What bike should I ride?
The answer to this depends on how far your journey is. I ride approximately 5 miles to college each way, a short distance but still with plenty of problems to overcome over some undulating ground.
I highly recommend fixed gear riding. Fixed gear means one gear and continuous pedaling. It’s a fun experience which helps improve your pedaling style ‘souplesse’ and builds up strength. I would suggest this only if the route is relatively flat - no more than gentle undulations. The downside here is you will most likely have to take your things in a backpack which I do personally. However this can result in a sweaty back and reduced comfort. Single-speed will develop your strength on the hills however it does bring the temptation to free-wheel more which won't improve your pedaling technique as well as fixed gear. Using a fixed gear bike means that cleaning is a lot simpler and cheaper to maintain due to lack of derailleurs/cassette.
If riding fixed or single-speed doesn't interest you at all then ideally a touring bike with panniers is a good bet although may be quite costly to add another bike your collection. If expending more money is not an option I would recommend riding any bike you’ve got that you won’t mind getting beaten by the elements.
Suspension? This is entirely up to you if you decide to go with a mountain bike you can always put slick road tyres on and lock up the suspension. It will make for a smoother ride but may take you a little longer getting there. I personally don’t think heavy mountain bikes with big knobbly tyres are the way to go for commuting unless you really do plan to go proper-off road on your commute it is unnecessary.
Because you will most likely be leaving your bike locked up in public space I would recommend that you use a bike that is not costly/ does not look costly. Clean your drive train and moving components regularly but my advice is leave the rest dirty to deter any would be thieves.
What to wear?
If you are part of a team then your team kit. Two sets of clothing will help you out a lot when it comes to putting it all through the wash you can have a clean set of clothes each day while your other set is in the wash. It all depends on the weather though. When it’s a bit cold I tend to under-dress ever so slightly as I have a very short distance to cover meaning I don’t sweat it out on the way to work/college. A good tool for deciding what to wear depending on weather is available on this link: http://www.bicycling.com/whattowear
If you don’t have the luxury of having an additional set of clothing then try to wash your clothing regularly ready for the next day. Or commute by bike every other day.
Now all I need are my lights and rucksack!
What to pack?
If you don’t have the funds or don’t think it’s worth purchasing the Patrona Shirt Shuttle then make the effort to fold your clothing carefully. ‘Fold and roll’ as my friend says. There are plenty of videos on YouTube giving instructions on how to fold your shirt just like they do in the shops! You could even pack your clothing into a rigid plastic container - although I have not tried this. If you want to be organised and to keep your clothes dry a good idea is to put your clothes into a plastic bag. If you've purchased cycle clothing then they will usually come in re-sealable plastic bags which I use to put my clothing/paperwork/books in to keep them dry and organised.
Take into consideration there may be parked cars or traffic around corners so be weary. Parked cars also hold the danger of open doors so give yourself plenty of room on the road to avoid car doors swinging open. As approaching parked cars look as far as you can through the windows to try and check if anyone is in the cars that could suddenly emerge.
Overtaking traffic is definitely a bonus of riding a bike. Overtaking traffic should be in accordance with the law. The gov’ website is a very clear resource to the do’s and don'ts of overtaking.
If there are bus stops keep your line! I have seen too many cyclists dip into this area only to re-emerge with little space with cars passing them. The same goes for parked cars with distance between them. Do not dip in between the cars as when you re-emerge there may be a car going past which you might pile into.
Quick Tips to make the journey easier
What tyres should you use?
I recommend going for a set of highly puncture resistant tyres. Continental are a highly trusted company and offer tyres that 'even drawing pins can't get through':
I also have it on good authority that for winter commuting on a road bike Grand Prix GT four season tyres are the best to use:
Try to choose the shortest and safest route possible this is entirely up to you. I personally take preference riding on the road rather than along cycle paths due to speed restrictions, pedestrians, driveways and other obstructions.
You certainly want to ride your commute before you first do it to know how long it will take and to familiarize yourself with all the potholes, traffic lights, parked cars etc.
Track standing is an invaluable skill that will help when you’re waiting for traffic lights meaning you don’t have to clip out and in. Plus it’s bound to gain the respect of the car drivers around you. The YouTube channel GCN do a fantastic video on how to do this (below). Make sure you feel confident doing this before you try doing it in traffic to avoid falling over.*
- Lock up your bike securely at a bicycle stand putting your lock through the frame and wheels.
- Remember to take all your lights off, saddle bag, cycle computer and water bottle with you.
- Hopefully there are shower facilities if so you're bound to want to get yourself a shower. If you don't have that luxury you should try and clean up with a small towel/baby wipes or even an item of clothing you have just taken off. I would only suggest commuting if your destination has either changing rooms or toilet cubicles big with enough room in and clean enough to put up with.
- Because you will have another set of clothes and shoes you cycled in you will ideally want somewhere to store these. Make good use of your personal locker or space at work. If for some reason this is not available to you and you have to take your cycle gear around with you, put all your cycling clothes into one plastic bag within your rucksack to keep it organised.