13 tips for cycling to work

Our readers reveal what they wish they’d known when they started

When you first bite the bullet and start cycling to work there are loads of things that you aren’t sure of. We asked the BikeRadar forum users what they wish they’d known at the beginning. Here are some words of commuting wisdom from those who've been doing it for years…

Choosing the right bike

You can commute on any bike, but some are more suitable than others
You can commute on any bike, but some are more suitable than others

1. Try a singlespeed

"I spent a few years riding a Specialized Allez (with gears) and then swapped to a Gary Fisher Triton (singlespeed) and I was grinning from ear to ear. Singlespeed for commuting in a city is great fun! I only wish someone had told me about it sooner." Clarkey cat

2. Test the waters before blowing your budget

"Make do with riding whatever bike you’ve got available until you know what kind of bike you ‘should’ be buying. Then get the best bike you can afford. Too many people jump at whatever model the bike shop recommends and in a couple of months they wish they’d got something else. Personally, I just wish that someone had told me how much fun it was – I’d have started ages ago." UndercoverElephant

3. The best bike for you is the one you want to ride

"Buy a bike that you think you’ll ride. If that’s a hybrid or mountain bike then go for that. But if you are riding further than 10 miles each way you need a road bike. And if you are riding uphill you need a road bike. And always remember that there are 1000s of people cycling to school, to work and just to get around.

"They’re not posting on forums, they’re not upgrading groupsets or investing in the latest carbon fibre Italian exotica. They’re all ages, shapes and sizes. They’re just riding their bikes. You can do it too." TailWindHome

Getting into riding

Read up on the technique of riding safely in traffic
Read up on the technique of riding safely in traffic

4. Just get out and do it

"It really isn’t as difficult as you might think. Honestly. Just get on and do it. On whatever bike you have available. Once you get the bug you can start tinkering, fettling and upgrading. But first off, just get out and do it. You’ll wonder why it took you so long to try it." Ketsbaia

5. Let it go

"Learn to keep calm and let the mad things other people do go. It makes the commute much less stressful and much more fun. Admittedly, it took me a couple of years to get this and I occasionally backslide. Also, ride predictably: if that means you don’t get that tiny gap or the commute takes a bit longer, then so be it." JonGinge

6. Be sensible around traffic

"Crazy filtering in traffic may be the norm for many people, but sometimes it just isn’t worth the hassle. If you think you will make the next light change, just take the primary position behind the last car. Your blood pressure will thank you and you won’t actually lose any ground." Mattsaw

7. Fuel yourself properly

"Up your food intake!" Walkman

8. Read up on the technique of riding in traffic

"Buy the book 'Cyclecraft' by John Franklin, and read it! From that you’ll learn about the primary position. You can filter down whichever side of the traffic you feel safest, but don’t go up the inside of any vehicle at traffic lights unless you are 100% sure that the lights aren’t going to change.

"Even if you are sure, NEVER go up the inside of a truck, bus, lorry or van as they might not see you and they could crush you. And if you are cycling for the first time remember to take rest days. Ride one day, give yourself two days off, cycle again, and have one day off. This will allow you to ride (and sit down) more comfortably.

"And leave as much stuff as you can at work. Do you really need to carry your D-lock and a pair of shoes in each day, or can you leave your lock at work and stash your work shoes in your drawer?" Snooks

Picking the right gear

Cycling can improve your brainpower, relationships, health and happiness
Cycling can improve your brainpower, relationships, health and happiness

9. Pick low-maintenance, reliable kit

"Hub gears are a great choice for city commuters. They need almost no maintenance and most importantly you can change gear while you’re stationary, which is a boon in town for beginners who frequently have to make sudden stops." Sanderville

10. Load your bike, not your back

"Use the bike to carry your stuff, not a rucksack. Invest in panniers for this, and mudguards are good for keeping you clean too. Get reliable tyres fitted and carry disposable gloves and spare tubes in case of punctures. The tyres may be heavy but for commuting you need the puncture resistance more than fast cornering. Carry a chaintool and spare link too." Mrushton 

11. Invest in some proper clothing

"People wear proper cycling gear for a reason, not to look cool; invest in some. The wicking fabric (which takes sweat away from your skin) really works, as does a decent windproof. It’s worth the money.

"It’s all about the top layer of clothes. I ride in street clothes 99.5% of the time (I only use Lycra only for multi-hour leisure rides) but a good breathable waterproof jacket and a pair of overtrousers tucked in your bag mean that, even if it absolutely sheets down, I arrive at my destination dry – worst case, wet feet!

"Also, wear gloves, even if you’re just shooting to the shop, as they’ll protect your hands if you fall. That skin stuff is pretty useful and the growing-it-back process is tedious." SimonAH

12. Love your washing machine

"Don’t forget to stock up on washing tablets when you start commuting as you will find yourself washing clothes more than you’d have believed!" Chunkytfg

13. Learn how to fix punctures

"When you install an inner tube, line up the valve with the logo on the tyres. It makes locating the cause of a puncture much easier." Pastryboy

So over to you – what's your top tip for commuting by bike? What do you wish someone had told you when you started? Let us know in the comments below.

Jamie Beach

Deputy Editor, UK
Jamie's been addicted to bikes from the moment his stabilisers came off. Earliest cycling memory is the chipboard-ramp-on-bricks, but happiest one is bombing down a Mallorcan mountain pass that seemed it might never end. Always on the hunt for the perfect rain jacket, a keen collector of hats.
  • Discipline: Road, gravel
  • Preferred Terrain: Big mountains with long climbs, equally long and fast descents, the chance to get above the treeline.
  • Current Bikes: Genesis Croix de Fer, Kona Cindercone
  • Dream Bike: BMC TeamMachine SLR01
  • Beer of Choice: Augustiner
  • Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

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