I live in the countryside, bordering the Cotswolds and have to get into central Birmingham everyday for work. I’ve managed to put off learning to drive for many years and only now am I getting there, but I’ve not taken the test as yet. This means that regardless of the weather, I have to use my bike every day!
This winter we’ve had some…interesting weather. I’ve cycled in cross winds, driving rain and some of the calmest dry evenings as well. It’s been quite rare for it to be properly cold though, only a few mornings has the Garmin gone below 0 degrees, far better than last year!
I’m sure I manage to do all my commuting completely at odds to most people, but that’s the source of my individual style!
1 – I ride my full carbon bike in every day because I like zipping around on it. It gets dirty, it gets rains on but I can get to the train station very quickly if I feel like it (I averaged 25mph with a tailwind into town today for instance). Now I know this flies against all accepted wisdom but riding’s about enjoying yourself!
2 – wearing the right gear is important, I spent all Summer cycling in wearing a suit (no blazer) with rolled up sleeves on an old steel racer. Sure I looked good but it was fairly impractical. These days it’s the full proper cycling get up with the bib tights for winter and the bag on my back with the work clothes. I just need to think of a way to get ride of the work bag now…
3 – Give yourself plenty of time in case of mishaps to reach the train station (if work is your destination, you can just be late…missing a train is far worse!). In the last year I’ve had a couple of mishaps…a crank arm has fallen off, various punctures, brake stuck on and I’ve still usually made my train by giving myself 10 minutes spare. The crank falling off meant I had to cycle back one-legged for 2 miles to do get the tool to tighten the crank arm to then carry on, I did miss the train that time…
4 – Getting wet, can’t get away from it, no matter what you do or wear, just harden up, save some money and take it.
5 – Lights, get the best front light that you can afford, do not be a cheap skate about this one piece of kit. Expect to spend about £65-100 or more for a decent one. Rear lights, something reliable and without AAA batteries in it will be perfect. Avoid Halfords and Poundland.
6 – Mudguards, yes! No doubts here.
7 – Hi-vis stuff, optional, depends entirely on how competent and confident you are as a cyclist.
8 – Finally, ride to work a couple of times a week and you’ll see a huge improvement in your cycling. Cycle each working day and you’ll have a healthy amount of base miles to work with before you even do proper training rides!