Guide to cycling to work

Cycling to work is easier than you think
Commuter cycling to work
Commuter cycling to work
Nik Hart's picture

Guide to cycling to work

Cycling to work comes with a range of benefits, but the first time can be a bit daunting. Cycling UK’s Cycle Friendly Employer accreditation project manager James Palser shares his top tips and advice to help you overcome that initial hesitation

Cycling to work is fantastic. It comes with a whole host of benefits for your health, wealth and the environment, but just knowing this might not be enough to help you start if you are nervous about trying it for the first time. But you don’t have to be worried; just follow our advice and you’ll wonder why you ever had any doubts.

Use a cycle route planner

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, though, 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 and visit CycleStreets to plot your journey from A to B.

A cyclist cycling in the cycle lane as she passes traffic
Plan your cycle route

Ask a friend to cycle with you

There may be a person who already cycles into work 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 use, quieter roads or shortcuts. You never know unless you ask.

It’s worth checking 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 to keep up, or being taken down roads that a more confident cyclist considers acceptable but of which you are nervous.

Cycling training for beginners

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 programme 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.

You may just want a refresher of the basics. If so, our videos explaining how to prepare for a journey on your bike may help.

Three adult trainee cyclists being led by a trainer
Road cycle training for beginners

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
  • Ask your boss for a little flexibility on when you arrive to work on your first cycling day.

Try the route out on a weekend

The roads on the weekend are less busy and motorists generally feel less pressure to get to their destination, so if you have the time test your journey on a weekend.

  • Test the route you’re going to cycle
  • Get a good estimate for how long it will take
  • Maybe ride to your favourite café for cyclists 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 in fresh clothes, take a change of clothes with you.

  • Cycle slower so you don’t have to change your clothes
  • Take a change of clothes with you
  • If you have a very wet cycle commute it may be a good idea to have some spare clothes in work.

Find out where the office showers and bike 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 the whole way from home to 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.

Take some bike 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 something 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.

Cycle insurance

Unfortunately, incidents do occur both on and off the bike. So for peace of mind, and to protect you and your cycling possessions, you may want to consider insurance. Cycling UK works with Yellow Jersey and Pedal Cover to offer cycling insurance for members and non-members.

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