First of all – don’t panic. There really isn’t that much to worry about! However, if you’re gearing up to hit the great wide open, there are a few things you should bear in mind for your first commute.
Here are our six top tips for new commuters out on their first rodeo.
Pump Those Tires!
You won’t believe how hard it is to pedal when your tires are flat, something new riders often aren’t aware of! Hills on flat tires will be Everests, and you could even find yourself subject to a few inside jokes from more experienced passing riders.
Making sure your tire pressure is at the right level can save you time, energy and potential embarrassment. There are a few considerations that go into selecting the proper tire pressure, including rider weight and wheel size. Sky Bike have put together this handy chart so you can work out what pressure you should be riding at.
Get the Seat Height Just Right
Before you set off, take a quick minute to adjust your seat to the correct height. Leaving it too low is a common rookie error, resulting in difficult pedalling and potential compression injuries. Sitting too high, meanwhile, can cause overstretching issues and generally make your bike kind of scary to ride.
Making sure you’re comfortable is the most important thing, because it means you can ride longer and push harder (if you want to!). A quick way to make sure your seat is at the right height is to sit on the bike, unclip, and place your heel in the middle of the pedal axle. Put it at the furthest point, so that the crank is in line with the seat tube.
Your hips shouldn’t have to rock to reach the pedal, but your leg should be completely straight – so that when you clip in, there’s a slight bend.
Beam Yourself Up
In 2021, seeing cyclists on the road at night without lights is simultaneously common and incredibly frustrating! Even if you didn’t initially plan on cycling in the dark, life has a habit of sneaking up on us, and plans change. Riding in the dark without lights is one of the easiest ways you can get hurt, or worse.
Always be prepared to get your front and rear lights flashing – and remember, it’s good practice to carry a rear red light flashing during daytime hours. Carry spare lights and other gadgets in one of our frame bags for easy access.
We’re not advocating head-to-toe lycra (unless it’s your preference!), but a certain amount of outfit savvy is required when commuting on two wheels. Wear a flowing skirt or loose pants and you can expect them to get caught in your cassette or chain.
Don’t be afraid to tuck your pants on your drivetrain side into your sock – it’s actually kind of a cool look, and you’ll probably earn the respect of other like-minded riders!
Map out 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.
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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