Gradually the UK is returning to some normality. As the Government persists in advising the population of a new normal, many are apprehensive to enlist in their daily commutes once again. As a result, many are seeking alternatives to public transport and investing in bicycles. With the right gear and knowledge, and with summer in full swing, now is the best time to trade in your car keys and travel card and tackle a cycling commute to work. There are several benefits to cycling, not just for your health, but financial reasons too (as well as a smug sense of satisfaction as you glide past all that rush hour traffic). When contemplating purchasing a bike, people often ask similar questions. What if my bike gets stolen? What if it rains? What if I hate lycra? Here, Stephen Booth at Autowise is on hand to give his expert advice for first time commuters. ‘First time riders have a lot to take in. It can be overwhelming, especially if it’s the first time you’ve ridden since your childhood and every bike you look at online costs £999. Just remember that above all, safety is the most important thing when riding on the road’.
The right bike for you
If you know nothing about bikes, picking the right one for you can feel like a monumental challenge. There are a million options, and they range from £150 to £1000+ So, where do you begin? Booth believes it is simple. ‘Talk to people. Look online and see what other commuters have bought before you. If you have friends who already commute ask where they first started, and what worked. Failing all that, the best thing to do is go to a store and ask there. You will find lots of helpful experts who get asked “Where do I start?” daily, so they will know which direction to guide you. The staff that work in bike stores usually hold an excellent knowledge of bikes as it is their hobby as well as their career.’ Anything that is a big no-no? ‘Don’t just pick a bike because you like the style or colour. It has to fit your commute, so if you’ve got lots of hills don’t opt for a single speed bike’.
You are not a pedestrian
We have all heard horror stories of cyclists being shouted at by rush hour drivers, so what can you do to avoid problematic journeys? ‘Cyclists get a bit of a bad rep for being with regards to following the rules of the road, and although there are a number of people who flout the guidelines, you don’t have to be one of them. Before you tackle the road, you should invest time into research on the dos and don’ts of cycling. Although most of the rules are well-known, and pretty straightforward, some will surprise you. Knowing road safety is vital, for yourself and for others – plus having other cyclists tut at you is very annoying! Once you have an understanding it’ll also help you feel more comfortable with what you don’t want to tackle. Don’t feel happy riding through the big cross junction? Plan a route that cuts it out’.
Lights, helmets, action
There seems to be a million and one accessories on bike websites, from helmets to energy bars, but what does a newbie cyclist need for road safety? ‘You’ve probably seen people riding without helmets and thought ‘isn’t that breaking the law’? Well, a helmet isn’t a legal requirement when riding a bike, and there’s actually a fierce debate in the cycling community about whether or not we need extra protection, or to create safer environments. For me, helmets are a must – the human head is pretty important after all. There are many different styles, so shop around until you find the right design for you. Lights on the front and back of your bike are also essential, as well as clothing that helps you stand out on the road. Another vital thing is a bell – you are going to be amazed at how many people step off a pavement without looking! You’ll be ringing that bell daily. Finally, a good lock is well worth investing in for when you leave your bike unattended.’
As with all exercise, one of the big things that put people off if the fear of not thinking you’re fit enough to do it. So how do you go from not cycling at all to cycling a 40-minute commute? ‘I’ve spoken to lots of people over the years, and the main concern I hear from people is this one. If you live only a few miles from work, it is possible that you can commute both ways on the first day. If it’s a longer journey, think about maybe doing it only one way at first. From there, you can set a target of 3 to 4 days a week, as opposed to everyday. After a while your muscles will adjust, and you can start cycling daily. It’s all about doing what works for you, and not what other people are doing’
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