With a flow of endorphins that make that second cup of coffee the last thing on your mind? If so, perhaps commuting to work by bike is for you. With a few simple tweaks and checks, you can tailor your bike for the rigours of a daily commute.
Cycling is becoming an increasingly popular mode of transport for many people in the UK. Research from the 2016 National Travel Survey released in 2017 revealed that the average distance cycled per person rose by 37% from just under 40 miles per year in 2002 to 53 miles per year by 2016.
Why do so many of us commute to work by bike? It’s quite simple. We are driven by the desire to improve our health, while saving time and money.
Some of us are looking to lose a few pounds and improve general fitness. Others are looking to maximise their training time, with hard intervals and extra miles on the way to and from work.
Nothing trumps exercise; it’s nature’s natural antidepressant. If you’re tired of seeing your hard-earned money go towards monthly transport tickets, or a monthly gym membership you just never get around to using, perhaps cycling to work is for you.
Before you make the transition to commuting by bike, you’ll need to make sure your bike is commuter ready.
- Are your tyres properly inflated?
Soft tyres will slow you down. Ensure you maintain your speed on the smooth city streets by having them properly inflated. The ideal pressure will be marked on the rim of your tyre. Keep them at, or slightly below that pressure level but never over!
- Do your brakes work properly?
Are you’re brakes effective? Do they stick, lock and squeal, or do they bring you to a safe gradual halt?
To ride safely your brakes must be in good working order. This is perhaps even more important in busy cities where traffic lights and lanes of weaving traffic are common.
Excessively worn brake blocks and loose cables are to be avoided. Ensure you regularly maintain them, making tweaks as soon as you notice brake function diminishing.
- Are your lights working properly?
Be seen to be safe and make it easy on the motorists. Most roads in big cities are reasonably well lit - meaning your lights won't need to be that bright. However the main danger is in not being seen by traffic. Flashing lights work best, one front and one back.
Don’t forget – you’re legally required to use lights and reflectors if you’re cycling on any public road in the UK after sunset or before sunrise. However it is always recommended to use a flashing rear red light at all times. You just never know...
- Is the chain lubricated?
A chain that is not lubricated sufficiently will not only slow you down, it’ll cause increased wear on other components. As we cycle around, we constantly pick up dust and debris which attach to the chain. Ensure you wash your chain regularly and use a lubricant which disperses moisture.
If you really get into the commuter lifestyle, you’ll want to keep an eye on chain stretch. Those of us that clock up the miles may have to change the chain to avoid excessively wearing the sprockets and chainset, an altogether more expensive lesson!
- How to deal with a puncture?
Many of us have had the experience of cycling through a city the morning after a busy night. Broken glass beside a kerb is often the main obstacle to be avoided.
If you’re unlucky enough to puncture you’ll need to be prepared. Puncture repair kits are useful, but it can be time-consuming to set about fixing a puncture when you’re already due to be in the office. The best practice is to carry a spare tube, a pump and two tyre levers. Simply change the tube and fix the puncture at a later point.
Always remember to carefully run your hand on the inside of the tyre to check for the offending debris. Ensure you remove it from the tyre, unless you want another puncture a half mile down the road.
Alternatively you can choose to invest in a tubeless setup and make puncture repairing a thing of the past.
- Avoid wearing baggy clothing, it’ll slow you down due to drag, trousers also can easily catch on the chain, tearing them, or worse again, bringing you down.
- Always be prepared for bad weather. A foldable waterproof jacket which can be stowed in your back pocket is an essential addition.
- In warm weather, wear the lightest clothing possible, as you don’t want to arrive at work really sweaty (unless your workplace has showers – but then you’d have to leave a bit earlier!).
So, there you have it. It’s time to banish the memories of those Monday mornings lost in thought on a commuter train, staring down at the coffee in your paper cup, as if it were the life support you need to function. Nothing beats arriving to work fully alert and awake ready to be the best version of yourself. Maybe it’s time to give commuting by bike a try!