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10 tips for bike commuters

Cycling to work is a no-brainer, here are some tips to get you going

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Keen to join the thousands of people starting their day with an invigorating ride to the office? Our 10 tips for commuters will get you off on the right foot.

Riding a bike is the simplest and fastest way to get around.

Riding a bike is the simplest and fastest way to get around.

1. Plan your route

Plan your route using one of the many online tools, but don’t just look for the most direct way to reach your destination. Consider using dedicated cycle routes – when you’re frazzled from deadlines, it can be much more pleasant than dealing with backed up traffic. Mix your routes up over the week to keep things interesting.

Try downloading Strava to look at other people’s routes and make your daily journey more fun. But don’t be too preoccupied with ride times when navigating busy stretches of road; save the racing for somewhere appropriate.

Plan a route on a site like CycleStreets.

We also love CycleStreets, which is invaluable for finding pleasant backstreet routes. They can be a bit convoluted, but we guarantee that CycleStreets routes will take you to parts of your city you never knew existed.

Once you’ve planned your route, it’s worthwhile testing it out over the weekend, when the roads are relatively quiet compared to rush hour. You’ll be able to assess potential hazards and be much more aware of how to handle them.

2. Ride safely

Riding a bike is a relatively safe activity but when collisions occur they can be nasty, particularly when lorries are concerned. Take a moment to read the London Cycling Campaigns advice and beware of the lorry (or other large vehicle) turning left.

3. Be prepared

A saddlebag with a few spares and tools, plus a mini-pump, is a perfect insurance policy.

A saddlebag with a few spares and tools, plus a mini-pump, is a perfect insurance policy.

Check the weather forecast and get your gear ready before you go to bed. The easier it is to hop on your bike and get out of the door in the morning, the less likely you are to decide against it.

4. Pack smart

Keep a lightweight waterproof jacket in your bag along with a spare tube, some basic tools, a mini pump and some latex or nitrile gloves to protect your hands from dirt should you need to fix a puncture.

5. Check your pressure

Slogging along on squidgy tyres is no fun and will make your ride to work harder than it needs to be. The recommended pressure for your tyres is often written on the sidewall, so make a note of the number and regularly pump your tyres up to the suggested figure.

Check the side wall of your tyre to see how much pressure is needed in your tyre.

Check the side wall of your tyre to see how much pressure is needed in your tyre.

If you’re commuting regularly, a floor pump is an invaluable investment as you’ll struggle to add enough air using a small hand operated pump.

6. Make a change

Cycling kit not required: most bike commuters wear their regular clothes.

Cycling kit not required: most bike commuters wear their regular clothes.

Commuting in day-to-day clothes is fine. But if you do ride in cycling kit, keep extra clothes, socks and shoes at the office.  You don’t necessarily need a specific set of clothing for riding your bike but it can still be nice to switch to clean, dry clothes when you arrive. Leave some baby wipes and deodorant in your desk drawer for freshening up on arrival if your work doesn’t have a shower.

7. Accessorise your bike

Mudguards, like the ones on this Rivendell Glorius, will stop you getting drenched if it rains.

Mudguards, like the ones on this Rivendell Glorius, will stop you getting drenched if it rains.

Mudguards can make cycling in the rain bearable – even pleasurable. There’s nothing worse than your rear wheel directing gallons of dirty water at your backside. Add front and rear lights to make sure you’re seen.

8. Use all your senses

Use your ears, not just your eyes. Ditch the headphones and pay attention to your surroundings. You can’t see what’s behind you but often you can hear traffic approaching.

9. Be considerate

When pulling up at a junction, don’t overtake all the other cyclists patiently waiting at the lights and head straight for the front of the queue. Manners shouldn’t go out the window just because you’re on a bike – a considerate cyclist is a good cyclist.

10. Love your bike

A clean bike is a happy bike. Your components will last a lot longer and you’ll enjoy smoother rides if you take care of your machine. A quick wipe down of the front and back rims will remove grit that can ruin your brakes and a dot of oil on your chain will keep things running smoothly.

Don’t forget to have fun!

But lastly, have fun! There’s nothing like an overcrowded train in the morning to put you in a bad mood, so breathe deep, get the blood pumping and smile your way to work!

 

Also worth a read: 

7 Tips to Motivate you to Commute in Any Weather 

Pedal off the Pounds

Buying Guide: Commuter Bikes 

Stylish Winter Commuting Gear

  1. _julietelliott

    my friend broke his foot riding in flip flops, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it!

  2. Hester

    Also I’d ditch most of the maintenance stuff for short journeys. It’s extra weight and bulk and I don’t want to be fixing my bike by the side of the road in the rain and cold anyway.

    For journeys of 3 miles or less I’ll just accept that I’m walking my bike back if there’s a problem. It probably won’t take less time overall, and then I can fix it in comfort with proper tools.

    That said, keeping basic tools and spares at the office could be useful. At least you don’t have to cart those around.

  3. Hester

    Oh, and NEVER UNDERTAKE A LORRY. Or a bus.

    Seriously. It’s not worth it.

    1. Hester

      This applies even if there is a cycle lane. Unless you’re definitely going to get past AND visibly in front of a long vehicle before they move, wait. A few metres won’t slow you down, but it could save your life.

  4. libby

    good lights on your bike are the most important thing, you can now get really powerful lights that can be seen waaay off in the distance. I have a learner driver, we often encounter riders in the dark on a regular route we take, the ones with lights she can see early on but reflectors don’t cut the mustard at all. She is very bike aware as I ride but she is in the minority with that awareness. I lost a work college due to her undertaking a truck, never an option.

  5. James

    @ Jenny – Reflectives more important than lights in town? I don’t think so. How are people crossing the road etc supposed to see you? Both are important, but lights more than reflexives.

  6. Hester

    In a well-lit city, I would say reflectives ARE more important than lights in terms of visibility. Bicycle lights are not very powerful and there are a huge number of different and confounding light sources in a city. However those reflective silver surfaces really light up even in bike lights, let alone car ones.

    As to how are pedestrians going to see you? Well, the same way I see them and they see each other! Ambient light levels in cities are fine for low speeds. The danger comes from faster travelling motor vehicles, and drivers trying to rely on peripheral vision and not expecting bicycles when they should be looking properly.

    That said, lights are a legal requirement but reflectives are not. So stay legal to avoid a fine.

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