Cycle To Work

I’ve written this in an attempt to respond to the many excuses I hear from people as to why they don’t cycle to work even when they only live a couple of miles away. It is not a comprehensive guide because I’ve tried to keep it simple.

First things first – you need a bike. The best thing to remember here is the more you can spend the better your experience will be. You really get what you pay for with bicycles so with this in mind leave your Halfords, Local Bike Shop and Walmart CHEAPIES alone. Halfords and local bike shops DO sell good bikes but look to spend about £250. If you’re scoffing at spending that kind of money on a bike just take a moment to think about how quickly you can flush £250 running a car. Heck, you can flush over £100 just going out for an evening these days and neither of those things will make you feel as good as biking will and the bike will pay for itself in a relatively short amount of time. Also its worth noting that most of the big bike brands sell their previous year models off at half price so keep an eye open for a good deal around Spring time.

Names to look for: Scott, Merlin, Specialized, Kona and Giant. They all make good quality bikes that are serviceable. Other cheaper brands are often heavy, uncomfortable and are built with parts that aren’t replaceable and rust easily.

If money is an issue check the classified ads on the biking forums or find out if your company offers a cycle to work scheme where you can buy a tax free bike. I’ve bought 2 bikes on my works scheme where I’ve paid them back over an 18 month period via salary sacrifice before tax. I don’t miss the money each month because it’s taken out before I get my pay and after 18 months the bike is mine. If you get a voucher for more than your bike is worth you can use the extra money to buy items associated with biking such as lamps and clothing etc.

Make sure your bike has smooth ‘slick’ tyres on it. You can ride knobbly treaded tyres on the road but its a flipping effort all the way! Smooth tyres grip the smooth road better and roll freely with minimal friction (or noise).

There are many items available to use or wear when cycling however few of these are absolutely necessary. I started as a complete novice so it’s been trial and error for me as to what works and what doesn’t.

Absolutely Necessary Kit

Helmets: Most importantly get yourself a helmet. There is no minimum spend here since they are all mostly polystyrene with a plastic coating, so spend what you like. Make sure it fits properly – the shop should be able to help you. Finally make sure you like it. Not all bike helmets make you look like a muppet. Try lots on until you find one that you like.

Without a bike helmet I’m not sure who out of myself, Wil and Cameron would be alive and well. We’ve all had serious accidents when biking off road trails which have led to breaking our bike helmets so I dread to think what the damage would have been had we not been wearing one. Don’t worry – body to road interface is not as common as it is riding off road – I’ve never come off my bike on the road! (Although I’ve probably just jinxed myself)

I find the helmets with a peak are a) more stylish in the mountain biking world and b) more practical for keeping rain and sun out of your face.

——–

Shirts: Get a couple of lightweight technical shirts. I have bought shirts from sports shops for £35 and some from Lidl for £5 and they both do a good job. If you have a couple you can layer them in winter for extra warmth instead of buying a winter shirt. Buy long and short sleeved.

——–

Shorts: Get a pair of cycle shorts – you know the sort. Lycra with the padded arse parts. Whether you are new to cycling or if you’ve been off the bike for a few weeks your arse will hurt after your first trip. It will hurt whether you wear the shorts or not but go with the shorts for damage limitation! I don’t want to put you off but I don’t want you to be shocked either. When you sit on a bike seat you are placing your body weight on two small sit bones that usually don’t have a bike seat shoved into them. Therefore expect this to be sore until you’re biking regularly at which point you’ll be able to ditch the shorts if you want to. I choose to use mine all the time for comfort. The thicker the padding the better. You can get a decent pair for £10-20.

——–

Bike seat: Do NOT be tempted to go and get yourself a big fat cushy wide gel filled saddle. This will press against a larger area of your arse and therefore make a larger area of it hurt! Keep the saddle small and I recommend those saddles with an area cut out in the middle so that pressure is directed to your sit bones and not your lady/man bits! Ladies – get a lady specific saddle and men should buy a mens specific. The best saddle I’ve ever bought was a Lady specific by Specialized. You may go through one or two before you find one you get on with but put in at least 20, 20 minute rides on it before making the decision to ditch one. If you buy your bike from a local bike shop you may be able to haggle a nicer seat as part of the package.

——–

Trousers: Yeah, those lycra shorts are not the most flattering of items for many of us ladies at least. Therefore I wear a loose pair of cargo trousers over the top of mine. Any comfortable trousers/jogging bottoms/long shorts whatever you’re happy with, will do.

——–

Shoes: Any you feel comfortable cycling in will do. There are options for pedal and shoe combos that clip together so you can pull the pedal as well as push. Save these for when you’re confident as there’s nothing worse than wobbling up to the traffic lights to find you can’t unclip only to fall sideways into the road still attached to your bike. Happens to the best of us!

——–

Rucksac: Necessary if you want to tote the contents of your handbag, wallet, keys, lunch and anything else back and fourth to work. Get a rucksac with a mesh back which holds the bag away from your back allowing air to go between you and the bag. If you don’t have this feature expect a very sweaty back. I bought mine for £20 at Blacks camping shop. Mine is around a 15 litre size and fits a pair of shoes, trousers, top, packed lunch, water bag and other small odds and ends like my bike pump.

——–

Jacket: Breathable, brightly coloured showerproof jacket (and trousers if you wish). Personally I only use a showerproof jacket but this does cause the water to run down onto my legs. I can cope with that because for most of the year as long as my top half is dry I don’t get too cold. Its personal preference.

——–

Gloves: A thick (waterproof) pair for winter and a thinner pair for summer. If you don’t buy them for warmth buy them so that the grips on the handlebars don’t hurt your hands as some can be quite rough when you’re holding them for a while.

——–

Lights: You need a flashing red LED light for the rear and a flashing white LED light for the front. I also recommend the use of rechargeable Ni-Cad front lights to accompany the flashing light on the front if you intend to cycle at night a lot. Basically – light yourself up like a christmas tree and wear a reflective jacket. It’s hard for drivers to see you coming towards them if there are car lights behind you glaring in their face.

That is about it for the absolute necessities. Now for the getting to and from work bit

——–

Getting To And From Work

So, you work in an office that has no shower or changing facilities. You don’t have access to lockers and you’re expected to dress smartly.

First off decide how many days per week you’re going to cycle. Pack the appropriate clothes you’ll need for those days. If, for example, you chose to bike in on Tuesday and Friday take the clothes you’ll need and a pair of shoes in on Monday. Keep these folded neatly in your drawer. Personally I only work 5 hours a day so for two days I wear a pair of trousers a shirt twice and I keep a pair of shoes under my desk all week.

Also take into the office a pack of deodorant wipes, can of deodorant and make up or hair gel if needed. But keep it to a minimum.

Shower and apply any makeup before leaving home. When you get to the office you only need a small toilet cubicle to get changed in. Use the wipes and deodorant to freshen up and touch up your make up if necessary. Bike helmets do nothing to your hair, infact after the wind has blown through mine it often looks better than when I left the house.

If you have no facilities for changing and storing your cycling gear at work you’ll have to get creative. I get changed in the ladies loo and leave my shorts, shirt and trousers hanging on the hook on the back of the door. My helmet, gloves, trainers and bag all get stuffed under my desk. If you don’t have this kind of facility find an empty cupboard, drawer, or preferably cloakroom or coat hook on which to leave your clothes. There must be somewhere you can put these few items for the day. Ask your employer if they can buy a couple of lockers for such items, most would be willing to support such a cause if it means they’re getting a brighter you for the day!

——–

Don’t Cop Out!

Pack your bag and lay out your biking kit the night before. Make sure your bike is ready to go and the tyres are pumped up. If anything kills your motivation in the morning its getting to your bike and finding you’ve got a flat tyre.

Don’t give yourself an opportunity to talk yourself out of biking in. Wake up, get in the shower, get dressed in your biking kit – do what you’ve got to do and then get going.

If you have to drive through town the chances are you will bike the same distance in the same amount of time it takes to drive because you won’t need to stop in traffic.

The benefits: No stopping in traffic jams, no parking charges, exercise, heightened mood and feeling of smugness as you sit at work eating that cream cake from Gav’s birthday knowing that you won’t be revisiting it on your hips any time soon.

At first if you don’t have a good level of fitness (and maybe even if you do) you may find yourself arriving at work with a bright red sweaty face which is a bit embarrasing. This does diminish as you get fitter so keep at it but in the meantime about half a mile from your work slow your pace right down, put your bike into an easy gear, unzip your jacket if wearing one and cool down. This way when you reach the office you won’t have pushed a hard gear at full speed right to the door where you turn up puffing like a steam engine with beads of sweat pouring off your face. When you get in drink plenty of cold water to cool down and rehydrate.

It goes without saying that you’ll need a lock of some sort if you do not have a secure place to leave your bike. Im able to take my bike inside the building and leave it down a corridor. Not everyone is as lucky so make sure you lock your bike through the frame and wheels.

If one person who reads this post finds it useful its been worth writing. Please leave your comments below, thanks!

Links:

http://www.halfordsb2b.com/home.asp

http://www.chainreactioncycles.com

http://www.wiggle.co.uk

http://www.cyclescheme.co.uk/

http://www.minx-girl.com/

http://www.singletrackworld.com/

15 Comments »

  1. Simon said

    Great article! I personally find cycling to work a good way to mentally prepare for the day – the journey home helps me unwind. I cycle 4 miles to work and on a good day this takes about 15 minutes, making it faster than using the train (not to mention more reliable!). Finacially, the bike a equipment pays for itself within 6 months.

  2. foxsden said

    Thanks Simon. You’re absolutely right – it does wonders for my productivity during the day too.. Just wish more people would put the initial effort in!

  3. Anthony said

    I may be a bit late to this article but it’s a good’un! I cycle 22 miles a day to and from work and it’s so much more satisfying than sitting with smelly, rude, tish tish ipodders on the bus and train. Yeah, it’s quicker too. A hour each way on the bus and train (£64 per month) and 40 minutes on my Specialized Crosstrail Comp. I’m sure you’ve converted a few readers to cycling although I’ve always been a cycle nut anyway.
    By the way, thanks for your review of the Alpkit Slim Airic. A search for reviews was how I found your blog. I don’t mind hand prints on sleeping equipment!

    • Foxsden said

      Thanks for your comment Anthony – It’s always nice to hear someone found something I’ve written useful. And 40 minutes is great going for 11 miles! Keep it up!

  4. Absolutely love this blog, it’s very useful, particularly the tips on choosing the days your going to cycle and then leaving clothes in work for these days! Perfect! I also like the information about what you will need, just about to make a purchase through the cycle2work scheme and I didn’t have a clue how much stuff I would need, but your list is comprehensive and very useful.

    Many thanks for helping me to choose cycling! :o)

    Oh, and better late than never!

    • Foxsden said

      Katy your comment has made my week. So glad you’re looking at biking to work, hope you enjoy it and all the benefits it brings.

  5. Ed silva said

    Yes, useful I’ve been on the fence but truth is I love to ride miss it, and prepared to sacrifice to do it, good article my h appreciated. Cycle on and thanks

  6. legend, im looking into this as we speak… excellent article, great for everyone with any or no knowledge of biking experience… i cant wait now to get my bike on this scheme!!!!

    • Foxsden said

      Thanks Chris.. appreciate your comments. Happy commuting!

  7. Anonymous said

    Just started to look into cycling to work and this has really motivated me to do it. Plus I think my arse will look pretty sweet in tight lycra shorts lol

  8. Stanley said

    It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this subject, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about!

    Thanks

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