.
Obey traffic laws: Stay off narrow, one way streets.
Obey traffic laws: Act like a car which never has the right of way.


Be predictable. Hand signals were invented for cars. When cars had no directional lights hand signals became mandatory. Use them to indicate your moves to motorists. They’ll love you for it, because neither of you will be guessing what the other is doing.

Look through the back windows of parked cars to spot drivers about to exit without warning. If passing such a car with unclear intent, extend a hand forward as you come about the door in case the door opens on your side. Providing you are forceful enough you may stop the driver from opening the door in front of your least long enough for you to pass.

Don’t shout to motorists, unless absolutely necessary. Life is too short to waste your precious time and energy, and often will do nothing but distract you thus making an accident even more likely. Learn crash manoeuvers, think of possible last minute escape routes and how to ditch, and if all else fails, apply your first aid knowledge for whomever is involved. Practice over grass in your backyard or in the park. It’s a good skill to know anyways. Sometimes in life you must learn to let go.

 Day-to-day necessities

Commuting and seatbags don’t go well together unless you can park your bike inside your workspace. Leave nothing on your bike that can be removed or stolen. Try to use panniers and stuff everything inside.

There’s no denying that a backpack or a courier bag is quicker to use than a set of panniers, but consider the following. Panniers are not hard on your back, heavy on your shoulders, hot when you sweat, make you lose your balance during quick manoeuvers or risk snapping a vertebra in case of a fall. Similarly, consider that a backpack will not protect your derailleur on a side impact, will not cushion your bike on a brick wall and does not look good inside of corporate buildings. Our vote: panniers, any day. Are your surprised?

Be sure to have some money in case of an emergency. A calling card is a minimum and enough money for at least a snack and drink is preferable.


Stack basic tools inside an old sock that you can then use as a glove for roadside repairs. Basics are a spare tube, a pump or 2 CO2 cartridges (if it fits with your philosophy), tire levers, and anything else you feel comfortable with. Anyways at that point you’ll be late for work! And it will be on the most important day, so always give yourself extra time and use the "spare" minutes to enjoy the flowers along the route.

Carry I.D. where they can be found. Better to be safe than sorry! While you’re at it, put basic identification inside the seat tube of your bike. Something like "This bike belongs to Jane Smith, 34 Main Street, 555-5656" in case it gets stolen. You never know, you could get a phone call from a bike shop later!!!

 Bike rigging!

We’re talking commuting! Stay low-key and stay away from loud colors. If you lock your bike outside, think of masking most areas of the frame. Make the bike unappealing.

Fenders are a must, unless you live in Tucson. Minimal weight, maximum payoff. Hey, bonus advantage: most people think it looks . . . errr . . . un-sexy (well we kind of like them ourselves, but that’s just us), thus less appeal for the would be thief.


Tire liners, Thorn-proof tubes, Kevlar tires, Slime, whatever makes your tire less prone to flats is a blessing to your boss.

Anything else is up to you. Racing bike, mountain bike, hybrid, fixed gear, one speed, city bike. Whatever suits you, as long as you enjoy it and it's road worthy.

And the small details . . .

If a shower is available to you, by all means indulge yourself. Don’t forget the towel, and a regular hygiene kit that you can stash in a drawer. Soap, shampoo, deodorant are the basics, plus a toothbrush and toothpaste.

A hand dryer machine in the restroom also makes a good blow dryer.

If a shower is not available to you, leave a package of "disposable wet napkins" at your work place. They’re practical and will degunk all but the most intimate parts of your body, leaving a fresh scent too!


Intricate hairstyles will sometimes discourage riders from wearing a helmet or riding a bike altogether. Small tip: most mousses or hair gels will be reactivated with a little water, easying the task to rebuild a presentable, loveable look.