Cycling to work is undoubtedly fun, but it can also have its hassles for the average bike commuter.
Carrying bags, hygiene, rainy days, poor weather and busy roads, among other things, can make riding your bike to work feel a little harder than usual.
However, I’ve got you covered and have worked through all the issues mentioned above, which I wanted to share with you.
So, here are 12 ways to make your bike ride to work easier:
- Use rear rack for bags
- Practise outside of work time to build up
- Fuel up with the right food and drink
- Wear work clothes
- Get it serviced while you work
- Use an ebike for long or hilly routes
- Save time locking up with a folding bike
- Allow more time than you think you need
- Leave earlier to beat the rush
- Leave spare clothes at work
- Optimize your bike (and gear) for comfort
- Leave a lock at your work
Use Rear Rack for Bags
A rear rack, or pannier rack, is probably the best thing you can add to your commuter bike set up for regular riding to and from work.
I see a lot of people who bike commute with a backpack, but this is really not a good idea, especially in the long term or if you are an office worker and spend much of your day sitting.
The first reason why backpacks are not recommended is because they give you a sweaty back very easily, regardless of how expensive they are (and I can tell you, there’s a lot of ‘expensive commuter’ backpacks on the market!). This means arriving at work feeling smelly and unhygienic, not a good start to anybody’s day!
The second reason I would not recommend a backpack because they can cause strain and back pain, which is even more noticeable when you are riding on a bike.
This in turn means that you cannot carry much in your backpack because it really affects your riding position and ability when cycling.
As you may already be aware from your current job, sitting all day can cause back pain and discomfort, so why take the risk of using a backpack on your bike commute that may only make things worse!
However, using a rear rack or pannier rack avoids this altogether In that it means placing your bags, and therefore weight, on the rear of your bike and not on your back!
You will need a special bag to go on this rack, commonly called the pannier bag, but these are not as expensive as most of the cycle commuter backpacks and are actually quite versatile.
If you currently use a ride road bike to ride to work, you can still get a rear rack that attaches to the seat post on your bike. These do not hold quite as much weight as a standard rear rack that mounts to the frame on most other bikes, but they are still a better option than getting a backpack.
The only other slight downside is that any rear rack will make you feel a bit slower because of the weight on the rear of the bike, but it’s weight that you would carry anyway, just in a less strenuous way.
You can see my detailed and helpful guide on the bags and pannier bags that I recommend for cycling to work here.
Practise outside of work time to build up
Another way to make your bike commute easier is by practising outside of your work time is to both become familiar with the route and build up your fitness.
By becoming familiar with your route to work, you will feel more relaxed and more aware of what is going on around you, especially in relation to traffic and other road vehicles.
The first few times that you cycle to work can be quite draining mentally, so think about this and take the time to do a few practice runs.
This is particularly helpful when you do your practice runs to work outside of rush hour because you then give yourself the chance to just get familiar with the turns and directions, leaving the rush hour traffic to another day.
The other advantage of practicing cycling to work in this way is that it can also help you to build up your fitness levels.
This means that you get an idea of how fit you are in relation to your cycling route to work before you try and do it. I can tell you from experience that trying to do it on a Monday morning without a practice run can be stress-inducing and quite daunting!
If you don’t want to end up in a sweaty, frustrated and tired mess on your first time by commuting, then I suggest you do several of these practice runs outside of work time.
You might also find that you cannot complete the journey easily given your current levels of fitness. If that is the case, then there are two things that you can do. The first thing you can do is to just take it easy and keep working on those practice runs until you feel able to do them on a work day. this might take a while but it will be preferable to going to work before you are ready on your bike.
The second thing you can do is to build up your cycling fitness through using an exercise bike or going to a spin class at your local gym. This is a quick and efficient way to build up the muscles needed for cycling, although it still won’t quite make up for the experience of cycling through busy traffic.
There is one last point to note here – if you are trying to commute over a long-distance, then it might be wise to cycle part of the way and drive or use public transportation for the rest. You can see more on this in the dedicated steps that I’ve written on a previous blog post about long-distance bike commuting here.
Fuel up with the right food and drink
As well as considering your fitness levels, you’ve also should think about your nutrition and diet when it comes to making your cycle to work a little easier.
I should say that I am not a nutritionist, but I do have an interest in diet and have done lots of things to help me have a better day both at work and on my bike.
One of the things I have read about constantly is the need for or a breakfast that will sustain you throughout the day, and this often comes back to having breakfast that contains natural sources of protein and natural fat.
I have found that having something like an egg and half an avocado, to go along with other parts of my breakfast, really help me to stay energized when I’m doing physical activity (including bike commuting) first thing in the morning.
You might also find that you benefit from avoiding sugars and heavy carbs first thing in the morning as these can cause a momentary spike but then leave you feeling quite tired and lethargic thereafter.
As you may already be doing, coffee can be a great kick start to your day and help you to feel energized. however, be careful not to use coffee in the way that I sometimes do which is to mask a lack of sleep – this only comes back to haunt you later on!
For an added health kick with your coffee, I would personally recommend going for a good quality black coffee with some fresh ginger added in for a nice immune system boost.
You can also see more bike commuter snack ideas in this full post to get you energized and fueled up!
Wear work clothes
Another really simple way to make bike commuting easier is to wear your work clothes while you write a work.
Now I know that this might not work for everyone since it is really suited to those with shorter flatter routes to work. However, using an e-bike is one option that can make things that bit easier for those of you with longer, more intense rides to work.
But the main point here is that many people think that they need to change into cycling clothes in order to be able to bike commute. I can tell you that, if you have the right clothes and a bag on your rear rack, then a lot of the time there is no need to change clothes.
This both saves you time and money, since you don’t need to change or buy expensive cycling gear, and it also makes bike commuting that much more appealing because there’s one less step in the process.
The key thing about wearing work clothes while bike commuting is that you need to think about the material, because some materials are not readable at all and will be really uncomfortable.
As a tip, look for work clothes made from cotton as the best option but polyester can work as well. You might find that woolen clothes and other heavier materials can work in colder months of the year but it’s all about trial and error and seeing what works for you.
Get it serviced while you work
If you are like me, you might dread the thought of servicing your bike on a regular basis because it takes you a long time and it can be quite stressful.
However, it is really easy to get your bike serviced at your local bike store and, just like a car, they can do it while you are at work. But, the best bit, it is much cheaper than a car service!
getting your bike serviced at regular intervals is a great way to keep it running smoothly on the road and reliably. I ignored this advice for a long time and used to have gears that slipped especially on Hills causing me stress and to almost fall off several times.
By simply going to your local bike store, you can avoid any issues before they occur and support a local business while also getting your bike serviced and an extremely efficient and practical way.
You could think of this as a quarterly event, although I generally only go twice a year as I have quite a short cycle to work. Perhaps the best way to think about it is in terms of mileage, knowing how far your cycle to work is in miles you can then make a rough estimate of how many hundreds of miles, or thousands perhaps, before you will get your next service, and convert that into months.
Use an ebike for long or hilly routes
If you are struggling to cycle to work because you have a long or hilly journey, then electric bikes are by far the easiest solution for you.
These bikes have a pedal assist motor which will help you to ride up to a certain speed, which is currently 28 miles per hour in the USA.
This consistent light push, which only assists when you are pedaling I should add, can make your bike commute that much less strenuous and more appealing compared to a normal bike climbing hills and getting sweaty!
If you are thinking about getting an electric bike for your commute, be sure to check out my in-depth guide to getting the right e-bike for your commute.
Save time locking up with a folding bike
Another type of bike that can help you on your bike commute is a folding bike. Now, if you are happy with the type of bike you already have, then you might want to skip on to the next section.
However, if you are looking for a convenient bike that can save you time locking up and that will be the most secure that you can get, then a folding bike is the perfect solution.
These bikes fold up and can come inside with you, or even on public transportation, so you do not need to waste time either locking them up or stressing about them getting stolen.
By far the best folding bikes on the market for bike commuters are Brompton bikes because they are not only designed extremely well but they are also the most compact and easiest bikes to fold currently out there.
With a Brompton, you can quite easily store your bike under your desk while you work without even noticing it, and transition between folded and riding in less than 20 seconds. Because of the Brompton quality standards and products they have built quite a reputation with cyclists around the world, both commuters and not, and also for people even going longer distances, so don’t count them out regardless of your journey.
Allow more time than you think you need
Another tip that can make your bike commuting a little bit better is to always allow a little more time than you think you need.
There are several things that can arise on your bike commute journey, like strong winds or a sudden rainfall, which can add time to your journey despite your best laid plans.
I would therefore recommend adding about 20% more time to your estimated journey time than you think you need.
This will not only mean that you’ll probably get to work early, but also will make your bike commuting journey more relaxing and less stressful. Having a more positive experience on a more regular basis will make you more likely to cycle to work!
Leave earlier to beat the rush
In addition to the point above about time, leaving earlier can also make your bike commuting journey a lot more enjoyable.
If you get out just 20 minutes ahead of when you might normally ride, you can often see a noticeable decrease in the amount of cars on the roads.
You will feel less stressed and safer when riding with fewer cars. You will also benefit in the long-run from the reduced levels of air pollution on the roads at that time.
You might actually have to leave a bit more than 20 minutes earlier to beat that kind of Rush, but avoiding the peak of the rush hour traffic can go a long way to making your cycling experience a lot more pleasant.
Leave spare clothes at work
Another simple tip that can greatly improve your cycling to work is to leave spare clothes at work. now, before I lose you and you think “Oh my god, I could never do that – my boss would go crazy!”, there are a few ways that you can do this that are extremely subtle and will not make you stand out at all.
The best items of clothing to leave at your office or place of work are things like sweaters, spare pairs of socks, work shoes and one spare shirt or blouse.
Sweaters are good because they are bulky items and also you can wear them for a few days, so you do not need to carry them in your bike bags every day, especially as they will often be too thick or warm for you to wear on your bike commute.
Spare socks work well in case of any heavy downpours or big puddles you happen to ride through on your bike!
Keeping your formal work shoes at work can be done easily in a shoe bag either under your desk or in a drawer. This will then allow you to cycle to work in sneakers or sports shoes that are comfortable for you and don’t hurt your feet. Changing your shoes once at work is quite discreet and can be done changing your shoes once at work is quite discreet and can be done easily and quickly without leaving your desk.
To keep a shirt or blouse at work, you can again keep these in a draw in something like a garment pouch with a garment folder. These garment pouches and folders are also particularly useful for transporting your clothes because they should fit inside your bike bags and keep your clothes wrinkle-free. For a quick and easy guide on packing clothes for bike commuting check out the article over here!
With all of these tricks and techniques, you can quite easily store several items of clothing at work and be discreet about it, even with the most stressful of bosses.
Optimize your bike (and gear) for comfort
Probably the most overlooked thing in making bike commuting simpler is to maximize the comfort you get while riding your bike to work.
As mentioned in the previous section, you can easily swap comfy shoes for your formal work shoes when you arrive, so definitely wear the appropriate footwear for cycling that feels comfortable and also breathable. if you can, you might be able to find a pair of shoes that work for both purposes, but these are pretty rare in my experience! if you do find a pair, I’d recommend buying two of them because models of shoes don’t often stay on the production line for very long and brands very frequently change the models and designs.
Another simple hack is to get a comfier bike seat.
A gel seat or a premium leather seat can make a huge difference to your cycle to work experience, and therefore make you more likely to do it.
The extra comfort and padding here goes a very long way. Gel seats are soft and mould to your body, while leather seats last a long, long time and also mould but take a bit longer to do so.
You might also find that you can buy cycling shorts or pants that have these padded inserts which you could also wear, although you would probably need to change from these once you get to work.
Leave a lock at work
A simple hack that you can do for your bike commuting experience is to leave a lock at your place of work.
This is particularly helpful if you find that your luck is weighing you down and something you always worry that you might forget.
Obviously, this would mean that you need to buy an extra lock, but the reduced hassle might well be worth it in the long run.
You can easily leave a lock on a bike stand or any lock up and it will be fine 9-letter overnight and for long periods of time outdoors.
The only thing that you might want to do periodically is to spray your lock mechanism with some WD-40 to make sure that the moisture has not caused any problems inside.
Can electric bikes be used in the rain? Yes, most e-bikes can be used in the rain but some of the cheaper or older versions might state that they cannot. This is likely because of the battery and the protection used. Be sure to search on the product description before buying an e-bike.
Sites like Amazon show this information if you dig around for it.
Where to put your keys when cycling? Keeping keys in your bag is definitely the best place for them while cycling because if you fall and they are in your pocket it can make your fall even worse and break the skin or give you a dead leg.
If you don’t have a bag, buy a small one to fit onto your handle bars – you will thank yourself for it later on!