I started commuting to work by bike because I was plumping up, in a nutshell. Several things happened last winter which culminated in a big loss of inserted-into-my-day type of physical activity for me and by the time we reached spring I was a more huggable version of myself, shall we say.
I decided the best thing to do was make the most of the summer and cycle to work. I prefer to have physical activity naturally part of my day, it’s easier to stick to it and you do it regularly. Going to the gym can be ok, but it can also be a pain and requires will power. Cycling to work is just how I get there and basically it’s either that or nothing… I should say I don’t have a car and lift sharing requires organising in advance, so I can’t just feel lazy on the morning; that helps too!
When I started, I had a bike I loved, panniers and my running clothes. That was more than enough to get me biking. A couple of weeks in and I realised I was in love with my new commute. So much so I started making plans to cycle through winter for as long as I could. A couple more weeks and I already had a pretty good idea of what worked for me and what could be useful to others thinking about commuting by bike. My commute is around 8.5K each way, which takes me 30-35 minutes on the bike (clearly I’m not the next Wigans Wiggins).
1. Start today*.
I mean it. If you have a choice, commute to work on your bike. It’s healthier, ecological and great fun. I feel more energised and happier. For the first week, I was a bit more tired but once I got in the groove of it, my energy levels went up. If I feel tired for some reason, I cycle slower, and I have no problem with that.
*unless today is raining; then start tomorrow. You can’t see potholes if they’re filled with water!
2. Eat breakfast.
I repeat, eat breakfast. Breakfast is incredibly important to give your body energy for the day, and more so if you’re about to cycle a fair bit. I have a slice of homemade bread with cream cheese and some yoghurt or fruit. I have breakfast around 7am and then have a piece of fruit with cheese around 9:30/10:00. For me, it’s important to eat regularly and also more enjoyable 😉
I change in work, so I can cycle in more appropriate gear. When I started commuting by bike, I already had running stuff, which largely sufficed; some running capris and running T-shirts did the trick. For the colder weather, things are not as simple and I’ve had to invest in a couple of base layers which I wear under the summer T-shirts, gloves and a very basic lightweight high viz cover I picked up at TKMaxx. As winter settles in and temperatures plummet, I've had to wear a thinner pair of gloves underneath my decent winter ones. It's very important to keep the extremities warm, so I wear two pairs of socks or thick walking socks if it's really cold. I also wear a headband and a thin buff to cover my ears and head. I'm thinking of maybe getting shoe covers, but have survived without so far…
4. Be nice. Be careful.
Smile at other cyclists, say hello. It does brighten everyone’s day.
Know the road code. And then always assume the car has priority… as a cyclist, you are the weakest link (even if you are in the right!). Whilst I’m not a nervous cyclist, I’m a cautious one and I would really recommend that approach, always!
5. Wear a helmet.
Your brain rules your body. Protect it! Bike helmets are frequently overlooked by cyclists; reasons for this are plenty, but the most frequent one seems to be hair style. Without wanting to sound alarmist, your hair won’t protect you if you fall and it will get messy too!
6. Have lights.
According to my favourite bike shop* guy, there are three types of bike lights: 1. Lights to avoid a fine; 2. Lights to be seen; and 3. Lights to see. I would strongly recommend you go for sets 2 or 3, visibility is key on the road. I have had lights to be seen forever, and have recently invested in a good set of lights to see. I cycle in dark areas and want to see where I’m going.
7. Get a sports watch (optional, but oh such fun)
Any sports watch. It really adds fun to your journey! Luckily, I was given a very cool Polar watch for my birthday. Originally, I wanted it for running but have since found it works beautifully for cycling and it’s such fun too! I know exactly how long it takes me door to door, I know exactly on how many kilometres I’ve done in a day, I know time and distance differences between routes instantly, I know if I need to speed up to make it, or if I can just chill and enjoy the scenery (doesn’t happen often in the morning!).
I hope these seven tips will encourage you to get on your bike and change your commute to work for the better. If you have any questions or comments, do let me know in the comment section. Happy riding 🙂