How To Start Commuting By Bike
‘Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race’ – H.G Wells
The summer is nearly upon us; we’re halfway through the year and now is a good time to check on the progress of any potential new years resolutions you may have made. Did you promise to ditch the car and take the bike to work? If the answer’s yes, how are you getting on? If the answer’s no, maybe you should give it a try. If you need a little advice about getting back on your bike then read on.
We’ve read and researched a hundred different blogs, how-to guides and magazines to give you the perfect introductory guide to cycling here; we’re not talking about how to put one pedal in front of the other and stay upright; we’re not talking about buying the correct bike for you either. This guide is all about breaking the car habit and getting you on the road in an eco-friendly, ego-free way. If anyone has ever told you that ‘cycling is easy, I do it every day’ in a pretentious manner then they’re not going to be very much help to you. What you need is a guide that can get you cycling without bullying you into it – and here it is:
Use What You’ve Got
True, the right bike will make a huge difference to your comfort levels but it could leave a nasty dent in your wallet if you decide that cycling isn’t for you. Many guides try and lure new cyclists into the bike shop and insist that the right gear will turn you into a Tour de France rider but sadly, that’s not the case. If you’re new to cycling then ride whatever you can get your hands on, no matter what it looks like. Nine times out of ten, there’s a bicycle sitting in your garage or garden shed that’s perfectly capable of getting you from A to B but if not, ask around your friends and family, someone will be happy to give you something or if you’re out of luck, check the FreeAds; someone, somewhere will have something for you.
Of course, second hand or neglected bicycles need a little bit of TLC but it’s nothing that a bit of WD-40 won’t fix. Apart from that you’re almost ready to go but there is one more thing that we recommend: a decent saddle. Ok, maybe you’ll have to make ONE trip to the bike shop…but a comfortable saddle is a valuable to the novice cyclist. If you can get a nice, padded one, you won’t regret it. It won’t look as cool as the slim-line things you see on racing bikes but you need to build up to that. If you come back sore from your first ride, the chances of you abandoning your cycling dreams are pretty high…
Get A Buddy
Armed with a fully operational bicycle, you could go out for a ride but it’s even better if you can persuade a friend to join you. If you take your first steps with a friend whose biking experience is about the same level as yours then you can encourage each other and experience your first ride in good company. You should go out for fun, not for any real purpose, on a joy ride. The trick is to see cycling as a fun activity rather than a chore. If you’re joined with a friend, you’ll definitely enjoy yourself and the whole experience won’t feel like a pointless activity.
You’ve got the bike and you’ve got the buddy – what next? If you’re new to cycling, you should start small. You may be dreaming of the morning commute: fast riding and filtering through traffic but you should leave that dream to one side for the moment. You need to build up to that. Your first rides should be short distances of no more than a few miles, ideally around parks or on cycle paths. You’ll want to get to know your bike and how it handles before testing it against the traffic. You’ll also need to build up your stamina and taking short pleasure rides every other day or so is a great way to do just that.
By taking on these smaller rides, you’ll also begin to learn what you can and can’t wear whilst cycling. Wearing a helmet should go without saying but what type of clothing should you wear? Proper cycling apparel does exist but you shouldn’t worry about that at this stage; light shorts and light shirt and some running shoes are what you need but you’ll discover all of this on your own.
Make Small Promises
‘I’m going to commute to work by bike every day’ – you could do that but when you think you’re ready to move across on to the road and actually ride to work, start by using your bike just one day a week. If your first ride leaves you sore, you have seven days to recover before your next attempt. After you’ve been doing that for a little while and your recovery time is getting shorter, then consider two days a week, then three and so on. Just because you’ve said that you’re going to commute to work by bike, it doesn’t mean that you have to do it every day. If it’s turning into a chore, you’ll probably lose heart and throw in the towel altogether.
Don’t Make Yourself A Target
Riding in traffic is a different ball game to riding on cycle paths and around the park; you need to be vigilant, observant, visible and calculating at the same time. The best way to avoid dangerous situations is to tailor your route around the hazards rather than through them. Cycling is such a great means of transport because you’re not restricted to the main roads and you can avoid almost every uncomfortable situation by going a different way. Tailor your route away from the traffic and you should have no problems at all.
The best way to avoid accident scenarios is to make yourself seen. You can do this by wearing the loudest and brightest clothes that you own or by wearing a Hi-Viz jacket; if motorists can see you, then you’re already in a much safer position. The other way to avoid accidents is to follow the advice laid out here in this post. If you familiarise yourself with the most common causes of accidents, you should learn how to avoid them in no time at all.
So what are you waiting for? Get out and go for a ride!