Commuting by bike - everything you need to know about biking to work
Many of us have thought about swapping out cars or trains and opting for a bike. The benefits are hard to argue with - you can get more exercise, it’s a potentially cheaper way to travel, and it’s better for the environment. But where to begin? You may be concerned about safety, bike theft, the cost involved, or being a bit smelly at work. Well here are a few tips to get you started!
1. Talk to your Employer & Colleagues first
The Government’s Cycle to Work Scheme (also known as Bike to Work scheme) works with employers to get their employees cycling. You can get tax-free money on bikes and equipment, making a saving of up to 42%. It’s worth checking with your employer if the schemes are already in place, or they are willing to put it in place. They may also be willing to install changing lockers, shower facilities or a number of office bike lockers for staff to safely store their bikes in, such as our Asgard vertical bike lockers, or twin bike lockers.
Searching out your bike enthusiast colleague is a great place to start, they will be able to recommend the best local shops, equipment, cycling routes and more. They may also be able to tell you if your company has the Cycle to Work Scheme, and talk you through how to access the benefits.
2. Get yourself a bike.
Obviously, any bike will do the trick, and they don’t need to be expensive. But it’s worth considering what you would like out of a bicycle and what’s right for you, preferably go into a store and try some on for size. The word on the street is most people opt for a hybrid bike, but if you have the budget an e-bike can give you that boost of power and make the transition to cycling a lot easier. If you have part of your commute on public transport or a tight place to store your bike, a folding bicycle may be the best option.
If you are on a tight budget, the Nationwide Cycling Academy runs pre-loved bike sales, a non for profit organisation whose aim is to reduce bike going to landfill. It’s also worth checking out local organisations.
3. A safe place to store your bike.
Once you’ve found the bike for you, the last thing you want is for it to be immediately stolen. Generally speaking, bike theft is on the decline when compared to the ’90s, but around 2/100 bike-owning households have been victim to bike thefts in the previous 12 months. It’s also worth bearing in mind, 71% of cyclists don’t tell the police about their bike theft, so it’s probably more common than the statistics suggest. It’s just not worth taking the chance, so you need to consider how to safely secure your bike at home and when you are out and about.
While away from home, you need preferably 2 bike locks to secure each wheel and the bike frame to an immovable object. It’s worth getting a lock that is Sold Secure Gold rated. You can find more tips here.
At home, we’ve seen many arguments start over bikes being stored in the kitchen, especially when they are dripping wet from a winter ride. There are many bike sheds on the market including a compact bike safe for 1, such as an Asgard Vertical Bike Locker, which is ideal for flats or houses with small gardens. Alternatively, you can get Police (Secured by Design), LPCB & UK Locksmith Association approved bike sheds for 3 bikes such as the Asgard Annexe, or up to a whopping 12 bikes like the Asgard Bike Store x12. The metal bike sheds tend to be more secure than wooden or plastic ones too.
To help find the right secure bike safe for you, consider the crime rates in your area, whether your shed will be placed at the front or back of the house, the value of your bike, how much you need it (if it is stolen, can you get into work by an alternative method?), how many bikes and equipment do you need to store now and in the future, and if you opt for an e-bike, a shed with electricity would be very useful.
4. Safety first.
No matter how much they may squish your hairdo, a helmet is essential. Cycling helmets are said to save lives with riders 44% less likely to die from their injuries. If you are cycling at night, or dusk, you also need to be fitted out with high visibility clothing and bicycle lights. It’s worth noting that cycling is still considered safe;
“In the UK, the life-years gained due to cycling’s health benefits outweigh the life-years lost through injuries by around 20:1. Mile for mile, the slim chances of being killed whilst cycling are about the same as those for walking, and on average, one cyclist is killed on Britain’s roads for every 29 million miles traveled by cycle.” - CyclingUK.org
There is currently no legal requirement to have bike insurance, however, cycle insurance such as Yellow Jersey will insure against accidental damage, theft and vandalism aimed at the commuting community. It’s also worth noting that Yellow Jersey and Asgard sheds work together if you have a Police approved high-security bike shed Yellow Jersey will offer a 15% discount on your policy.
6. Learn & Practice
It may be a while since you’ve ridden a bike. It’s worth familiarising yourself with the latest highway code rules, these cover cycle tracks, safety gear, bus lanes, signalling, and general do’s and don’ts. It’s also worth practising how to signal and keep your bike steady in a safe place and learning how to change a flat tyre
OK, so that’s all the big stuff done, you’ve got your bike, accessories, and you’ve done everything in your power to beat the bike thieves. Now, let’s get cracking.
7. Find your Route
In preparation for your commute, map out your best (and safest) route, it may be worth adding on a few minutes to avoid a big hill, take a scenic route, or a quieter street. Take it easy and be kind to yourself, don’t overdo it. It may be even worth doing a practice route at the weekend before Monday morning so you are not flustered.
8. Remember to eat
Suddenly jumping to doing a lot of exercises means you may have to change your eating habits, especially to avoid sleeping at your desk and having enough energy to commute back.
9. Getting the right kit
There’s much debate over whether to get a proper cycling kit before you start. Realistically, it depends where you live, your work clothes, the weather, and the distance of your commute. The longer the distance, the more you’ll benefit from specific cycling clothes. It’s worth getting a suitable waterproof bag too. It is also recommended to avoid listening to music, or certainly not loudly, so you can listen for potential hazards and keep yourself safer.
10. Stay fresh
No one wants to be that colleague that’s a bit sweaty and smelly. If you’re blessed enough to have a work shower, pack your towel and shower gel and off you go. For those who don’t, deodorant, cleansing wipes, and a small towel can make you feel a lot fresher and comfortable. Rolling up any spare clothes in a waterproof bag will make them stay dry and reduce creasing, or simply bring them to work the day before. Remember to factor in this time when you’re planning your route. Are you convinced to start cycling to work? Let us know how it goes, we’d love to see how you get on. You may also find our Commuting to Work by Bike part 1 and part 2 useful. These feature more in-depth tips and tricks for cycling to work by our seasoned cyclist, sharing their opinions on cycling to work.