On yer bike: 10 tips to push start you into cycle-commuting

Fancy cycling to work but daunted by the prospect? It could be anything from the perils of the roads to the horrors of squeezing into unforgiving lycra, but don’t be put off. The health and cost-saving benefits are massive, so here are 10 ways to ensure you get started…

1. Start with the basics

Don’t go out and buy all-new gear until you know exactly what you need. If you have a working bike with lights, a helmet and a reliable lock then you pretty much have all you need for now. Until you know the limitations of your current setup, there’s little need for a moisture-wicking jacket, a helmet-mounted camera or anything made out of carbon fibre.

Cash in on the Bike2Work scheme

If you don’t have a bike yet, it might be worth looking into the Bike2Work scheme for tax breaks on new equipment. Your employer will have to be registered with the scheme and your selection will be limited to Bike2Work shops – but, according to the scheme, you could save up to 42% on the cost of a bike.

3. Have your bike fitted to you

A saddle pitched at the wrong angle can be less comfortable than a cramped Tube ride, and a badly-fitted bike can have lasting effects on the body. To be as comfortable possible on your journey, have your bike adjusted to your frame, or insist on the right size if you’re still shopping around.

4.Learn basic bike maintenance

There are likely several jobs you’ll need to think about at some stage: fixing a puncture, adjusting brakes and cleaning and lubricating your bicycle leap to mind. Taking your bike to a professional is recommended, but understanding these things now will help you prevent breakdowns in the future and allow for a safer ride.

5. Know the rules of the road

Even if you’ve been driving for years, reading the Highway Code and understanding the ground rules is vital. Spend an afternoon making sure you’re streetwise and you’ll be less intimidated on the road.

6. Go on a cycling competency course

There are many cycling competency courses out there (both free and paid) to get you going and keep you on track. Your local cycle shop will have details, or check your local authority’s website.

7. Tot up your current travel costs

Calculating what you spend on travel versus the cost of commuting via bike is a great motivator. It helps to put a bit of money aside every month for costs such as bike servicing and tyre replacements but, regardless of such expenses, a bicycle should eventually pay for itself.

8. Map it out

Plot your journey on the map, but once you get out there and ride it a few times you’ll almost certainly find a better route – either avoiding clogged thoroughfares or particularly steep inclines. Grab a specialist cycling maps to find quieter, more scenic or all-round easier routes – and consider tracking your journeys with a cycling app to keep you inspired.

9. Get some exercise

Cycling is a great way to shed pounds and keep fit, but don’t take on too much too early. If you’re just starting out, you may want to look into some exercises and stretch routines to get a good base fitness level.

10. Ride for the joy of it

Getting to know your route is important, but simply getting out there and riding is a stress-free way of building up confidence and familiarising yourself with your bike. Research social cycling clubs in your area and you’ll soon find out that not all group riders wear spandex and climb hills for fun –not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Don’t just take our word for it…

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” Ernest Hemingway

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