How to Bike Commute Faster?

Bike commuting is certainly a healthy way to get to work but some people find that they want to make it a little bit quicker since it’s obviously not as fast as traveling by car or other motorised transport.

That said, it’s still possible to save time on your ride to work.

So, here’s the brief list of tips for how to bike commute faster:

  1. Fully Pumped Tires
  2. Leave lock at work
  3. Ride in Work clothes
  4. Use shower in a can
  5. Lock up closer to your office
  6. Avoid headwinds
  7. Clip helmet 
  8. Lights on your body
  9. Work and ride shoes. 
  10. Light clothes – less fear of sweating
  11. Change to narrower tires
  12. Road bike
  13. E-bike
  14. Folding bike + mixed transport
  15. Clip-in pedals
  16. Aerodynamic helmet

Some of these points need a little bit more explanation and context, so next up let’s check out a bit more on how to put these into practice.

Although they may not seem much, combining as many of these points as possible can shave valuable time off your bike commute, making it faster, more efficient and hopefully more fun.

Fully Pumped Tires

This simple change to your commuter bike can make you fly along the roads and surfaces on the way to work.

To do this most easily, get a bike pump with a pressure gauge. This will make pumping your tires fast, clear and easy.

I was super impressed by the bonus speed this gave me the first time I tried it, so definitely give it a go. I’d suggest pumping your tires every week for longer rides or every two weeks for shorter commutes.

Leave a lock at work

Leaving a bike lock at work helps you commute faster since you will be carrying less weight, and weight will slow you down.

Most good quality bike locks weigh around 3lbs, although some of the heavy duty ones can be as much as 6lbs! 

By leaving one of these locks around your usual locking up point at work, you can 

bike lock on stand left on floor
A bike lock left on the bike stand by a time-saving bike commuter.

Ride in work clothes

Wherever possible, riding on your cycle commute in your work clothes means saving a good chunk of time by not having to change clothes once you arrive.

To do this properly, you will want to drop down a layer or clothing on what you would normally wear since you will quickly warm up when riding to work.

I also recommend looking at the materials used in the clothes that you wear when riding to work as some will make you feel hot and sweaty very quickly, while others like cotton will let your skin breathe and keep sweat to a minimum.

Use shower in a can

If you often have a hot and sweaty ride to work, perhaps from commuting with hills, then the wonderfully named ‘shower in a can’ can be a great way to stay fresh and clean without having to spend time in a shower at work (if you are lucky enough to have one!).

This product does not need any water or a towel and cleans away bacteria and odors, leaving you feeling clean in no time at all, leaving you to get on with your day.

Lock up closer to your office

This subtle change to your ride can save crucial seconds or even minutes each morning, which can be the difference between getting into work on time and ready for a meeting and having to walk in late, apologetic and sheepish.

To do this, have a look around for any safe spots closer to your office that you could attach your bike to.

Remember to be responsible and not to block anyone’s access when doing this, as some over-zealous cyclists do at my work from time to time.

Avoid headwinds

To start, let’s be clear about what I mean by a ‘headwind’: a wind that blows directly in your face when riding. These kinds of winds can be demoralizing for a commute to work since they can make your ride much slower and require more effort.

If your bike commute often involves windy stretches, then look to change your route to avoid these kinds of winds.

Turning off at key points could provide shelter from buildings, trees or other elements, which can make a big difference to your effort levels.

This one might take some time to figure out, something which I’ve found as I’ve gone along, but doing it can help you keep your speed up and maintain some of your energy for later on in the ride.

Just remember to check the wind before setting off and think of your contingency route in advance.

Lights on your helmet

Getting bike lights that have a quick and easy strap to attach anywhere, this is a big help when bike commuting as you can attach them to your helmet, both front and back.

This helps save time because it means you don’t need to spend time attaching them when you leave and when you arrive.

This simple change can save another 30 seconds-1 minute each journey as you don’t have to rummage through bag or pockets to pull out your lights. 

It’s also nice because it means one less thing to forget as your lights are attached to your helmet, which it’s pretty hard to forget!

integrated rear like on bike helmet, displaying a bike commuter hack
My wife’s inexpensive commuter helmet with integrated rear light.

Work and ride shoes

Getting yourself a pair of shoes that double as work shoes and shoes for riding to work in means that you don’t need to change or even pack a spare pair, saving time on both accounts and again making your bike commute faster.

To get this right, look for shoes that are comfortable and subtle. I have found that Clarks offer a good range of shoes for this purpose, but you might find other brands that work.

These kinds of shoes aren’t that easy to find so once you get a good pair, be sure to treat them well or even buy a spare.

Light clothes – less fear of sweating

If you keep your clothes to being a layer lighter than what you’d normally wear, and get garments with the right materials, you should be able to push to a higher speed without the same fear of sweating.

Cotton garments are the best for normal clothes but you might find that polyester works too. There are also some premium bike commuter clothes out there on the market which are almost like sports clothes. Check out the Swiss brand Katusha’s range of premium commuter clothing to see what I’m talking about.

As a further tip, make sure that you get cycling-specific waterproofs to be sure that they are breathable and a loose enough fit so as not to make you hotter than you need to be!

Change to narrower tires

If your tires have thick tread, you can go a little faster on your ride to work by changing them for narrower tires for a boost in speed.

The smaller surface area gives you that bit quicker a ride, helping to ride to work in less time.

Remember that swapping out these tires can leave you with less grip, especially when turning, so take a little time to get used to any new tires before really putting them to the test for your next sprinting commute.

Also make sure that any tires you are planning to use meet the minimum requirements for your bike since buying new, narrower tires that can’t be used will only make you poorer, not faster!

Use a road bike

OK, this one might not be for everyone but if you really want to go fast on your commute, getting a road bike is the fastest option (and they don’t need to be expensive, as will be explained below).

These bikes are designed for speed, with a superlight frame, low-aerodynamic riding positions and super narrow, high-pressure tires that glide along a surface.

As a hybrid bike commuter myself, I am constantly overtaken by people on road bikes who look like they are making less of an effort than I am!

An easy way to get a road bike is by looking into a used one on a used goods marketplace like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. You can get road bikes for 30% of their sale price for taking one with a few scuffs or marks, which seems like a pretty good trade-off to me.

Change to an e-bike

Taking it up a notch, you could also look into switching over to getting an electric bike for your commute.

The pedal assist on these bikes means that you can go at a good speed with less effort for longer.

These are an ideal option if you want to go faster on your bike commute but don’t have the stamina or fitness level to do it just yet.

E-bikes are also great for anyone who has lots of hills to climb on a ride to work.

Folding Bike + Mixed Transport

Again, another change of bike option but this works well if you have a long cycle commute that seems like it’s going to take you hours.

By getting a good quality folding bike (get a used bike for a huge saving), you can then combine this with other transport options such as bus, train, metro or even your own car.

The point here being that you can ride, fold your bike, hop on, hop off, and ride again, all just with one bike and by getting the added time saving of traveling some of the way on public transportation.

For the best quality folding bikes, look into getting a Brompton. To take this to the next level for speed, look at an electric folding bike, which Brompton also have with lots of positive reviews online.

Clip-in pedals

This simple tip came from a friend preparing for an ironman race (yeah, I know – not quite the same as a bike commute so bear with me!).

He said that having clips on your bike pedals, even hybrid or commuter bikes with regular shoes, can make your ride that bit faster and efficient given that the clips mean that your foot pull one pedal through the half of the rotation where it would normally be reliant on your other leg to push it back up (if that makes sense!)

These clips can be attached to almost all bikes and do not need you to get clip-in shoes (or ‘cleats’) to go with it as there are quite a simple versions out there to suit the everyday cycle commuter.

I don’t use these but plan on getting a pair, although I’ve seen many a rider nearly fall off their bike when stopping abruptly while clipped in using cleats. As such, if you’re thinking of going down that more serious route, take the time to get used to them before venturing out into the rush-hour traffic.

Aerodynamic helmet

This one is more for the sprinters out there but getting an aerodynamic helmet can save a few seconds on your bike commute.

You’d really only want to consider this if you have, or plan on getting, a road bike as they complement the said bikes well.

If not, it’s not really worth looking into this as it’s definitely one of the more marginal gains on this list!

Related Questions

What do I need to bike to commute? A working bike that suits your route, some waterproofs for your upper and lower body, bike lights for low-light or dark conditions and a good helmet make for a good starting list when bike comuting.

If you want to see a little more on this, check out these bike commuter essentials to help you get fully prepped for riding to work.

How can I cycle faster on a flat? Tuck lower on your bike for less wind resistance, or use drop handlebars to get lower. Raise your seat post to get more power on each pedal with your legs. You can also pump your tires up to max PSI. Combining all of these should help you to go that bit faster.

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