If you’re not riding into work on two wheels on the morning of 13th September, you’re going to feel seriously left out. Wednesday is nationwide Cycle To Work Day, an occasion organised by the Cycle To Work scheme which – while it can be a bit complicated – basically offers discounts and loans on bikes via your employer.
If you’ve been considering joining the hundreds of thousands of people that already regularly commute by pedal, this is the day to give it a whirl. To ensure your ride goes to plan, take this advice from pros on board for the best commute possible.
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If You’ve Never Considered Cycling to Work
“If this is your first cycle commute, get ready for it to change your life. No, really. If it’s just a short ride, then you’ll quickly discover that it’s the quickest method of transport you’ve ever taken to work. If it’s a longer one, you’ll definitely notice yourself arriving more awake, more productive and generally feeling ready for action.” – Neil Davis, co-owner of Tokyobike shop in Fitzrovia, central London
“Bikeability training is available across the UK [and it’s free]. Getting some training can really help instil confidence and introduce you to like-minded individuals to ride with. There are several layers of training from absolute can’t-ride-a-bike, through using the road safely, to advanced skills. It’s definitely worth looking into.” – Chris Boardman, The Chris Boardman
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Planning a Route
“There are now segregated cycle routes in London which are safe and direct. There’s also a network of back-street cycle routes so you can avoid busy main roads and nasty junctions which can be off-putting to cycle on. You can plan a quiet route on the LCC website by using our journey planner.” – Amy Summers, campaigns co-ordinator at London Cycling Campaign
“The route builder on Strava’s website uses heat maps to colour-code the most popular roads for cycling. The deeper red the stretch of your journey, the more it has been ridden. Record your ride using our smartphone app and tag it as a commute to help spread the word.” – Simon Klima, director of local marketing at Strava
“Download the Citymapper app. You should always try to plan a route using the back roads of your city – they’re far safer and there’s less smog to contend with – and this app is great for that. It’ll guide you round fast, quiet or slow bicycle routes.” – Frank C, mechanic at Look Mum No Hands! bike workshop and café, and founder of photo blog Velosteel
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“It’s easy to tell a first-time cycle commuter – they’ll have the oil tattoo. Roll up your right trouser leg or pull your sock up and over to stop yourself from earning a black stain on your slacks. It’ll feel daft at first, but not as daft as a wardrobe filled with oil-soiled trousers.” – Kitty Pemberton-Platt, social media manager at cycling wear brand Rapha
“There’s a fine line between keeping your speed up and not treating your commute as a race. When I ride, I try to maintain a pace that keeps me in the flow of traffic, to prevent cars needing to overtake me. But it’s important to take your time too – cycling to work can and should be stress-free and fun.” – Adam Garrett, co-founder of Cloud 9 Cycles bike shop in Bloomsbury, central London
“You don’t necessarily need need to wear special clothes – you can cover around five miles in 30 minutes going at a moderate pace without breaking a sweat, so I just wear my normal work clothes on my commute. Some people choose to wear something a bit more practical, like a wicking top or cycling shorts in case they want to go faster, or are riding a bit further.” – Amy Summers
“You need a cycle cap. Any brand will do. Get loads. Wear one whenever you ride, and change them as often as you change your underwear. They keep the sun from your eyes, the sweat from your brow and the hair from your face – and they look cool, too.” – Ian Patterson, manager of Cycle PS bike shop, café and bar in Battersea, London
“You’ll need two good locks, and you should make sure the frame and both wheels are secured. It’s advisable to get your bike marked by the police at a free marking session, and you should ideally spend 10-20% of the value of your bike on locks. [For more, see LCC’s advice on how to lock your bike properly]” – Amy Summers
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“Avoid walking into the office with a sweaty back by removing the load from your shoulders and popping it on the front of your bike with a front rack. Rear racks are eminently practical, but normally they require specialist pannier bags and perhaps give off too much of a touring look for some. Front flat ‘porter’-style racks let you strap down your regular bag where you can see it.” – Nick Hawker, founder of Soho Bikes, a bike shop and café in Soho, central London
“If you’re pulling your brake levers and hearing a scraping sound or you have to pull all the way back to get the brakes to make contact, it’s time to replace your brake pads. This is one of the most important repairs to do, but a friendly local bike shop will be able to do it in minutes.” – Andreas Kambanis of londoncyclist.co.uk
“The Altus Multi-Tool is a small and lightweight must-have for any cyclist. The case has a magnetic workspace to prevent losing Allen heads and it even fits an inner tube.” – Ian Patterson
“If you fancy a stop, the Norwegian Bakery in Soho is a great place to pedal towards. They make the best sweets I have ever tasted!” – Adam Garrett
“You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to a mid-ride flat white in London, but my picks would be Regent’s Park Cafe, Gail’s Bakery on Swains Lane, Dynamo Café in Putney, Fields Beneath in Kentish Town or Rapha London in either Soho or Spitalfields.” – Kitty Pemberton-Platt
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