I have been commuting for about a month now. Soon I will break-even on the fuel savings I have made against the additional equipment I have bought.
People who think commuting is “free” are deluded. To commute properly, especially over the sort of distances I travel (44 km roundtrip), you need the right equipment and it needs to be maintained.
Racks, panniers and lights are needed. My rack was around £30, my cheap starter panniers around the the £40 mark, my SKS Raceblades were also in the same ballpark, and I have spent around £100 on lighting: (2 x Knog Blinders, and a SSC-P7 lamp). You need to be seen, and you need to see where you’re going.
I already had a yellow hi-vis cycling jacket, shorts, jerseys and base-layers. But these things get worn out quickly with regular all-weather riding — especially when you come off at the level crossing just outside Collingham! So replacements have to be funded.
I also had to invest in winter gloves, new shoes covers, and some arm and leg warmers. So as you can see, this gig ain’t free…
That said, I’ve halved my weekly diesel bill and I will continue to save every time I ride to work.
The thing is, every time I commute I learn something new and become a better cyclist. So I thought it would be cool to share a few tips on here.
You need lights, but they don’t have to cost the earth. Get a rechargeable blinker (front and back) and a cheap SSC-P7 headlight from Amazon or eBay. You will be amazed how powerful they are for around £30
Fenders (aka mudguards) are a must. Fenders will keep your bike and your legs much drier and cleaner. Grit and dirt in your drive chain or brakes will lessen the equipment’s lifecycle and create all sorts of annoying creeks and squeaks — I mistakenly bought Raceblades as the bike shop said they would be the only ones that would fit my disc brakes. A crock. You want a full length fender like the SKS Chromoplastic (I have just ordered some) or Crud RoadRacer Mk2
Don’t worry about weight. You want your bike to be reasonably light, especially if your commute has some climbs, but don’t get hung up on carbon or the most expensive lightweight gear. You’re going to be carrying a second set of clothes, some waterproofs, possibly a laptop and your lunch. So shaving a few grams off your bar-ends won’t really make that much difference. Also, replacing carbon parts is expensive if you take a fall (and you will)
Tyres. Tyres. Tyres. I have had two tumbles because my skinny race tyres are simply not up to the conditions. It’s November — the roads are slippery and the cycle trails are boggy. Today I ordered a pair of cyclocross tyres to see me through the rest of the winter. My slicks will have to sit this out
Baby wipes and roll-on deodorant. Keep these in your locker or desk. If like me, you don’t have a shower at work, you can keep fresh and clean for the work day. Keep a spare pair of socks at work too
Clean and lube. Depending on how far you’re commuting and the conditions, you’ll need to ensure your bike is washed down and properly lubricated. You don’t need fancy cleaning sprays, but a bucket of soapy water and/or a hose are a must. Remember to use a water displacing lubricant spray around your components and chain oil to keep the drivetrain running nicely in all conditions
Finally, have a healthy snack at hand. You’re using far more calories than being sat behind the wheel. You might not make it to your usual lunchtime — so don’t get caught buying crap from the vending machine. Have a box of cereals in your drawer or some fruit — refuel properly, don’t throwaway all your hard work
I’ll probably post some more tips from time to time, so do drop in or feel free to ask me any questions you might have.