As hobbies go, few can match cycling for sheer practicality. The pastime ticks several boxes:it provides a means of losing weight and keeping fit; it allows you to get out and see the countryside; it’s fun in-and- of-itself; and, perhaps most importantly, it allows you to get from A to B without spending a packet on fuel or sitting in a tedious traffic jam.
If you’re considering swapping your usual four-wheel commute for a two-wheel, then you’ll probably be wondering how to overcome some of the challenges along the way such as how to get started and what to wear. You don’t, after all, want to be peddling for an hour in your office attire. Let’s assess a few cycling-to- work pros and cons, and see how we might saddle up from Monday to Friday.
How to Start Cycling to Work
As with most lifestyle changes, it’s best to start with small steps. If you live just a short distance from the office, then you might find that you’re able to easily cycle each way. If the trip will take you more than half-an- hour, then consider getting a lift in with a colleague and then cycling home, or alternating walking and cycling to work.
You’ll want to be familiar with your route before setting out. It’s a good idea to go for a dry run at the weekend to get an idea of how long it’ll take, and whether there are any tricky points that you might avoid by taking a different route.
Many workplaces will be supportive of your efforts to cycle (after all, workers who are hopelessly unfit are less productive, and likelier to call in sick). They might, however, lack the physical facilities to accommodate your bike – so be sure to investigate before you make the trip.
Of course, before you worry about any of this, you’ll need to invest in the bike itself. You might already have done this – but if you haven’t, be sure to shop for something that’s the right size. Spending time hunched over twice daily every working day for a year, and you’ll hurt yourself just as surely as if you slouch in front of your desk.
What to Wear when Cycling to Work
You’re not looking to break any records or work up a sweat when you’re commuting (particularly if you’re cycling to a workplace without a shower on site), but you might find yourself vulnerable to discomfort without a few choice items of clothing. You’ll want to protect your skull, and ensure that you’re seen by your fellow motorists.
Cycling helmets all meet a certain standard of protection thanks to EU regulation, but some are more comfortable and lightweight than others. A high-visibility jacket won’t take up much room in your bag, but if you’re cycling to work in the dark it might make save you from a visit to your local A&E.
What to Pack when Cycling to Work
For much the same reason, affixing a light or two to your bike is highly advisable – particularly during winter, when evening draws in just as most of us are clocking out. You’ll also need a means of securing your vehicle. Pack a chain with a combination lock, and tether your bike to a convenient and immobile position that’s ideally in view of a nearby CCTV camera.
Spare cycling shoes and wet wipes are also sure to come in handy – especially if your office lacks adequate washing facilities. If you’re cycling to work with a laptop or something similarly fragile, be sure that it’s properly packaged, ideally in a purpose-built rucksack.
Tips for Cycling to Work
Let’s run through a few things to bear in mind when setting out onto the road for the first time.
Many riders learn these lessons the hard way; try and bear them in mind now so you don’t have to experience the negative effects yourself.
- Make eye contact with other road users. A sizeable portion of each year’s cyclinginjuries are caused thanks to a lack of communication. Eye contact is an invaluableway of ensuring that other motorists are aware of your existence.
- Keep a safe distance between yourself and the kerb. You might be tempted,especially if you’re a new cyclist, to give other road users as much room as possible.But this is a mistake; the surface of the road near the kerb is covered with debrisand drain-covers, and one wrong move could see you collide with the pavement.
- Watch out for car doors. If someone opens one just as you’re passing, it’s going tohurt. Leave plenty of room when passing parked cars, particularly ones that havejust come to a halt.
- Check your surroundings often. You might not have mirrors to facilitate this, but youcan easily glance over your shoulder in search of would-be hazards. You’ll also wantyour surroundings to be aware of you, so be sure that you signal your intentions inadvance with some well-rehearsed pointing gestures.
What to Eat Before Cycling to Work
Exercise on an empty stomach is rarely a clever idea, so don’t skip breakfast. A piece oftoast or a bowlful of porridge will do the job nicely, as these offer a steady stream of slow-release carbohydrates to keep your energy levels up for your ride to work.
You’ll also want to try and eat something before you make the journey home, which means keeping a selection of slow-release snacks to hand at work. Nuts are ideal, as are oats or dried-fruit.
Of course, if there’s a vending machine, then you’ll be able to fall back on it in a pinch – but it’s not something that you’ll want to rely on, especially if you’re looking to lose
Read Up on the Rules of Cycling in Traffic
Finally, you want to consider the relevant sections of the highway code
. While there’s no licencing system in place for cyclists, if you don’t know what you’re doing, then you’ll irritate your fellow road-users at the very least, and endanger them at worst.
Particularly important are the rules governing behaviour at junctions; check your surroundings, signal yourintentions, and then get riding.