Two wheels good: a beginner’s guide to commuting by bike
ave you ever noticed how cheerful your cycling colleagues are when they arrive at work in the morning? That’s because their commute is quicker and cheaper, they are full of endorphins from the exercise, and they have avoided being crammed on to hot, overcrowded public transport.
The good news is it’s actually very easy to follow their lead. Commuting by bike is an intimidating prospect for a lot of people, but it shouldn’t be. A surprisingly small amount of kit is required, starting, unsurprisingly, with a bicycle.
If you own one already, use that. Just make sure you check that there is air in the tyres and that the brakes are in good condition, particularly if you haven’t ridden it recently. Ask a cycling buddy to help, book it in for a service at your local bike shop, or find a tutorial on YouTube – basic bike maintenance is easy, even for total beginners.
If you don’t own a bike, consider a local cycle hire scheme. With 11,500 bikes, London’s Santander Cycles is the biggest in the country, but bikeshare systems are spreading, from nextbike in Glasgow, which is expanding this autumn, to Mobike and Ofo, which launched this summer in Manchester and Cambridge respectively and are set to expand further.
The government’s Cycle to Work scheme, meanwhile, offers big savings on the price of a new bike: your employer buys the bicycle, which you then “hire” from them through salary sacrifice (the savings come from the fact that you’re not paying tax and NI on the fees), and you buy it outright at the end of the 12-month hire period.
Once you have your bike sorted, there are a few other things to consider, in terms of clothing, accessories, and staying safe on the road. Front and back lights are a must – USB-chargeable ones avoid the hassle of changing batteries and are more environmentally friendly.