Commuting to work by bike can be a great way to enhance your cycling training and kick your fitness on to the next level. In addition to improve your cycling fitness commuting can save you money and help you improve your general health.
Below are some of our top commuting tips that will help you get the most from your commute.
1. Locking Your Bike Properly
Where there are lots of commuter bikes there are also usually bike thieves not far away. Investing in a good quality lock and using it properly is essential to avoid both the cost and hassle of having your bike stolen.
Personally I only use Kryptonite D locks as they have pretty good reputation. I use 1 lock to secure the rear wheel and frame to a bike rack and one to attach the front wheel to the frame and bike rack (is possible). Avoid the use of cable locks as they provide little protection to thieves apart from opportunists.
2. Ride a Simple Bike
If you’re riding every day you don’t want to be worrying about mechanical issues such as tuning gears every few days. To reduce the maintenance and reliability of my commuting bike I travel to work using the fixed gear bike I built up a couple of years ago.
With an old steel framed fixed gear bike there really is so little to go wrong. The occasional clean/lube of the chain, keep an eye on the tyres and brake pads and that is about it. No gears to tune, no cassette to obsessively clean, no nagging odd noises to worry about every time you ride.
Not only is the reliability of my commuting bike a big advantage, it doesn’t look too attractive to potential thieves when compared with some of the carbon framed super bikes I see locked up at the train station next to mine.
3. Drying Cycling Kit at Work
If you get to work soaking wet (sweat or weather induced!) you may run the risk of stinking out the office if you attempt to air dry your cycling gear in the office. Instead I’d suggest you thoroughly rinse your cycling shorts, jersey and base layers in water to remove as much of the dirt as possible.
Wring as much of the water out of each garment as possible. Next lay your towel flat on the ground and carefully lay your clothes flat on top. Next roll up the towel (with the clothes on the inside) until you have a sausage shaped towel. Place one foot on the end of the towel and with your hands take the other end and twist the sausage as much as possible.
Of course this trick only really works on lycra and other technical fabrics that wick away moisture. To maximize the effectiveness lay your clothes as flat as possible before rolling the towel in order to maximize the surface area of towel in contact with your kit.
Also consider Merino wool base layers and jerseys that are great at regulating your temperature but tend not to cling to odors meaning you’ll smell fresher for longer. They are not the cheapest compared to synthetic materials but they do work very well.
4. Reduce the Kit You Carry
The less kit you have to carry with you each day on your commute the better and the more inclined you’ll be to ride for longer if time allows. Here are a few ways you can reduce the kit your have to carry each day.
i. Spare Shoes at Work. While I don’t mind carrying a few clothes with me each day shoes are particularly bulky so I always leave a spare pair of work shoes at work.
ii. Leave Your Lock. Save having to haul around that heavy D lock and simply leave it overnight in the place where you lock your bike up.
iii. Quick Dry Towels. If you shower at work be sure to invest in a quick dry towel. Not only do they dry very quickly but they are far lighter and less bulky than regular cotton towels.
5. Non Iron Clothes
If you work in an office environment then you should try and use non iron clothing. Non iron shirts used to be stiff and very synthetic (often uncomfortable) feeling a few years ago however now you’ll be hard pressed to tell them apart from regular cotton shirts.
6. Roll up clothes
The best way to avoid creases in your work clothes is to roll each item up tightly before putting them in your bag. This works much better than folding. The tighter the roll the better. If you need to wear a full suit and can’t leave it at work then take a look at this method of rolling a suit.
7. Spares & Repairs
Doing a lot of riding means you should try and be prepared for the eventual punctures that will come. I have one small waterproof bag that I keep for my commuting spares/tools. I never take anything out of this bag on a day to day basis (my phone/wallet go in my messenger bag) so I never have to worry about if I packed those tyre levers or forgot my spare tube. So long as it it in my messenger bag I’m good to go. Inside it I keep the following:
- Mini pump
- Tyre Levers x 2
- 1 x spare inner tube
- 5 x pre-glued tube patches
- Spare money
- 2 x spare contact lenses
- Chain break tool
- 5mm allen key
8. Prep The Night Before
The biggest enemy of the bike commuter is excuses. It can be all too easy to get up 5 minutes later than planned and decide you don’t have time to run around and get all of your kit ready so you’ll drive or get the train instead. It’s well worth taking 5 minutes each evening to get everything ready so all you have to do in the morning is get up, get dressed and go with no excuses possible. Here’s what I do every evening:
- Check the weather forecast
- Prep my kit/clothes
- Pack my messenger bag
- Check the bike/tyre pressure
9. Use Your Commute as training
Many people find that when they start commuting by bike their fitness improves rapidly before plateauing after a few months. This is usually because all of the commutes are ridden at the same intensity. One way to keep benefiting is to add some interval training into your commutes. These interval sessions don’t need to be too structured. The key is to try and vary the intensity of your rides so you work on improving different aspects of your riding.
To get the maximum benefit it’s best to try and mix up the intensity and (if possible) distance of your commutes. If time allows take it easy and ride a little further on some days. On other days sprint flat out for road signs or trees to work on your top end speed. On others identify short sections of road where you ride flat out or at a very high tempo in order to increase your threshold.
10. Enjoy it
There are times when commuting by bike can become a chore. Try to vary your commute to keep it interesting and don’t be afraid to take a few days break if the weather is awful or you’re simply feeling tired. I usually aim to commute by bike 2-3 days per week (varying my daily mileage from between 40-60km). By only mentally committing to ride 2-3 times per week i don’t feel guilty about taking time off and if i do more i feel pleased about myself. Most of all just enjoy the time on your bike!