Cyclescheme How to: Reboot your commute by bike

Cyclescheme, 24.03.2014

Cyclescheme How to: Reboot your commute by bike

In the miserable months of winter, it's easy to miss one ride, then a week of riding, and then more. Here are some tips to get started again.

It's not so much lack of motivation that dents cycle commuters' winter mileages, more a matter of inertia, of habit. You miss a commute or two and then before you know it, it's spring and you're half a stone heavier. There's only one way to get back into the habit of pedalling to work again, and that's to do it. But there are things you can do to make it easier.

Break yourself in gently

Don't over-commit. You see the results of over-committing in gyms across the country every January. Fired up with their New Year's resolutions, people declare that they'll go three times a week, doing hard workouts each time. And before the month is out, they've stopped going entirely. It was too big a step up. If you can reboot your commute by riding every day from now, that's great. But don't beat yourself up about it if that's going to be too much of a stretch. Initially, just ride on a couple of days - Tuesdays or Thursdays, perhaps. Or cycle to work and take your bike home by the train. Or drive part way with your bike in the car, so the cycling part of your journey is shorter.

Check your bike

So you've decided that you'll ride to work again, but when you roll your bike out of the shed that morning you discover it's got a flat tyre… Good intentions are dashed. Check your bike over in advance. Saturday morning or early afternoon is a good time if you work Monday to Friday, as your local shop will be open if you need to buy and fit a new innertube or buy oil, or anything else. A bike that hasn't been ridden for a while will need the tyres inflating and may need some chain care. Check that any battery lights are charged and working, or that dynamo ones light up when you spin the wheels.

Get weatherproof

There's a saying that there's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. To which we'd add: 'and a lack of mudguards'. If you stopped cycling because you were getting wet, it's time to invest in some more kit. Buy and fit the fullest-coverage mudguards that your bike will accept. Get a good quality waterproof jacket, gloves, and waterproof trousers. These items will soon pay for themselves, due to the money you're saving by cycling. And you won't have to decide any more between feeling guilty because you didn't ride, and feeling soggy because you did.

Don't dither in your dressing gown

Sitting in your dressing gown looking out at rain-spattered puddles will gnaw at your motivation. Don't do it. Decide in advance that you'll be riding to work that morning and you can be out of the door before you've given yourself chance to say no. Get up, go straight into the shower (unless you'll do so at work), and immediately put on the clothes that you'll wear for cycling to work. You're already half-way to being on your bike. Do not look out of the window at the weather. Bad weather looks much worse when seen through glass; when you get out there, in your proper gear, it's usually okay.

Try a different route

Don't feel obliged to stay stuck in the same commuting groove; a change can be as good as a rest. See what alternative route options there are for getting to work. Buy an Ordnance Survey Explorer map – the 1:25,000 scale is packed with detail. Or do it digitally. Plot your route online using CycleStreets or Google Maps, or download the equivalent smartphone app.

Find a commuting buddy

Do you share all or part of your commute with another cyclist? Why not agree to meet up at a certain time on a given morning – or even every morning? Cycling to work with someone else is more sociable. It's also easier to motivate yourself to ride to work when you know someone is waiting to ride in with you. You're not just letting yourself down, you're letting your commuting buddy down! If you're the only cyclist where you work, encourage colleagues to start cycling.

Before you know it, you'll be back to riding regularly – and you'll wonder why you ever stopped.

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