Cycling is rapidly growing in popularity, and through the CV19 pandemic has for many people become an essential travel option. Cycling has always, however, been a great way to travel to work for those able to do so. It offers many personal benefits, such as improved health and cost savings. It also offers significant benefit to the environment and local community, helping to take cars off the road, reducing pollution and reducing congestion.
For those new to cycling to work, here are a few top tips to help you get started.
Let’s start with the bike!
One of the great things about cycling is that as long as you have a bike in good working condition, you are good to go!
Many people already have a bike, which may be used for leisure cycling, or even stuck at the bottom of the garden shed. All you need to do is dust it off and you are ready to go. If your bike is in need of some TLC, see our various pieces of advice on bike maintenance to get yourself back on the road.
If you need a new bike it is worth considering what type may suit you best. There are a range of bike types available, including folding bikes, hybrid bikes, road bikes, and even e-bikes. Take a look at our handy commuter bike buying advice. You should also find out if your employer has a Cycle to Work scheme in place, and if they don’t ask them to set one up. Cycle to Work schemes allow you to save some serious cash when it comes to buying a new bike, through a salary sacrifice arrangement.
And don’t forget, a new bike doesn’t have to be ‘new’. There are loads of perfectly good second hand bikes available to buy, some of which may have been recycled through a local community cycling company. Check out our advice on buying a second hand bike.
Check out your workplace facilities
Many workplaces have excellent facilities for cyclists. Don’t just think cycle parking … think cycling spas, clothes drying facilities, laundered towels and free shower gel! But clearly not all facilities are this good, and some journeys by bike to work need more planning than others.
Check out the facilities available at your workplace, and ensure you prepare yourself for the journey ahead. Understand where you will park your bike, and what type of lock you may need. Understand what facilities are available, and what you may need to carry with you. Can you take some fresh clothes and smart shoes with you in advance, saving the need to carry them?
If your workplace doesn’t have the facilities you need, don’t just suffer in silence. First of all, raise it with your employer. It can be in their interest as well as yours if you cycle to work, so they may be willing to support you. Tell them to check out our handy guide to providing workplace cycling facilities.
If you still find yourself short of somewhere to shower, it may be worth checking for any local services/facilities you can use. Many gyms have facilities that can be used for a small fee, and if you live in London check out Run Friendly for access to a long list of facilities across the city.
How do I carry my stuff?
If your bike has a rack, you can choose a pannier and let the bike do all of the heavy lifting for you. This also helps balance out any weight, making it easier, especially for inexperienced cyclists.
If you don’t have a rack or would prefer to carry things on your back, any old backpack could do. But it may be worth investing in a specialist backpack, to minimise weight, keep things dry, ensure you are seen and avoid a sweaty back. Check out the range of backpacks available from Halfords as a starting point.
What if it is raining?
It would be ideal if everyday was sunny and warm … but we all know that isn’t a reality unfortunately. That doesn’t have to stop you cycling to work, however. The best advice is to be prepared. Could you have some dry clothes waiting for you at work, and have you checked out the shower and drying facilities? Arriving wet may not be as bad as you think!
You can also make yourself much more comfortable on the cycle to work by investing in some suitable kit. Mudguards are a great starting point, helping to keep you dry and clean. There’s also a excellent range of rain jackets, gloves and glasses available on the market, which can keep the rain off you and keep you dry. If you do plan on cycling to work in the rain, we’d recommend using the appropriate clothing! And don’t forget, you can buy cycle clothing and accessories through your employers Cycle to Work scheme in just the same way as buying a bike.
It is also worth considering your tyres. Slick tyres are great on a dry day for picking up speed, but something with a little more grip can help make a journey in the rain much safer. Take a look at the Halfords website, which provides some useful advice on choosing the right tyre.
Picking a route
There are an increasing range of cycling lanes and paths available across the UK, catering for different levels of cyclist. It’s definitely worth planning ahead to ensure you are picking the best route for you … don’t always think ‘direct’ or the way you usually go by car is best! Could you find an off road route, avoid a hill, or avoid a tricky junction?
Cyclestreets.net is a great place to start when planning a journey by bike. Built for cyclists, it lets you plan a journey between A and B, selecting different route options, checking out the terrain and seeing how long it will take.
For more local information and cycle maps, take a look at your local Council website. Use the search button and enter ‘cycling’ Many will have local cycle maps, showing recommended routes, traffic free paths and crossing facilities.
Could you also ask others? Find other cyclists at your workplace, or see if your employer has a ‘travel plan coordinator’ who can help. Many workplaces have a ‘Bicycle User Group’ who are usually more than willing to offer advice and support to new cycle commuters!
What if my commute is long or includes loads of hills?
Electric bikes are extending the opportunities for many people to cycle to work. They can do much of the hard work for you, speeding you up, helping you get over hills, and making it easier for you to go further. Check out our guide to buying an e-bike.