Inside our labs: Burn calories with a bike commute

Consumer Reports News: July 28, 2010 01:10 PM

If walking is not an option, but you'd still like to leave your car at home, consider a bicycle commute to work. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently released new data from the Federal Highway Administration's 2009 National Household Travel Survey that shows both bicycling and walking trips have increased 25 percent since 2001. We just finished testing bicycles and included a few that are marketed as commuter bikes, which typically have fenders and a rear rack. Truth is, you can use just about any bike for commuting by adding fenders, racks, and even saddle bags.

So, how do you choose the best type of bike to ride? Think about the route you will travel. If there are hills, be sure the bike has a very low gear (a third chain ring), which makes it easier to pedal up an incline. The bike should also be relatively lightweight. Look for fittings so you will be able to add things like racks (to put your stuff), water bottles (to keep you hydrated), and fenders (to keep you clean).

Don't forget about safety since you won't have the protection of a car. Start with a properly fitted bicycle helmet. All helmets sold in the U.S. must pass the Consumer Product Safety Commission standard, which includes impact resistance, retention strength, and other requirements. Paying more for a helmet might get you a better fit, lighter weight, more vents, or snazzier graphics. Be sure to make yourself as visible as possible; a reflective vest is a good idea. Also, equip your bike with reflectors in the front, rear, wheels, and pedals. They are required by the CPSC standard, but are often removed and forgotten. So you can see approaching traffic behind you, a bicycle mirror can easily be added. There are many types available. Some attach to your helmet, others to the bike frame or handlebars. You might have to try a few before you find one that works best.

Rich Handel, project leader and guest blogger, Consumer Reports

To find out which bikes are best for your wallet and your riding style, see our Ratingsof 14 bikes (available to subscribers). And get more free buying advice and information on features on our sister site, ConsumerReports.org.


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