Commuting by eBike can be a daunting task as it involves a bit more than recreational bike outing.
Now, you have to consider varying weather throughout the day, clothing and work supplies, night riding, routes you are uncomfortable with, locking up the eBike, hilly paths, and getting to work sweaty. I hope to calm those nerves and give you the knowledge necessary to set out and become an electric bike commuter by talking you through your prep and ride into work.
Electric bikes inherently solve a lot of the anxieties that come along with bicycle commuting.
Conquer hills with ease
Comfortably pack and carry supplies and clothes
Arrive at work less sweaty
Raise your heart rate and improve health
It is enough to wake you up and get you energized for the day without making you too tired to finish a day of work. Many of our customers have told us that because they can hold a higher pace to work, their commute time is not much different than fighting auto traffic, driving to work. This means a similar length commute that is more healthy and frustration free.
This all sounds nice, but where do you start?
Prepare your bike.
See & be seen.
Thankfully, most eBikes will come with lights ensuring that you are seen both during the day and at night. Even during the day, I recommend running a headlight and tail light on a blinking setting if possible. Although most eBikes come equipped with lights, it is good to go for a ride at night to make sure your lights are bright enough to see clearly when riding in the dark. An extra safety measure lots of commuters utilize is a second head or rear light that has more angles to be seen or flashes to get more drivers attention. Not only does riding with lights make you more visible to other motorists or trail users, but according to Colorado Law between dusk and dawn riders must have a front light and, at minimum, rear reflectors. Be seen during the day, see clearly at night – utilize your bike lights!
You’ll need to carry a few more things.
Most people will have work attire that will be different than what they wear on a bike, so I recommend trying to find a place you can leave some work clothes at your place of employment. By leaving work clothes at work, you are not riding in them and getting them dirty or having to carry extra clothes to-and-from every day. If you cannot store all your things at work, I highly recommend, keeping an extra pair of shoes at work. You never know when you will hit a big puddle and get wet shoes, which are not fun to have all day at work. After assessing you work storage situation, you also need to account for lunch (if you take it) and any work supplies you may need to take back and forth. All of this needs to be accounted for so that you set your eBike up for success.
Add cargo capacity to your bike.
Once you have identified what you plan to take to-and-from to work, you’ll need a way to comfortably transport everything you need with room to spare. While you might already have a bigger backpack, I highly recommend getting the weight off your shoulders and onto the bike. It allows you to ride more comfortably, not get a sweaty square on your back, and let the motor push the weight forward. I rode with a backpack for years, but I made the switch to bike bags and will never look back. There are many iterations of bike bags and how to mount them, but I recommend getting enough for all of your stuff plus more. If you have extra room most days, great! But the days will come with highly volatile weather or you need to take more to work, and it is best to be prepared ahead of time rather than trying to find last minute solutions.
Most eBikes come standard with a rear rack to mount panniers (bags on the side of the rack), and/or a trunk bag (mounted to the top of the rack) to carry your additional cargo. Either option is great, and we stock a variety of our favorites to outfit your ride!
Know you weather forecast.
While commuting, weather apps are your friend. I, personally, use two apps (Weather Channel & Accuweather) to check the current weather and projected weather for when I leave work. Many of our eBike commuters point out that while they are getting a workout with elevated heart rates, they are not generating as much heat and are moving faster, increasing the wind chill. Layers and wind breakers will be your friend and if you plan to ride year around, we have a blog on winter commuting you can check out.
Know your route.
You are dressed and the eBike is ready; now how to get to work. The shortest route will not always be the best, especially if it includes high vehicle traffic roads. I tend to take a longer path, but one that puts me primarily on bike path which is safer and takes about the same amount of time because I do not have stop lights. I recommend trying several different routes to figure out the traffic situation on different roads, but to start I use Google Maps because it has a nice bike option:
- Go to Google Maps at http://maps.google.com.
- Select Get Directions.
- Type your starting address into field A.
- Type your destination into field B.
- Click Bicycling on the dropdown menu.
- Click Get Directions.
- Click on the route of your choice. Google will suggest several, in order from shortest to longest trip. Some routes may take slightly longer but may be preferable for other reasons, such as avoiding busy intersections or rough terrain.
- Customize the route by dragging the blue line (your bike route) wherever you want to move it to [source: Google].
After a while, you can start exploring around your current route. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new favorite coffee shop or restaurant. Sometimes going one or two blocks further can be drastically less traffic. Do not be afraid to use the power of your eBike to get up to speed on a busy road or to go further in order to be on safer roads. You have the motor, never be afraid to let it help you! Studies have shown that commuters get into rhythms that aren’t always the best route. When the tube shut down in London for a day, yearly commuters had to find new paths. 10% of commuters used a new path from that day forward after months or years of their previous path. If your route ever feels unsafe, try a new route, and you may be surprised what you find.
Keep your bike secure and charged.
You have made it to work, but what do you do with your expensive eBike? Always invest in a good lock or two. If you can bring it into the office, even better. However, I would still lock my bike up inside (even to itself) if you cannot see it. Most bike theft is a crime of opportunity, so do whatever you can to remove the opportunity. I also recommend keeping the battery with you. Some bikes use the same key to lock up the bike and remove the battery. If this is the case, please make sure you have the key or battery with you. I have seen an eBike that is locked up to a rack with the bike key still on the bike. This means it would be easy to take that key and walk off with the battery. So if you have a key like this, be careful to not leave yourself susceptible. If there is an eBike in the bike barn with no battery (and no charger), the thief now has hundreds of dollars to invest to get the eBike working again.
Another thing to consider while at work is prepping for your ride home. If your work will be stretching your battery life, the easiest way to extend your eBike’s range is a second charger to leave at work. For eBike batteries, it is safe and recommended to keep topping off the battery rather than draining the battery totally during each use. So, charging your battery at work each day will only be good for the battery and not cause deterioration over time. If you have plenty of range to get to work, top if off every night when you get home. On your way home, you might take a different route because of different evening traffic routes.
Stick with it, it only gets easier!
Commuting with an eBike can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to get to work every day. You get to exercise and not become frustrated sitting in traffic. However, some people commute for a few days and start to feel tired and frustrated because of the energy expenditure. Push through! Different bodies adjust differently, but anywhere between three weeks and two months your body will transition making the commute feel no different than a car commute. You have invested your finances in a eBike and the bags, do not give up on yourself too early. With these basic tips, you should be able to become a commuting regular who shows up to work happy and energized rather than frustrated and late, who lives a healthier life, and who gets to enjoy the outdoors each and every day.