Hints & Tips

5 Ways To Ensure Your 2016 Cycle Commuting Resolutions Become a Reality

Want to make sure your plans come to fruition? Just follow our guide...

We know we’re biased, but we believe that cycling is absolutely the best way to get to work – for so many reasons. So, if one of your New Years Resolutions is to become a regular cycle commuter, we can assure you you’re on to a good thing. 

For starters – it’s time efficient, a pretty important factor in today’s world of trying to keep multiple plates spinning in perfect simultaneous union. You’re getting in some exercise (or training) every day, without it eating into your spare time. That regular exercise cuts down your risk of illness, helps you sleep better, and allows you to nibble a few more of those office treats.

As well as being good for the environment, cycling also evokes an immense feeling of freedom. It’s a great way to prepare for the day and to wind down at the end of it, and even if it’s raining, breathing in the fresh air and pedalling beats being crammed in to a train carriage or stuck in traffic. Which brings us to our final reason: it’s the cheapest form of transport excluding walking and running.

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So you get it – commuting to work on two wheels is a great way to get there. However, we understand that there are sometimes barriers in the way that make it more difficult.

These hurdles can seem impassable – but they don’t need to be. Here are five tips that will help to ensure your plans to become a regular cycle commuter become a reality…

Know your route

Getting lost on the way to work is not a nice experience. It’s not easy to stop and check a map, but all the while the clock keeps on ticking and you’ve no idea if you’re going in the right direction.

Avoid this experience by practicing your commute on a weekend before you attempt it under time pressure – see this as a dress rehearsal. Then, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time during the actual performance on Monday morning.

Remember when planning your route that the optimum roads might not be those that you usually drive on – have a good look at a map and see if there are some quieter lanes that might be more enjoyable, and check out the Sustrans National Cycle Network to see if there are more preferable paths.

Learn the rules of cycling in traffic

Riding alongside other road users can seem intimidating – if you’re not comfortable. If you know the rules and you adopt a confident position on the road, it shouldn’t be scary.

Beginner cyclists have a tendency to try to stay ‘out the way’ – hugging the kerb and keeping to the edges at junctions and roundabouts. This means drivers are less likely to see you, and will sometimes be less considerate when moving around you.

As a cyclist, most of the time you should adopt the secondary position – around 1 metre from the kerb. However, at junctions, at traffic lights, on narrow roads, when passing parked cars or a traffic island – anywhere where it is not safe for a car to overtake you – take the primary position in the centre of the lane. This is not inconsiderate, it’s what is advised by cycling coaches and the Highway Code.

Whilst you expect drivers to be considerate, you should do the same. Make sure you are confident removing a hand to indicate, and do so when making a manoeuvre as well as the obvious – travelling on the right side of the road, not ignoring red lights or stop signs, and so on. The roads work best when we all obey the rules.

If you feel uncomfortable on the road, think about attending a cycle commuting coaching course – many of which are part funded by your local council. 

Learn  to maintain your bike

Nobody wants to be stuck with a mechanical they don’t know how to fix at 8.20am when still a few miles from work. The best form of defence in this case is learning how to fix common problems before they happen.

The most likely problem is a puncture – and thankfully this is genuinely very easy to fix, once you know how. Take a look at this guide, and practice at home in a nice relaxed environment before you set out on the bike. Make sure you can fix an imaginary puncture three times successfully at home before getting out on the road – this will give you the confidence to know you can sort it when you need to.

Brakes sometimes need adjusting, so it’s worth knowing how to do that, and being aware that eventually the pads will need replacing – your bike will tell you when it’s time as the brakes become gradually less effective.

Provided your gears are set up properly and all the bolts are properly tightened initially, you shouldn’t really encounter too many ride-halting problems. However, learn how to tighten bolts such as seat post and stem bolts in advance, and always carry a multitool just in case.

Other problems – clicking gears being the most common – can either be fixed in a bike shop at your leisure, or you can book in at most bike shops to learn how to do it yourself – Evans Cycles offer a FIX IT! course that addresses basic questions.

Finally, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of carrying out a quick safety check before you ride. Once practiced, this will only take you five minutes and could weed out potential problems before they erupt into that dreaded CLUNK.

Prep your bike and bag before bed

One of the most common ride-halting moments is when you come down to grab your breakfast in the morning and realise your bike has a puncture, your lights aren’t charged or your kit is all wet and nasty.

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Limit the chances of this by checking your bike, packing your bag, and laying out your kit before you go to bed. This greatly increases your chances of your morning going to plan.

Have kit you can rely on

Let’s bust two important myths before we go on:

Firstly: You don’t need to wear lycra to ride a bike, it just makes it more comfortable if you’re riding long and hard. The longer and harder you ride, the more lycra will suit your needs, the shorter and more gently you ride, the less you’ll want it.

Secondly: It’s not true that ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’. There is such a thing as bad weather. However, good clothing can make even heavy rain ALMOST unnoticeable as long as you’re warm.

You do not need ‘all the gear’ to ride. There’s a few options – the liklihood is that you’ll begin with short rides at stage one, and then work through the outfits as you get more into your cycling, eventually stopping at a point that suits you…

  1. Your work clothes, plus a bright and waterproof jacket and slip on waterproof trousers if it’s wet or the roads are wet following rain. This will work if you don’t plan on getting hot and sweaty at all.
  2. Gym gear – leggings and a breathable, ideally waterproof jacket – you don’t need padded shorts if your ride is short and you aren’t uncomfortable. From this point you’ll need a backpack (or panniers) to carry your change of clothes – quality is worth investing in as you’ll use it everyday.
  3. Padded chamois pants under tights or leggings, plus a cycling specific jacket that won’t flap around too much and allows your skin to breath so you don’t get too hot.
  4. Padded cycling tights or shorts and a cycling jacket – by which point you’re basically a fully fledged lycra clad cyclist (there’s an inexpensive suggested outfit here).

Finally, get into a habit of keeping spare socks, pants any cosmetics you use regularly in a draw at work. If there’s no shower, invest in some wet wipes and dry shampoo – and hey presto!

So you see – cycling to work can be simple, easy, and a lot of fun. After a while, you’ll struggle to remember how you coped in the age pre-bike – and within a year we bet you’ll have experienced every one of these first year of commuting situations… 

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