Cycling to work for beginners

Cycling to your work by bike is easier than you think
Commuter cycling to work in Leeds
Commuter cycling to work in Leeds

Cycling to work for beginners

Cycling to work is fantastic. It comes with a host of benefits for your health, wealth and the environment, but just knowing this may not be enough to help you start if you are nervous about trying it for the first time. Cycling UK's Cycle Friendly Employer Accreditation Project Manager James Palser shares his top tips and hints to help you overcome that initial hesitation.

Plan your journey  

One reservation I’ve heard many times for cycling to work is "I would but I’d have to ride around that roundabout or down that A-road". With some good planning it may be that you can avoid those bits of the route you want to avoid. While it may mean riding slightly further if you have to alternate from the direct route it will make your journey more pleasant. Try the Cycling UK journey planner for more help on planning your perfect route. 

Ask a colleague to cycle with you 

There may be a person who cycles in to work already who may be willing to chaperone you on your first week to work to give you confidence. Someone may know the best local routes to cycle in with quieter roads or shortcuts. You never know unless you ask.

It is worth remembering to check their cycling style and if they are going to be supportive of your beginner status before you arrange to ride with them though. The last thing you want is to find yourself sprinting just to keep up with them, or being taken down roads that a more confident cyclist considers acceptable but you are nervous of.  

It's never to late to learn

Cycling to work can be daunting if you haven’t done it before but there is a national scheme that can help with your confidence on the road. The Bikeability scheme is delivered across the UK to help develop the skills and awareness needed to ride on our roads.

Now you may be thinking "but I did my cycling proficiency test in school". Things have moved on a little from the cones in a playground you may remember and the training now is done in a range of settings tailored to the type of journeys you want to make. Even better news is that in many locations the training is delivered free of charge. For more information and to see if there are courses near you check out the Bikeability course finder.

Of course you may just want a refresher of the basics. If so our videos of how to prepare for a journey on your bike may help.

Make an agreement to start later and don’t book meetings first thing 

It sounds obvious but don’t try to start cycling in on a week where you have a big deadline or that all important meeting in the morning as that’s a recipe for disaster. Pick a day that is less pressured to be in at a certain time and maybe ask your boss for a little flexibility on when you arrive to work on your first cycling day.

Try the journey out on a weekend 

The roads on the weekend are less busy and motorists generally feel less pressure to get to their destination, so why not try the commute journey on a weekend. You can try the route, get a good estimate for how long it will take and maybe ride to your favourite café near work and treat yourself. 

Take some spare clothes to work 

If your commute is short you may not need to change your clothes, just ride a little slower and you arrive to work ready to go. However if you have the facilities to do so and you will feel more comfortable at work in fresh clothes, take a change of clothes with you. Remember too that if you have a very wet commute it may be a good idea to always have some spare clothes in work. 

Find out where the showers and facilities are

Finding out where the facilities are will save you some stress on your first day. You may need to sign up for a locker or find out where the showers are but that will be time well spent to make your ride to work that much simpler.  

Remember, you don’t have to do it all at once…

Cycling to work may be a big step for you so think about if you can build up to it over time. If on the first day you cover a small amount of the distance and take the train some of the way, you’ll still have achieved some thing great. Next time you can ride to the next stop and get the train, and before you know it you’ll cycle whole way from home ot work. Consider also that you may only want to ride in once a week to begin with and add more cycling trips over time. Again, that’s a great achievement and something you can build up from over time if you chose to.  

Take some lights 

It’s a legal requirement to have lights on your bike during specific times, and depending on the time of year and what time you travel to work that could impact you. Keeping a set of lights with you is always a good idea especially if you might get stuck at the office later than planned. My colleague Keir has put together this handy video to cover the basics you'll need to know. 

Be kind to yourself and enjoy it 

If the day you plan to ride has horrific weather, or you’re not feeling it, don’t worry. Just plan it again for another day. Cycling to work should be an enjoyable part of your day and not a thing to feel guilty about, in fact you should feel a sense of achievement that you’re now, most likely to be meeting the governments targets for physical activity.

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