The 3rd September 2015 is “national cycle to work day” in the UK. It’s a day that is trying to boost the number of regular cycling commuters to 1 million by the year 2021.
Who is this for?
In short, everyone. Those that already do the “bike to work” don’t require convincing. On the other hand there would be someone that see’s the advertising campaign and either likes the idea of it all, or they see the journey to work by bike as a challenge that they are up for. It’s a chance for the non regular cyclists to take their bike out of the shed, dust it down, lube it up and experience the world from a view that they’ll likely miss whilst driving their car or riding public transport.
How does it work?
The easiest way is that you hear about the day and you hop on your bike. If this then kickstarts your cycling to work habit, then the marketing guys have done their job. The other ways involve invoking a bit of old fashioned peer pressure toward friends, colleagues, employers or all three. You can go on the “national cycle to work day” website where you can pledge your own ride, and/or challenge someone else.
For those that have committed to the day and perhaps being a bike commuter in general, but are yet to take that first step, here are some checks that you should undertake to ensure that your bike is road ready.
- Check your front and rear brakes and ensure that there’s enough bite on the blocks so that the rear and front wheels raise up when the opposing brake is pulled. Ensure that there is no metal on metal sound when the brakes are pulled. If there is this sound, then your brake blocks will require replacing.
- Check the tread on your tyres, making sure that there’s enough to grip the road. If they are balding in spots, have gouges or splits on them, they will require replacing before you bike it.
- Ensure that the saddle is at the right height for riding. You should be able to sit on the saddle and be on tip toes at least for one foot. Tighten the seat post bolt making sure that you cannot rotate the saddle stem. The overall bicycle size must fit the rider and one way to ensure this is to set the saddle to the correct height.
- Tighten the handlebar bolts and stem bolts to make sure that there is no play.
- Test through the range or gears (if required), to make sure that they are shifting correctly. If there is an issue with the gears it could be a number of things from a stretched chain (which would require replacing, along with the rear cassette), or if you’re lucky it could be resolved by tightening the gear cable by adjusting the tensioner. Gears can be tricky if you’re not sure what you’re doing. If in doubt consult a professional.
- Check that the wheels are “true” (not buckled) and that there aren’t any loose spokes.
- Confirm that your pedals are secured onto the crank arm and that the crank arm is secured to the crank set. On my very first commute to work, one of the crank arms fell off. Scootering on a bike is not a cool look.
- Degrease your chain, front crank and rear cassette, making sure that they free of dirt and grime and then lubricate them using a lubricant of your choice. I use Fenwicks Degreaser to clean all my moving parts, then I lubricate them with GT85 which I find is a great wet lube for displacing water after degreasing and rinsing. Any other citrus degreaser’s should also be able to do the trick.
- Inspect the frame just to be sure that there is no damage to either the frame or the forks.
To start off with you will need at least one front white light and one rear red light. This Cateye set is a good low cost beginner set that will definitely ensure that you’re seen. It is usually common practice to strobe your rear light and have your front light constantly on.
If you are planning to jump start your bike commuting, then a you’ll need a few other accessories.
- A comfortable pair of padded cycling shorts is a must as the saddle does take it’s toll after a while. These Baleaf ones are a good entry level shorts.
- A helmet is a absolute must. It may not be the most stylish of things, but it is the last line of defence for your head in case you fall from bike. This Bell helmet offers protection and comfort. If not there’s plenty of other choices on the market.
- Some kind of hi-vis attire, either a backpack cover or a hi-vis top should be worn so that you’re more easily seen in low light conditions.
- I would invest in a few tools, namely a puncture repair kit and a multi-tool, in case emergency repairs are required. Any all in one pack can be a low cost option. Also a couple of replacement inner tubes are a must.
Those I would say are the absolute essentials. Beyond that, if you are serious about bike commuting then for winter I’d say invest in a winter coat, thermal bottoms and gloves. For those rainy days, waterproofs and in general a fitted cycling top is good for keeping you cool and they’ll go a long way to drawing moisture away from the body.
So what do you think of “National cycle to work day”? Do you think this will boost bike commuter numbers throughout the year? What tips would you give to those starting out as a bike commuter?
“Don’t limit your challenges. Challenge your limits!”
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