We cannot recommend commuting to work by bike enough. For us it is a no brainer – you save a fortune, do your bit for the environment and keep yourself fit and looking trim. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. For many cycling to work is the start of a great love affair with the sport.
Luckily in the UK, some fantastic provisions have been made to incentivise commuting by bike. Most notably there is the cycle scheme which offers up to 42% any type of bike and necessary accessories up to the value of £1,000. TFL also offers free instruction in most boroughs across London if you are wary about getting back on the bike again after a long absence.
First things first though, before you go anywhere you need to get a bike. Buying a commuter bike can be a tricky task. There are a number of different bikes out there to suit different needs. In theory almost any bike can be used for commuting, but it is worth looking at a bike designed for the specific purpose. You should always consider your desired riding position and look out for frames with bosses for mudguards and pannier racks.
Here is a quick low-down of the types of bikes on the market.
[part title="Folding Bikes:"]
Folding bikes have become increasingly popular in cities over the past number of years. They offer you the flexibility of combining modes of transport while also taking away the fear of getting your bike stolen as you leave it outside your office day after day as it can be stored underneath your desk.
- Short distances
- Those who travel by bus or train and want to speed up the walk from the station to the office/ home.
- Those who are tight for storage space at home
What to look for in a folding bike:
- Weight – remember you not only have to ride this bike, you have to carry it too, often up and down the stairs at the train station.
- Folding mechanism – there is no point in buying a bike that is tricky to fold. Try before you buy! Luckily most folding bikes are super simple to use but you don’t want to get caught out with the one that isn’t! It is also worth looking at how efficiently the bike folds and how easy it is to carry/transport when folded.
- Wheels – some folding bikes have very small wheels, if you are planning to do a slightly longer commute on your folding bike it is worth opting for a slightly bigger/ slimmer wheel to make you more efficient.
- Gears – if you are buying from the lower price bracket, it is best to get a single speed bike if your commute is pretty flat. Cheaper bikes mean cheaper components so it is best to limit possible problems further down the line where you can.
- Fit – all folding bikes are generally the same size with adjustable seat posts and handlebars which can be adjusted to fit almost anybody.
Folding bikes range in price from £150, right up to the £1,500 mark. And although the bikes at both ends of the spectrum may look the same, the differences are huge.
[part title=" Hybrid Bike"]
A hybrid offers the best bits of a mountain bike and a road bike rolled into one. They offer an upright and stable riding position which is perfect for urban commuting. They can also take in some off-road which means they are even more perfect if your route to work takes in a tow path or something similar. Most of the big brands such as Trek, Pashley and Specialized have hybrid offerings in their ranges.
- Longer commutes
- Commutes on mixed terrain such as tow paths.
- Those who need to transport a fair amount of kit from home to the office every day
What to look for in a hybrid:
- Frame – this is the backbone of the bike and can vary hugely from bike to bike. Hybrids will usually be made from either aluminium, carbon fibre or a mix of the two. Aluminium is light, strong and durable while carbon fibre is lighter, even stronger but considerably more expensive.
- Suspension – a number of hybrid bikes come equipped with suspension. If you are riding a smooth route every day then there is no need to opt for a bike with this particular feature. It can come in handy if you encounter a lot of pot-holes or commute on uneven terrain however as it will give you a more comfortable ride.
- Suspension seatposts are also available which will also absorb vibrations. These can be added pretty easily at a later date though so fear not if your ideal bike doesn’t have one.
- Gears – Again think about where you want to ride your bike. If your commute is hilly then opting for more gears will make life easier. If you commute is completely flat then you have the option to go for a single speed bike, which in the long term might make maintenance considerably easier.
- Fit – Ensure you pick the correct size bike for you. An ill-fitting bike will not only lack efficiency, it can also have serious consequences like back pain etc.
Hybrids usually start at about £190 and go up to £2,500.
[part title="Upright Dutch Bikes"]
These are perfect for style-conscious ladies who are hoping to use their bikes for flattish, short rides around town. You can expect the riding position to be very upright and the bike to be reasonably heavy.
- City riding and short distances. The heavy frame can make them a little slower than other types of commuter bikes.
- Those who like to commute in work/ day to day clothes as opposed to lycra clad riders.
- Day to day tasks. They generally come with baskets to stash your possessions as your pedal from errand to errand.
What to look for:
- Style – there are an abundance of Dutch style bikes out there so narrow it down to a couple of style and then make your decision based on how the bike is to ride.
- Accessories – a lot of this style of bike come with mudguards, dynamo lights and a basket as standard so it is worth checking if that is the case before you buy. It is also worth double checking that the bike is compatible with a basket or pannier racks if you are planning to carry your worldly goods.
- Clothes friendly features – the bicycle chain on Dutch bikes is often enclosed – this prevents getting your trousers or skirt stuck and ultimately ruined.
- Gears – opting for a Dutch bike with hub gears will prove much easier when it comes to maintenance.
- Brakes – the original Dutch bikes come with a back pedal braking system which can take to some getting used to. Most ‘Dutch’ style bikes sold in the UK will have a regular braking system but it is worth double checking before you purchase!
Dutch bikes usually start at about £200 and go up to about £1,000.