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If you commute to work a lot, or are looking to start following the ever rising fuel costs and urge to be a little more eco-friendly and green, then I personally have some great advice for you that could really help make your commute by bike easier
I’ve been racing a bike (predominantly on the road) internationally for many years, and at times alongside my racing endeavors also commuted into my place of work. Therefore, I have some solid first hand knowledge on ways to improve your commuting experience.
1. Find a Bike That Suits You
First and foremost, find a bike that suits you, your riding style and your personal needs. This one is super important as the right style of bike can really make a world of difference in terms of comfort, practicality and enjoyment.
If your bike is comfortable, you’ll limit your chances of getting injured or developing issues like back pain. Not to mention it will just make your commute much happier.
Getting a bike that is more practical will benefit you as it will be able to serve your needs effectively. For example, if you need to carry a lot of things to and from work, something like a hybrid with the ability to attach pannier racks and bags will be more practical for your then an out and out road bike.
Then with regards to enjoyment, having a bike that is suited to your individual needs will just make your commute much happier and enjoyable. At the end of the day, riding a bike should be fun, no matter the reason for doing it: transport or not.
2. Don’t Ride Everywhere Flat Out
As tempting as it may be, the best advice in terms of pace is: don’t ride everywhere flat out. Your riding pace should feel manageable, not like you are struggling to keep at it.
This will help you to arrive at work not drenched in your own sweat nor utterly exhausted from your hell-for-leather ride in. Although if you are late, as we all are every now and then, then I fully appreciate that this pace is necessary.
Not to mention it’s just not a great way to ride in general, your body can only do so much and sitting in this ‘zone’ everywhere can really tire you out long term.
3. Wave At Other Cyclists
This one may seem a little random, but waving at fellow cyclists in a lot of areas (though not London for some reason) is a nice and polite way to acknowledge your fellow two wheel fanatics.
It is also just nice to be nice! You feel better for it and being kind is always a great way to start the day.
4. Change Gear Before You Stop
Changing gear before you come to traffic lights, a zebra crossing or a junction will really help you in terms of being able to start back up again.
Just before you arrive at said junction etc, you should change gear up your cassette in anticipation for when you get going again. This is to avoid falling off (it can easily happen if you gear is too tough) and to help prevent sore legs once you get into work.
Riding through built up areas and cities is hard enough with all the obstacles and traffic without giving yourself DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) because you gave yourself a hefty standing starts session pre-work through not changing gear.
5.Use Your Gears Effectively
Using your gears effectively will really make a huge difference to your commuting and overall cycling experience – without sounding condescending – it’s a common hang up many people have.
Yes gears can be confusing and a tad tricky to grasp. However, the most important thing to do is get used to how your gears work first and foremost. Ride around your street and figure out how to go up and down the cassette at the back and how to change the ring at the front.
Once you have this grasped, remember that moving the chain down the block (cassette) at the back will be beneficial on flatter terrain and moving up will be useful for when you are riding uphill.
Then if you happen to have a fixie, have a look at the commute in and figure out a good middle ground gear combination. This will massively help you to not be too under or overgeared when riding to work, making the ride much easier and more enjoyable.
6. Invest In Some Waterproofs
You can unfortunately never predict the weather, especially when commuting, something I learnt the hard way many times. Therefore I would highly recommend investing in some waterproof cycling kit for commuting.
Although I appreciate it can look a bit too ‘serious cyclist’, the waterproof cycling kit comes in all different styles, including some more laid back urban and commuting specific styles. Allowing you not to feel like me, a lycra clad try hard on a road bike.
Wearing waterproofs will also massively help in the winter time when cold commutes can easily drop to single figures. During these months keeping your hands and feet warm and dry, along with your body is really important.
But the good news is, waterproof items such as gloves, overshoes, jackets and even waterproof shoes to keep your feet dry, are common across the market right now, suiting a range of budgets and tastes. Therefore, there’s no excuse, stay dry and warm – it’ll make your commute much more bearable in the rain and cold.
7. Use Bike Lights
Apologies for potentially sounding preachy but please use a front and rear bike light when commuting.
If you are blessed to live in a country with superb cycle paths then maybe this isn’t so paramount for you, however if you are based in a country that doesn’t seem to invest in such basic necessities then this is crucial.
Using both a front and rear light will help you to be seen by other road users, as well as pedestrians, and now electric scooter users. Which helps to avoid any collisions and in general just puts you in a better position if unfortunately anything (touch wood) was to happen to you.
I would always use both a front and a rear light on flashing mode when commuting, be it in the daytime with sunlight and especially at night when it’s dark. The latter goes without saying really as it’s legal not to in most countries.
So yes, bike lights, they are brilliant to be seen and safe. They really are great and more often than not USB rechargeable making them easy to charge at work. Win-win.
8. Make Sure You Are Comfortable
Ensuring that you are comfortable while commuting in will make a world of difference in terms of how easy you find your commute.
Therefore, having a bike that is the correct size for you, having your saddle height the right height, having a comfortable saddle and wearing enough / the right clothing to commute in will be hugely beneficial for your comfort levels.
Going by feel you will ideally know if your bike is the right size for you as it will either feel comfortable or not – if it’s too big you will feel overstretched and too small you may feel cramped.
Then the height of your saddle can be gauged by reading our easy-to-follow piece specifically on how to work out your saddle height. This will help you to alleviate any rocking in the saddle you may experience from having your saddle too high or knee pain from having your saddle too low.
Moreover, the right saddle will be comfortable for you to sit on: being a very personal thing only you can fully know if it’s right for you. But if you need help, many shops offer a 30 day trial money back policy to allow you to try the saddle for your first 30 days of purchase. Not only that but local bike shops can also help to measure you up and choose a suitable saddle for you.
As well as that, wearing comfortable and suitable clothes will make a huge difference for your commute, such as padded shorts or a waterproof jacket. Not only that but having a shower once you get to work if they have the facilities can also really help you to feel more comfortable during your commute.
9. Ensure You Distribute Weight
If you tend to carry a lot to work, ensuring you distribute the weight of your possessions effectively is really important to help reduce the risk of back pain and other issues that may occur from not doing so.
Wearing a supportive backpack that has been designed specifically for commuting is a great place to start. This will help to adequately support your back and thus reduce changes of developing back pain.
On the other hand, you could opt for using pannier racks and bags on your bike, meaning none of the weight is directly carried on your body – it’s on your bike. This is arguably the best and safest way to transport your belongings if you want to reduce the risk of injury: because no one wants a sore back.
10. Enjoy It
Last but certainly not least – enjoy it!
Riding a bike is wonderful: exercising and moving your body is really good for both your mental and physical health, so enjoy this time to yourself, just you and your bike.