With summer in full swing, and fuel and fare prices on the up, more people will be thinking about swapping the bus or their car keys for a bike on their commute. Truth is, it’s always a good idea to start cycling to work, and with the right gear and know-how, you can bike-commute all year round!
That in mind, we asked some of our legal experts to share their tips to help you conquer your commute. Some have been cycling to work for decades, some just a few years or less; but all have great tips to share.
1. Choose your gear
First things first, you can commute on ANY bike. There aren’t any rules, so if you already have a bike stashed away in the garage, use it! Safety-first though- make sure it’s in decent working condition and fits you properly. An ill-fitting bike that’s constantly breaking down isn’t very motivating (and could make you late for work)!
Looking to splurge on a new bike for your commute? Bear your route in mind.
If you’re breaking up the journey with a train, a folding bike would be most convenient, so that when you do have to jump on the bus or train, you can take your bike too.
Hybrid bikes are good all-rounders for commuters because they’re designed to suit various terrains. Some already come with mounts for pannier racks, which will come in handy for lugging your laptop and lunchbox around.
If you’re travelling light and are looking to double up your commute and endurance training time, a road bike would make a great fit.
E-bikes allow you to choose how much of a workout you’re in for (perfect if you don’t want to get sweaty on your way into the office!) and are a great option if you’re going to be hauling a heavy load.
If you are considering a new bike, make sure to look into paying for it using the Cycle To Work scheme. More and more employers are taking part and it could save you at least 30% off the cost of a new bike and equipment.
2. Leave plenty of spare clothes at work
While it certainly is one way to make an impression, it’s not ideal to be smelly and sweaty at a 9am meeting with your clients or manager. Our tip is to travel in clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or wet, and taking a clean set with you in a pannier or rucksack. We also recommend stashing toiletries and snacks in your desk drawer at work to save you from hauling everything back and forth on your bike.
3. See and be seen
Good visibility in traffic is fundamental for many commuters. Top to toe in dark clothing may be fine for a weekend-ride bathed in bright sunshine. On a dark, murky commute, it’s another story entirely. You don’t have to become a ‘hi-vis hero’ but wearing brighter colours that stand out is key.
Get a decent set of lights, even if you’re not planning to ride after dark, we recommend using lights on every ride to make sure you’re seen. Daytime running lights aren’t a legal requirement, but they are growing in popularity because they help cyclists be seen out in the road, even in sunny weather. According to bike brand Trek, riders are about a third less likely to be involved in an accident when using daytime running lights.
Granted it’s not known for being the coolest of accessories, but having a bell attached to your handlebar is great for alerting pedestrians on shared-use paths of your presence.
4. Planning helps
Remember that the most direct route may not be the most pleasant. Check whether there are any National Cycle Network routes, local cycle paths or quieter roads you can take- they may make the journey slightly longer, but you’ll have a more enjoyable journey.
Do a practice run, in conditions similar to your usual commute, so you know what to expect.
5. Learn some road etiquette
Of all bike commuting tips, learning the rules of the road may be the most important.
It’s tempting not to slow down at red lights and stop signs to keep all that hard-earned momentum and energy. Don’t be that cyclist. Not only is it against the law, but it could also end in a collision with a pedestrian or motorist. There’s usually a space for cyclists at front, so practice filtering to the front for that head-start.
6. Lock it up!
Even if you’re just popping to the supermarket on the way home, never leave your bike unlocked.
Going for a cheap bike lock is very much a false economy. While no bike lock is truly unbreakable, having a good-quality, sturdy D-Lock or combination lock is a good place to start. It may be annoying to carry about, but we promise it’s not as annoying as having your pride and joy stolen.
Where you leave your bike is just as important as the lock itself. If your workplace has secure bike locking, that’s great. If not, aim for somewhere with CCTV nearby and try to switch it up most days. Thieves are more likely to target you if they know that you leave your bike in the same spot for hours on a daily basis.
7. Maintain your bike
Look after your bike and it will look after you. Get in the habit of checking your two wheeled chariot regularly. Take a look at our bike maintenance guide which provides you with all the know-how to keep your bike cruising along on your commute.
8. Keep going!
Perhaps the main motivator for your bike-to-work routine is that it’s great for the environment, that it helps clear your brain fog, or that it’s just fun. One thing is clear- that we’d be here until next week listing all the benefits to cycle commuting!
If you do find yourself dreading your commute or are too tired to be excited by the saddle, remind yourself why you started doing it in the first place!
A few other things to note:
- Don’t wear headphones. Don’t be that cyclist who isn’t paying attention. It’s just not safe.
- Helmet. This goes without saying, it could save your life. Cameras can also be fitted to your helmet and provide you with vital evidence in your defence if you ever needed it.
- Bike insurance. This keeps you covered as well as offering peace of mind.
It really doesn’t matter if you haven’t cycled in years or if you’re a newcomer to the world of cycling- anyone can enjoy the benefits of taking your commute on two wheels.
In 2020, the government announced £2 billion in funding for cycling and walking infrastructure. Linked with the recent changes in the Highway Code which gives cyclists higher priority on the roads, cycling doesn’t need to feel like such an intimidating prospect anymore.
There is no right or best way to commute by bike, it really isn’t ‘all or nothing’, it’s about what works for you. Cycling to work just once or twice a week will still save you time, money, and work wonders for your mental and physical health. Best of all? Guilt-free cake on your lunch break!