10 tips to Improve Your Bike Commute

Posted by tan xiao yan on

With transportation costs continuing to rise and we baby boomers getting older, health is becoming more important, the City Cycling commuter is on the rise.It is a good idea to commute by bike. Great savings, health benefits and exemption from traffic jam are a few of the known advantages. Just like driving a car, there are considerations which must be made so that you will continue to profit from it. Learn them from the following explanations.

Get a bike
You don't need a high-end road bike, or even a new bike, to ride to work. What you do need is something that is safe, comfortable and suits your circumstances. Feel free to dust off your old mountain bike in garage, or hunt around some online classifieds. But, if you find something old or used, it might be worth having a bike mechanic give it a quick tune. It doesn't take much to get a bike in working order-and you can always invest more later on.

With any type of bike, it's worth planning proper security. At home, I park in a secure underground area-making sure to lock my frame and both wheels to a solid bike rack. At work, I bring my bike into the office where there's very little risk for theft. The only time I leave it unattended in a public space is in front of a grocery store-where I'm careful to lock it securely and remove all components.

Dress for weather
I'll admit to being a bit of a fair-weather rider. I haven't spent much time cycling in the rain or in the dark, and I've rarely ridden during the coldest winter months. My first bike commute this year took place March 1. It was early for me. Temperatures were just above freezing, and the shift in Daylight Savings the following week left me cycling in the dark each morning.

I learned quickly to dress for warmth. The first part of my ride is mostly downhill, which means I don't have the opportunity to warm up. When it's cold, a pair of long underwear under some light pants makes for better temperature control, and a shirt with a high neck helps protect vulnerable skin from sharp winds. A light hood also fits beneath my helmet when it's cold and tucks into my collar when it's warm. Gloves are a great addition all-year round-although, especially when it's freezing or wet outside; good blood circulation and grip are important for competent braking and shifting between gears. I also keep a light rain jacket handy at home, and make sure to pack it when the forecast calls for wet weather. It's light and breathable and doesn't keep me completely dry-but it's much better than being soaked to the bone.

Learn to cycle with traffic
I ride alongside traffic during my commute, mostly in a bike lane but also on single-lane roads. Spend any amount of time online reading about cycling in traffic and you'll come across loads of horror stories involving traffic law infractions, verbal (maybe even physical) tiffs and all-around awful tidings. Personally, I haven't encountered any major incidents. While I don't doubt there are many poor drivers out there-and the stakes are definitely high when riding with massive, high-velocity vehicles-I think there's much to be said for careful, diligent cycling and avoiding precarious road situations. I believe one should have a driver's licence to cycle with traffic. When cycling with vehicles, you should be fully prepared to obey all of the same traffic laws and be able to anticipate the behavior of the drivers around you. Understanding vehicle behavior makes it easier for you to cycle more predictably for drivers.

A huge help in recent weeks was the addition of a small mirror on the side of my handlebars. I've always been a copious shoulder-checker, but it's easy for a fast-moving vehicle to approach without you knowing-especially when climbing hills at a slow pace. I also rely on being able to hear vehicles approach from behind, but this is a more reactive way of observing. Once you hear a vehicle, all you can do is move out of the way. When riding with traffic, a key strategy for cyclists is to "claim the lane"-that is, to occupy as much road-space as possible. This discourages drivers from making risky or unsafe passing maneuvers and prevents cyclists from having to ride in gutters where there may be hazardous debris or other obstacles to deal with. Claiming the lane is a great strategy for riding, but so is knowing when to move aside to let vehicles pass. Riding with a mirror is a great tool for knowing when to take the space and when to move aside.

Proper care for your things
When commuting to work, you will definitely need a proper means to carry your stuff safely while on the road. Apart from racks, there are different kinds of bags which can hold your belongings in transit. These are the backpacks, messenger bags and seat bags. Seat bags may be used if all you are bringing are small items like your wallet, extra tubing and tiny repair tools. On the other hand, wear a back pack or a messenger bag when you are bringing your change clothes and shoes, grooming kit and your lunch. If you want to take the load off your back and onto your bicycle, use a rack or a saddle bag.

Plan your route carefully.
Some bicycle commuters just stick to the old route they followed previously in the car or on the bus. The beauty of the bike is that you can go pretty much anywhere. You should always be looking for ways to chip a little here and there off the distance you have to travel. Use websites like Transport for London's Cycle Journey Planner. Try different routes regularly, timing yourself to see which takes the least time for the least effort. The easiest way is to get a large scale map of your route and draw a line with a pencil connecting your home with your workplace. Then plan your route around this line, keeping as close as possible to the 'as the crow flies' route. Then experiment with different routes as often as you can. Remember that going a little further on a flat road can save more time than a quick route up a steep hill - use a contour map to see how steep certain routes are. It's not cheating to get off and walk - sometimes carrying your bike up a short flight of steps, over a footbridge or under a subway can save a huge amount of time. Keep your eyes open for shortcuts that aren't even shown on maps!

Get technical.
A few basic technical items can make your commute so much easier. Punctures are the cyclist's worst enemy - but the good news is, they have practically been eliminated by modern tyres such as the Schwalbe Marathon. They are well worth the money and even if your current tyres are in good shape it is worth changing them. If you've ever had to mend a puncture by the side of the road in the rain, you'll know why! Keep your bike regularly serviced, either by yourself or your local bicycle shop, to avoid nasty surprises on the way to work. Always carry a basic repair kit. You can get a small bike multi-tool cheaply from pound shops which will contain almost everything you may need en route. It's also worth carrying a small puncture repair kit, a lightweight pump, a pair of small pliers, some cable ties or electrical tape for emergency repairs, and don't forget a pair of latex gloves to keep your hands clean.

Keep the weight down.
A lot of commuters choose bicycles that are heavy and clunky. The more weight you can avoid, the easier your commute will be. Remember the old movie cliche of the aero plane or balloon that's losing height, and the occupants have to throw out everything they can? That's what you need to do on your bike. Firstly, choose your bike carefully. Avoid heavy steel frames and choose the lighter alloy type. These are more expensive - but the extra money is worth it. Unless your commute is actually off road, you don't need off road tyres. One of the easiest things you can do to ditch weight and resistance is to get rid of those thick, knobbly tyres and replace them with smoother, narrower road tyres. You'll notice the difference immediately. If you have a heavy, sprung, padded saddle, change this for a slimmer, lighter type. It may be a little less comfortable but it will allow easier pedalling as less of your movement is absorbed by the springs. Similarly, carrier racks are often made from heavy steel - swap this for a lightweight version. Unless you have to leave your bike unattended for long periods of time, avoid heavy chains and D locks - a tough lightweight chain will be sufficient for when you have to leave your bike locked up for a short time.

Support changes in your city
The other day I got stopped at a traffic light in the rain. A car across the intersection triggered the light to switch, but the driver was in the left-hand turn lane. The light changed to let a few oncoming vehicles through but then changed back without giving me a turn to cross. I know now I need to hop up onto the sidewalk to activate the pedestrian signal, but why not have a bike button-especially since the intersection marks the beginning of a bike route? A quick tweet to the city had my suggestion forwarded to the traffic team for consideration. I'm not overly hopeful that anything will change, but I like to believe that if enough people make these suggestions, something might change in the future.

9. Security of your bike

Whether you are leaving your bike in a stand or not, ensure that it is carefully locked. How do you do that? This can be done by locking the detachable parts to fixed objects available around. The parts which can be easily removed are the frame, wheels, seats and seat posts. Here is one way you can give thieves a hard time stealing your equipment or any of its parts. Detach your front wheel and line it up with your back wheels. Lock them together through their spokes. Your bicycle will be safe to leave this way.

Enjoy yourself!
Remember that as a cyclist you are saving money, keeping fit, and helping the environment. Your daily commute is a chance to have fun in the open air and have a bit of time that nobody else can have a claim on. So get out there and ride!