12 Common Mistakes Every New Bike Commuter Makes

Cyclist in the rain

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From downright no-nos to social faux pas, these are the things to avoid when riding a bike to work.

But aren’t you just putting people off riding a bike to work? Yeah, yeah, we hear you. This isn’t about putting newbie commuters down. Far from it, in fact. This is just sage advice from someone who spent a good few years commuting by bike, in all weathers, at all times of the year, and during almost every hour of the day. We made these mistakes, so you don’t have to.

It’s funny, those bike commuters who are already out there pedaling the streets, will probably understand at least some of the mistakes in this list. But there are perhaps one or two they may disagree with – let’s see, shall we?

1. Trusting the Weather Forecast

Here’s what seasoned bike commuters never tell you… it rains, it’s cold, it’s windy – more often than you damn well know. And even more frustratingly the weather forecast can (AND WILL) be wrong. Don’t trust it, never trust it – in fact, maybe don’t even bother looking at it in the first place!

Okay, okay, okay it might be wise to have a glance at it to get a rough idea, but don’t be surprised if wall-to-wall sunshine quickly evaporates into a torrential downpour.

But here’s our key takeaway on this one, people of the internet. Modern life is great in many ways (precisely 1 billion things to watch on Netflix and 1 million takeaway options delivered to your door), but has made us less attuned to the world around us. Getting outside, even as the rain lashes at your every orifice is great for mind, body, and soul. Just be kind to your body and pack a jacket!

Cycle with fenders

2. Choosing to Ride Without Fenders

Hunkered down in a car, squirreled away on a bus – no other commuter feels the effects of the weather as much as a bike commuter. So do yourself a favor, bike commuters worldwide – FIT FENDERS TO YOUR BICYCLE. Oh, and P.S. Don’t take them off in summer, will you?

Don't forget your every day care kit (EDC)

3. Leaving the House Without Some EDC

Listen up, kids. EDC is “everyday carry,” and that means, you carry it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. The bike commuter’s version of EDC looks a little like this: spare inner tube, pump, inner tube patches, multitool, spare lights. 

Cycle with pannier bags rather than a backpack

4. Riding with a Backpack

This could be controversial. Riding with a backpack is uncomfortable, sweat-inducing, and generally not fun at all. Amateur bike commuters worldwide, please buy yourself a pair of pannier bags or, at the very least, a handlebar bag, basket, or frame bag.

be visible when cycling, even during the day

5. Looking Like a Bike Ninja

Have you seen these bike ninjas? We have. Sloshing down a busy road in the twilight, only illuminated by the beam of lights from cars, passing a mere sliver away from their handlebars.

New bike commuters should never ride in all black but always ride with a set of bike lights suitable for the environment they’re riding in.

As a further piece of general advice, even when commuting by bike during the day, a touch of reflectivity or a dash of high visibility can go some way to improving your whereabouts to other road users.

the straight route isn't always the best route

6. Taking the Most Direct Route

Thinks about riding to work. Automatically chooses to ride the very road you’ve been driving for the last five years.

Just because the distance between A and B is the quickest by car definitely does not mean it’s the best route to take by bike. While we’re not suggesting going via Aunty Irene’s house, taking the quiet route through the park and down past the warehouses just for the sake of it. A zig-zag route may well be friendlier for you and your bike.

Fewer cars blasting by at precisely one thousand miles an hour. Fewer stop lights to waste your time at. And, heaven’s alive, maybe even a dedicated bike line to roll on with glee.

Heed this piece of advice, cycle commuters, and you’ll stick at it for much, much longer.

Don't rush

7. Rush, Rush, Rush

Let’s face it, when all is said and done, commuting by bike should be enjoyable and it won’t be if you leave late and have to ride fast to be on time.

Ease back. Settle in. Ride easy. Pedaling to work shouldn’t be about winning the Tour de France; it’s about getting some gentle exercise and freeing your mind. You never know, it might stop you shouting at Jackie from accounts when she asks you about Invoice 223 for precisely the four hundredth time. 

Relax and take it slow

8. Not Taking a Chill Pill

On a related note, it’s easy – very easy in fact – to be riled up when riding to work. Maybe it’s the bus that always cuts you up or the stop light that always brings you to a halt. First-time cycle commuters should always take a chill pill before lowering themselves into the saddle.

you don't always need to use the bicycle lane

9. Sticking to the Bike Lanes

Yes, you read that right. Don’t stick to the bike lanes. For every well-designed, well-signposted, and segregated from traffic bike lane out there, there are maybe two poorly thought-out, downright dangerous ‘bike lanes’. As such, it’s our opinion that cyclists should never ride in the bike lane just because it’s there.

don't forget your shoes

10. Having to Go Barefoot

“Tom, why haven’t you got shoes on?” “Well, Simon – I rode my bicycle to work and forgot to put my shoes in my bag.” ‘Nuff said.

always eat something to stay energised

11. Not Fuelling ‘The Engine’

Start commuting by bike – even short distances – and you’ll soon generate the appetite of a 14,000-pound African Elephant. Eat, eat, eat, and then eat again. Or else, new commuter cyclist, you might never find your way home again!

Don't forget to shower

12. Waiving the Need For a Shower

Mmm. Yes. A generally sweaty aroma. Even a leisurely pedal to work can, for some people, work up a sweat. Do everyone a favor, bike commuters – please? Take a shower once you arrive! If there is one, of course.

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