Beat the rising fuel prices and commute by bike: our top tips for cycling to work
Cycle commuting is good for your wallet, waist, and the world’s environment. Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about cycling to work
The health and environmental benefits of commuting by bike have been extensively documented for decades, but now, with fuel prices shooting through the roof, the economic argument is perhaps stronger now than it has ever been.
If you’re considering swapping four wheels for two – or if you’re a season commuter looking for an upgrade – here are the best deals we’ve found on the kit you need for cycling to work.
The best bike for cycle commuting really depends on what your route is like. If you’re breaking the journey up with a train, a folding bike would be most convenient. If you have a lot of carry, then a hybrid bike with mounts for a pannier rack would probably suit best. Or, if you’re looking to get some training in on the way to work and don’t have much to bring, an endurance road bike would make a great fit.
Marin Muirwoods |
A low price doesn't have to mean limited functionality. The Muirwood comes with mounts for fenders and pannier rack, while the hydraulic disc brakes provide ample stopping power. With a 3x9 drivetrain, there's unlikely to be a hill you can't handle.
Rondo Booz ST Urban Bike |
Polish brand Rondo has put together an urban machine, featuring a sporty geometry and fat tyres for tackling unpredictable city streets at speed. A 1x drivetrain simplifies shifting while the hydraulic brakes are powerful anchors.
HaibikeTrekking 1 e-Bike |
Haibike has included pretty much everything you could need in one simple package. It's got fenders, a pannier rack, integrated lights and a powerful Bosch motor for powering around town.
Hurley Amped ST E-Bike |
A more accessible step into the world of e-assistance comes in the form of Hurley's Amped ST E-Bike. It still comes with a few extras, such as the front and rear fenders, but it loses the gears for a more simple single-speed set up – letting the motor manage the hills.
Tern Link B7 Folding Bike |
A cheap and cheerful folding bike, the Tern still packs the extra features you want for commuting. There's a range of seven gears to help you tackle the hills, it's got a full complement of mudguards and it weighs a not unreasonable 12.1kg.
Brompton C Line Explore |
Bromptons are the industry standard for folding bikes. They're reliable, relatively light and fold into an extremely compact size. As such they're rarely discounted – this only has money off because it's a previously used item. That also means you'll have to snap it up quick before someone else gets there.
Brompton H2L Electric Bike |
Doing pretty much what it says on the tin, this is a Brompton that combines the excellent qualities of reliability and compact fold size with the convivence of an electric motor. Again, the only reason this model is on a discount is because it's ex-display – so act fast!
Giant Escape 2 Disc |
An efficient and reliable bike for town duties shouldn't cost the earth – and it doesn't have to either. Giant's Escape 2 combines disc brakes with practical mounts for mudguards and panniers. It's got a wide band of gears and generous tyre clearance of up to 45mm – perfect for a huge variety of terrain.
Orbea Vector 15 Disc |
The Vector 15 saves you the hassle of buying and fitting accessories separately. It comes with mudguards, pannier rack and dynamo lights already mounted – yes, you don't have to worry about charging or remembering to bring lights with this one. Only sizes small and large are left, so act fast to grab this one
Kinesis Lyfe Equipped E-Bike |
Again, packing all the accessories you need in one complete package, it has mudguards, pannier rack, lights – even a kickstand and simple 1x10 gearing. Best of all, it has a seamlessly integrated battery stored in the downtube, giving
The best bag for cycle commuting will again depend on the form your commute takes. If it’s a shorter distance or broken up by stints on public transport, a rucksack is generally most convenient. But for longer commutes, taken solely on the bike, taking the weight off your shoulders and into a set of panniers can be a much more enjoyable experience.
REI Co-op Commuter Pack |
There are so many features to this bag. It's got a simple helmet carrying attachment system, integrated rain cover, a laptop sleeve for 15" laptops, and so many pockets for arranging your things. At 25 litres, it can hold a handy amount too.
Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack |
Yes, this is Oakley's commuting bag sporting a huge carrying capacity, with even proverbial household items inside its remit. Okay, perhaps sinks are a stretch, but it can comfortably take a 17" laptop, which isn't common for commuter rucksacks. It's also got a separate shoe compartment.
Blackburn Wayside Backpack Pannier |
Sometimes a rucksack is more convenient, sometimes a pannier is. Thanks to Blackburn, you don't need to choose one or the other – this rucksack can attach to a pannier rack without any mounts or hardware and is made from a durable waxed canvas.
Public Bikes Carryall Single Pannier |
A straight-forward, no nonsense pannier. It's made from a robust waxed cotton canvas, has plenty of space for a laptop, gym clothes or whatever else you might want to take along. It's also got handy carry handles for easier transporting off the bike.
Altura Grid Backpack |
Simple and effective. This rucksack is a little larger than most of this style, at 30L and it comes with a range of pockets and internal organisers to keep your kit separate – but not so many you lose track of what's where. It's got reflective detailing and a DWR coating for shower protection.
Oakley Kitchen Sink Backpack |
With a 34L capacity, you should easily be able to fit in all you're likely to need – naturally excluding any proverbial household items. It's bedecked in pockets and even includes a separate compartment for shoes – useful if you can't bear to cycle in flats.
Altura Grid Roll Up Pannier Bags |
Offering a full 30L capacity (2x15L each side), there's plenty of space for all your things. The bags have an easy grab handle for transporting off the bike, they're water resistant, and they even roll up pretty tight when they're not in use – about the side of a smallish picnic blanket.
For everything you need to know about bike locks, we've got a whole page dedicated to the subject. But to summarise, D-Locks are perfect for commuting, with certain models hitting the very top security ratings while also being a reasonable weight for carrying round with you.
Going for a cheap bike lock is very much a false economy – but going for a heavily discounted quality one hits the best of both worlds.
Hiplok DX Wearable Bike Lock |
At just over a kilo and with an integrated clip system that makes it easy to attach to belts, pockets and bag straps, Hiplock's DX lock is one of the most portable out there. It's super strong too, being awarded the top level Diamond rating by independent lock testing company, Sold Secure.
Kryptonite New York lock |
A little bigger and burlier, Kryptonite's New York series of locks have been a stalwart of bike security for years. Although it's over half as heavy again as the Hiplock DX lock, it does come with a frame mounting bracket, at least it's the bike doing the carrying and not you.
Hiplok DX Wearable Bike Lock |
Just over a kilo and sporting an integrated clip system to fit belts, pockets and bag straps, Hiplock's DX lock is highly portable. It's super strong too, getting the top Diamond rating from independent lock testing company, Sold Secure.
OnGuard Pitbull U-Lock |
Spending £100+ on a bike lock is all very well if your bike cost multi-thousands of pounds, but not when that's a quarter of your bike's value. OnGuard's Pitbull lock is Sold Secure Gold rated, so still super strong and extremely good value.
Kryptonite Evolution Mini-5 |
A highly portable lock that can stay on your bike. At 1.2 kilos, it's pretty light weight, while a Sold Secure Gold rating is verifies its high-security claims.
Exposure Trace Pack |
Exposure lights are almost a by word for quality and durability. They are more expensive than other lights on the market, but they will stand the test of time. Having one piece of kit perfectly designed for the job is a lot more satisfying than continually going through cheaper items.
LifeLine USB Safety Light Set |
But, if you are looking for something cheaper, LifeLine's light set is an excellent entry level option. They have direct, cable-free USB charging – so one less thing to remember – and they attach quickly and easily with silicone straps. On high, the lights last for 2 hours, but that goes up to 17 hours on flashing.
Knog Blinder X Twin Pack |
A bit of a step up from the LifeLine lights, the Knog Blinders boast a 200 lumen front light and 100 lumen rear, running for up to 2.5 hours on full and up to 60 hours on eco-flash. They've also got built-in USB charging, perfect for cable-amnesiacs.
Exposure Trace Pack |
Exposure lights have earnt a strong reputation for quality and durability. They are expensive, but it's not a purchase you'll have to keep on making as with cheaper, more temperamental lights. And anyway, there's something very pleasing about equipment perfectly designed for the job.
LifeLine USB Safety Light Set |
But if you're looking for something rather cheaper, LifeLine's mini light set makes a good low cost option. The lights have integrated USB charging, so no need for cables, they attach with simple silicone straps and have a run time from 2 hours to 17.
Knog Blinder X Twin Pack |
Otherwise, there's Knog's Blinder lights. The front packs 200 lumens and the rear 100 lumens, but despite the high output, the claimed battery life is 2.5 hours on full and up to 60 on eco flash. They're fully waterproof and also feature direct USB charging, without any cables.
Our top cycle commuting tips
There's been a revolution in the number of people cycling to work in Britain over the past decade. The benefits of riding into work rather than driving or using public transport are numerous, the most obvious being the cost-saving and health benefits.
However, commuting to work also presents questions and minor problems of its own: Will you get tired? What happens if it rains? What's the best route in? What about the traffic?
We've put together some tips to help out new commuters, and we also asked our readers to send their advice in, too...
Find a bike you can rely upon
Commuting in rain is better if you can depend upon your bike. If you're commuting to work every day, then you need a bike you can ride through all weathers, and depend upon to be road worthy with minimal maintenance.
Mudguards are a great addition, with this in mind, as they'll keep the muck from your drivetrain, and from your backside on a wet day.
Wide tyres will spread the load and offer better grip in the wet as well as improved comfort. Full on commuter machines might have hub gears and dynamo lights - we've rounded up some of the best bike styles for commuting here.
Lock it up safe
No bike lock is infallible, but having a quality version is a start. Use one lock on the frame, and make sure you use a cable lock for your wheels, if they're attached by quick release skewers.
Where you leave your bike is important too: if your work has secure bike locking, that's ideal. If not, aim for somewhere with CCTV nearby.
Choose your luggage wisely
A backpack is the most obvious choice: it's easy to swing over your shoulder and requires no fixtures or fittings. However, on a hot day you'll end up with a healthy back sweat patch and heavy luggage will put a strain on your shoulders.
If you're carrying a lot of kit, consider fitting a pannier rack so you can load the extra weight to your bike as opposed to your shoulders.
Ride with confidence
There's a lot we could say about riding in traffic - enough to fill an entire article - such as this one on tips for safe commuting.
However, one of the key messages is to ride with confidence. Hugging the curb often encourages drivers to pass closely, which will only increase any nervousness that caused you to do so in the first place - so avoid this and keep a safe distance that affords you room to swerve around a pot hole should you need to.
When approaching junctions, check behind you and move into the centre of the lane when it's safe to do so- this prevents anyone from overtaking or undertaking when it's not safe to do so.
You do need to be comfortable enough on a bike to look behind you, and to indicate with one arm to show your direction of travel. When there is heavy traffic, you can filter on the outside, but never ride down the left hand side of stationary traffic at the lights - you never know if a vehicle is turning left.
Always wear one of the best commuter cycling helmets too, just in case the worst happens.
Check your lights
It's a legal requirement that you have a red rear light and white front light after dusk and before dawn. However, it's a good idea to use them - especially a red rear - at all times to improve your visibility.
Check your lights are charged in advance - eg before going to bed and at lunch time in advance of the journey home - and carry a cheap set of back-ups just in case one should fail on your journey.
Spare shoes, wet wipes and dry shampoo
Most cyclists have a funny story about the time they forgot to take spare shoes to work and had to wear their disco-cycling-shoes at work all day.
Don't be that cyclist. Keep a pair of shoes at work, this lowers the weight in your luggage too.
An alternative is to wear a dual-purpose set of shoes. The best commuter cycling shoes for urban use will let you ride efficiently, either on flat pedals or clipped in, and get around effectively off bike as well, without looking as if you're wearing cycling shoes all day.
Other helpful tips and tricks include investing in dry shampoo and wet wipes if your office doesn't have a shower.
Late afternoon snack
Riding hungry is never cool, and if you worked up an appetite on the way into work then don't be surprised if the hunger just keeps on coming during the day.
Keep a selection of slow release snacks at work, so you don't have to become dependant on the vending machine...
Commuting advice from Cycling Weekly readers
We asked seasoned commuters to pass on their knowledge to those tinkering with the idea of travelling to work by bike, and here we present a selection of the best advice...
Keep some dry gear at work just in case you can't dry it before your home ride.
Prepare everything the night before: kit, shoes, bike, lunch, whatever you need. You'll be less likely to talk yourself out of it if you can just get up and go!
Too many cycling commuters start off with great intentions, but after a month of riding to and from work daily become disenchanted as they find they become more and more tired and have had a few soakings. The bike then disappears in to the shed only to appear on eBay one year later. So for a commuter newbie I'd suggest a slow progressive build up, with any variance of days riding to suit.
Week 1, ride to work Tuesday. Leave bike at work. Ride home Wednesday.
Week 2, ride to work Monday, ride home Tuesday. Ride to and from work Thursday.
Week 3, ride to and from work Monday. Ride to work Tuesday and home Wednesday. Ride to and from work Thursday.
Repeat weeks 2 and 3 alternately for a month or so before increasing to a daily commute or as many days as the commuter is comfortable with.
Make sure you secure your bike otherwise your commute just got very expensive.
Step 1: find out if there are showers at work. 2: consider using Google maps to look at alternate routes. 3: drive a variation of different bike routes to and from work a few times to get an idea of dangerous spots and or possible alternative street paths. 4: pack what you'll need for the day in a backpack or a bicycle pack. 5: ask wife or husband to drop and pick up kids the days you ride. As a trade-off, cook a good dinner those nights. 6: enjoy your ride.
Use lights during the daytime as well as in the dark. They will help to make you visible to other road users.
Don't fear traffic, always hold your position on the road and only give way when it is safe for YOU to do so.
Cycling gives you a sense of achievement, which leads to a feeling of confidence. When you ride to work, the days' challenges are taken on with strength and a level of emotional security only instilled after cycling. Ride to be strong and confident.
Want more Money? Then cycle to work. I save a lot of money that would have been spent on petrol for the car or Tube and bus fare. I live in Zone 5 south and travel to Zone 2 north. £200/month savings. However, I spend more now on bike gear and upgrades but don't tell them that.
If you don't have a shower at work use baby-wipes. Before you start to ride to work test your route on a day off, it'll help figure out your timing and remember to allow a few extra minutes in your commute. Just encase you want to stop for coffee or an unfortunate flat tyre.
Be organised: leave your clothes and shoes at work for the next day so you have less to carry on the way in.
Work clothes: For me, I use dresses - easy to roll up and carry, ready to put on. Keep shoes at work. Ditto spare knicks, bra, tights etc. My husband keeps work shirts in the office, takes clean stuff and brings last week's dirties home all on one day meaning he only carries a back pack once a week.
Don't use your best equipment and make sure you are prepared with basic tools and a spare tube with pump.
Learn how to ride one handed so you can make decisive obvious hand signals and attach a flashing red light to the back of your helmet.
You can eat as much cake as you like. Guilt free!
For more information on the best commuting bikes, why not check out our in-depth guide, over here.
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