5 Tips for First Time Bicycle Commuters

By Christopher Ashley

Deciding to cycle my 125 miles a week commute was daunting – not least because I was piling it on top of my weekend rides. Here’s what I learned in 6 years.

1 – Plan your route – and then improve it

The shortest option on a map isn’t always the most suitable. A longer route with less traffic-lights, junctions, and train crossings may be more appealing. If you’re cycling to get fit, consider a route with more hills.

Get to know your cycling nemeses. Observe these other cyclists that you’ll bump into several times a week. Why does that guy on the white MTB keep ducking off down that lane, only to be seen ahead in the distance at the end of your ride? Maybe it’s a shortcut.

2 – Choose the right kit

How long is your commute? Do you have showers at your work place, or a neighbouring gym? Is your ride exposed? Crosswinds make a back pack a more sensible choice than paneers. All these questions could be articles in their own right. Think about what you should wear.

And what about which bike you’re going to use. A cheap whip because the roads will be salted, or a mountain bike because part of your commute is dirt track? Maybe a folding bike because part of your commute is public transport. My commute was on roads – so I used a road bike.

3 – Service your body

Cycling will get you fit, but cross-training with yoga and pilates will make you a stronger cyclist. Even the slightest improvement in your core strength will improve your power output so do some floor work or hit the gym.

I averaged 160 miles a week for 5 years before I got a sports massage. The masseuse started at my feet and worked up. By the time she hit my thighs I was screaming in pain. Don’t repeat my mistake – if you’re cycling around this distance, a sports massage every couple of months won’t be nearly as painful.

4 – Take the lane, share the road

Be assertive and ride in the middle of your lane.  If you’re riding near the gutter and you notice an obstacle the only option you have is to swerve out into traffic, making you unpredictable to motorists.

Ride further into the lane so you can swerve away from traffic to avoid obstacles. Don’t be apprehensive about sharing the road with cars and lorries – my experience is that they’re far more cycle-friendly than social media would have you believe.

5 – Obey the traffic laws

I always stop at red lights for two reasons.  First, my commute was my training, and every stop is followed by acceleration. Avoid the temptation to conserve your momentum – harden up! Secondly, traffic laws simplify your ride.

By day 5 of your weeks’ commute you’ll feel the fatigue. It’s not wise to trust your tired brain with split-second decisions in traffic. I once forgot how roundabouts worked but the driver, who had right of way, was alert and hit the brakes. Accept that you may be tired and focus on your safety.

What tips would you share with a first-time commuter?