How to Bike to Work in DC

Photo Credit: Francis Tatum

In honor of Friday’s Bike to Work Day, we asked Tony Pelton of BicycleSPACE – DC’s top-rated bike shop – for his tips on the best bikes, equipment, and paths for commuting in DC.  Here’s what he had to say:

In your opinion, what are the five essentials every bike commuter should have?

There are 5 great things that can not only improve your commute, but keep your bike in much better condition. Chain lube is essential, as is a floor pump to keep your tires properly inflated.  I advise pumping your tires at least once a week.  You’ll also want a multitool – something that just has a variety of hex keys will do the trick – for any small adjustments.  Tire levers are important so either you or a pal can fix any flats you may get. You’ll also want front and rear lights if you plan on riding at dawn, dusk, or night.

What type of bikes are best for commuting?

It’s hard to say. Preference-wise, for most of the people who work here [at BicycleSPACE], it would be a bike that has clearance for a decently wide tire, fender mounts for riding in the rain, and mounts for a rack so you don’t have to carry all your things in a backpack. Lots of people tend to prefer a bike that rides more upright because it makes it easier to navigate traffic.

For those who already have bikes, what modifications/add-ones would you suggest to make them more commuting friendly?

First thing is fenders.  Fenders make riding in the rain so more bearable. Having a rear rack is very helpful as well.  It getting your clothes, laptop, and lunch off  your back, which can make commuting a whole lot better on an aching back.

Rain is in the forecast for tomorrow.  How should riders prepare themselves and their bikes?

I’m going to sound like a broken record, but install fenders! That’s going to be the best thing you do.  Other than that, get a cycling cap or a brim installed on your helmet.  It’s shocking how those silly little hats improve your visibility in the rain – that’s what they were designed for! You’ll also want to invest in a nice light rain jacket and rain pants. I just got rain pants last winter and it changed the way I felt about commuting.

In your opinion, what are some of the best streets and paths riders can use to get to work?

It’s pretty subjective, but depending on the where you are coming from, the Metropolitan Branch Trail is a great commuting option. It needs some more policing, but the more cyclists use it, the more I think the DC government will pay attention to it.  As for bike lanes, I really like Q St and R St NW for East/West travel and 11th and 5th NW for North/South travel.

What advice would you give to first-time bike commuters in our area?

Don’t be afraid of getting out there. This is a great city to ride a bike in.  If you take the lane so you are out of the door zone, take streets that you are comfortable riding on and follow the laws of the road – you’ll grow to be super comfortable riding in DC this way. Something a lot of people find helpful is trying a few different routes earlier in the morning or later in the evening when there are less cars out – it helps in finding a route that really feels safe and relaxing.

BicycleSPACE is located at 1019 7th Street NW in Washington, DC.  

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