• Country

Tips on Commuting to Work by Bike

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Now that it’s cool to return to the office and the snow is long gone, a lot of you are no doubt cycling to work again. If you’re not, you should be because it (1) keeps you fit, (2) saves you money, (3) helps our planet, and (4) it’s a lot of fun – especially if the authorities in your region have been smart enough to build efficient and safe cycling infrastructure.

If you are thinking about trying it or maybe wondering, after having commuted for a while, if there is a right or better way to do it, here are a few tips to make the rides to and from the workplace safer and more enjoyable. It goes without saying that the most important element of cycling is the bike, especially if your journey is time-sensitive. You will want to make sure that everything on the two-wheeler is in proper working order – brakes, tyres, chain, pedals, lights, and gear system. Find a repair shop that you trust (ask friends with cycling experience to recommend one) and have your bicycle inspected and, if necessary, repaired. Eventually, you may want to maintain the bike yourself, so here is a guide to DIY safety-checking your bicycle.

Cyclists on the Cykelslangen cycle and footbridge in Copenhagen. © Profimedia

Find the best – which means safest – route from home to the workplace and do a trial run, preferably on a weekend. Don’t take the quickest route if it involves potentially dangerous intersections or long stretches of road with no bike lanes. There are also a lot of good cycling apps and route mapping tools, such as Komoot or Ride with GPS but generic online maps such as Google Maps also do the job. But, especially if you’ve got a relatively long ride, you will want to check out the route personally, just to get the feel of it and to ensure that the real route is as good as the virtual one. Remember: less traffic is better, in many ways, than saving time. You certainly don’t want any stress before you start your workday.

Also remember Murphy’s Law, which postulates that if something can go wrong, it will. This is especially true during rush hour. So always plan for at least five minutes of downtime, periods when a traffic jam or other hazard will force you to slow down or find an alternate route. If nothing happens, the extra time will allow you to cruise comfortably, rather than rushing and arriving at work completely sweaty and fatigued. In fact, make it an extra ten minutes, just to be on the safe side. (When cycling, the safe side is the side to be on.)

Bring a change of clothes and, just to be sure, an extra tyre tube and the necessaries to fix a flat. If you don’t know how to do it, learn. It’s also a good idea to find cycling partners, people who will be riding much of the same route, especially if your riding partner has done it for years and knows things you will have to learn. It’s more fun than riding alone and it will help you relax until you feel that you’ve got the basics of cycling to work. You may also want to think about cycling insurance – just in case. Remember Murphy’s Law (see above).

Finally, remember that the weather is fickle and can change in a heartbeat. Certainly, get the latest forecast for your area before you set out in the morning but always have something along to keep you warm and dry. Because if something can go wrong, it’s usually the weather.