CW and our readers give their advice on how to get the best out of cycling to work
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
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 edition, 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
The sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that comes with realising that your bike is not where you left it at the end of the day is not one we’d wish upon anybody.
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.
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.
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.
Watch: Five foods you should never eat before you ride
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!
Do you have a tip for cycling to work? Share you advice in the comment section below.