Get your bike ready
A bicycle needn’t be very expensive: you don’t have to invest hundreds of pounds before you’re ready to commute into work on two wheels each day. But it should be a bike that’s suitable for you, and the journey you’re going to make.
Choose one that gives you a comfortable riding position: if you haven’t spent much time on a racing bike, it’s more sensible to choose one with a ‘sit up and beg’ seating position. Or a mountain bike, suitable for road use.
Even if you’re buying second-hand, it’s a good idea to seek advice from one of the many specialist cycle shops around the country. Tell them what you’re planning to do. They’ll be happy to give you more information about appropriate styles, wheel sizes and saddle heights.
Preparing your own kit
The right clothes are essential. But that’s not to say you’re obliged to become a Lycra©-clad cyclist. For some people, loose clothing that’ll let your skin breathe on the way to work (and keep your body at the right temperature) is ample … and means you may not build up excessive levels of sweat en route.
Protective clothing – something like a lightweight anorak – is useful. Our weather can be temperamental and you’re much more exposed on a bicycle. The Highway Code makes firm suggestions about the clothing you should wear.
- a correctly-sized cycle helmet that conforms to current regulations
- clothes that won’t get tangled in your chain, or wheel, or may obscure your lights
- light-coloured or fluorescent clothing to help other road users see you better
- and (if it’s still dark) reflective clothing and/or accessories such as a belt, arm or ankle bands
Fuel up, even when you’re on your bike
You’ll need some energy to get you going: cycling can be tiring. But don’t worry – your pre-ride diet won’t need quite the same level of planning that goes into an elite cyclist’s regime.
It’s best to prepare yourself with some slow-release energy foods that’ll help you maintain your momentum on the way to work. What you’re looking for, is tasty energy-giving carbohydrates that can be stored for a short time in the body’s muscle and the liver as glycogen: the body can then use those carbohydrate stores, as and when it needs them to get you up the hills, and into the office, on time.
Porridge (oats), a piece of fresh fruit (bananas in particular), or an easily digestible omelette are a good start – and much better than the complex sugars and high fibre you’ll find in some of the sweeter cereals.
The right kind of backpack
Finally, unless you’re sporting panniers (which mustn’t interfere with your wheels or chain), you’ll need a backpack to transport odd bits and pieces to work.
Choose one with adjustable straps, so that you can make sure it’s not pulling at your shoulders or neck, and try it out for size when you’re seated on your bike – before buying it.
A lot of backpacks are available in bright colours, which helps improve your visibility to other motorists … and some have built-in back protectors (although these are likely to be more expensive).
Getting it all together …
Why not talk to your colleagues, see who’s on your route, and all cycle in to work together? It doesn’t have to be a big team building exercise, it can simply be a great way to make sure you all stay motivated. When we asked a group of 2,000 people about their commuting habits on two wheels, many of them said their overall levels of fitness would be a concern. But if a group of you is cycling in to work together, you’ll keep up the right level of momentum more easily – and still arrive with plenty of energy, ready for the day ahead.