Tips for New Riders

1) WEAR A BICYCLE HELMET.    It just makes sense to wear a helmet when commuting to work.  No matter if your commute is 2 miles or 20, if you hit a car or get hit by a car it hurts. The most serious injuries resulting from collisions between automobiles and cyclists are those to the head, so make sure  your helmet is fitted properly.  The helmet should be level, not tipped back on your head exposing your forehead. Shake your head side to side; the pads should keep the helmet snugly in place.   If you can remove the helmet with the chinstrap fastened, the straps are adjusted improperly. When the chinstrap buckle is attached, open your mouth.  If you feel slight pressure on the top of your head, the straps are adjusted correctly.

2) WEAR THE RIGHT CLOTHING.   Bright and/or reflective clothing will help motorists, pedestrians and other cyclists see you. Many commuters wear orange reflective vests that can be easily pulled over any clothing.  If you have a long commute consider wearing padded cycling shorts/tights. If your commute is relatively short (5 miles or less) you could ride in the same pants you work in. Use pant clips or Velcro straps to keep your cuffs out of the chain rings and chain. Wear cycling shoes when you commute (enjoy the pedaling efficiency) and pack your work shoes in a backpack. Some commuters have lockers and showers at work. If so, just leave your work clothes and shoes at work but if your need to bring your work clothes, roll them into zip lock bags. Stuff them in your backpack, messenger bag, or panniers. If you don’t have a shower at work, a box of disposable baby wipes will give you that fresh clean feeling.

3) KNOW THE RULES OF THE ROAD. Ride with the flow, don’t ride against traffic and don’t weave in between cars. Stay to the right-hand side of traffic and watch out for opening car doors. Obey all traffic signals and signs. Bicyclists are required to obey the same traffic laws as automobiles. Use hand signals when turning, and when riding with a friend, signal when you’re stopping. Ride single-file unless overtaking others, and give pedestrians the right-of-way.

4) MAP OUT YOUR ROUTE. can help plan your Bike to Work Day route.  Enter your origin and destination on the home page, then click, “Let’s Go.”  To view bicycle routing options, click on the bicycle icon to the left.  Turn by turn directions are listed to the left of the map, which depicts the route in an easy-to-read pink overlay.  For additional routing information consider a visit to where you can choose from a direct route, safe route, or safer route.  Additionally, you can visit almost any bike shop in Metro Denver for the latest DBTC bike map of entire bike path system. It’s great for putting in your pack and pulling out when you get stuck and need to relocate the nearest bike trail.  Have a backup plan in case of bad weather, sickness, or emergency, and consider carrying a smart phone in case you need to call for help.  A smart phone is also great if you need to find your present location; simply visit Google Maps to help guide you back to the closest bike route via Google’s fantastic mobile bike overlay and voice navigation system.

5) TIRES TUBES AND AIR PRESSURE. Your tires are your connection to the road. The air in them is your primary suspension and their casing and tread determine your traction, cornering and acceleration. It’s very important to ride with the proper pressure; you can find the pressure printed on the tire sidewall. You should check your air pressure weekly, because air does seep out of the tubes as the bike sits. There are two different valve stems on bikes: Presta (the skinny European valve) and Schrader (the fatter American valve).  Most quality floor pumps have a pump head that will work on both valves, and, with a gauge, it makes proper inflation fast and easy.

6) TRIBULUS TERRESTRIS.  Better known as the goathead thorn, this weed grows all over the Eastern plains and certainly along most bike paths. When you commute to work, nothing is worse then getting a flat tire. It could be glass, tacks or nails, but most likely it will be the goat head thorn that punctures your tube.  You can try to swerve around the pokey little fruits, but a better bet is to have some protection.  There are numerous things you can do to minimize flats. All bike shops sell thorn-resistant tubes, tuffy liners, slime, and goo.  They give you about 75% thorn protection.  Recently, top brand tire manufacturers have begun producing tires that are 99% thorn proof.  They’re a little heavier and not as compliant, but a flat tire isn’t compliant at all.  Always have a spare tube, patch kit and tire levers just in case.

7) LIGHTS:  SEEING THE ROAD AND BEING SEEN.  All bikes come with the regulation reflectors, but that’s 1950’s technology!  The LED is current technology, small but mighty. Rear flashers with five red LED’s can be seen half a block away, whereas reflectors can only be seen within 20 yards.  When you’re riding on bike paths it’s just as important to be seen coming as well as going.  Front lights are now available in three and five clear LED’s; not as bright as 2.5-watt light, but the batteries last forever.  If you consider yourself a serious commuter, you’ll want a “light system” with a minimum of 10-to 25 -watt halogen bulb front light, and up to 16 LEDs flashing rear light. The rechargeable nickel metal hydride batteries are preferred. They charge overnight and last up to 2 hours burn time.

8) LOCK IT UP OR STORE IT. The best-case scenario for a commuter is to have a place to store your bike at work or school, maybe in a storeroom or a corner of your office. Depending on your workplace you might want to use a cable lock to help keep honest people honest.  If you can’t store your bike inside, lock your bike securely in a well lit area. Some business offer fenced in bike racks, but realize people come and go and you should still lock your bike with a U-lock or other heavy-duty lock.  Another great place to keep your bike is at the bike storage lockers at the light rail stations and RTD park n Rides. You can reserve lockers at the park n Rides, but at light rail stations it’s first-come, first-served. Each pie-shaped metal cubby will hold your bike and gear, keeping the elements and thieves away.    Call RTD at 303 299-2288 for more information on locations, fees and use contracts.

9) PEDAL SMARTER, NOT HARDER.  Develop a smoother stroke, instead of using an up and down motion, power through more of a complete circle in your pedal stroke. Push with your heel on the down stroke as if you were scraping mud off the sole of your shoe. Try turning the pedals at 75 to 95 revolutions per minute–it’s easier on your knees, uses less energy and promotes better cardiovascular fitness. To do this, shift into an easier gear before changing road conditions force you into a lower cadence. Minimize upper body movements, so your legs not your upper body power the bike.

10) MINIMIZE YOUR DISTRACTIONS. You will need all your senses while commuting, especially your hearing and your eyesight. Avoid the use of headphones or earbuds so you can hear approaching vehicles. Use eyewear of some kind.  If you wear prescription glasses, you already have protection from wind, sand or even weather. If you have perfect eyesight, protect your eyes with sunglasses. For night riding and/or riding at dusk use clear to lightly tinted sport glasses.

More Tips


  • Be alert and prepare for your ride.
  • Always wear a helmet and bright, reflective clothing. Use bike lights at night.
  • Plan your route ahead of time. Long commute? Bring your bike on the bus or light rail.
  • Make sure your bike is in safe, working order. Regularly check your chains, tires, brakes and lights.
  • Carry a basic bicycle repair kit and learn about bike tuning.
  • Be considerate of others on the road, path and trail. Give an audible signal when passing pedestrians.
  • Make eye contact with drivers when crossing intersections and use hand signals when turning.
  • Register your bike and learn your city and county’s local biking ordinances.
  • Learn how to lock up your bike securely.


  • Be alert and considerate when sharing the road.
  • Remember that bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists.
  • Know your weight advantage. A car can weigh two tons or more, while the average bike, with rider, is about 180 pounds.
  • Obey speed limits and other road rules.
  • Signal your turns and watch for hand signals from cyclists.
  • Check before you exit your car to avoid hitting a cyclist with your door.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Always signal when riding on the road.
  • Be alert.
  • Make eye contact with drivers.
  • Leave room for right-turning vehicles when stopped at a red light.
  • Be visible! Wear bright colors during the day and white or reflective clothing at night.
  • Cross railroad tracks perpendicularly to prevent catching a wheel and falling.
  • Give an audible signal when you pass a pedestrian or someone traveling more slowly than you are, whether you are on the street or a path.
  • Respect and be considerate of other road, path and trail users.
  • Check with the city or county where you habitually ride about additional local biking ordinances.


Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. Under state law, bicycles are considered vehicles. Cyclists should obey all traffic laws, signs and signals. For more information about the rules of road, see the Colorado Cycling Rules page on the Bicycle Colorado website.