How to Commute to Work by Bike

In rush hour traffic, a bike can often be the quickest and most enjoyable way to get to work.

amsterdam_bicycle_suitIt’s also a lot cheaper than driving or catching the bus, and is a great way to fit exercise into your daily routine.

However for some people the idea of cycling to work can seem a little daunting, and so I’ve prepared a few tips to help those who would who are considering joining the increasing numbers of bike commuters in Dublin.

Top 10 Tips for Bike Commuters

  1. Assess the bike facilities at work – check out if your workplace has on-site bike parking and/or showers and changing rooms, or if there are other facilities nearby. Talk to other cycle commuters and ask them for advice. If your workplace isn’t particularly bike friendly, maybe ask your office manager or facilities department about what can be done to help cyclists. You’ll definitely want somewhere safe and secure to lock your bike, preferably off the street. And depending on whether or not you’ll cycle in normal clothes, you may want somewhere to get changed and freshen up.
  2. Get a bike buddy – the people who already cycle to work are your best source of information, and are often only too please to share their experiences. If you find someone that’s particularly friendly, they may even offer to meet up and cycle with you to work.
  3. Plan and practice your route to work – have a think about the route you’re going to take. Sometimes the best cycling route may be totally different to the best driving route. Take note of the location of cycle lanes and traffic levels on different routes, and try to find out if there are off-road cycle routes or short-cuts through parks. Once you have your route, try it out. The last thing you want to do is ride your route for the first time during rush hour, so try it out when it’s quiet. Check that you’re happy with the route, and that there aren’t any unsafe obstacles or junctions. It may even be worth going a slightly longer and slower route to make sure the ride is safe and pleasant.
  4. Buy your bike and accessories – if you don’t already have a bike, go out and get one. Check with your employer if they operate the cycle to work scheme, as it can save you a lot of money. There are lots of different types of bike available, but for new commuters, your best bet is a hybrid bike – this offers the best combination of performance and comfort. As well as the bike, have a think about what accessories you might need. A good lock is essential, and some waterproofs, bike lights, and maybe a helmet.
  5. Start simple – if you’re not used to cycling on a regular basis, don’t try to do too much at once, or you could end up being dispirited and stop. Start off cycling once or twice a week, or maybe even cycle in to work one day, take the bus home, then cycle home the next day. As your confidence and fitness grows, increase the amount of bike commuting you do. Also don’t beat yourself up if you give in and take the car every so often. Almost all cyclists are tempted to ditch the bike in favour of the car every so often, particularly if it’s lashing with rain.
  6. Learn about the law – there’s a good proportion of cyclists that think the law doesn’t apply to them and act in a pretty selfish and anti-social way, and some new cyclists think it’s fine to copy them. Well the government is about to introduce on-the-spot fines for cyclists, and so if you want to stay out of trouble, it’s probably a good idea to learn about cycling law.
  7. Learn about bike safety – generally speaking cycling isn’t dangerous (the health benefits vastly outweigh any increased risk), and there’s a lot you can do to improve your safety and avoid potentially hazardous situations.
  8. What to wear – bike commuters can be seen in a variety of different types of clothes. If you’re commuting a long distance, are going to exert yourself (and sweat) a lot, and have showers at work, then sports cycling gear (lycra) may be your best bet. However, there are an increasing number of commuter cyclists that ride in their normal work clothes. By cycling a bit slower on the way to work, you can avoid getting sweaty and stinking out the office (and if you do get a bit sweaty, baby wipes are a great way to freshen up). If you also have decent waterproofs (jacket and trousers) you won’t turn up looking like a drowned rat. For the ladies, there are additional challenges to cycling in a skirt/dress, but they are not insurmountable – a quick google search shows up lots of advice from women’s cycling blogs.
  9. Carrying your stuff – when cycling to work, you may need to carry a bunch of stuff with you – your laptop, your lunch, or a change of clothing. The easiest option is to use a backpack, but this has the major disadvantage of giving you a sweaty back! To avoid this, consider investing in a pannier bag that can attach to the rack on the back of your bike, or maybe a basket on the front.
  10. Preparing for the weather – as you grow in confidence on the bike, bad weather won’t seem so bad. As long as you have decent waterproofs, the rain isn’t all that bad. Indeed, any experienced cyclist will tell you that wind is much worse than rain. Just try cycling all the way to work against a strong head-wind and you’ll find out! The key is to simple drop down a gear or two, and cycle a bit more slowly. After all, it’s better to take a bit of extra time, rather than spend the whole journey feeling like you’re pedalling through treacle. If it’s bad weather, also remember that the road surface can become more slippery, and that other road users can have reduced visibility, so it’s best to be a bit more careful.

Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog richardbloomfield.ie.

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