Commuting to work by bike – hints and tips.
It’s healthy and saves money.
I have been commuting to the office by bike for many years through every type of weather the UK can throw at me. I have just ridden to work this morning and seen now (after Christmas) the roads are full of newbie cyclists, inappropriately addressed and underprepared for a tough commute.
Here are a few commuting tips I have picked over the last 6 years or so of riding the daily 38-mile round commute to work and riding with a Mountain Bike Club. This is my opinion only, but all based on real-life experience.
Commuting to work tips part1:
1: Lubrication!!!! (maintenance)
You MUST keep your chain lubed up!! If your chain is left untreated as soon as the roads and pathways are gritted, your chain will pick up salt and grit from the ground. I guarantee that will make your chain go rusty. A rusty chain WILL snap – when will it snap? It’s difficult to say, but it won’t be on your driveway on a sunny day – it will be 12 miles from home in the ice and snow (it happened to me). I would suggest you regularly clean your chain with a chain cleaner (£4.99 ebay) these little plastic devices are fantastic. You can clean the chain without taking it off – just drop a little white spirit in, whizz it around a few times, then use finish line wet lube to keep the chain in tip top condition – (£2.99 a bottle). DO NOT USE WD40 on a bike chain – WD40 is sticky and attracts dirt and grime – your chain will be knackered in weeks.
Brakes: This article is a little short for brake maintenance, but they will wear quickly in bad weather. I replace mine once in the summer, twice in the winter – if the weather has been icy this can be up to once a month. You get what you pay for with pads – you can get soft, sintered and ceramic pads – all I will say is - buy pads for £1 and you will be replacing them every 10 days.
Tyres: Make sure they are inflated for the riding conditions on the day. The correct tyre pressure will make riding less effort and safer and actually a pleasure!
Off road on the muddy trails/canal paths – run them a little lower – your grip and bike control will improve dramatically.
Ice/Snow – if you are posh get some studded tyres (£30+ each) if you are not (like me) run your tyre pressure a little low. Snow riding is brilliant fun and a must!
Sunny, dry day – get the maximum pressure you can in your tyres – your speed will be 30% quicker on hard tyres. You will fly!
Get some decent tyres to start with – £2.99 tyres from Wilkinsons are no good, they will last… ohh about a month before they are bald. Get some nice thick 2.2” Panaracers for Mountain bikes. For road bikes try getting some cross bike tyres (they look like road bike tyres, though they have Mountain Bike type treads and run at lower pressures). Yes they are £25 each, but they last for ever. Try getting the ones with reflective side walls for extra safety.
I don’t recommend slime tyres – these are supposed to be puncture proof – which they pretty much are – but the “slime” inside blocks the air valve and after a while you can’t inflate the tyres and are forced to replace the tubes (at £9 each!)
Clean your bike: just a gentle wash down with a hose pipe is all you need – DON’T use a pressure washer-all you will do is blow the grease out of your internal components (such as the bottom bracket).
2: Basic bike set up
There are hundreds of websites that tell you how to do this in great detail – to summarise quickly –
Knee pain inside knee – turn your feet or cleats in.
Knee pain outside of the knee – turn your feet or cleats out.
Wrist pain – handlebar set up is wrong.
Lower back pain – seat fore and aft problem.
3: Spares for the commute/ride
If you are on a long commute always carry spares in your saddlebag/back pack. You might think my list is excessive, but I have used all of these at some point. I always carry:
6 x quick-release chain links – should your chain snap, you can fix it in seconds. 50p - £1.00 each
2 x inner tubes – in case of a puncture. Don’t bother with a puncture repair kit, they are crap and no one wants to sit at the roadside with a piece of sticky rubber trying to find the pinhole in the inner tube as the rain thrashes down and motorist laugh at you from their warm, dry cars. Tubes are £4.00 each.
2 x tyre levers – Will help you to change a tyre in the cold. Trust me on a cold day you don’t want your fingers to be trying to prise a tyre off - £1 a pair from Wilkinsons
1 x hand warmer – helps your fingers in the cold. When you have spent 10mins changing a tyre, you need to get your hands back up to temperature before riding off. £2.99 from a local market or Superdrug/boots.
2 x surgical gloves – keep the oil off your hands and your expensive cycle gloves. Once you have oil on your cycle gloves, it will never come off – Surgical gloves work out about 1p each from ebay.
1 x compact pump – I use a Crank Brothers mini pump – compact and geared for when the pumping gets tough. £20 ish online from almost anywhere.
1 x set of allen keys – should anything fall off or need a tighten -you are prepared – cheap ones are £1.00 from B&Q. Get a posh light weight bike specific set for £17- £30 ish
5 x £1.00 coins for the taxi just in case!
Part 2 – clothing … coming in a day or so!!!