On Yer Bike...
When you drive to work in your car or wait on the crowded platform for your train do you ever wish there was a better way? On that sunny morning do you think you would be enjoying it more if you were going to work under your own power?
Many people worry about the way we are polluting the air we breath, worry about their health or lack of exercise so why dont more people cycle to work? I suppose there are many reasons including lack of showers, parking/storage facilities and increased travel time which dissuade people from cycling to work.
Most of these obstacles can be overcome and cycling to work can be fun and the best way to start your day. Certainly for me one of the best decisions I made was to try cycling to work. This page shows you how to get started.
Topics covered are:
I think there are two things that any cyclist needs to remember, to be "assertive" (not aggressive) and to share the road. The cyclist should aim to be part of the traffic flow, obey all the traffic rules - this means stopping at stop signs and traffic lights - and be predictable.
This can be half the fun. Exploring new routes, checking out short cuts, adding detours can add to the pleasure of cycling to work. The aim is to find a route which give you the most pleasure be it on council cycleways, suburban streets, main roads or combinations of them all. Factors to look out for are terrain, road surface and width, distance, amount of traffic plus the time of day you will be travelling.
Look up possible routes in your street directory then check them out, not necessarily by bike at first, explore alternatives, the shortest route may not be the fastest or the safest. Alternate routes can also add variety to your trip.
Dont overlook the possibility of combining cycling with other forms of transport, there are cycle lockers at many railway stations, even car pooling for part of the journey is a possibility.
You will probably be pleasantly surprised when it comes to timing your commuting route. My own experience was that cycling 14 km to work took only 35 to 40 minutes compared with 15 to 20 minutes it took me to drive the same journey - hardly a big difference. City travelling would probably offer even better comparisons.
If your route has problems complain long and loud to the local council(s) on the basis that the squeaky wheel etc.
When you arrive at work you need somewhere to keep your bike safe, somewhere to change and perhaps shower. You may be lucky and these facilities are already available but if not have a word with your boss. (S)he may be quite willing to provide facilities especially if there are other people interested in cycling as well - providing bike parking can be a lot cheaper than providing car spaces. Have a look around yourself there may be a suitable shed or room where your bike can be secured, investigate the cost of a suitable bike rack or locker system.
If necessary invest in a good U-Lock (much cheaper than a new bike). Canvas other employees about forming a workplace Bicycle User Group (BUG).
Find out if there is a shower or change room you can use. Do you actually need a shower? there are some who cycle leisurely to work in their work clothes and dont raise a sweat.
When I first started cycling to work regularly I just wore any old gear and resisted buying any special clothing but eventually time and experience taught me that the right clothing while not essential does make any ride far more comfortable. Clothing must fulfil three essential requirements, comfort, visibility and protection.
The one essential item is your helmet, modern helmets are light, come in many styles and are required by law in all states - wear it, if you do fall off it may save your head. The worst it will do is save you from a fine (and the cost of a helmet can be a lot cheaper than the fine).
Apart from a helmet the first item of cycling clothing I bought was a pair of gloves. I had a tumble where my only injury were scraped and bloodied hands so I decided that padded cycling gloves were a cheap and worthwhile investment.
Cycling 12km to work seemed to be fine in an old pair of shorts but as soon as I tried travelling a bit further their inadequacy was soon revealed by a very chaffed thigh! With some misgivings I bought a pair of cycling knicks and was amazed by the difference they made; because of their design they dont rub, the seams dont dig in to tender parts and the chamois liner certainly makes the seat more comfortable. The longer your journey the more you appreciate them. These days I use a pair of cycling shorts with an inner liner rather than the form hugging knicks but the advantage is the same.
There are many suitable tops but a bright T shirt will do. Good quality cycling tops are designed to wick the sweat away from your body but a T shirt is much cheaper, it's up to you. For the last few years I cycled to work I wore a high visibility vest complete with reflective stripes.
In the winter the secret is to think layers as you cycle you warm up and it is nice to be able to remove or open clothing as you go so you keep warm but dont over heat. Whatever you wear don't start off 'warm' because it won't be too long before you are much too hot.
I don't carry wet weather gear as I operate on the theory that you can only get so wet after that the water just runs off anyway. The cheap rain jackets make you sweat so much that you are probably no drier in them anyway.
If you are looking for quality cycling clothes you would be hard pressed to find better than Ground Effect. Ok, it's a free plug but I like their clothing. As I have indicated I wish I had bought proper cycling shorts/knicks and gloves from the beginning but all the other gear is nice but not essential.
Lets face it, if you already have a bike that is what you are going to use at least to start off with, once you have ridden for while you will get to know things you would like to change or improve. There are bikes and there are bikes but basically there are three types you can consider.
If you need to change into smart working clothes perhaps you need to consider panniers to carry your change of clothing. If you work in the central business district then keeping your clothes at work and using the local dry cleaner might be a solution.
Unless you don't venture far from home the absolute minimum you need to carry on your bike is:
To improve your security add to this very basic equipment a few other tools:
To carry these tools on your bike you can buy a purpose built bag from your local bike shop or you can make an excellent lightweight waterproof toolbox for next to nothing in a matter of minutes.
It is worthwhile practising repairing a puncture because as sure as eggs is eggs the day will come when you have to repair one (or several) and there is nothing worse than learning how on a dark, wet night. Unless you are a racer then fitting tyre liners might be something to consider, I fitted them to my bike and punctures became a thing of the past. Remember also that a 'pinch' puncture is one of the most common punctures; it is caused by the inner tube being trapped between the rim and an obstacle such as a stone, piece of wood, kerb etc. These punctures do not occur if the tyres are pumped up to the correct pressure - this is something worth checking regularly
Some tools to consider if you intend to do your own maintenance are:
None of these tools are expensive but together can add up to a reasonable sum. It is probably best to buy them as you as you need them, in fact the last two are only used once a year or less so consider whether it is better to get the bike shop to help with this.
Other tools such as open ended spanners (8 mm to 17 mm), screwdrivers and cutter/pliers are found in most home tool boxes.
Generally speaking there is little on a bike that the average, sensible person cannot adjust or maintain successfully (I exclude STI brake levers <g>). There are plenty of good books on repairs and maintenance while magazines like Australian Cyclist regularly have articles on maintenance subjects. Even wheels can be straightened with a little practice and patience. Have a look at Bike Maintenance to see some of the tasks you can perform.
If you have some spare cash one item well worth buying is a workshop pump. If your tyres have Schroeder valves (same as car tyres) then for less than $20 you can buy a foot pump with a pressure gauge from Kmart's motor department - great for tyres up to about 80 psi but struggles at higher pressures. If you have Presta valves then a workshop pump with a gauge will cost at least $50 but believe me it is worth every cent - there is no pleasure in pumping a tyre to over 110 psi using a small hand pump, with a workshop pump it takes seconds. Keep the hand pump for roadside emergencies!
The Last Word
My mobile phone has saved me from a couple of very long walks, once when I ripped out the sidewall of a tyre and later when I stacked my bike and bent the frame!
The most important thing is to enjoy your cycling.
Copyright © Bruce Lloyd 2008