Saturday, 3 May 2014

So you wanna start riding to work/school etc? Part 2. You

The light nights and warm days are almost upon us, and some may be wanting to start cycling to work or to school.

Cycling will make any trip much more fun and pleasant than being in a car & what better way to round off a day in the office staring through the window at the sun than a bike ride home in it.

Riding a bike is simple and fun, And about the only special piece of equipment you will need is a bicycle. Here's some hints and tips which certainly for me make riding for transport a lot more pleasant and easier. Part 1 of this series covered the bike.

Do I need special kit? Nope.

You can easily and comfortably cycle in normal everyday clothes. If you are riding long distance or cycling for sport, then yea, don the lycra and cycle jerseys if you wish, but you don't need to for a short ride to the shops.

If it's warm, as there is nothing better than warm air on the legs, then walking shorts will be better than a pair of jeans, and less exhibitionist than a pair of lycra shorts. they often have plenty of zip up pockets for phones, money etc.

For colder weather, walking trousers are lighter and easier to ride in than jeans. If it rains while you are out they will not become as sodden for as long, although you can buy showerproof trousers as well. You can now even buy trousers from Marks and Spencer designed specially for cycling.

"Active" T-shirts designed for walking and jogging are often better than a heavy cotton t-shirt as they will wick away any moisture quicker and keep you feeling dry, and less smelly.

If you are cycling regularly, then investing in cycling shoes is wise as the soles are stiffened to maximise power transfer from feet to pedals, which also helps prevent foot fatigue and pain. A lot come in styles that look like normal walking/trekking shoes. Sizes vary so always best to try some on.

The other thing I always wear is a pair of cycling gloves. Gloves serve a variety of purposes.
Gloves improve your grip on the bars, and have padding for increased comfort.
Gloves usually have a towelling section for wiping your brow
Most importantly, if you do come off,  the natural reaction is to put your hand out. gloves can help against cutting or scraping your hands on the road etc.

Won't I be too cold or too hot? Possibly at times, but you wear several thin layers that you can peel off if necessary, rather than one mega-thick layer. When riding you will be creating your own inner heat anyway.

Won't I get wet all the time? It doesn't rain that often actually. Always carry a waterproof jacket unless you are just nipping to the corner shop. If it does rain, just grin and bear it.

Won't I get all sweaty, smelly and dirty? Possibly if you are really working it. If you ease back the effort a little bit and relax, then much less so. If you are riding to work etc, then a quick wash or a wipe down with wet wipes will easily freshen you up. You don't need a shower after every couple of miles riding.

If you are cycling regularly to work etc, then if possible keeping a change of socks/underwear and even keeping shoes and trousers at work saves having to lug them with you, and more importantly can be a blessing if you do get a soaking on the way in.

As for carrying everything, then stick it in the panniers you bought. Always line the panniers with tough plastic liners. You can buy expensive branded rucksack liners, but I recommend rubble sacks from the local supermarket.
Line the pannier with the sack, chuck everything in the liner, and then roll the top and tuck in, before closing the pannier. Unless you've pierced the liner, that will keep your gear dry through anything.
Always try and pack keeping the heaviest towards the bottom, and the lightest and most needed at the top

I've not mentioned helmets for a reason. Wearing one is a deeply personal choice.
I used to, but don't any more for regular riding as the risk is low. I'm equally at risk of tripping on uneven pavement walking to the shops, but don't wear a helmet for that. Helmets are of very limited and questionable use if a vehicle hits you as they are not designed for that.

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