Part 2 of commuting to work - hints and tips
You don’t need a full set of matching, branded gear for riding to work. It will get dirty, covered in oil, road grime and will stink - so will get washed a lot. Don’t waste your money on top end gear – try Aldi, Lidl, cycle clothing UK – when it falls apart, buy some more. Save your nice stuff for the summer. Aldi have half a dozen cycle days a year – look out for them.
Wear one or you are an idiot. You might not think they look “cool” but how cool will you look with your brains splattered all over the pavement? Get on the bbc website and read the stats for cycle deaths.
A quality, breathable jacket is essential. Quality is not a “cycle jacket” from Sports Direct – they are nothing more plastic bags, you will over heat in about half an hour. A good quality jacket will have vents to allow your skin to breathe a little and a decent set of pockets.
If the days looks crisp and bright you might be tempted to leave the big jacket at home - For £7.99 Mountain Warehouse sell tiny crumple jackets that are wind and shower proof, they scrunch up to the size of a tennis ball and are remarkably light and warm.
T-shirts are no good! You will sweat too much when active, you will get cold when you stop. That’s a bad back waiting to happen. A proper base layer is really thin, tight and breathable – designed to let you sweat and keep you warm. It also keeps the beer belly tucked in – dare I say it … Aldi are pretty good for these as well.
Full cycle bib:
Unless you are beautifully thin, tanned and have lovely shaved legs then - no you won’t look good in it – but the padded crotch will be a great relief! Also the back of the bib will keep your back dry and warm, preventing cold back ache. Wear your jacket and a pair of shorts or cycle trousers over the top to spare your shame (I do). Do NOT buy these from Aldi – tried them, binned them! They are awful.
Toptip – if you are new to commuting/riding, get some chamois cream. Basically a lubricant for your boy or girl bits. It feels weird putting it on but stops any chaffing “downstairs” after a dozen or so rides you will toughen up and won’t need it.
Water proof is essential! Again you can buy designer ones for a couple of hundred pounds or go to Aldi and spend a tenner. Get the ones with Velcro around the ankles, or the trousers will get stuck in the chain and throw you off. Here speaks the voice of experience.
Cheap is bad. Go for Seal Skin, they are water proof. Your fingers will be warm and able to respond quickly to that emergency brake situation. They are expensive though at £30 per pair.
Personally I get cold feet – so I wear small cycle socks and seal skin socks over the top – Seal skin socks are very expensive, though I have not found anything else as good. They are fully waterproof but allow your feet to breathe. £35 a pair. Or go for Goretex socks – similar but can be sweaty.
These are not a fashion accessory! A set of glasses will keep road grime out of your eyes. I have learned by experience, nothing hurts more than battering down the road at 20 odd miles an hour then suddenly something hits you in the eye – suddenly you panic and you are in a heap on the pavement. Aldi £6.99 a pair with a selection of coloured lenses. Use a clear lens or maybe yellow for low light conditions.
How many riders do I see on the road with rubbish lights? A tiny flasher on the front and back can’t be seen on a busy road. Get some Hope Vision lights – A hope vision light is immense on the road and fantastic on the night riding trails – if you can, buy 2. I would also recommend a torch light on your helmet (£10 off ebay (via Hong Kong) including a helmet mount. On the back of your bike fit a pair of fibre flare, rear lights can be seen for over a mile. They are like mini light sabres – they are so odd looking EVERYONE notices them. Pick these up online for £10 each.
I might be getting repetitive … yes you can get some carbon shoes for £300 .. or you go to Sports Direct and get some Karimore soft walking shoes for £10. Firm sole, water proof and cheap – if you are a stronger rider you can get shoes with cleats from Aldi for £15, though you will need to buy a set of clip in pedals. I use them until they fall apart – I get 2 years out of a pair.
A dedicated cycle pack can be expensive (my best one was £180) – the one I use for commuting was £6.99 from The Mountain Warehouse (on sale). It has a tube and a water bag built in for drinking on the go plus lots of easy access pockets.
From experience I know that you need to eat well if you are doing a big, long and hilly commute – None of this “breakfast is for wimps” nonsense – get some porridge in you. I also carry jelly babies and a nutty bar (from B+M). Instant energy if you start to fade a little on the ride. As for Recovery drinks – don’t waste your money – A glass of milk is fine, chuck some bananas in the freezer, add milk and a spot of vanilla essence and blend – it is the finest Milkshake you will ever have.
Finally if you have the budget, get a dedicated commuting bike. For £40 you can pick an 80’s bike up from Gumtree or Ebay. Why a dedicated winter bike? ….because the grime of winter roads will wear the bike components down quickly. So for less than the cost of repairing your “best bike” you can buy a 2ndhand bike. A cheap bike is also a great way to learn about bike maintenance. My 80’s bike was £35 to buy - a new chain and cassette was £7.00 and £6.00 respectively. I painted it myself (bright white) so I could be seen.
I will be writing a separate article on bike restoration in the New Year.
General bike spares online from:
FINAL BIG TIP
Every time I ride to work I reckon I save £15 - 20 in fuel and wear and tear on the car .. so I transfer £20 into an online bank account. I have been riding for some time now that is a lot of free money!