Basic Skills for Commuters?

An idea we’ve been kicking around is to create another category of articles here at…this category will be to focus on “must have” basic skills for the novice or seasoned commuter.

We’ve got a TON of stuff in our archive — with close to 2000 articles, we’ve covered a lot of territory over the years. We plan on resurrecting some of the choicest articles that address these basic commuter skills as well as write new articles and have them all labeled under a “basic skills” category for easy digesting.

So, let us ask you for YOUR help — what would you like to see? We want to be sure we’ve covered as many bases as we can for these articles, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Just leave your thoughts in the comments below…and thanks in advance for your help.


  1. Raiyn

    These are probably already on the list: but proper locking technique, road etiquette, something on the proper use of lighting / reflective materials, carrying cargo…… I’m sure there are dozens more.

  2. Chris Eaker

    Basic skills:

    1. Hand signals
    2. Lane usage (i.e. when to take the lane, when to ride on the side, differences based on # of lanes, etc.)
    3. How to trigger a red light loop
    4. Common courtesy, such as never pass cars that have already passed you
    5. How to freshen up at work
    6. Evasive maneuvers (quick right turn, quick stop, avoidance of rock/pot hole, etc)

  3. Phil

    Life style considerations: time spent preparing for commuting, changing clothes, maintaining your bike, budgeting for commuting, etc. How commuting by bike changes your life…

    Safety: riding on the road – both defensive and by law. Visibility (clothing, reflectors, lights, etc.) during all levels of light (dark, day, dawn, dusk). Also: proper use of mirrors.

  4. John Romeo Alpha

    Preventative bike maintenance for commuters should be on the list. Do you follow a schedule? Cleaning, lubing, adjusting, replacing to avoid problems on the commute.

  5. Fiona

    1. Route picking might be a good basic skill to cover.
    2. Dealing with adverse weather (rain, wind, snow and or ice, cold weather, and heat)
    3. What to do with your riding gear while youre at work
    4. Packing on a bike rack if you dont have panniers.

  6. Ghost Rider

    All good suggestions — keep them coming!

    We’ve covered most of them in the past, but these lists will help me when I go back into our archive to re-tag some of the articles. There are some new ones in there, though…and of course that helps too!

  7. Quinn

    Basic/General bike laws, maintainence, what to look for/ signs of wear, best parts and equipment for commuting, proper clothing

  8. Jeroen

    Another vote for maintenance.
    Replacing brake pads for example. I know I did it the wrong (and very time consuming) way :). What would I need to look for when buying brake pads, etc.

  9. Emily WK

    And maybe an explanation of why you shouldn’t pass a car that has passed you? In an urban environment, such as Georgetown in DC, if I didn’t pass cars that had already passed me, I wouldn’t get anywhere.

  10. Ghost Rider

    @Emily…that’s one I’m not going to cover!

    While I suppose it is common courtesy or something, one of the joys of riding a bike in urban traffic is being able to pass cars, whether or not they’ve already passed you. I really have no idea if such behavior pisses off the motorists, and frankly I don’t care… They already piss me off on a regular basis!

  11. Emily WK

    Maybe Chris will come back and explain why it’s rude, as it was his suggestion. Thanks, GR.

  12. burnhamish

    I have no problem passing cars that have already passed me (if there is space to do so), since they are just going to pass me again once they get through the intersection.

  13. BluesCat

    Basic Maintenance
    Pre-Ride Checklists
    Defensive Riding Techniques (quick-rights, etc.)
    On-Line & Local Bike Resources (for everything from equipment reviews to traffic warnings)

  14. Emily WK

    Another thing I thought of – hair strategies. It might sound ridiculous, but most women don’t have supershort hair, and so we have to deal with what it looks like when we get to work AND whether it gathers our sweat.

  15. burnhamish

    Packing bags, backpacks, panniers for inclement weather.

  16. Iron_Man

    Get you home fixes could be helpful. Like what to do if you break a spoke. Break a chain. Get a flat with no spare tube. Bust a stem maybe. Etc. Basically how to be McGuyver in order to make it home.

  17. burnhamish

    Basic emergency repair skills, what tools & supplies to always bring with you, especially for long commutes.

  18. sportmac

    multi-use path etiquette:

    1. there is no middle lane. don’t squeeze between oncoming traffic and traffic you’re passing. that yellow stripe down the middle? it’s not your private lane. there is no middle lane!

    2. give warnings. bells bells bells. traveling at 15mph and yelling left when you are a few feet from someone is not a warning, it’s alarming. give early warning and often.

    3. don’t forget that you are the big boy on the block. you have the most mass, the most speed, the most hard parts and you are the most likely to do the most damage if an accident happens. yes, there’s dogs on long leash’s, people standing and chatting taking 3/4 of the path, runners with headphones… yes yes yes. doesn’t matter, you’re the big boy on the block, don’t risk hurting them. maintaining your pace is not only not the most important thing on that path, nobody else cares about it. nobody. respect that.

  19. John Hall

    Maybe include something on how to handle some tricky traffice intersection configurations that can pose a challenge, especially to the beginning street rider.

  20. tadster

    I’ve got some choice topics for you, Ghost Rider.

    -Relaxation techniques, or, How not to flip out when somebody unnecessarily honks at you or otherwise ruins your day.
    -Safety equipment checklist: The advantages of using a bicycle mirror, riding gloves, and bright clothing.
    -How to choose and create cycling routes using online map tools.
    -Riding with Extreme vigilance: Like a ninja, you are completely invisible.
    -Special report: Riding no hands is the easiest way you can break your face or worse.

  21. Paints

    Find alternate routes. My commute takes me a bit out of my way because after I leave the path I take side roads/sub divisions instead of staying on the main road. It’s more relaxing.

    Public path niceness. You know how cars piss you off? Don’t be the car on the paths you share with runners and walkers.

    Run a white blinky light front and back all the time. The cars will pick you up earlier. Planet Bike has a Blinky Safety Set that is reasonably priced.

  22. wade G.

    The most useful suggestion I can add is consistency.
    Try to be on time each day. That way vehicles will know to look
    for you at about the same place, and same time, everyday.
    Car Commuters like routine and not surprises.
    Finally BE NICE, Give a lot of peace signs, and smiles!
    I know it grates to some people but it really does help.

  23. Jay

    All great tips. One thing I’ve started doing this year is putting a small amount of money into savings each paycheck specifically for “bike stuff.” I have an ING savings account, which lets you easily set up sub-accounts. I created one called “Bike” and set up my regular checking account to automatically transfer $10 into it each payday; a small enough amount of money that I don’t notice it missing each payday, but it builds up gradually over time. I make a few cents each month in interest, but the main point is to have some money squirreled away when something comes up – an unexpected repair, the need for a new part or piece of gear, whatever.

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  25. bugeyemonster

    I think people in the list are getting out of Hand. Bike maintenance beyond changing a tube is not a basic skill. I like many commuters take my bike to a shop for repairs beyond replacing a tube.

    Basic skills should include:

    1. how to change a tube
    2. how to ride on the road
    3. how to keep your work clothes and lappy dry
    4. how to make yourself visible

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