Bicycle Network: Women's Cycling
Riding to work is easy!
Like to ride to work? Here's how to get started
Ever thought you'd like to ride to work, but you're unsure about how to get started? Bicycle commuter Lisa Dempster tells you how to prepare.
Riding to work is easy - all it takes is a little forward-planning!
Chat to other people who ride to work and see if they can help you with your planning or give you some advice and tips.
Check your bike
It's important that your bike is in proper working order. If you're unsure, your local bike shop will be able to help. If you think it might be dark when you will be riding, you'll need front and back lights for your bike - it's illegal to ride at night without them.
Find out about facilities
Find out what facilities your workplace has for people who ride their bikes to work. Is there bike parking, showers, and a place to store your riding gear? Do you need a special key to access any of these things? Other cyclists in your organisation will probably have the best knowledge of these kinds of facilities.
Pick a route
The route you take to work will have a large impact on how much you enjoy the ride. Remember, the way you drive to work won't necessarily be the best route for riding. Riding on roads with cars stuck in a traffic jam and no comfortable shoulder to ride on can be a nightmare, as is riding along with car after car thundering past you, so avoid busy or congested streets where possible.
Pick roads that have dedicated bike lanes, or stick to smaller streets. If you live on a bike path, such as the Yarra Trail in Melbourne, you will be able to enjoy your ride into work with no hassles and minimum contact with traffic (watch out for joggers though!).
Tell me more about bike maps.
Find a buddy
Ask around at work or amongst your friends and find out if there is anyone who rides the route you are thinking about taking. You can ask them for tips, or see if they will ride in with you on the first day - most cyclists would be happy to help another person test-run riding to work!
Practise your route before the day, at a time when the area is quiet, like in the morning on a weekend. A practice-run will give you an idea of how long it will take, how strenuous it will be, possible problem areas etc.
Clothes and hair
Some riders ride in their work clothes. Others change once they reach their workplace. Have a think about which you'd prefer.
You could take your clothes in to work the day before you plan to ride, or you can carry them in to work on the day in a backpack or pannier (rolling your clothes instead of folding them will help with creases!). Some cyclists take in a week's worth of work clothes on Monday, and take them home for washing on Friday. After a few rides, you will find a solution that works for you.
Don't forget to pack your shoes and anything you might need to fix your hair once you arrive!
Think about what you will do if something goes wrong.
- Carry a puncture repair kit in case you get a flat tyre. (It's improbable that this will happen unless you have a bike with skinny tyres or particularly old tyres).
- Carry a mobile.
- Know where your nearest train station or bus stop is, so you can lock your bike and catch public transport into work if you encounter a problem that isn't instantly repairable.
Take it easy
Cycling shouldn't be more strenuous than walking - unless you want it to be, of course. When you ride to work, relax and take it easy - enjoy the scenery, and go at your own pace. Don't worry if lots of people are overtaking you, and don't let the lycra brigade put you off. As you gain experience, you too will be zipping along in no time (although the lycra is optional)!
The first day
The first day you ride, set off a few minutes earlier than you think it will take you. Riding in traffic may slow you down, and you may have to stop and look at your map to check the route, or there could be an unexpected detour. Having some spare time will help you to relax and calmly deal with any situation that might arise.
Understand your rights and responsibilities as a cyclist. Bicycles are recognised as vehicles and as such have to follow road rules, such as riding on the left, obeying lights and signs, and signalling turns.
Take extra caution and look out for pedestrians - in the pre- and post-work hours, there can be lots more people on the streets than normal.
Riding the right amount for you
Riding to work should be enjoyable, not a chore. Only ride to work as much as you feel like - you might want to start with one day a week, then build up to riding more often. Allow yourself some flexibility. If it's raining on a day you had planned to ride, don't force yourself to get on your bike - you can always ride again the next day.
As you gain confidence and stamina, you might find yourself wanting to ride to work more - some people who ride to work can't imagine getting there any other way, whether it's sunny or pouring rain.
Enjoy the ride; arrive energized
There is no better way to start a working day than with a pleasant bike ride. You may be worried about arriving at work tired: don't be. A short cycle clears the mind and leaves you feeling refreshed, energetic and ready to face your working day - much better than battling the throng on a crowded train or being stuck in a traffic jam a mile long! Similarly, riding home in the evening is a great way to unwind after a stressful day in the office.
Go for it
So, now all that's left to do is grab your bike and get riding!