Interested in bike commuting, but not sure where to start? Here are a few tips to get you rolling:
Step 1: Find a bike that’s right for you
It’s important to find a bike that you feel comfortable on. Not ready to buy yet? Try renting at first, or using a bike share service.
If you are looking to purchase a bike, stop by a local bike shop and tell them what you’ll be using the bike for. They should be able to tell you your frame size and suggest different styles and sizes to try. Bring a bike-minded friend along with you for support, or reach out to Transportation Services for some purchasing recommendations.
Step 2: Plan your route to the UW
We’ve listed some popular routes on our Routes & resources page. Two other resources to know about:
- Google Maps provides bicycle directions! Enter your start and end points and let Google do the rest. Please note that some directions are still in beta.
- Strava allows you to build a route based on multiple factors, such as popularity of use or elevation change. You can then use the app to track your cycling trips and show your friends all the awesome miles you ride.
Once you decide on a route, test it out! Try your new route on a weekend when there’s less traffic. Ask a friend or co-worker to ride with you, or get help from a Bike Buddy.
Does your route involve a bus? Get practice putting your bike on the bus bike rack with our full-sized practice rack located in front of the Transportation Services office at 1320 NE Campus Parkway. Metro also has some great instructions on how to use their racks.
All buses and most vanpools have easy-to-load bike racks. Try pedaling one way, or part of the way, and ride the bus or vanpool for the rest of your journey. Bus and vanpool bike racks typically hold two or three bicycles. You can also take your bike on Sounder trains and Link light rail.
Step 3: Know where to park your bike
The UW campus is home to almost 10,000 bicycle parking spaces, including racks, lockers, rooms and houses. Check out our bike parking page for more information.
Step 4: Accessorize
In addition to your bicycle, certain accessories are required by law, and others will make your experience on a bike much more enjoyable:
- Helmet: King County law requires you to wear a helmet when biking. Replace your helmet every three to five years or if it absorbs a major impact.
- Lights: The law requires you to have a white front light and red rear reflector when riding at night. We recommend a solid white front light and at least one red rear light to go with your rear reflector. Make sure to angle your front light so it doesn’t blind oncoming traffic.
- U-Lock: A stolen bike will ruin your day, so protect your bike by locking it up with a high-quality U-Lock. Your U-Lock should be big enough to fit around your bike frame, a bike rack and at least one wheel. Learn more about proper locking techniques here.
- Reflective clothing: While not required by law, reflective clothing and accessories can help you stay safe and seen while riding at night. Stop by your local bike shop and check out their clothing selection, or wear a construction vest over your clothing as an affordable alternative.
- Fenders: Keep your bike, body and the folks riding behind you dry by investing in full front and rear fenders.
- Bell: Politely alert pedestrians and slower-moving bicyclists that you’re about to overtake them by ringing your bell.
Step 5: Attire-ize
Just because it’s wet outside, doesn’t mean you have to be. Keep yourself warm and dry by investing in rain gear for fall and winter riding. Rain jackets and pants should be waterproof, light and breathable. Look for biking-specific features such as extra flaps or built-in reflectors. Look for gloves to keep your fingers warm and waterproof booties that you can slip over your shoes. Caps designed for biking will keep your head and ears warm under your helmet.
Step 6: Register your bicycle
Losing your bike stinks. Register your bike with Bike Index. If your bike is later stolen, this will make it easier to get it back.