Cycling to work is a fantastic way to keep fit, avoid the stresses of public transport, save money (which you can spend on your bike kit instead), as well as helping do you bit for the planet.
And you’ll not be alone, there are over 750,000 journeys per day by bicycle, so you’ll be in good company. With Government investing more money into cycle infrastructure, we going to be seeing more and more people getting on their bikes to commute to work.
And because we love cycling some much and want to share our passion with you, we thought it would be helpful to set out some handy tips and tricks we’ve learnt from our years of commuting by bike:
CHOOSING THE RIGHT BIKE
Any well-maintained bicycle should do the trick. Just make sure it is the right size for you (you should be able to touch the floor with your toes when sat on the saddle). Also, it’s much easier to ride a bicycle that has properly inflated tyres (the recommended tyre pressure will be printed on the side wall of the tyre). You should also ensure the bicycle has two functioning brakes (one on the rear wheel and one on the front wheel).
We see people riding all types of bikes to commute to work on but the most popular does seem to be hybrid or road bikes. With both types of bikes you have the added benefit of thinner tyres and gears which will help you get to and from work that little bit faster!
If you’re thinking of commuting, here are some other modifications you may want to consider to make your commute as easy and carefree as possible:
Tyres: this is probably the most beneficial modification, especially if you have a mountain bike with off road (knobbly) tyres. Invest in a good pair of commuter/road specific tread tyre. They can be inflated to a higher pressure and with a tread more specific to riding on tarmac, the tyres will roll much quicker. This means you’ll use less energy and will have a smoother ride into work.
Mudguards: from a fashion over function perspective, mudguards can spoil the clean lines of a bike. However, when cycling on wet roads/in the rain mudguards will keep you much dryer, your bike cleaner and stop dirt from the road flicking up into you face (and eyes).
Full length mudguards will give you the best protection from the elements. They can be time consuming to fit and you may find that certain brands are not compatible with your bike. It’s best to check with your bike mechanic which brands will be best for you.
Pannier rack (and bag): we fit these as standard to our emergency services customers’ bikes. The reason being that they have to carry a lot of kit and equipment; our ambulance service clients’ pannier bags can weight around 30-50kg – they carry oxygen tanks and defibrillators!
[insert picture of ambulance bikes with bags on]
But even if you are not a paramedic, having your bag in a pannier keeps the weight off your body and stops your back getting sweaty. Plus you can carry more kit (wet weather gear, tools and a bigger lunch box!)
Lights: Choose a good set of bright lights that will keep you visible (not this little rubber lights with a small flashing LED). You want to be as visible as possible on the road. Aim to spend at least £40 on a set of good lights. These days you can get USB chargeable lights so there’s no need to replace batteries or create waste.
Bell: They’re a great (and polite) way to warn pedestrians of your presence – especially when you’re in the cycle lane cycling inside a line of stationary traffic where pedestrians tend to walk (jump) out without looking.
CHOOSING THE ROUTE
Whilst the main roads can often be the fastest route, they are also the ones that will be congested with traffic and filled with traffic lights (being good law abiding cyclists we do stop on the red light!)
As well as the National Cycle Network [LINK] and Quietways [LINK] there are some great Apps out there to help you plan your route, including Googlemaps, Apple Maps, Strava, Komoot and Cycling Streets to name but a few. Ask your work colleagues which route they take.
You can even have a practice run during the weekend to give you some added confidence. And to avoid stopping to check your phone for directions every few minutes, you could always get a handlebar mounted phone mount for your phone.
TOOLS TO CARRY
Probably the most common repair you may face will be puncture repair so being prepared will help you avoid the risk of punctures as well as being able to repair them.
Firstly, puncture resistant tyres will reduce the risk of punctures, as will tubeless tyres, which are becoming more common (even on road bikes). Secondly, ensure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure. Not only will this make your ride smoother, it will reduce the risk of a puncture.
On the rare occasion you do get a puncture, if you carry the following (and know how to use them), your wheels will be turning in no time!:
- Pump – invest in a decent quality one that can inflate your tyre quickly. We 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. To inflate the different types of valve. 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 just pop a new inner tube in and repair the old one when I get home – make sure you have the correct size (printed on the side of the tyre) and valve type for your bike.
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 ensure you carry the special key that was supplied with the security skewers.