Now you’re back in the office and settling into your old routine, maybe you’re starting to remember the one thing you didn’t miss. That slow-moving, stressful rush hour commute.
If there’s anything that encourages people to take up cycling, it’s the frustration of early starts and rush-hour traffic when you commute by vehicle. Cycling is cheaper, faster, good for your health and can be sociable, too!
Any lifestyle change can seem daunting, though, so you’d be forgiven for feeling a little nervous about the prospect of biking to work. In this beginner’s guide, we take you through factors to consider and ways to prepare before your first bike commute.
1. Choose your Bike
It’s important to find a bike that suits your needs. Hybrid commuter bikes are one of the most popular choices for new commuters, because, as their name suggests, they three bikes in one. Specifically, hybrid bikes can act as a road bike, a mountain bike and a touring bike.
A hybrid commuter bike is made for riding over both short and long distances, and helps you ride safely and quickly from place to place. Typically, they come with 700c wheels, derailleur gearing and carrier racks.
Other types of bike include e-bikes, folding bikes and road bikes. Check out our original Bike to Work guide to learn more about our favourite models.
2. Get the right Gear
There are so many different types of bike accessories out there, it can feel overwhelming when you’re trying to decide on the essentials. Here are the ones we never ride without:
- Front light – White
- Back light – Red
- Bell – It’s the law in most of the world, check your local laws
- Bike lock – No cable locks (Invest in a U-Lock or Bordo)
- Water bottle cage
- Bicycle rear rack (highly recommended)
It can also be useful to have fenders to keep your ride as splash-free as possible! If you want to get a little more creative with your gadgets, head to our blog, ‘Six of the Most Useful Cycling Gadgets’ for further inspiration!
3. Plan your Route
For adventure fans, exploring can be a great way to find cool new spots and get used to your bike. However, if you’re new to the main roads – and you’re up against the clock – having an arrival mission is the best way to get more comfortable commuting. Planning is king!
Before bounding out of the door, take a minute to pull up the bike friendly route on Google Maps. It can be useful to get a general idea for how many turns you’ll need to take, if there are any major roadways on your route and what your ETA might be. Sometimes, it’s easier to allow enough time to take the long way around, if it means you can avoid certain stress points – like crowded streets, heavy traffic or roadworks.
There’s a dynamic between cyclists and motorists that needs to be eased into, too. Start by sharing the road with a few cars, and build up your confidence. Then, just maybe, you can feel comfortable telling a driver that they’re in your right of way with a subtle hand gesture.
No matter what, keep in mind that a car will always win. Thousands of pounds of steel isn’t something to be messed with, so always take caution with drivers no matter how relaxed the ride is.
4. Pack your Bag
Depending on your dress code and job, the nitty gritty might change. For the most part, though, every Two Wheel Gear commuter will tell you they have an assortment of the following in their Garment Pannier:
- Work clothes – Full suit or simple change
- Shoes (although it’s easier to just keep your work shoes under your desk or in a drawer if you can!)
- Accessories (tie, belt, cufflinks, watch)
- Socks/Underwear (also a good one to keep an extra set of in your desk!)
- Towel, toiletry kit, make-up
- Laptop, charger, keys, wallet, phone, FOB/key card, lunch, bike lock
If suits aren’t your office’s vibe, another commuter fave is the Pannier Backpack Convertible, which features 15” of padded laptop storage, high water resistance and heaps of interior organization. It also has the Modular Attachment System for carrying helmets and extra gear.
5. Plan your Arrival
Cycling to work with no plan of where you’re going to leave your bike would be a huge rookie error! Ideally, you’ll have access to bike parking in your building’s parkade, so find out what your options are ahead of time.
Investing in an annual bike stall is also an option, or depending on your office set-up, you may be able to bring your bike into your office, or park it outside in a public place.
For more tips on parking your bike, check out the Bike to Work Blog.
6. Keep your Cool!
It’s great advice for life generally, but it’s particularly helpful to remember when you’re on the roads. Clue up on basic cycling etiquette (read: signal, keep your distance and try not to take up the whole road!) and share the space sensibly.
There are plenty of angry people sitting in their cars – don’t be one of them! You’ve already won by being out in the saddle. So smile, nod and wave at people, and tell them you love their bike (or their stylish Two Wheel Gear bag…).
Bikes are a happy machine, and you’re almost certain to feel better at the end of your ride than when you set off. Good luck on your first commute – and enjoy the freedom of the great outdoors!
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