Bike Commuting Tips and Tricks

Spring is here, and what could be nicer than getting the bike out for a ride. Well, riding doesn’t only have to be on the weekends, and only for recreation. Riding to and from work can be a great way to wake up in the morning, decompress on the way home, get in your exercise, and save money.

Spring in New England can mean chilly mornings.

Riding bikes to work in the Pioneer Valley presents many options for route selection. Our growing network of rails-to-trails means even the shyest rider can get around and avoid tight streets. Going between Amherst, Easthampton, Hadley and Northampton is easily done on the Norwottuck and Manhan Rail Trails.

If you don’t live close enough to bike to a rail trail, driving or busing to the trails is an option. There are parking lots at many places along the trails, and the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, PVTA, has bike racks on buses.

Should you choose to bike to the trail, consider your route carefully. A route which makes sense in the car might not be your best bet on the bike. Choose a road which has a good shoulder, light traffic, and perhaps even better scenery. Pick up one of the Northampton area biking maps put out by Friends of the Northampton Trails and Greenways. The 2011 version will include the new trail bridge connection between Easthampton and Northampton, and the new trail through downtown Northampton, the Manhan connector path in Florence on Ice Pond Drive, the path extending from Look Park out to Leeds. The new map is scheduled to become available at the Northampton Bike Week Breakfast on May 18.

Riding smartly on the road requires learning where to position yourself, how to use hand signals, learning to be alert for motor vehicles. MassBike worked with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to create this brochure with bike commuting riding tips. If you aren’t sure of yourself, take a road riding skills class. They are offered through MassBike Pioneer Valley, and through the new Pioneer Valley Bike School in the Florence section of Northampton.

Bike buckets mean you can shop for dinner on the way home.

Commuting to work or to school requires carrying stuff. There are many options, from simply using a backpack, strapping a milk crate to the rear rack, buying or making your own carrying bags, called panniers. I’ve been making my own bags and panniers for years to save money, and because I like making them! I’ve put together a post on the many carrying options, including a how-to on making bike buckets.

Other things to consider are making sure you are seen by using lights and reflectors, and keeping comfortable in the rain.

I’d like to hear any other bike commuting tips and concerns you have. Leave a note in the comments.


About Pedal Paradise

Cyclist, Mom, Travel Nut, Bike Riding Empower-er!
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4 Responses to Bike Commuting Tips and Tricks

  1. The is Bike Challenge week, let’s all get out there and ride, when the weather is good.

    I even got out in the rain yesterday, but that is not so safe when there are still leaves or seeds from the trees on the road.


    Charlie Knight
    Yup, I am back on the road with the same bicycle I had the accident with back in 2009, and it feels sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo goooooooooooooooooood!!!

    • Charlie,

      So right about the debris on the road. One thing I watch out for is the sand piles on the side of the road. Car drivers expect cyclists to ride through that stuff, and are surprised when we don’t. Which means we are even *more* in the travel lane and in *their* way. Humph!


  2. Ryan says:

    If you’re driving to one of the rail trails in order to ride you should think about using a folding bike. That way you can just throw it in your trunk and even keep it with you all the time. I have a Montague folding bike in my trunk all the time. They make performance folders that use full size wheels and standard parts. They feel and ride just like a traditional bike. Im so happy with mine.

    • Ryan,

      I always look at folding bikes with some envy. Somewhere, in a future life, I’ll have a folder, and drag it everywhere with me!

      Thank you for adding these good suggestions.


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