We’re thrilled to see so many cyclists on the roads at the moment; whether you’re new to cycling, pulling out a long-forgotten trusty steed from the shed, or just increasing your time in the saddle it really does show that the humble bicycle can stand the test of time!
What is truly fantastic is that a large number of the cyclists are cycling for the first time, evidenced by sales data showing that sales of low to mid-tier bicycles rose sharpest during the recent months. Entry-level bike sales jumped 677%, while mid-tier sales rose 130%!!
With many of those new cyclists choosing to commute to work by bicycle, we thought it would be helpful to share with you some useful cycle commuter hints and tips from our CEO Nick. Nick has picked up these tips over the years as a passionate cycling enthusiast, bicycle user and commuter cyclist. So we’ve grabbed Nick for 5 minutes to share his thoughts:
QUESTION: So Nick, we know you’re an avid mountain biker but do you also commute by bike?
ANSWER: I certainly do, and even more so given the social distancing restrictions that are affecting public transport. When I first came to London in 2003, I was using the bus and the tube to commute to my job in the City. The novelty soon wore off; I was tired of standing in a cramped tube train, getting all hot and bothered after a hard day at the office. I was also struggling to fit any exercise in during the week. I, therefore, decided to take advantage of my employer’s Cycle to Work Scheme, bought myself a commuter bike and started riding to work. I never looked back! That was 17 years ago!
I also use my bike for going to client meetings and getting around the various places I need to be during the day. I even use the bicycle to do my shopping!
QUESTION: We know you like to carry a fair bit of kit when you go out mountain biking but are you as well equipped when you go out on your commuting bike?
ANSWER: To be honest, it all depends on my routine. If I am just grabbing a bike to nip from A to B I will literally only grab a lock in my work bag and set off. If I’m using one of the company Bromptons, I won’t even bother with a lock; I can always fold the bike and take it into the meeting with me. A bike to me is a piece of freedom. I don’t want to be burdened down carrying a load of kit with me.
However, when I am in a full 5 day a week commuting routine, I do tend to carry the following bits of commuting kit:
Helmet – I know for general day to day cycling there is a big debate over the use of helmets. Sometimes I will ride with a helmet sometimes without, at the end of the day I feel it is a matter of personal choice and perception of risk.
Top tip: You should replace your helmet every three to five years from the date of manufacture. You can find the date of manufacture inside your helmet. This is because the materials used will lose their protection properties over time. Of course, if you’ve dropped or crashed and damaged your helmet you should replace it.
Glasses: Depending on the weather I will either wear a pair of clear lens glasses or a pair of sunglasses. As well as keeping the sun out of your eyes they protect your eyes from grit, dirt, rain, insects.
Top tip: You can pick up a pair of cheap clear lens glasses from builder’s merchants for about £4 and save your pennies for a nice bling pair of Oakleys. It’s also a good idea to ensure the eyewear is a good tight fit otherwise the vibrations from the road can cause the glasses to slip down your nose – very annoying after a while!
Hydration – this will all depend on the length of your journey, the weather and how easy it is to buy a drink on your way to work. My commute is about 8 miles each way. This Summer I definitely needed water with me so I just carried a water bottle on a cage attached to my bike. Otherwise, you can always carry a bottle of Evian in your work bag.
Tools: There are generally only a few things that will stop you being able to ride your bike to work/home: punctures (!) a snapped chain or a stolen bike so I’ll be sure to carry the following with me to protect against these:
My commuter bike is fitted with puncture-resistant tyres which reduce the risk of punctures. However, there is a small risk that I may get a nail in my tyres so I will carry the following to ensure I can repair a puncture on the way home
- Pump – invest in a decent quality one that can inflate your tyre quickly. I love the Topeak Mountain Morph it’s like a mini track pump and gets your tyre full of air in no time!
Top tip: Make sure you are familiar with your pump before you go out on the trail. If you run presta/schrader valves, make sure your pump has been set up for the correct configuration. For high-pressure tyres, you may find a Co2 inflator and canister much quicker and easier to use.
- Tyre levers – these come in handy if you have a particularly stubborn set of tyres.
- Inner tube – to save time fitting a puncture patch I prefer to just pop a new inner tube in and repair the old one when I get home.
Top tip: Remember to check the inside of your tyre (watch your fingers) to ensure that the offending piece of glass/nail/thorn is not still stuck in the tyre. This will simply cause another puncture if you don’t remove it.
- Something to remove your wheel– if you do not have quick-release levers for your wheels you should ensure you have the correct tool to remove the wheel, for example, a single speed, fixie or bike with an internal rear hub will need a 15mm wrench. If you use security skewers you should carry the special key that was supplied with the security skewers.
As long as you are looking after your chain, regularly cleaning and lubricating it and not using a worn chain your chain should not snap. In the unlikely event of a snapped chain I will have the following bits of kit to help me repair it:
Chain breaker. I really don’t like the chain breaker tool that is included on some multitools. They can be quite tricky to use. I prefer to carry a separate chain tool such as this Park Tool chain tool they are far easier to use.
Quick link. Rather than trying to re-join a chain, simply pop in the quick link (just make sure you have the correct size for your chain i.e. 7/8 speed, 9 speed, 10 speed, 11 speed and 12 speed.
If I have to leave my bike on the street in London I will use the best lock I can afford (and one that costs at least 10% of the value of my bike). For greater security, the Police recommend using two D-locks.
I wouldn’t recommend using a cable-style lock with plastic covers, they are too easy to cut. I use the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit New York Lock, it’s rated 10/10 on the security scale. You can pick up a good Gold rated D-lock for around £50.00 – in fact, we are currently offering the fantastic Abus Ultimate 420 for £50.00 (fitted) as part of your service:
If you’re interested we did a great piece for the Cycle Show with the City of London Police – you can see it here:
QUESTION: So what do you carry it all in?
ANSWER: To be honest this kit doesn’t really take up much room at all. I tend just to put it inside my work bag which is either a rucksack or messenger type bag. I’ll store it all in a waterproof dry bag so it’s easy to access and protects my other stuff getting covered in oil or dirt from the tools.
QUESTION: Thanks Nick that’s great. I appreciate you’ve got to shoot off to a meeting now but it would be great if I could get your thoughts on any commuter specific equipment for your bike or clothing that you wear to commute with.
ANSWER: No problem at all, let’s get something sorted for next week’s blog. I certainly have a few useful tips on how to modify your bike for commuting and any accessories you need. As for clothing, we can look at what options there are. It sometimes depends whether our fans have changing facilities at their place of work and whether they like to work up a sweat on their way in or prefer a leisurely cycle in.
If you are commuting regularly, 1-5 times a week, we recommend a regular service every 3 to 6 months. But, don’t forget, if your bike is squeaking and clunking now, don’t hesitate to get in touch!