Top Tips for Biking to Work for the First Time
Have you been dying to try cycling to work, but feel intimidated by the thought of busy roads? Or maybe you’re just not sure how it would fit into your normal morning routine?
Many commuters feel this way before making the decision to cycle to work, and it’s totally normal. But relax – biking to work is never as daunting as it seems once you get started. Take a look at our tips for riding to work for the first time, and you’ll soon see there’s nothing to worry about.
1. Consider the distance.
First decide whether the distance you live from work is within your cycling abilities. Generally, one to three miles each way is considered okay for most people, while three to five miles may require a bit of building up to. Five to ten miles will involve a certain level of fitness and probably shouldn’t be tried unless you’re been cycling for a while. You don’t want to exhaust yourself on your first day!
Take time to build yourself up slowly to the distance you need to travel – you’ll be ready to commute to work when the time is right.
2. Check the facilities at work.
Check to see what facilities your workplace offers for cyclists (you can talk to other cyclists at your company or simply chat to HR). Some offices provide bike parking, showers and a storage space for your accessories or spare clothing, so see what’s on offer and plan around it. For example, if there is no parking available, you will need a bike lock to park your bike securely.
3. Make sure your bike is in tiptop condition.
It won’t do to have a bike that’s rusty, stiff or falling apart. Not only would it be very dangerous; a decrepit bike is also not fun to ride.
Take your bike along to your local bike shop and ask them to run a full check on the brakes, gears, chain, lights and so on. You should also get them to show you how to run these checks yourself so you can do them daily before every ride.
Make sure you have any accessories you might need, such as a small tool or puncture repair kit; mirrors or reflectors, and something for carrying your bag, such as a basket or panniers.
4. Organise your route.
It helps to have a planned route in mind, as this will be different to the route that you usually walk or drive. Use Google Maps, or a dedicated cycling app like CycleStreets or Bike Hub, to point you in the right direction of the safest route available.
It’s always preferable to use dedicated bike paths when possible, but otherwise aim for smaller, quieter streets with lower speed limits if you can. You can also talk to other cyclists at your office for advice on the routes they take.
5. Plan your outfit.
Contrary to what rookies believe, you don’t need to wear high sports gear when riding to work (unless you’re determined to race there to burn extra calories!). Casual clothes that are comfortable and won’t get caught in the bike chain are perfect; these can include jeans, trainers or any flat shoes, a jumper or sweater and a waterproof layer in case it rains. It’s helpful to wear a base layer under your normal clothes (polyester or Morino wool – not cotton) to absorb the sweat your skin will inevitably give off. There are also lots of practical items of clothing, such as long-length macs, that look great for the office.
Some people prefer to take a spare set of clothes to work just in case, but this is completely up to you. Always remember to wear something bright when riding at night or in dull weather, so drivers can see you clearly.
6. Set out early at first.
On your first day, set out 10-15 minutes earlier than you think it will take you, to allow for holdups in traffic or any unexpected delays. Over time you will soon become accustomed to the route, and will no doubt discover small shortcuts that knock time off your commute.
7. Prepare for mishaps.
No cyclist wants to think about becoming stranded on their commute to work, but it’s important to have an ‘emergency plan’ should this ever happen. It’s ideal to carry a small tool kit or puncture repair kit with you for any small side-of-the-road repairs, or keep one in the office.
If this isn’t an option however, make sure you have the number of a friend or colleague who takes a similar route to work and can maybe help you out if you’re in a pickle. Always know where your nearest bike shop is, as they’ll always be happy to help you get back on the road as quickly as possible.
8. Enjoy the ride!
Most important of all is that you enjoy the ride. Cycling to work should be fun and not a punishment or a chore. You don’t have to go at formula one speed to burn calories – simply take your time; be aware of other vehicles around you and take in the scenery along the way.
You also don’t have to ride to work every day if you don’t want to. Doing it once a week, once a month or fortnightly can be a great way to change up your routine and fit some extra exercise into your life.