How to Urban Commute by Bike – safely – by someone who actually does it!
(Not a government Health & Safety Department)
The health benefits of commuting by bike are multiple but easily undermined by the very high chances of being knocked down (or worse) by a car, van, bus, truck, pedestrian, moped and fellow cyclo-commuter.
- Wear a cycle helmet.
- Use protection. Commuting isn’t true road riding – normal rules do not apply – so wear a pair of MTB shorts like Endura Single Tracks, they’ll will protect from the worst road rash when the inevitable happens. They’ll also keep your backside drier (a bit). A cycle jakest
- Light-it-up. Be safe be seen the saying goes. Make like a Christmas Tree, channel your inner Mod and kit your ride out in lights. Lots of lights. Lights that flash, on your bars, seat post, chain-stays, rucksack, helmet – there are even lights that spin in your wheels lighting them up like flaming discs! Have fun being seen. Just don’t dazzle oncoming traffic. You don’t want to do anything to wind them up even more.
- Be paranoid. You have no friends on your commute. Other road users are probably not trying to kill you but ride like they are. Expect the unexpected. Just because you ride the same roads every day don’t get complacent, don’t employ auto pilot for a second. The urban jungle is an ever-changing environment that must be respected.
- Time isn’t important. Really it isn’t. Not the seconds even minutes you save by jumping a red light. It’s your choice to risk it. But it’s up there – top 3 – of the things people hate about cyclists. You’re fuelling the animosity directed towards your fellow cyclists, making their rides more dangerous too.
- Spread the love. That car that let you pull out, zip through, gave you space – let them know you appreciated it. A little wave or thumbs up is a refreshing change for everyone to the middle fingers waved and knuckles shuffled. Hopefully they’ll pass your love on to the next cyclist in their path.
- Fear the Blue Strip of Death. A highly-polished mahogany veneer liberally doused in goose-fat is only marginally more slippery than the blue surface that tops London’s Cycle Super Highways. On a cold London morning, laden with the blue-top has all the grip of an ice rink. Know your stopping distances. Every surface is different, from white lines, to manhole covers to gravel – memorise these traps, their whereabouts and what happens when your front wheel hits them.
- All you need now is to choose your perfect commuter ride.
- No frills. An aluminium framed entry level bike will see off the potholes, road grime and not be a heart-breaking loss when crashed. The Felt Z95, Giant Defy 5 or B’Twin Triban 520 will do nicely. They’ll also cover the miles at the weekends too.
- Keep it simple. If your commute is under 20km and mostly flat then a single speed will do nicely. They’re light, simple, low maintenance and most importantly they’re cool. To go faster you just pedal faster so you get a real fitness benefit too. The Kona Paddy Wagon is a good place to start or try single-speed.co.uk or for second hand try the lfgss.co.uk classifieds.
- Be sensible. The Boardman Comp Road bike with disc brakes is the perfect commuter choice. It’s great value, it’s got disc brakes so stops when you need it to, every-time.
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