Here are five things we wish we’d known when we first started commuting on two wheels.
1. CYCLE TRAINING ISN'T JUST FOR CHILDREN
Did you take your Cycling Proficiency Test at school? These days it’s called Bike-ability and it’s not just for kids. Sometimes courses for adults refer to the National Standard for cycle training rather than Bike-ability, although it’s really much the same thing by a different name.
Cycle training can boost your skill and confidence on the road, helping you stay safe. It’s particularly worthwhile if you haven’t ridden a bike for a few years, but many of us will have bad habits or rough edges which a good cycling instructor will smooth off.
Busy urban roads can be intimidating places to ride, but cycle training helps riders be more assertive and stay safe.
2. BUY THE BEST BIKE LOCK YOU CAN AFFORD
Anyone who has ever found an empty space where they expected to find their bike will tell you it’s not a nice feeling.
Even if your workplace has secure cycle parking, it makes sense to use a high-quality bike lock to keep your machine as secure as possible.
Sold Secure (part of the Master Locksmiths Association) assesses bike locks and awards gold, silver and bronze ratings. Ideally, go for a gold standard lock.
In fact, don’t stop at one lock. A second lock or a length of stout cable is better than one lock on its own.
You want to make sure your bike frame and one wheel is locked to something fixed and secure like a bike stand. The other wheel can be secured with the second lock or a cable attached to the first lock.
Sometimes thieves make off with a wheel rather than the whole bike. As well as locking the wheel to the bike, locking security skewers will slow down a bike thief. These replace the quick release skewers and need a special attachment to undo them. Just don’t forget to take the attachment with you in case you puncture . . .
3. CHOOSE PUNCTURE RESISTANT TYRES
Talking of which, for regular commuting, you’ll want to fit tough, puncture-resistant tyres.
Lightweight rubber may be great for racing or chasing Strava segments, but if you want to get to work on time, you are better off choosing puncture protection over speed.
The best commuter tyres roll reasonably well but have a puncture-beating layer made of Kevlar or another similarly tough material. This should stop thorns or other sharp objects before they get through the rubber and slit the inner tube.
Depending on the tyres your bike has now, think about fitting wider rubber. If you are riding a racing bike with 23mm tyres, switching to 25mm or 28mm will mean you can safely run lower pressures for more comfort. Just check they will fit your bike before you make the switch.
4. YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO VISIBLE
The last thing a cycle commuter wants to hear is “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you.”
If a driver is paying attention, it really shouldn’t matter what you are wearing, but you can make yourself easier to spot by wearing day-glow colours. At night, a good set of lights is essential. We’d recommend using more than one light front and rear, especially at the back of the bike—you won’t notice if a rear light runs low while you are riding, so it makes sense to rely on more than one
5. SOMETIMES, TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME
Commuting by bike isn’t just a practical, cost-effective way of getting from A to B—it should also be fun.
Don’t get stuck in a rut, always riding the same route. Once in a while, shake things up by taking the long way home. Head through a park or out into the countryside. It doesn’t really matter where your detour takes you, so long as you enjoy the ride.