Essential Guide: Cycling to Work

Cycling has always been a great way to travel to work for those able to do so. It offers many personal benefits, such as improved health and cost savings. It also offers significant benefits to the environment and local community, helping to take cars off the road, reducing pollution and reducing congestion.

For those new to cycling to work, here are a few top tips to help you get started.

Let’s start with the bike!

One of the great things about cycling is that as long as you have a bike in good working condition, you are good to go!

Many people already have a bike, which may be used for leisure cycling, or even stuck at the bottom of the garden shed. All you need to do is dust it off and you are ready to go. If your bike is in need of some TLC, see our various pieces of advice on bike maintenance to get yourself back on the road, or keep an eye out for one of the Dr Bike sessions at NGP.

If you need a new bike, it is worth considering what type may suit you best. There are a range of bike types available, including folding bikes, hybrid bikes, road bikes, and even e-bikes. Take a look at our handy commuter bike buying advice. You should also find out if your employer has a Cycle to Work scheme in place, they allow you to save some serious cash when it comes to buying a new bike, through a salary sacrifice arrangement. If the Cycle to Work option isn’t for you, don’t forget to check out the offers for residents, for discounts available on the cost of a new bike.

And don’t forget, a new bike doesn’t have to be ‘new’. There are loads of perfectly good second hand bikes available to buy, some of which may have been recycled through a local community cycling company. Check out our advice on buying a second hand bike.

Check out your workplace facilities

Many workplaces have excellent facilities for cyclists. Don’t just think cycle parking … think cycling spas, clothes drying facilities, laundered towels and free shower gel! But clearly, not all facilities are this good, and some journeys by bike to work need more planning than others.

Check out the facilities available at your workplace, and ensure you prepare yourself for the journey ahead. Understand where you will park your bike, and what type of lock you may need. Understand what facilities are available, and what you may need to carry with you. Can you take some fresh clothes and smart shoes with you in advance, saving the need to carry them?

If your workplace doesn’t have the facilities you need, don’t just suffer in silence. First of all, raise it with your employer. It can be in their interest as well as yours if you cycle to work, so they may be willing to support you.

How do I carry my stuff?

If your bike has a rack, you can choose a pannier and let the bike do all of the heavy lifting for you. This also helps balance out any weight, making it easier, especially for inexperienced cyclists.

If you don’t have a rack or would prefer to carry things on your back, any old backpack could do. But it may be worth investing in a specialist backpack, to minimise weight, keep things dry, ensure you are seen and avoid a sweaty back. Check out the range of backpacks available from Halfords as a starting point.

What if it is raining?

It would be ideal if every day was sunny and warm … but we all know that isn’t a reality. That doesn’t have to stop you cycling to work, however. The best advice is to be prepared. Could you have some dry clothes waiting for you at work, and have you checked out the shower and drying facilities?

You can also make yourself much more comfortable on the cycle to work by investing in some suitable kit. Mudguards are a great starting point, helping to keep you dry and clean. There’s also an excellent range of rain jackets, gloves and glasses available on the market, which can keep the rain off you and keep you dry. If you do plan on cycling to work in the rain, we’d recommend using the appropriate clothing! And don’t forget, you can buy cycle clothing and accessories through your employer’s Cycle to Work scheme in just the same way as buying a bike.

It is also worth considering your tyres. Slick tyres are great on a dry day for picking up speed, but something with a little more grip can help make a journey in the rain much safer. Take a look at the Halfords website, which provides some useful advice on choosing the right tyre.

Picking a route

There are an increasing range of cycling lanes and paths available across the UK, catering for different levels of cyclist. It’s definitely worth planning ahead to ensure you are picking the best route for you … don’t always think ‘direct’ or the way you usually go by car is best! Could you find an off-road route, avoid a hill, or avoid a tricky junction?

There is a really handy route planner, powered by Cycle Streets, that you could take advantage of. This route planner is purpose built for cyclists, and alongside offering different route options also lets you know how many calories you could burn, how hilly a route is and how long it will take at different speeds.

Check out our guide to active travel options at NGP for more information on recommended cycle routes in the area, links to local cycle maps and more.

What if my commute is long or includes loads of hills?

Electric bikes are extending the opportunities for many people to cycle to work. They can do much of the hard work for you, speeding you up, helping you get over hills, and making it easier for you to go further. Check out our guide to buying an e-bike.

Further Useful Information and Resources

The above is of course just a snapshot of the various sources of information and advice on cycling to work. If you want to explore your options further, read up on the benefits, or find out what else is being done to support cyclists across Newcastle, check out our post on Active Travel Options or for further information the Useful Guides & Resources post.