It’s ‘ride to work day’ tomorrow so I thought I’d share my top tips for riding to work.
Unfortunately, I finished my summer placement last week so won’t be riding to work. When I started my placement last summer, it was always my plan to cycle because I love cycling. I haven’t cycled to work in winter (although I do ride through winter) but if you start now, you will have time to buy clothing more suitable for the cold.
Plan a route
I cycle quite regularly but last year, I still had to experiment with routes as I never ride towards the city centre when not commuting. You can use ‘Street view’ on maps to have a look at the roads, particularly junctions, but testing the route on a day you’re not working is also a good idea (as it will give you an estimate of how long it takes you). Bike paths are great if they are where you need to go or link up other sections but don’t feel you have to use them – there is no guarantee that they will be in a rideable condition.
Find somewhere to lock your bike
And lock it securely. There is plenty of advice on the internet about how to lock your bike so it is still there when you get back. Alternatively, places such as ‘bike parks’ are becoming more popular in cities, which offer secure parking inside. Leicester Bike Park is a truly wonderful place and is where I parked my bike.
Wear what you want
My personal preference is cycling kit with cycling shoes, because my ride is long enough at 6 miles that I want to get changed and I have more cycling shorts than other suitable shorts so it ensures I’ll have clean clothes to ride in everyday. Depending on the length of your ride and how fast (how much effort) you want to go, there may be other suitable or easier options. I always wear a helmet on my commute.
It’s going to rain at some point so a waterproof is one of the necessary pieces of kit. Overshoes or waterproof socks are also a good idea.
How to carry your belongings
There are many options for carrying your stuff. A backpack will do but if you are riding regularly, it may be uncomfortable and you are more likely to get sweaty. I used a pannier bag. It was quite large because I like to take my own lunch in a lunch bag and take enough drinks for the day. A water resistant or waterproof bag is ideal, but you can also use carrier bags on the inside to ensure your belongings stay dry.
Other essential items are deodorant and a hairbrush. Depending on whether your work has showers, you might need a towel and shower stuff. Also, a little hand towel or face cloth is great if it is raining on the way in. It is also a good idea to take a spare inner tube and tyre levers, just in case you get a puncture.
Another great idea is to leave things you can at work. I left a blazer and a pair of shoes at work. Then, I swapped them on the days I wasn’t riding. At one point, I had 4 different pairs of shoes at work because I needed a different pair (it was too hot, too cold, I needed that pair over the weekend etc.) and didn’t want to ride home with them.
This is essentially about road presence. It is important to be confident in where you want to go and indicating. The infrastructure in most places isn’t great for cyclists, so the road will have to do, for now. I have found that most car drivers pass with enough space but be prepared to be close passed and be confident about holding your line in the traffic (riding too close to the kerb will make drivers think they can squeeze past you, even if cars are coming the other way).
Remember you don’t have to do it everyday
It can be hard to commit to riding everyday, particularly if you have only just started. Sometimes life gets in the way but that’s okay. I don’t ride to work on the days I am racing because I go straight from work to the race. Sometimes the weather may be too bad, particularly if you don’t have the right kit yet, and definitely if it is icy. There were a few days I rode when it was raining heavily, but a good waterproof and dry pair of socks to change into makes it okay. If you aren’t feeling up to it, there is no harm in taking a day or two off from riding.
The biggest benefit of riding to work is that it is fun and I enjoy it. It gives me time to relax and by the time I get home, I am no longer thinking about work.