As so many more of us are taking up cycling and commuting to work we wanted to share some of our top tips with you. Our staff and pro team riders share their tips for how to make your cycle commute more fun and enjoyable.
Commuting to work by bike definitely has its benefits. It saves money and helps you get fit into the bargain too, win-win! It can also be quicker than sitting in traffic jams on roads and motorways that pretty much resemble car parks during the working week.
So, many of us here at Ribble commute to work. We thought that we would share a few tips if you are new to riding or fancy doing the commute to work.
The motivation to do it in summer is always high, so we asked some of the tough riders who commute to work in rain, hail, and sometimes snow. (Sometimes we think they just want the kudos for being out in all weathers but fair play to them.)
Jamie Burrow – Head of Product
I’ve commuted on and off for around two years. I said I would never do it as I was so used to having my riding as structured training for so many years. But after a long period (6 years) off the bike, I wanted to lose weight and regain some kind of fitness. Due to time restrictions, my only option was to start commuting by bike.
My direct commute is around 10 miles each way, which I lengthened to around 20 miles in the morning over summer. I initially struggled to motivate myself to ride before work unless it was actually an a to b commute. However, I’m now fully committed and currently riding 2 hours every morning before work.
I initially used panniers but often switched to backpacks as I feel the bike handles better without the weight of a pannier.
Jamie’s Top Tips
- Leave plenty of spare clothes at work. Don’t rely on riding home in the same kit you rode in with.
- You need to get from A to B anyway. So, as long as the distance isn’t excessive, riding to start the day really sets you up mentally rather than sitting in traffic.
- Good lights for winter and always more than one front and rear in case of battery failure.
Alan Gray – Copywriter
I’ve been commuting to work now for the best part of 24 years – every day, come rain or shine. Being that these rides take place in the North West of England, it’s mainly the former.
If I go direct, which I seldom do when the weather’s at least half-decent, it’s only 5 miles each way.
There are a few choices of loops that I try to encompass into the rides a couple of times each week. These can range anywhere from between 8 miles to approximately 30 depending upon how I’m feeling on the day. Any veteran cyclist will tell you that some days you feel amazing and others a little meh!
I’ve recently upgraded to a CGR 725 Steel bike because, you know… disc brakes. They make a huge difference when you’re commuting day in and day out. Especially throughout the worst of the winter weather. Here, at Ribble, you can easily spot the regular commuters bikes. They all have odd wheels where the rims have worn out or the hubs are shot. Disc brakes at least prevent us from wearing out braking surfaces when using disc brakes.
Another bonus of riding the CGR 725 is that it’s suitable for multiple terrains. So, if I feel like taking a more adventurous route to work I can always throw on my spare wheels. These are pre-set up with wider tyres to better handle off-road surfaces. Then I can partake of some trail-shredding action on my way into work, on the way home or both. Mainly on the way home. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself stuck wearing the same dirty kit that you rode into work with!
Always keep a set of clothes at work. Though I have had to buy a few cycling-related tee-shirts when I’ve forgotten to pack a clean one! So on a daily basis, I only tend to carry fresh duds (boxers), tools and a packed lunch with me. Pre-CGR I would carry my kit in a backpack. Now it’s either a backpack or one of those huge under saddle bags that expand to fit everything I need inside.
Alan’s Top Tips
- Mudguards. You’ll see people banging on about how they ruin the looks of a bike and how you don’t need them. Trust me if you cycle every day, in every sort of weather, you need them in your life. Some of my fashionista colleagues even refuse to use them. Then you see them trying to dry their shoes out for the ride home. Not me though! My shoes are dry as a bone and less stinky as a result!
It’s crazy the difference a pair of mudguards makes, a front guard with a mudflap stops the water from being scooped up and sprayed over your shoes. Let’s not even talk about that horrific cold wet spray on one’s derriere. Personally, I used to combine guards with waterproof socks and overshoes and rarely experienced wet shoes. Now I’ve moved onto winter boots with waterproof socks which allows me to dispense with having to replace my overshoes on a yearly basis.
- A change of clothing. If you have lockers or something similar at work, leave your clothing there and just refresh it when needed. I take in a fresh t-shirt and underwear daily. I also have about 7 pairs of trainers at work. But we won’t talk about my footwear addiction!
- Wear layers appropriate to the conditions. As a species, we cyclists tend to employ layers of clothing rather than say a thick winter jacket. I’m prone to overheating and much prefer to layer up and shed layers as required. Arm, leg, and knee warmers are easy to remove. If you wear a thick winter jacket and overheat you’re in trouble. It’s so important to regulate your body heat, so wicking away sweat is a must. Therefore, a good undervest is essential. I recommend a Coolmax style vest in summer and a Merino in winter (top tip: Merino wool vests don’t get pongy!).
- Be visible. As cyclists, we rightly become annoyed at motorists close passing us, or those near misses where you know that they simply did not see you. However, all too often we see fellow cyclists dressed from top to toe in dark clothing. That may be fine for the weekend ride bathed in bright sunshine. On a dark, murky commute it’s another story entirely. I personally don’t like wearing hi-viz gear. However, I do prefer to wear brighter colours that stand out. I also always run a rear light if the weather is anything other than bright sunshine. Many lights now have a daylight running mode.
Tom Timothy, Ribble Weldtite Pro Team rider
I commute into Manchester. My commute is 20 minutes on the way there on road and 45 minutes on the way home on gravel.
Tom’s Top Tips
- Get a decent backpack and rear mudguard to stop any rain or dirt being thrown up as you’re riding.
- When possible, ride off peak if you can.
- In the evenings why not take extend your ride slightly along canal towpaths and the like to avoid traffic?
- I also leave heavy stuff at work throughout the week under the desk. Shoes, towel (in case it has rained), deodorant, hair stuff. All I carry is a shirt, trousers, laptop, puncture repair kit. It’s pretty easy to fit into a rucksack.
Kevin McCambridge, Ex- Ribble Weldtite Pro Team rider
Recently I was commuting 5 days a week into college. It was a 60min ride in and a 90min ride home usually. The commute was on my Endurance SL R race bike with training wheels. I rode it all year round but had mudguards. I would use a big backpack to carry my work with me and it was waterproof, so nothing got too wet. I was doing sport so showers and a wash-up area was easy to access.
Kevin’s Top Tips
- Check out what direction the wind will blow in from the night before so you can leave at the right time.
- Get into college, or work, in plenty of time. Preferably before you need to be there so you have time to chill out for a while and eat breakfast. Cycling makes you hungry!
- Make sure your lights are charged and you are visible.
- Always take extra kit as the weather can change throughout the day.
- Eat well throughout the day to fuel your ride home.
Last, but certainly not least, here’s Katie Kookaburra to share some of her top commuting tips:
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