With bike riding comes a certain amount of faff, and a large amount of gear. Aside from the bike you'll be riding, there's the specific clothing you need, lights that need to be charged, roadside essentials and spares such as tools and spares and on-bike nutrition that have to be organised. Making sure you've got everything together takes time and planning, and the more riding you plan to do, the more organisation is involved.
- 13 tips for cycling to work
- 30 reasons to take up cycling
- Women's Cycling reviews and products on BikeRadar Women
Anyone who's planning on riding regularly – whether for commuting purposes, training or just because – will know that there's a degree of groundwork that has to be done. Keep things ticking over with a little washing here, a spot of organisation there, and you'll find everything runs all the smoother, both literally and figuratively.
My cycling journey started with commuting to work and expanded exponentially from there. Along the way, through trial and error, I've got myself a little plan of action I try to follow to make my riding as smooth and hassle free as possible. Having everything ready to go is also a huge help when the weather is miserable outside, and the slightest obstacle might mean the difference between getting your ass outside and on the bike, and staying in instead.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
I am not a morning person. I find consciousness hard without caffeine. I'm often unable to muster the sufficient physical awareness to open both my eyes before I've swallowed half a mug of coffee. As a result, leaving my ride kit assembly to the morning of the ride is a no-go for me, as I'm generally not compos mentis enough to guarantee I won't forget something crucial.
I've paid quite literally for this in the past, having turned up to a trail centre several hours' drive away only to find I've forgotten my riding shoes. That is not a cheap mistake to make, but thankfully there was a decently stocked bike shop at the trail hub and I like to think I'm helping contribute to the local bike shop economy. Other mistakes include forgetting tyre levers; not expensive in terms of money, but wheeling a bike for an hour down a country lane in search of a bike shop certainly wasn't the exciting ride I'd had in mind.
5 top tips for the disorganised cyclist
As the saying goes: 'fail to prepare, prepare to fail'. So here are some of my strategies for getting organised – some learnt, some borrowed from others and some stolen from the internet.
1. Set up a lights charging station
Most lights these days charge via a USB cable, and you can get multi-USB ports that will allow you to charge most of your lights at the same time. Pop this somewhere handy, ideally next to where you store your bike, then you can pop your lights on to charge as soon as you get home.
Don't forget to turn these off once you're lights are fully charged, or you'll be wasting energy and costing yourself money.
2. Get a kit bag
That situation with my shoes as mentioned above would have been completely avoided if I'd got my kit bag together properly, with spares. It's not like I don't have older scruffy bike shoes around that wouldn't have done the job. Nowadays, I make sure I have one bag that has at least one complete set of kit in it, including shoes, gloves, shorts, jersey, jacket plus tools, pump, tubes and so on, over and above the kit I actually plan to ride in. That way, if I do manage to forget to put my new kicks in the bag, I'll have a back-up option.
Some swear by the ubiquitous blue Ikea bag, but I have to take my gear on the train sometimes so instead I use a medium sized duffel bag with rucksack straps.
3. Use a retractable key and pass holder
Fiddling about trying to find keys and work passes without dropping either them or your bike is annoying. Bung them on a retractable key chain, and you can clip them to your bag or jacket and never fear accidentally dropping them down a drain ever again!
4. Start a newspaper stash
If you've got one pair of shoes and you need to ride regularly, then drying them quickly is important. The very serious cyclist out there might invest in a boot warmer (genius invention!) but most of us make do with newspaper stuffed inside the shoes, plus a warm room with good air flow. You can also use nappies if you really need to get it dry quickly, but these do generate a fair bit of non-recyclable waste.
5. Empty and clean your water bottle or reservoir
No-one likes the idea of taking a swig of water only to have the horrible taste of week-old hydration drink fill their mouth. Don't forget to empty and rinse the bottle or reservoir, before you get little ecosystems growing in there. I speak from experience.
Don't forget the post-ride routine
It's oh-so tempting to fall in the door after your ride, strip off your sweaty kit and collapse onto the sofa, but if you ride regularly all you're doing is storing up work that will still have to be done before you head out again.
If you can get into a bit of a post-ride routine, you'll cut down the amount of time and effort needed to get back out riding again – particularly good news if you aren't a morning person!
1. Wash down the bike
If it's been mucky out, then give the bike a wash if you can, or a wipe down if you don't have outdoor space. Even a quick rinse down with a hose will help, as it stops the dirt drying onto the frame and drivetrain which would then require a lot more work to budge. Don't forget to put a little lube on the chain.
2. Stick your gear in the washing machine
Get your cycle kit straight in the wash and not only will that give it plenty of time to dry so it's ready to wear again, it'll stop it fermenting in the bottom of your laundry basket and cultivating lots of aromatic bacteria.
If you do happen to have enough gear not to need to do a wash every day, it's worth investing in a separate laundry basket so you don't end up mixing up your regular and bike clothes – accidentally washing your prized bib shorts on an 80 degree wash would be an expensive and disappointing mistake.
3. Put your lights on to charge
Got yourself a light charging station set up as mentioned? Pop your lights on straight away and you'll have fully charged lights ready to go in the morning.
4. Check your tyres
Give them a quick inspection to check for any debris, punctures and to make sure the pressure is up to scratch. It's wise to give this another check in the morning, but it's better to find out if there's a problem the night before you want to ride, rather than just before you set off.
5. Replace any used spares
If you ended up having to use a spare inner tube or chain link, make sure you replace it while it's fresh in your mind. That way you'll avoid getting caught short if it happens again.
6. Pack your bag the night before!
Whether you've got an early start to get to the trail centre, you want to get out on the road for a full day of riding, or perhaps most importantly you've got commuting to do, packing your bag the night before takes the stress out of the morning. Then all you'll have to do is roll out of bed, grab breakfast, put your kit on and roll out the front door.
Got any more helpful organisation tips? Pop them in the comments below!