I’ve been commuting by bike for a very long time now. Long enough that it’s become the norm and that even torrential rain doesn’t stop me. It’s just my first and preferred method of travel to and from work. Last week however my wife Kate joined the ranks of cycle commuter and the preparation for that reminded me that it’s maybe not quite as simple to get on your bike and ride for other folk as it is for me. So I thought a wee blog post with some hints and tips to get the best out of your commute might be useful.
Eli’s top hints for new commuter cyclists
Plan your route ahead of time
Use the various electronic tools like google maps and strava to help you plan the route you are going to take. Check out if there are any dedicated cycle paths you can use instead of busy roads. Take a few test runs on quiet days when you aren’t working and can take your time and get a feel for things.
If you aren’t a qualified driver and haven’t used the road before then get yourself a copy of the highway code and read it. Make sure you know which lane you should be using, what hand signals to use and what drivers will expect of you. Be confident on the road, take your position in the lane confidently, try not to ride close to the kerb or gutter and make sure you always look behind you and signal before you pull out or change lanes. Let people know what you are going to do and you’ll have a much more pleasant experience.
Always give yourself an extra 10 minutes to account for a slow day or a stop for coffee etc.
Take it at your own pace
If you are new to cycling it can be intimidating as other cyclists zoom past leaving you behind but resist the urge to try to keep up with others. Take things at your own pace and let your body get used to the new exercise and the thing people will not tell you – after that first cycle, your butt is going to hurt. You just can’t stop this happening, it will get sore but the good news is that it only last for a few days then you will have a proper cyclists bum which can cope with anything 🙂
Clothes and weather
The beauty of cycling is that other than a bike, you don’t need any special kit. You can jump on a bike in your jeans and have as much fun as someone who has all the fancy, lycra kit. Living in Scotland though, it rains a lot so you have to consider that you may very well get rained on while you are cycling to work. To combat this I tend to wear lightweight, nylon sports kit for the cycle and get changed into my work clothes when I get there. The lightweight nylon dries quickly so even if I get drenched, it’s usually dry for me coming home again.
If you don’t want to cycle with a bag full of clothes every day, leave a change of clothes at work and just have one day a week where you take clean clothes in and dirty clothes home.
Won’t I get sweaty and smelly?
Well you might, it depends whether you take your time and trundle along or if you make this an exercise mission and really work. However many workplaces now have showers so you could get a quick shower before you start work or if there’s no shower, take some wet wipes and deodorant with you for a quick freshen up.
You might also find that carrying a backpack or other bag will make your back sweat so think about having pannier bags attached to your bike instead.
Pack your bag the night before
You are much more likely to cycle on those grey, cold days if you can just get up and go with little to no faffing about. It will also means you are quicker and not in a rush to get to the office. Make sure you have your lunch, shoes, clothes etc all sorted and in your bag ready to just be picked up.
If you are cycling in the dark, make sure you have good lights and wear as much reflective bits and pieces as you can. Be visible!
Don’t forget to have fun!
But most importantly, have fun! There’s nothing like an overcrowded train in the morning to put you in a bad mood, so breathe deep, get the blood pumping and smile your way to work!
I cycle everyday from Musselburgh to Edinburgh, a journey of about 7 miles and it takes about 40 minutes at a relatively easy pace. Luckily almost my entire journey is off-road making it so much more enjoyable but also I save myself money. A monthly train ticket from Musselburgh to Edinburgh is £63, cycling is free!
Check out my commute.