The Digital Cyclist

5 top tips for new bicycle commuters

5 top tips for new bicycle commuters

Commuting by bike is a great way to get to and from the office. For me it ticks several boxes. It de-stresses me, fits exercise into my daily routine and is often quicker than driving or getting the bus.

Here are my top tips for anyone wanting to start commuting:

1) Run daytime lights –

It may well be light, you think drivers can obviously see you. They don’t always. Take that from me, I was hit by a car that ‘did not see me‘ even though I was running a 3000 lumen light on strobe. Get a set of decent front and rear lights and run them in the day. It may or may not help you but better safe than sorry. I rate the Alpkit Tau rear lights, it’s USB rechargeable, bright, has a decent runtime, also it’s cheap so you can get a couple to run on rotation without breaking the bank. If you are commuting in the winter a decent front light is a must, otherwise a simple blinker tends to do the trick.

2) Take the lane –

Drivers do not always see you. It may sound counter intuitive to ride in the middle of the lane but it’s often safer. Riding in the middle of the lane (primary position) serves several purposes. Firstly riding far on the left or in the gutter increases your chances of getting a puncture, hitting a pothole, or getting doored by a careless driver. Secondly, it forces drivers to a) see you, and b) move around you. Obviously, you should move over and let traffic pass if when it’s safe, but only if it’s safe. A lot of new or unconfident cyclists get bullied into riding in the gutter just so a car can try to squeeze past you. I also find drivers (tend) to pass more safely when they have to move into the other lane to pass you.

Importantly take the primary position at roundabouts. Drivers are not looking in the corner of the lane, they look in the middle. Take the lane and make them see you.

3) Get some good kit – 

Depending on how far you are commuting you’ll need some comfy kit or at least a decent jacket. This is especially important if you’re commuting in a rainy country like the UK. Personally I like a jacket that has three traits, windproof, waterproof and had reflective panels when riding in the dark. Equally a decent pair of waterproof over trousers for rainy days, and a pair of mountain bike shoes with SPD cleats to save you from the awkward walk into the office in road shoes if you like to ride with cleats. 

4) Look after the bike 

For me this is easier said than done with my commuter bike, when you’re in a rush and want to get in to see the kids/eat/have a drink it’s all too tempting to chuck the bike in the shed and forget it. Then the morning comes and you’re rushing to get out of the door and not be late for work.  Before you know it it’s been weeks or months since you’ve cleaned, lubed or serviced your bike. A 15 min weekly check, clean, degrease and tune will keep the bike in decent shape and (hopefully) avoid expensive trips to your local bike shop.

5) Enjoy it

This is the most important one. Rarely I regret getting on my bike, but it happens from time to time. If it’s lashing it down with rain and you need to wear a suit on your bike for the important client meeting, there’s no shame in getting the bus or driving. Feeling rough, take the day off. Have fun and enjoy it.

For me commuting has revolutionised my life in the past 5 years – no joke. I’m happier, healthier and I save both time and money each week commuting. Enjoy!