“Bike to Work” season is upon us, and there’s pretty much only one way to celebrate—by getting on your bike and riding to work (eating donuts afterward is optional). But what sounds oh-so-simple in theory can raise a host of logistical issues that might feel insurmountable if you’re just getting started. The good news is most of your concerns are likely tied to common misconceptions about . Here are nine myths about cycling to work—and why they shouldn’t stop you from saddling up.
Let’s address the biggest factor that prevents many of us from traveling by bike: safety. Sure, cycling involves some risk. But so does driving, and walking, and pretty much every activity that follows waking up and —assuming you didn’t choke on your oatmeal or trip down the front stairs on your way out.
According to , in 2013 there were 743 cyclists killed and an estimated 48,000 injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, which account for two percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities and injuries in the US. That might sound high considering just one percent of US commuters travel by bike—until you see the pedestrian statistics. In the same year there were 4,735 pedestrians killed, which amounted to 14 percent of the total motor vehicle crashes. But unlike driving—which accounts for the vast majority of injuries and fatalities—most of us believe biking and walking counteract their risk by being better for our bodies, brains, wallets, environments, and senses of well-being.
The good news is that bike commuting is on the rise, and as it increases, so does safety and infrastructure. In the US, bike commuting has grown 62 percent nationwide from 2000 to 2014 while the overall injury rate has increased less than a percentage. and bike paths are making safe commutes easier in cities and suburbs—and increased awareness of cyclists is making riding safer in rural areas.
Of course there’s a lot you can do yourself to , including following the rules of the road, riding predictably, wearing a helmet, putting lights on your bike, and swagging out in hi-vis everything. But you might also consider the “safety in numbers” principle and convince a few coworkers to with you. Not only will you raise your collective visibility and feel better about riding in the streets, but you’ll also have a lot more fun.
You need a special bike.
Most of us didn’t start riding to work on that perfect vintage city bike with the rear rack and fenders and custom leather panniers. Most of us started commuting on a , or a Craigslist special, or in my case, my sister’s old mountain bike with more spiders and cobwebs than miles on it. Any bike can be a commuter bike if you commute on it. In face, you don’t even need a bike at all—there’s no reason not to borrow a bike to see if you like commuting, or if you’re lucky enough to live in a participating city, use a bike share.
You can’t do it in normal clothes.
Spandex is optional—when it comes to commuting, you probably already have all the clothes you’ll need in your closet. Plenty of traditional jeans are sturdy enough for everyday biking, but if you’re having trouble finding a pair with enough stretch for pedaling, you might want to try dedicated cycling pants. Levi’s , Betabrand Bike to Work pants, and Giro Mobility trousers have just the right amount of coverage and give to handle your commute—and they don’t look out of place in the office.
It’s all or nothing.
Bike commuting doesn’t have to mean , or even riding the whole way in. You can shorten a really long commute by mi in public transit (plenty of buses and trains let you bring your bike along or offer bike parking), or even driving some part of the commute with your bike and riding the second leg in. Start small and plan to ride one to two days a week. Chances are, you’ll get the bug and want to ride more often and farther once you start reaping the anti-stress benefits of being on your bike.
It’s faster to drive.
If you live in a city, there’s a huge chance it’s faster to ride your bike than drive. That’s because during peak rush hour, most cities have a traffic-slowing corridor that limits automobile traffic to about 10mph. Check out to see if your city has one of the most congested corridors—and start riding your bike ASAP if it does. You won’t get stuck in so much traffic, you won’t have to circle for parking, and you won’t have to slam your fist against your steering wheel in frustration when you find yourself stopped at every light. If your ride to work is long enough that it actually is faster to drive, at least enjoy the fact that you’re saving gym time combining exercise with your commute.
You live too far away to ride.
More than half of US commuters live within 10 miles of work, and 78 percent live within 20 miles. Even if you don’t feel up to riding your bike more than a dozen miles to work and back every day, there’s always the possibility that you can ride to a train or bus. Consider a folding bike for multi-modal commutes—or an e-bike for longer commutes (these are our of the year). The time you might lose on riding 10 to 20 miles to work every day you’ll more than gain back in the form of health benefits and saved gym time.
You won’t be able to carry everything you need.
, racks, baskets, panniers, handlebar bags, seatpost bags, frame bags—and, yes, even fanny packs. There are so many ways to lug everything you own to work that anyone who buys into this myth is just fishing for an excuse.
You’ll get grossly sweaty.
This one might be true for at least part of the year. But is sweat so bad? If you don’t have a shower at your office, check if there are any gyms nearby that will let you use their facilities for a small fee. If not, just keep a change of clothes at work and use baby wipes or a sponge and paper towels to clean yourself off. There’s a company called that makes natural, environmentally friendly products for this very thing.
You can't ride in the dark/rain/cold/hot.
Sure you can. You just need a few extras. For , get a reflective jacket and front and rear lights ( are especially useful). For , you’ll be a whole lot happier if you invest in a good rain jacket, shoe covers, and fenders. For riding in the cold, check out our and get yourself as many warm layers as it takes. For riding in the heat, wear a lot of sunscreen, dress in light colors, hydrate often, and consider leaving a little earlier when it’s cooler. Conquer the elements on your bike, and the sense of empowerment—and smugness from riding when others won’t—will be worth getting your shirt a little sweaty or your shoes a little wet.