Essential Guide to Commuting by Bicycle in the UK

Thinking of cycling to work? I’ve been commuting by bicycle to work for more than six years and I’d love to share a few tips on choosing the right bike. I’ve also included my essential list of accessories that will hopefully make cycling in the UK easy, safe and enjoyable for you.

Choose the type of bike that suits you best.

Almost any type of bike will take you places but there will be only one that suits you best. A decisive factor would be where you would be cycling, in relation to road surface. Would you be cycling in a city (asphalt and concrete) or countryside (rough ground)? If the second, you’ll need a mountain bike because it’s tough and manoeuvrable. Otherwise, you’ll need a road bike because it’s speedy.

Bicycle Types

There are various types of road bikes to choose from (racer, fixie, hybrid, folding, electric) and factors that will influence your decision include frame size, weight, gearing and suspension. To be comfortable when mounting and riding the bike, there should be about 2cm between your crotch and the frame when stood over the bike.

Road bikes are designed to be used exclusively on tarmac roads. They are suitable for racing and long distance riding.

A fixie or Single Speed Bike has only one gear which in turn makes the bike quite light, reliable and easy to maintain. The faster you pedal, the faster it goes.

Hybrid bikes combine the best of mountain and road bikes in one package. They are comfortable and fast.

If you need to take your bike up stairs, on a train, or store it somewhere with limited space, you may consider buying a folding bike.

If your physical fitness level is low, you may benefit from an electric bike. It has a battery and motor that will give you an extra push when cycling uphill.

Essential cycling apparel and accessories.

1. Helmet

Accidents happen. Prioritize your safety and get a helmet. It will reduce the risk of head injury during a fall or collision.

2. Lock

You must lock your bike before you leave it at a public place or parking rack. The sturdier the lock, the more protected your bike. I’d recommend U locks over cable locks.

3. Lights

You must be visible when riding in the dark, especially in autumn and the winter when days are short. You need a front (headlight) and rear light. I use a rechargeable super bright headlight by SolarStorm, and a strong red back light by CatEye.

4. Mudguards

Due to UK’s unpredictable weather, you need to attach mudguards on your bicycle to prevent your shoes and back from getting wet and dirty at any time of the year. I have Zefal Swan & Croozer mudguards which are sleek and effective.

5. Waterproof Clothing

To keep yourself dry when cycling to work, you need at least a weatherproof cycling jacket and maybe trousers, both high visibility if possible.

6. Backpack

You need a cycling backpack or side bag to carry your work clothes and lunch with you.

7. Tyre Pump

A bicycle pump is the most important tool you should have in case your tires gets a little soft. Presta pumps are compatible with road bikes, whereas schrader pumps are compatible with mountain bike. I own and highly recommend getting a Vandorm universal pump. If you plan on repairing you bike yourself, I suggest getting a basic puncture kit and a set of keys. It’s always good to keep a valve adapter too.

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