Getting Started

As well as being exciting, the thought of commuting by bike can be very daunting at the start. For most people there are many unknowns to overcome and questions to ask. For example:

  • Will I be able to cycle the distance?
  • Will I be able to cope with the traffic?
  • Will I be able to carry all my kit for work?
  • Will I be able to cope with any mechanical issues?
  • Will I be able to handle the weather conditions?
  • Will my body cope?ย 
Checklist ticks

These are all valid questions and it’s definitely worth considering them all before venturing on the first attempt. However there is no reason to be put off by any of them as almost everything can be overcome. Fear can sometimes feel like the biggest obstacle in our path, but once we get over it it turns out to be the smallest hurdle.

Here are my top 10 tips for starting out:

1. Careful Planning

Map reading

Make sure you know exactly which route you are going to take, so spend some time planning directions. More than likely this will be different to the one you are used to if you drive or get the bus. If you are less confident on busy roads start off by finding a route that uses quieter side streets or cycle paths if they are available. Confidence will build and you will have more options later once it does. You don’t want to get stressed on the first attempt by trying to remember which way to go.

If you are unsure of how long it will take and are worried about getting to work late do a dummy run on a weekend. As well as giving an idea of how long it will take this will also help to point out any hazards you might encounter on the way.

2. Bike Tuning

Bike mechanic

Give your bike some love. You don’t want to spend the first time travelling on a bike that has issues. Make sure the brakes are in tip top shape and gear changes are smooth. Other than that a nice quiet bike will enhance the whole experience for you. If you are unsure of maintenance search out your local bike shop and have them give it a good tune up.

3. Puncture Prep

Lots of punctures

The chances of getting a puncture on your first ride are very slim, but you should definitely be prepared for the possibility that it might happen. Not having the tools to fix one will no doubt increase the chances of it happening exponentially (ok, probably not but its best to be prepared). Have a practice at home of changing the inner tube so you know how to do this. It’s a lot easier to do in the quiet, dry surroundings of your garage/shed/kitchen. I carry a spare tube with me so I don’t need to try patching a hole at the side of a road. You will also need tyre levers and a pump.

4. Packing Prep

Big saddle bag

Prepare all your equipment (bike, food, clothes, etc.) the night before you plan to commute. This will help speed your morning up. If you are anything like me at getting up in the mornings it also helps not to have to try and remember what to bring when still trying to emerge from my slumber. Sometimes 5 alarms are not enough to get me out of bed!

Also, the act of preparing beforehand will reduce any likelihood of you changing your mind in the morning. So whether you have a rucksack or panniers get them filled the night before and just focus on getting out there in the morning.

5. Lights

Lights through the woods

An essential piece of equipment. Make sure your lights are suitable for the job you require them for. If you need to light up the way they need to be super bright (I’d say you want at least 400 lumens), but if you will be riding locations with street lighting they just need to be able to make you visible to other road users.

I always make sure I have 2 on the front and 2 on the back. This means I don’t need to worry about one of them developing a fault, running out of charge or getting knocked off by a pothole. Usually, one of them will be set to constant beam and the other to flashing as I feel this makes me more visible.

Oh, make sure they are fully charged the night before as well!

6. Food


Depending on how far you will be commuting, you could be about to burn a lot of calories. This is great if you want to lose weight, but you need to replace some of them or else your energy levels will drop to insufficient levels. Make sure you have plenty of food to keep you going through the day. I find a second breakfast when I reach the office essential, as well as numerous snacks and a good lunch in the middle of the day. It is probably also worth taking something to eat on the journey to give you a little boost if you feel yourself flagging, especially going home at night. Something like a cereal bar is ideal as it’s small, will not get squashed and can be kept in reserve for a long time if you don’t use it.

7. Office Prep

Leaving some items in your office ready for you can be a big benefit. It means you don’t need to carry so much with you on the bike, whether it’s clothes, food or work equipment. I always leave a spare set of clothes in my drawer which is also handy just in case I forget to bring something with me. The thought of spending a whole day in my commuting gear is not appealing to me or my colleagues!

8. Security

Locked up balance bike

You don’t want to head out of work, excited to begin the journey home, only to find that your bike has been stolen. Therefore, make sure you secure your bike sufficiently through the day. I like to leave a lock attached to the bike shelter at my office so that I don’t need to carry it with me every day.ย 

9. Have a Backup Plan

Get out of jail free card

If the worst comes to the worst and for whatever reason you can’t complete the ride make sure you have an alternative method for getting home. Maybe you encounter mechanical issues, or the weather is particularly bad, or you just run out of steam. Whatever the reason, you don’t want to be stuck miles away from home needing to walk and push the bike back.

Plan some alternative travel options. When I first started, my route passed close by to several train stations so I knew I could bail at quite a few spots if needed.

If you know of someone with transport make sure they are aware you might be needing assistance.ย As a last resort keep some taxi numbers stored in your phone because they will always be willing to come and collect a fare.ย It probably helps to remember to have plenty juice in your phone battery as well!

10. Enjoyment!

Finally and perhaps most importantly, get out there and have fun!

Cycling over a Sunset bridge
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