Beginners Guide to Cycle Commuting

edited 2 September 2014 at 11:16AM in Public Transport & Cycling
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Weird_NevWeird_Nev Forumite
1.4K Posts
edited 2 September 2014 at 11:16AM in Public Transport & Cycling
Note from MoneySavingExpert

Forumite Weird Nev wrote this fab MoneySaving commuting guide in 2013 but it's ever-relevant. If you're considering cycling to work on #CycleToWorkDay it's well worth a read.

Also join in on our completely unscientific Are you cycling to work on #cycletoworkday poll?

Back to the original post....

With the success of the Bike to Work Scheme, Froome winning the Tour de France, and finally some summer weather, more and more people are asking the question: Should I cycle to work? With this comes a host of subsidiary questions: Is my old rusty bike up to it? what equipment do I need? Will it actually save me money? With these questions in mind, here is WeirdNevs Money Saving Expert Guide to cycling to work!

Who am I?
Just a cyclist. I've commuted by bike all my working life, as did my dad! I commuted around 30 miles a day year round to get to my first job, and for the last ten years I've been cycling about ten miles a day at each end of a train journey, with 6 miles a day through central London. I'm also a keen recreational cyclist, I currently own 4 1/2 bikes, I've ridden road bikes to distances up to 200km in a day, and fixed gear bikes on 60 mile rides. I also mountain bike, taking on tracks and off road routes in Wales and now in Western Australia: Believe me, 40km off road through the outback focuses the mind! I'm a qualified mountain bike trainer, and I ran 3 day training courses for colleagues in the safe use of bikes on and off road.

Advantages of Bicycle Commuting
The advantages of cycling to work include but are not limited to:
  • It saves money over a car, and even trains and buses in some cases.
  • It is the most environmentally friendly form of travel yet devised by man.
  • It can even be faster than car or public transport by virtue of it's door to door nature.
  • It combines an essential journey with keeping fit.
  • You feel happier and healthier.
  • I have found it provides a useful "book end" to a stressful working day. An opportunity to clear your head and focus on something other than work or home life.

There are some disadvantages to cycling to work:
  • If you are unfit, it will take time to build fitness and reap the rewards. This can be a dispiriting time.
  • Whilst not a dangerous past time, you have to accept the dangers of cycling in traffic.(roughly comparable with the risks of being a pedestrian per km traveled, four times safer than riding a motorbike).
  • If you are attracted to shiny new things, like any hobby it can get expensive!
  • The risk of theft of your mode of transport is high, and bikes are very expensive to insure. Your best policy is a strong lock and a secure place to leave the bicycle whilst at work AND at home.
  • You may have to be organised and sort out the logistics of getting work clothes to work, having a shower at work, and splitting journeys between modes of transport. I've found that the bed-to-desk time of cycling can equal that of traveling by bus, train or car, for commutes up to 15 miles. When you're starting out though, you may find it takes longer than expected.
  • You should accept that in the UK, there's the possibility that you might get wet. That said, for a person cycling every day, it is estimated that you will actually get rained on around 12 times a year.
Is it feasible for me to cycle to work?
Can you even consider cycling to work? As I see it, you can break down cycle commuting distances in to three groups by one-way distance:
1-5 miles: You should definitely consider either walking or cycling to work! This kind of distance is horrible for cars. They don't even get up to temperature so fuel efficiency and wear and tear are sky high. Buses are frequently late or delayed, and season tickets cost the earth! An unfit cyclist on a basic cheap bike will be more than capable of covering 5 miles in around 30 minutes. In urban areas you will often beat rush hour traffic point to point. If this is your commute, you should definitely be looking at cycling. You can simply hop on the bike and go! I would expect the start up costs for a cycle commute to be around £100 or less if you have a bike already, and £300 or less if you do not.

5-10 miles: This is a perfect distance for a capable cyclist on a mid range bike. You should be targeting this length of commute door to door in perhaps 30-45 mins depending on terrain, fitness and traffic. you will need some additional considerations in terms of comfort though. Things like a comfortable saddle, cycling gloves, a method of carrying work clothes and equipment and some spare parts and tools become important, as do general cycling technique and fitness. The bicycle will also need to be robust and with quality components if it is to withstand the mileage. Shower and changing facilities at work are a distinct advantage at this distance, but not essential. I would anticipate spending in the region of £300-£500 if you don't already have a bike and equipment.

10+ miles. This is what I would term a "long" cycle commute. It is still no barrier to successful cycle commuting. I have known (insane) colleagues routinely commute distances up to 30 miles each way. If you're new to cycle commuting and your route is over 10 miles, then it will take careful planning and some training before you're able to regularly commute that distance. You will also have much higher start up costs, and sadly a higher chance of getting dispirited and giving up! That's no reason not to try though. Even cycling twice a week will have enormous benefits in your commuting costs and your fitness. Amongst other considerations, you will need the most appropriate type of bike for the route, good clothing, cycling specific shoes and in time "cleat" or "clip" style pedals to maximise pedaling efficiency. You'll need to be strong willed, and some mechanical ability is necessary as there's no option to "walk" out of the middle of a 10 mile bike ride if you have a puncture or other mechanical problem. Logistics also get interesting as you will need to change clothes and may need to juggle car journeys with cycling as your needs and errands change. Cycling a commute of this distance is a commitment. It may be wise to drive half way, or mix cycling with a bus or train journey until you have built your fitness and proven your equipment in the field. I would expect to spend at least £500 to set up commuting 10 miles or more daily, and for it to be a gradual build up to full time cycle commuting.

Choosing a Route
Route is of paramount importance to the cycle commute. You should consider your likely route, and variations, before you attempt your commute or even start buying equipment. In particular your choice of bicycle will be heavily influenced by the route you intend to use. In almost all cases, the route you would drive will NOT be the best route to cycle. Google maps is an excellent resource for checking routes and alternatives. Avoid A-roads if at all possible, and dual carriageways at all costs. It is illegal to cycle on motorways. Try and avoid roads with speed limits higher than 50Mph because the speed differential with motorised traffic streaming by can be unnerving. By all means use cycle paths, but do not feel you are obliged to. If the cycle path is potholed, badly maintained and strewn with debris, feel free to use the road in preference.
Do not allow a painted cycle path to fool you into complacency. You are still on the road, the same level of attention is required.
If you are lucky enough to use cycle tracks or off road trails, again by all means do so, but be aware that a bicycle capable of true off road routes will be necessarily compromised for on road use. If a shortcut in a long commute is seriously off road, it may be worth avoiding it for the sake of the bike.

Canal tow paths can be convenient, but are in my experience not particularly pleasant to cycle on: Muddy, litter strewn, tricky pinch points, the occasional weirdo and the constant risk of falling into a canal are all off putting. Try them out, but don't be a slave to them. There might be a perfectly pleasant alternative route alongside.

Hills: Terrain affects you on a bike like no other form of transport. It takes a masochist to enjoy cycling up hills. Consider alternatives - the circuitous route up a hill, or even around it, may be preferable to the direct route over it. If it's the choice between two miles on B-roads around the back of a hill Vs half a mile on an A-road up it, I'll take the
B road route every time.
So, consider your route, consider all options, and build a route that suits your bike, your fitness and your confidence level. Don't be fooled into thinking either the shortest or quickest route is the best. As you get to know your route you will be able to consider options to make the ride shorter, longer, more or less challenging and more fun.

Training - Both fitness and Cycle Skills
If you are considering getting on the bike for the first time in a long time, I can't recommend some form of practical training enough. Even as a refresher to build confidence and remind you of the rules of the road, and safe way to tackle junctions, roundabouts and more. I could write a book on the subject, but reading is no substitute for tuition.
Check with a local authority, Bike user group, or local cycling club. Even accompanying some experienced riders out on a ride should be a major confidence boost and yield a wealth of information. "Richards Bicycle book" is also an excellent book on the art of road riding through it's many revisions.

What kind of bike do I need?
Now we come to the fun bit: Spending money. But should you? and how much?
  • Converting and commuterising your existing bike
The first option to consider is 'commuterising' your existing bike. Yes, that rusting hulk left out in the shed. Bikes are very robust, and often don't take much to renovate into a safe and reliable commuter bike. Many people have an old neglected mountain bike or tourer, and before consigning it to scrap, the money saving way is to consider if it can be renovated and put to use. You could even ask around and see if family or friends have a bike they're not using.
The following are good start points to overhaul a bicycle:
  • A pair of fresh tyres. Tyres perish over time, and knobbly off road tyres sell bikes through the dream of mountain biking, but are uncomfortable and inefficient on the road. Buy a cheap pair of slick or semi-slick tyres and inner tubes. Keep them narrower than full mountain bike width, for lower rolling resistance. Avoid cheap tyres touting "puncture resistance": by and large they're heavy and have high rolling resistance. (Specialized armadillos and Continental gaitorskins are a notable but pricey exception). You can pay as little as £12 for good tyres, £15 with inner tubes. Look out for deals on and similar sites.
  • A new chain: so long as your old chain isn't too far gone, it shouldn't have damaged your sprockets and chain rings. After tyres, a new chain is the second biggest improvement you can make to the bikes efficiency if the old one is old and rusty. Keep it greased or oiled to maintain it's life! Don't leave bikes out in the wet.
  • Grease and inspect the brake cables and gear shifter cables. Nine times out of ten, if a bike has problems shifting gears, it's because of neglected cables. You can pull them out of their sleeves and grease them, and that may well be all they need. If you want to really boost their performance on a bike a few years old, cheap replacement cables are available and make all the difference.
  • A bit of attention to fit will also yield results. Get a knowledgeable friend or a bike shop to help you check seat and handle bar position.
  • Quick Money Saving tip! Don't waste money on expensive mud guards! See below in 'essential equipment' for a cheap mudguard solution!

Be cautious, however, of throwing good money after bad. I would say that a refresh on a neglected cheap bike should cost a maximum of £50 and a couple of hours work. If it's looking like you need to replace sprockets, gears shifters or other parts, then in all likelihood you're better off buying a well looked after second hand bike. Likewise, if the bike was only ever a very cheap bike, it will be heavy and may be hard to keep reliable and efficient. You may be better off giving it up and getting something better. The classic "bad bike" is a cheap (under £200 new) full suspension mountain bike: The front shocks are terrible, the rear shocks bounce and waste all your energy, and the whole thing is incredibly heavy. I would not spend good money trying to turn one into a slightly less bad bike. Better off starting afresh with something that will be rewarding to ride.
As an example: Here is my fathers old bike frame, which he commuted on as standard for ten years. I then took it on and used a few parts I had lying about to build up "Frankenbike". It's now my all purpose daily hack and commuting bike. With new slick tyres, cables, a new chain (and some other bits like wheels and gear shifters) it's turned
into a very serviceable bike. Nowadays it even has a rear rack and child seat for carrying my young son about with me! The perfect creche run machine!

The options when considering a buying a new bike:

Mountain bikes

Having shot to fame in the 90's, virtually every home has a collection of mountain bikes. Their upright riding position, stability and comfort makes them an ideal recreational bike. Unless your commute is wholly off road, they are not ideal for commuting. In particular, the tyres compromise rolling resistance for grip and comfort. The upright riding position
is inefficient at speed where aerodynamics are the single biggest drag factor on a cyclist, the gears offer a wide range of ratios, but they are widely spaced for steep hills and long fast descents, meaning that it can be hard to be in the correct ratio at road speeds. Suspension is essential on a true mountain bike, but cheap versions of it are a horrendous
weight penalty to bear with no real benefit to a commuter. If you already have one, or if your commute is less than 10 miles each way, then consider "hybridising" your mountain bike to eliminate the biggest compromises. Slick tyres, bar ends to give a variety of handlebar positions, and a comfortable saddle could turn an unloved mountain bike into the ideal mid-range commuter. Mountain bikes of acceptable quality are available for £200 and up.

A Commuter or "hybrid" bike

Since the onset of the bike to work scheme, there has been a drive towards commuter ready "hybrid" bikes. These range from mountain bikes with slick tyres, to thin wheeled road bikes with flat handlebars, and everything in between! They can offer a great combination of efficiency, comfort and cost, whilst allowing you to tackle light off road tracks on your every day bike. For longer commutes towards ten miles, I'd recommend a hybrid with an increasing bias towards a road style bike as the distance increases. Spend £300 and up to get a reliable bike. The more you spend, the less it will weigh!
Consider hub gears - Shimano and Rolhoff both make excellent contained gearing systems. They may lack the gear count, but each gear is selected to be useful. Many mountain bikes have less than 14 useful distinct gears, Rolhoff fit that into a single hub - at a price. They are easy to maintain and don't lose indexing like deraileur gears: One of the prime reasons bikes end up unloved and unused!

Touring bike
Die hard cyclists - the sort who wear canvas 3/4 length trousers, a thick knit sweater and can cycle 200 miles before breakfast - swear by a good touring bike. And with good reason. A combination of strong steel frames, relaxed comfortable geometry, "mustache" or drop handlebars offering a range of grip positions, flexible gearing, Brookes saddles and racks all over offer an unbeatable way to cover ground on a bike. Frames can be custom made to requirement, and fittings carried out by experts. However, it's unlikely a full touring bike will be the first you buy. In all probability you will know very precisely your requirements by the time you come to purchase one. That said, be wary of the wizened cyclist on an ancient looking Dawes Galaxy: He likely started pedaling before you had breakfast, and will no doubt still be pedaling when your head hits the pillow!
Especially as hand-me-downs, these bikes can make excellent commuter bikes - but you do have to pay for them. £500-£1000 and upwards for a touring bike with a good level of specification.

Road racing bike
The rise of British cycling has seen a renewed interest in road bikes. £300 and up can buy you an entry level bike. £1000 sees you choosing between exotic frame materials and technologies.
For a commuter considering a 10 mile or more route, there is little to touch a proper road bike. They are fast, light, efficient and aerodynamic. The compromises are uncomfortable ride and positioning for a novice cyclist (in particular the crick in the neck and shoulders as yo hold your head to look forwards), fragile components like thin tyres and light weight wheels, and an inability to go off road. Twitchy handling, thin saddles and drop handlebars are more about going fast than being comfortable, and often frames do not have provision for a rack or panniers. If commuting on a road bike, expect to wear a back pack or sort out lunch and clothing logistics some other way.
There is no doubt though: If you need to cover a substantial distance on a road quickly, the dedicated road bike will take some beating.

Folding bikes
I will admit a slightly anti-folding bike bias here, but a special mention is owed to our compact friends. Bikes from the likes of Dahon, Brompton and Moulton amongst others offer a range of methods of packing a bike down to convenient size. Their advantages are unparalleled convenience in mixed travel. You can cycle to a tube or train station, even a bus stop, fold the bike, hop on, hop off and continue your bike ride. They are also ideal for storing at home or under the desk if there are no other facilities. The cost of this versatility: They are expensive, small wheels are less efficient and soak up bumps less well. The overall bike frame is compromised in efficiency of power transfer and rider position. It's hard to get seating height spot on when you're raising and dropping the saddle the whole time. Consumable parts can be unique and expensive.
Whilst they are undoubtedly the best solution for many, I have never found a folding bike I would choose to ride any appreciable distance. As an example, with a commute of 2 miles one end of a train ride, and 3+ at the other, I chose to use two bikes, one at each end of the journey, rather than a single folding bike. Consider folding bikes to speed up mixed transport modes, but as a stand alone commuter you can get far more bike for your money with a conventional solution.

Electric bikes
A quick word on electric bikes, which are gaining popularity.
I'll freely admit I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to cycling, but the advantages of an electric bike are hard to ignore: assistance up hills, a higher speed for a novice cyclist, and 'free' recharges. The disadvantages? You have to charge it which takes time, they're more expensive, they've still very heavy compared to a conventional bike, and you'd better hope you don't have to climb any big hills after the juice has run out! If you do use it regularly the battery will wear out over time. You should investigate it's durability and cost of replacement before buying the bike.
Those issues taken into account, there's no denying that for people with shorter commutes or those less able, they offer a compelling solution.
Spend as much as you can afford, ask probing questions about battery life, and ensure that you get an extended test ride to check that the bike actually performs as you need it to before you part with money.


  • edited 15 August 2013 at 8:28AM
    Weird_NevWeird_Nev Forumite
    1.4K Posts
    edited 15 August 2013 at 8:28AM
    Continuing the money saving theme:
    Essential equipment - What to buy and what NOT to buy!

    Safety Equipment:

    • Helmet - To be sold in the UK all must conform to a basic safety standard. As they get more expensive, they get lighter, more funky looking, and may have better ventilation. Do go to your local bike shop to purchase, as they can advise on fit and setting up the straps correctly for comfort and safety. Far too make cyclists wear their helmet perched on the back of their head. The front of the helmet should be down low, along the line of your eyebrows for it to offer proper protection. Some will argue (vehemently) against wearing a helmet, and it is not a legal requirement. It is, however, a basic safety device designed to protect your head against tarmac, tree, or bonnet at low speed. Common sense dictates that you wear one.
    • Lights - Lights are one area that have improved immeasurably in the last 10 years. They are a legal requirement for cycling in hours of darkness. Proper focused LED lamps offer a combination of long battery life and high light output. Dynamos are now virtually obsolete. When picking lights, consider your route: do you need to be seen, or do you need to see by your bike light? If it is to be seen then a simple "battery in light" front and rear LED set will be sufficient. These can be bought new for £20-£40 a set. Cateye and Smart make good products. If you need to see the road ahead in the depths of winter, then you may need to invest in a front lamp with a separate rechargeable battery pack.
    • Lock - Protect your investment. A solid D-Lock with a key is a worth while investment. They are heavy, so consider leaving it at your destination and securing your bike in a shed or garage at home. Do not leave your bike outdoors, it will ruin it quickly. Do not buy locks with combinations, they are invariably weak to attack.
    • Hi Vis - Be seen, be safe! For short commutes a simple reflective tabbard is sensible, or a reflective sash belt. As the commute lengthens, you need to consider the breatheability and comfort of what you are wearing. Companies such as Altura make light weight reflective cycling jackets which combine protection against the elements, breatheability, correct cut for cycling (i.e. longer at the back!) and high visibility. they are a worthwhile investment for the committed cycle commuter. (I've used 2 Altura Jackets at about £60 each over the last 10 years. Value for money I think!)
    Notes on Clothing

    Padded shorts are the single most important comfort clothing a cyclist can buy. For any rides longer than 5 miles I'd deem them essential. They prevent chafing, cushion the soft bits, and ensure that your weight is borne by the hard "sit bones" in your pelvis as they should be. You can buy padded inner shorts, lycra shorts, or even trousers and shorts with padded liners to perform the same function. WEAR NOTHING UNDERNEATH THEM! having seams or other fabric between the pad and 'you' defeats the object. Padded under shorts can be bought for as little as £10, Lycra shorts from £20, and bib shorts from £30 and up. They make it onto the "essential equipment" list for those considering regularly covering more than 5 miles each way.
    Short commutes can be done in working clothes, but beware the "sweat threshold". A relatively flat commute might be possible to complete without breaking a sweat, but add in a hot day, a couple of hills, or a commuter who's running late, and you might wish you had a change of clothes with you.

    Other than shorts, you can cycle in regular sports gear. Long sleeved t-shirts and thin trousers are ideal. Be wary of catching right trouser legs in the chain ring though - Tuck it into your sock and use a cycle clip.
    Gloves are also "essential" for any rider, really, but particularly those covering 5 miles or more. Hands are the first thing to get cold. They also get injured if you do take a tumble, and finally they are the weight bearing contact point after saddles and pedals. These factors make a pair of comfortable cycling specific gloves a worthwhile investment for a committed cyclist. I go through about a pair a year, and wear them until they literally fall apart!

    One item NOT to buy is waterproof trousers. They are an absolute misery. Cheap ones fill with sweat, not rain water, and expensive ones are still restrictive and grab at you as you pedal. They also make you slip about on your saddle. If it's raining and you're getting wet, the solution is simple: Pedal faster!

    Nice to have items for longer commutes:

    • Mudguards:
    These are pretty much essential for the UK cyclist. When cycling in rain, it's not really the rain that gets you wet, it's the Catherine wheels of spray flung from the front and rear tyres. If you can catch this spray, you'll stay much drier. To that end, here is a serious money saving tip: Make your own mudguards. A few cable ties, a single 2 litre fizzy drink bottle, and you can have front and rear "spray catchers" for virtually nothing.
    For serious distances, full mud guards are probably more appropriate. A set can be bought for around £15. Mountain bikes and road racing bikes may lack the appropriate mounting points, so clip on solutions are available. Either that or it's back to the bottle mudguards!
    • Panniers:
    If you regularly have to carry heavy items such as laptops, a rack and pannier system may be your only option. It's not healthy to carry heavy and solid items on your back, and they risk damage if you fall. Factor in what you have to carry when you plan your bike purchase. If you buy a bike without correct mounting points it may be impossible, or expensive, to safely fit a rack to it. Rear racks start at £20 and up, but be aware that if you intend to fit full panniers you need a rack that adequately supports them and protects the rear wheel, to stop the panniers going into them. That said, my father managed with a briefcase and laptop bungee chorded to his rear rack for a decade! Panniers also need to be waterproof. Budget £15 up for panniers, £30 up for more robust ones.
    • Pedals and shoes:
    Footwear is often overlooked, but of vital importance. How you place your foot on the pedal has a huge bearing on how efficiently you pedal, and also on the potential for injury to the knee joint. You should focus on correct pedaling style whatever shoes and pedals you use: The ball of the foot should be over the pedal axle, don't "hook" the pedal into your instep or in front of a shoe heel.
    As you gain confidence, investing in a set of clipped pedals and cycling shoes is very wise. There are a variety of systems such as "look", "time" "Shimano SPD" and SPD-SL, which are not intercompatable. However, they all work in essentially the same way: through keeping your foot accurately located on the pedal, and allowing you to apply pressure through a much greater portion of the pedals arc, they increase pedaling efficiency hugely. I consider the essential equipment for those considering regular rides of 10 miles or more.


    • A commuter with a short commute, less than 5 miles, can probably get away with carrying very little. It is always wise to be prepared, and carrying a few tools is essential to remain self sufficient. As a minimum, on a bike, if you're going more than a couple of miles, carry:
    • Spare inner tube: Far quicker to swap the inner tube out and repair the punctured one at home. Be sure to locate and remove the debris in the tyre carcass that caused the puncture before fitting the new inner tube, or it will just puncture again! (remove tyre, turn the carcass inside out and inspect - punctures are visible as clean gashes in the carcass of the tyre. Any bigger than 5mm may compromise the structure of the tyre - consider replacing them. Two punctures close together on the innertube is a "snake bite" - caused by the rim pinching the inner tube against the tyre carcass. This is a symptom of tyre pressures being too low, or you being too rough in running up kerbs. Inflate the tyre more. £5
    • Plastic Tyre levers: To assist removal and refitting of the tyre. Essential on road bikes, useful on Mountain bikes. £3-£5
    • Puncture repair kit. In case you get ANOTHER puncture.
    • Small bike pump - to pump the tyre to useable levels and get to home/work. Compact pumps can be had for around £10, to £20 for a light weight double action pump. Ensure it has the correct fitting for the inner tube valve: Schrader (car type) or Presta (separate knurled valve release).
    • Small multi tool or selection of allen keys: Virtually everything on a modern bike can be adjusted with a 4,5 or 6mm Allen Key! If you get half way through your ride and notice that the saddle is shifting or at the wrong height, the handlebars are rotating in your grip, or your gears aren't indexing it properly, then you will be glad of an allen key to sort it and carry on. £5 or so.
    • Spanner - if you have nutted axles. Generally they're 15mm. £10.
    • Chain tool: If you snag or snap a chain, you need a chain tool to split a damaged link out and remove the offending section. This might restrict your available gears, but it means you can continue your ride. They're small and light enough that it's no penalty to carry it at all times - £5.
    • A small first aid kit - just an antiseptic wipe, some plasters, and a bandage. If you take a fall and injure your hand/knee, if you patch it up you can carry on without looking like the walking wounded. £5 or raid from the work H&S kit.
    • Cable ties. there is very little that can't be fixed with cable ties.

    To have at home:
    A proper track pump: Pumping up tyres with a hand pump is a misery, and best left to emergencies at the road side. A proper track pump makes checking tyre pressures and adding air the work of a moment. They should have an inbuilt pressure gauge, and a multi-way head to deal with schrader or presta valves. They can be bought for as little as £20.
    Check tyre pressures weekly for a bike in regular use, and straight after a period of neglect. Tyre pressures are the single best way to improve a bikes performance! Take heed of maximum pressures on the tyre sidewall, but appreciate that a 23mm race tyre can take 100-120 PSi with ease. Low tyre pressures lead to high rolling resistance and punctures from the inner tube getting pinched between the rim and potholes and kerbs.

    Your first ride:
    First, take your bike and do the route on a weekend. This helps you refine routes, get lost and find your way again without the stress of being late, and checking all your gear works as it should. Gauge your effort carefully. Do you feel up to a days work after completing the route? Do you think you might need a shower to "freshen up"?
    Cadence: This is the speed you turn your pedals,much like the rpm of a cars engine. Generally speaking, people naturally adopt one of two pedaling styles, normally though a misunderstanding of gears. You see people either spinning the pedals very fast, but not going very fast, or else pedaling way too slow, sometimes even standing on the pedals, and still not going very fast. As a cycle commuter, your aim is efficiency. You should seek to adopt the most efficient pedaling style, aided by whatever gearing your bicycle has. The best cadence is generally somewhere between 70 and 90 rpm - that is, just over one complete crank turn per second. Seek to maintain that cadence whether it be up hills (go down the gears) or on the flat or downhill (go up the gears). Seek also to pedal almost all the time. Don't "cruise" with your feet not moving. You're cycling, not rolling to work! This helps reduce muscle fatigue and promotes correct pedaling style.

    A word on Cycle Commuting and Road Safety
    Something I can't really touch on too much is road safety. It's imperative that you cycle safely, but a forums isn't really the appropriate medium to teach cycling road safety. I will say this: the aim of a journey is to arrive safely. You should not feel victimised on the road, and a big part of safe road cycling is being confident in your ability. Don't hug the gutter, or feel like you don't belong. It's your road too! A "safe" distance out from the gutter, 50-80cm, allows you room to manoeuver, keeps you away from drain covers and detritus in the gutter, and makes other road users appreciate your road space. Signal your manoeuvers, look around constantly, and whatever you do DON'T have headphones in. You need to give the road your full attention when cycling, and hearing cars is a very important part of keeping safe.

    My final word on cycling safety is this: DO NOT OVERTAKE LONG VEHICLES. I cannot say this loudly enough. NEVER, EVER, EVER get alongside long vehicles. It is how cyclists die. Long vehicles when turning could have been designed as an effective means of culling inexperienced cyclists: As they make a turn they swing out in the opposite direction, to account for their length. This opens up an inviting expanse of tarmac on their inside. The cyclist, assuming incorrectly that the vehicle is turning that way, rushes into this gap. With the cab turning into the intended turn it is hard for the driver to check that dead space on their inside. As they make their turn, the cab closes the exit for the cyclist, and the length of the trailer then sweeps sideways, knocking the cyclist over sideways and disabling their legs by entangling them in the frame of their bike. Finally, the rear axle rolls over that expanse of tarmac, and the cyclist, unable to move, suffers a gruesome fate.
    Please, whatever you do, DO NOT CYCLE PAST LONG VEHICLES.

    That terse note aside, I hope you have a fun, safe and money saving entry into the world of commuting by bike! Once you're into it, you'll wonder why anyone goes to work using any other method.
  • edited 29 July 2013 at 4:20PM
    Weird_NevWeird_Nev Forumite
    1.4K Posts
    edited 29 July 2013 at 4:20PM
    Ok, Here are a couple of Youtube videos I did just to explain the basics adjustments you can make on your bike:

    How to adjust your Saddle: Youtube Link

    How to Adjust your handlebars: Youtube Link

    Please forgive the dullness and slightly clunky style. They're my first attempt. I intend to remake them in a more concise and interesting format!

    If anyone has requests or suggestions I'm all ears.
    I intend to cover puncture repair, brake adjustment, and gear adjustment.

  • Weird_NevWeird_Nev Forumite
    1.4K Posts
    Second place market for updates and how-tos....
  • edited 23 July 2013 at 1:37PM
    Marco_PanettoneMarco_Panettone Forumite
    641 Posts
    edited 23 July 2013 at 1:37PM
    For those in London cycle training is available from local authorities and will be free or subsidised. It can be requested via TfL, and can be based at your home or work address:

    More excellent advice is available from British Cycling:
    It's only numbers.
  • Mr_Moo_2Mr_Moo_2 Forumite
    320 Posts
    Nice write up, should make this thread a "sticky" one
  • pinkteapotpinkteapot Forumite
    7.6K Posts
    Tenth Anniversary 1,000 Posts Name Dropper Photogenic
    Brilliant posts, should definitely be a sticky...

    I'm going to disagree with one point. For me, padded shorts aren't essential. I started cycling properly in March and have done 950 miles on my hybrid so far. My longest ride was 60 miles, with just over 4 hours in the saddle. Throughout I've been wearing leggings that I used to wear for running, so they're lycra and fitted but not padded. I have never had any butt pain or chafing. I know I'm in the minority and I probably got lucky with a bike manufacturer that happened to supply a perfect saddle for my anatomy, but if your bike is comfy without padding, don't bother adding any.

    One other safety point:

    I wear a RoadID bracelet:

    I have a medication allergy so that's noted on it, but it also has my name, where I'm from and next of kin contact details. I call it my death bracelet (they probably wouldn't sell as many under that name). You don't need to spend the £££ to order one from the US - you could make something yourself pretty easily. Gives me some peace of mind in case of an accident.
  • Marco_PanettoneMarco_Panettone Forumite
    641 Posts

    This should be a sticky.
    It's only numbers.
  • WiggyDiggyPooWiggyDiggyPoo Forumite
    220 Posts
    Weird_Nev wrote: »
    Canal tow paths can be convenient, but are in my experience not particularly pleasant to cycle on: Muddy, litter strewn, tricky pinch points, the occasional weirdo and the constant risk of falling into a canal are all off putting. Try them out, but don't be a slave to them. There might be a perfectly pleasant road route alongside.

    I'd correct this as its a bit of a generalization that all towpaths are unpleasant > you need to scout out your route. Canal and River Trust is a good place to start to see what they recommend.

    Often towpaths, particularly ones in urban areas, are being resurfaced to precisely attract cyclists to the commute. The one I use is tarmacked, wide and promoted locally as a commuting route. No pinch point is tricky and its only a constant risk of falling in if you're not paying attention!
    Weird_Nev wrote: »
    Canal tow paths can be convenient, but are in my experience not particularly pleasant to cycle on: Muddy, litter strewn, tricky pinch points, the occasional weirdo and the constant risk of falling into a canal are all off putting. Try them out, but don't be a slave to them. There might be a perfectly pleasant road route alongside.

    DO NOT OVERTAKE LONG VEHICLES. I cannot say this loudly enough. NEVER, EVER, EVER get alongside long vehicles.

    Pretty sure you mean UNDERtake long vehicles don't you? I cycle past long vehicles all the time but of course this is on the outside when they are stuck in traffic, I would of course never go up the inside unless its stationary and I know it wont move.

    Otherwise, your guide is good and I would add these sections:

    Rucksack vs Luggage vs 3 day bike week

    You need to carry your gear, the rucksack is the obvious and easy solution as most people have one. There are more specialist rucksacks available to help with things like sweaty back syndrome but you have the advantage of arriving and immediately having what you need on your back.

    Luggage, there are many types to help you carry things on your bike. I have a variety of under saddle bags from small tool bags to ones that will hold as much as medium rucksack. I also have panniers which attach on the rear of the bike to a rack, again many 100s of types are available.

    Where to buy my gear?

    Lidl and Aldi have bike events every 3 months or so it seems, and depending on the store often have kit in most of the time.

    GoOutdoors and Decathlon both stock all year round, there are more GO's that D's but you do need a card - see if a friend has one.

    SportsDirect - Can't beat a bit of Geordie Cheapness! Good for buying cheap clothes to see what you like/dont like. Some will last, some wont but for me it was the cheapest way of finding out if I liked Lycra!
  • CycrowCycrow Forumite
    2.6K Posts
    There is also Wiggle that sell a whole range of cycle stuff, from clothes to equipment.

    plus if your a british cycling member you get 12% off as well
  • CycrowCycrow Forumite
    2.6K Posts
    a chain shouldn't fall off the bike unless there is something wrong with it.

    unfortunately alot of the cheaper bikes can be pretty poorly made, but not really seen one where the chain fails to stay on
This discussion has been closed.
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