Commuting to and from work by bike is a cost-effective alternative to driving or using public transport, often resulting in quicker travel times due to less time spent sitting in traffic or trying to find a parking space. It also helps to promote your physical health and contributes to reducing carbon emissions. However, it’s easy to fall into pitfalls that will make your ride less enjoyable and potentially dangerous. Here are some of our top tips for hassle-free rides to and from work.
Punctures are an unfortunate reality of cycling, and it’s important to be prepared for them, especially during your daily commutes if you have a meeting to get to at 9 am. You need to carry a spare tube, some tyre levers and a pump/CO2 canister to deal with it, even if you’re riding on tubeless tyres.
A multi-tool is also a must-have as it can address various issues that could arise during your commute. When choosing a multi-tool, make sure it has all the functions you need for your bike, including any sneaky Torx heads.
Carrying these essentials doesn’t need to take up a lot of room, especially with compact and lightweight options like TPU inner tubes available. Simply put them in your backpack, saddlebag or pannier and leave them there for whenever you need them.
The route that you take to work will very much depend on where you live and where you’re heading but it’s worth considering the traffic volume, terrain and cycle infrastructure when planning your route to make it as stress-free as possible.
The shortest route may not always be the best choice as it could include the most elevation or the busiest sections. It’s worth familiarising yourself with your planned route, perhaps by riding it at the weekend before your first commute. You can also vary your route from day to day to keep things interesting.
Not riding defensively and sitting in the gutter increases your vulnerability to accidents and reduces your ability to react effectively in potentially hazardous situations.
There are many reasons not to hug the kerb. It’s where slippery drain covers are positioned, it’s where pedestrians step out and it can also make you less visible and tempt motorists to squeeze past when there’s not enough room for them to do it safely.
Riding too close to parked cars can also be dangerous because those car doors sometimes open…
For these reasons, take up the primary position in the centre of your lane when you feel that's the best option. You're fully entitled to do so and it's often the safest choice.
It’s a scenario many of us can relate to – finding yourself unexpectedly in a race with a stranger, chasing an imaginary finish line for reasons unknown. The thrill of competition can be hard to resist but it not only risks your safety, it can also leave you hot and sweaty and that’s no good for anybody, particularly if you intend to wear the same clothes for the remainder of the day.
If you’re a Strava user, you probably don’t want to get too obsessed with bagging KoM/QoMs on your daily commute.
If you wear jeans at work and have ever attempted to ride to work in them, you’ll likely have discovered just how uncomfortable it can be taking the joy out of your commute.
While Lycra cycling shorts will provide plenty of comfort for longer rides, they may feel like overkill for your daily commute. Fortunately, there are plenty of cycle-specific jeans and trousers out there that you can wear both on and off the bike, so there’s no need to change when you get to work.
Forgetting your underwear may happen at least once, and while you can manage a day without it, being without your trousers presents a far greater challenge. Our top tip is to keep an emergency stash of backup clothes at work, just in case.
The same applies to not having dry kit for the ride home, as there’s nothing worse than putting soggy kit back on. If your cycle clothing gets way on the way to work, you’ll either need to dry it out during the day or have a spare set for the journey home. Since there’s no trusting the UK weather forecast, it’s definitely worth keeping some spare kit tucked away at work for when you’re in dire need.
You don’t get to pick the time of day you ride to and from work which means you’ll inevitably encounter rain and wet roads from time to time. If you’re riding in cycling clothing you might not be too bothered if you get wet, but if you’re riding in clothes you’re going to wear for the rest of the day, it’s a big deal.
Mudguards make a huge difference and stop spray from your tyres soaking you and the rest of your bike.
You might be tempted to buy a cheap lock but it's a false economy if you rock up at the end of the working day to find that your bike is no longer where you left it.
No matter how much you spend, it’ll always be less than the cost of replacing a stolen bike and the hassle of working out how you’re then going to get home. Look for locks with a Sold Secure Gold rating, like the Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard U-Lock (£59.99). If you don’t want to lug a heavy lock on your commute, leave one at work.
Uh oh, it’s 5:30pm in the middle of winter, you get on your bike to ride home and you find that your bike lights are out of juice. It happens!
One option is to keep a couple of emergency lights squirrelled away in your bag, at all times and leave a charger at work so that you can leave your lights on charge during the day so they are ready for your ride home.
You could also consider investing in dynamo lights that you power as you cycle.
Weather forecasts can give you a general idea of what to expect, they aren’t always accurate and conditions can change rapidly. To avoid being caught unprepared, it’s worth carrying a small, packable waterproof jacket at all times.
It’s also worth considering investing in cycling-specific clothing that’s designed to handle a range of weather conditions such as windproof and waterproof jackets, waterproof trousers and thermal jerseys.
Having the right gear on hand will help you to stay dry and comfortable on your commute, no matter what the weather throws at you.
What are your top commuting tips? Let us know in the comments section below.
Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.
Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…