Cycling to Work
Cycling to work is one of the best ways of creating a less stressed, healthier lifestyle. Regular cyclists suffer far less from obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer then those who live a sedentary car bound lifestyle. They even are less prone to psychological problems such as depression! The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risk from accidents by a factor of at least 20 to 1.
Cycling to work also means you start the day invigorated and refreshed with no need to have that 2 cups of coffee ‘jump start’ once you arrive.
Preparing the ground …
1) Plan your route Online you will find cycle routes planners such as https://www.cyclestreets.net/ to help and you can often check your route in advance on Google Streetview. Take some time to identify a few possible routes into work. You might be able to avoid busy sections of road or junctions or even take in some quiet traffic free paths that will make you trip to work a pleasure.
Remember that if there is a “problem junction” that cannot be avoided, if there is a pavement, there is nothing stopping you from dismounting and wheeling your bike around the problem.
Cycling is very often the quickest way to travel across our congested cities for journeys of up to 5 miles so even an ‘indirect’ route may well be quicker then travelling by car.
2) Clothing and equipment Decent lights are essential and puncture-resistant tyres are a boon, but consider also mudguards and a decent lock.
For short journeys everyday clothing is fine but a breathable rain jacket will allow you to stay both dry and cool even in a downpour. You might like to ride to work in spare trousers or shorts and have a dry pair to change into if it rains. If you take a long ride to work you will find it more comfortable to ride in proper cycling clothing, keeping your smart clothes at work.
Most people consider a cycle helmet essential however, be aware that cycle helmets are only designed to absorb lower speed impacts so while they will certainly improve the chances of avoiding a head injury, they by no means remove the risk.
High visibility clothing makes it easier for other road-users to notice you, as does reflective clothing at night. However, dressing in high-viz is no guarantee that all drivers will treat you with courtesy so always apply the principles of defensive riding mentioned below.
3) Brush up your road-skills Most local councils provide free or subsidised cycle training which can often be tailored to suit you. If you are already confident then remember to ride assertively and defensively, in other words, claim your road space, ensure that you clearly indicate your intentions to other road users and avoid putting yourself into a position where a mistake by others might put you at risk. Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as vehicles. Apply this principle and ride in a way that encourages others to give due recognition to your right to use the public road.
For more on ‘vehicular cycling’ and defensive riding read the Official Cycling manual ‘Cyclecraft’ written by John Franklin and published by the Stationery Office.
4) Build up slowly. If you have a low level of fitness try a few leisure outings before riding to work. Cycling to work will make you fitter to enjoy your leisure time and in turn your leisure cycling will make your journey to work easier and quicker. If you are able to use public transport, remember that you can spread your ride over two days by leaving the bike at work overnight.
5) Plan your logistics. Many workplaces now have showers, lockers and somewhere to stow your bike though it may need some detective work beforehand to figure out where they are and how to access them.
Leave towels and soap etc along with shoes and trousers or a dress at work so that you only need to carry what you are changing into that day.
Consider keeping a small stock of snacks such as cereal bars or porridge to top-up your energy before the ride home.
6) Review and adjust. Once you become familiar with your route, take stock and see if there are improvements you can make, danger points to avoid, perhaps a nice park to include or a handy shopping detour you could easily use.
7) Enjoy. Many commuter cyclists say that their journey to and from work is the best part of their day.