Friday, 2 August 2013

The Blogging Cyclist's Ten Top Tips for Cycling to Work

I have been cycling the twenty mile return journey from Sutton, Surrey to Vauxhall, London SW8 for over two years. When I first bought my hybrid bike back in May 2011, it was with the intention of doing the odd few miles here and there at evenings and weekends. But as I got used to the feeling of cycling, something I had not really done properly or consistently for the past 20 years other than the odd off road couple of miles with the kids as they were growing up, I got the cycling bug. No doubt about it cycling is addictive! Now, unless it is icy (yes, I made that mistake this past winter!) or ridiculously wet or windy, or I have a meeting FIrst thing or last thing that is not at my office, I cycle to work every day. 

If you are planning to commute to work on a regular basis like I do, I have put together  what I hope are some handy tips:

1. Cycle wear
Invest in decent cycle wear. You don't have to go the full Lycra look if you don't want to, but you should at least wear clothing that is made for cycling. You should also have a decent waterproofs and plenty of hi vis wear, especially for the winter. When I first started cycling I invested in cheap stuff from Sports Direct and this was fine for a while. But then I went on to buying better quality gear from my local bike shop Pearson's, who have great customer service but can be a little on the pricy side, and now I get most stuff from Wiggle, who have a great range at great prices (and send you a free mini pack of Haribo with every order!) My tip is, if you can afford it, go for mid-range clothing like Altura or Endura. It will last and be comfortable. Personally I cannot imagine why anyone would not wear padded shorts but that's just me!

2. Plan your route
It is nice to have a variety of routes to work just to mix it up a bit. Plan these in advance as there is nothing worse than getting lost on your way to work. Having got lost during my early cycling days trying to find my way across Wandsworth Common I do a trial run when I fancy something new. Transport for London Journey Planner has a route planner especially for cyclists.

3. Safety
Cycling in urban areas can be dangerous. Never forget you are a vulnerable road user. There are some other tips below related to this, but only you can make sure you don't get into any horrible scrapes. No one else will look after you so you have to. Never listen to music on headphones. 

4. Lights
Invest in decent lights. You need to be seen so a £1.99 light from Asda is unlikely to do the job. Be prepared to pay for decent lights. I use Knog Boomer lights that are lightweight and bright. I also like the Lezyne Mini-Drive rechargeable front light I have. You don't need to spend a fortune but do expect to pay around £30 to £50 for a reasonable set.

5. Assume every other road user is an idiot
It's sad but unless you obey this simple tip you will come a cropper. You have to assume that no one has seen you, and slow down if you think you are in danger. You will get to know the vehicles and types of driver you don't trust!

6. Nutrition
You may be cycling to help you lose weight and that's great, but you do not need to starve yourself! My journey to work burns up at least 300 calories, so I figure that's 300 calories more I can eat! I have a bagel and coffee before I leave for work and a bowl of Oatso Simple when I get to work after my shower. If you don't eat enough you will be fatigued on your way home and you will snack on unhealthy things during the day.

7. Bike maintenance
Look after your bike. Clean it regularly. De-grease and oil the chain and gears every few weeks, especially if you ride off road. Check and adjust your brakes regularly, CHeck your type pressure (see below) every few days. Have your bike serviced regularly. It is dangerous riding a bike in poor condition, and you are putting your safety at risk by doing so.

8. Tyres
If you are cycling regularly your tyres will need looking after. Part of this is making sure you have the right tyres for the job. For commuting I recommend puncture proof tyres like Specialized Armadillo or Continental Gatorskin. They are a bit more expensive than normal tyres but will save you the heartache of punctures on the way to work. And while we are on the subject of tyres you ned to inflate them to the right pressure. You can only really do this with a track pump, also known as a floor pump. Portable pumps will rarely do the job.

9. Know your local bike shops
Things will go wrong with your bike from time to time, normally at the most inconvenient time! For that reason it is good to look out for bike shops on your route and also near your work place so that you can pop your bike in for those unplanned repairs.

10. Personal hygiene
I'm lucky. I have a shower at work so I can wash properly when I get to work. I carry clean clothes in my back pack every day and I keep suits and spare clothes at work. If you are unable to shower when you get in you will almost certainly need to improvise. Some people use baby wipes. Make sure you have a wash bag at work with everything you need. Unless you are doing the shortest of journey you will get sweaty. You owe it to your work colleagues to make sure you look after your personal hygiene!

Well that's it for now. I've probably missed out quite a lot,  but I hope my top tips are helpful. Let me know what you think!

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