Riding your bike to work on the daily commute

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Riding my bike

Article written by a cyclist who commutes 50 miles per week to work

Team up with work mates for the commute

Riding your bike to work is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. There is also the added benefit to your health, riding a bike is a very effective form of exercise.

Not only does it get your heart pumping and increase your endorphins, it is also a low impact exercise making it perfect for all ages.

Now, riding to work is not an Olympic event, well not to every cyclist anyway! We’ve all seen the Lycra clad rider who takes it little too seriously. Fret not, Lycra is not something required to enter the cult of the cyclist. To get to work you need a suitable bike, protection and weather protective clothing. All of which we will expand on in this article.

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The daily commute

I started to commute to my places of work over 1 year ago and I have never been in better shape. Although I eat quite healthily, the commute also allows me to indulge a little more in my food as I find the calories soon get burnt off.

My main commute is 7 miles away, uphill most of the way and I cycle there 3 times per week. My other place of work is around 2 miles away and I work there once or twice a week. On average I total around 50 miles per week on my bike, commuting to work.

Before riding to work, I would use either public transport or get a lift in a car. Now, cars amount for a huge part of our collective impact on the planet.

‘The average carbon dioxide emissions of cars registered for the first time in the second quarter of 2015 (April to June) was 122.1 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.’(1 )If people reduced their use of their cars and swapped journeys to the corner shop, or to work we could reduce this massively. Granted not everyone’s situation will cater for cycling, but there are a large amount of people who easily could.

Air pollution is not good for human health

‘The average carbon dioxide emissions of cars registered for the first time in the second quarter of 2015 (April to June) was 122.1 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.’(1 )

I use a hard tail mountain bike for my commute, I have water proofs for when its wet. Under the waterproofs I wear quick dry/exercise clothing. A helmet is an essential, as is lights.

I also carry an extra 5-10kg in my backpack. This is usually a change of clothes, towel and other work items. Riding to work, especially in the warmer months can become quite a sweaty ordeal. There are a few ways to deal with this, even if your place of work doesn’t have shower facilities.

Cycling to work but no shower? How to deal with sweat

Cycling clothing

Wear whats comfortable & safe

The first and most essential thing to remember is a change of clothes! Cycling to work in your work gear is not recommended, even if its only a mile or two away.

Even with mud guards, water or mud can spray out of nowhere, or an extra hot day could leave your uniform sticking with sweat. With no change of clothes you’ll be stinking in no time! All of which do not look good in the workplace.

The ideal clothes I find are loose fitting, easy dry exercise clothing. They are light, breathable and dry quickly, this is important when in a work environment where you might not have the option to hang your clothes to dry.

Luckily for me I can hang my clothes up & out of the way of my work colleagues, allowing me to dry them for the return journey. If you don’t have this option then pack a second lot of clothes to change into, and a bag to store the used cycling clothes in for your ride home.

Exert less

As stated earlier, riding to work needn’t be an Olympic event, your not looking to beat your personal best. So there’s always the option to just take it easy! Don’t exert yourself too much and allow for some extra time, this not only makes your commute less of a rush, it will also beat the morning rush hour. Not only less stressful but also much safer.

Shower in a bag- How to make a wash bag

Making a wash bag is as simple as it sounds, a few basic items will give you all that you need to come out of the bathroom like smelling great.

  1. Flannel / Small towel
  2. Soap / Hand wash
  3. Deodorant (none aerosol)
Wash bag

With these 3 items and a sink you can give yourself a quick once over and save your work mates the burden of a stinky colleague! Make sure you get areas like your arm pits, neck and face as these are usually the areas we sweat the most.

If you have any personal preference, go mad 🙂 the idea is to get as much sweat off as possible. Throw on some deodorant and change into your work clothes. Your now pumped up ready for work & a few pounds lighter. All without impacting the planet, well done human.

Failing the above you could always ask a nearby gym if you can use their facilities. They may allow you to use them for a small monetary confession…. Yes bribe them!

Bicycle commuting gear, what should I wear?

We’re all different, so I will start by saying you should wear what ever you feel comfortable in. There are no items in the UK that you have to wear by law however, it is sensible to wear a helmet especially on traffic heavy routes.

Always wear a helmet

Lights are required to be used, by law after dark. White light on the front & a red light on the rear. Flashing lights are permitted, but its recommended cyclists use a light with a steady glow.

My clothing when cycling consists of a light weight, quick dry t-shirt. Over that I have a long sleeved runners top and a pair of gym shorts. For shoes I wear my usual walking shoes.

On rainy, colder days I wear a walking jacket, water proof trousers over the shorts and my water proof walking boots. This has worked well for me over the past year on a 7 mile commute.

Always wear a helmet

Whilst I don’t wear one at the moment, I do think the fluorescent water proof jackets are very good & I will be purchasing one very soon. These stand out a mile off, even in low light conditions. The safety benefits of this are obvious

The 30 minute bike ride to work

The benefits of cycling to work are plentiful, I have experienced them first hand and watched my physical and mental health improve as a direct result of this shift. Cycling anywhere can improve your cardiovascular health, making your heart strong and reliable.

The route I take to work

Regular cycling will increase your muscle strength, not only in your legs but it also engages your core and upper body muscles. Your joint mobility and bone strength will improve as well as a reduction in body fats.

Any form of exercise is good at fighting anxiety and depression, this is because exercise is one of the only ways to create the hormones responsible for the feeling happiness. By cycling to work regularly you also help prevent diseases. Riding your bicycle has also been shown to reduce the risk of bowel & breast cancer.

The top 10 benefits of Cycling to work

This is how I would order the positive benefits that cycling has given me over the last year. There are many more noticeable changes that have occurred, these are the ones I felt we’re my most positive outcomes.

  1. Improves physical & mental health
  2. You can eat more, or loose more weight
  3. Low impact exercise
  4. A surprisingly quick form of transport
  5. Reduce your carbon footprint
  6. Free workout!
  7. No costly insurance or license fee’s
  8. You can go both on & off road
  9. Decreased stress levels
  10. Save money

What should I eat before riding my bike to work?

A good combintation of light and energy delivering foods are best eaten before a long ride, good combination would be something like banana and coffee. This combination works a treat, the coffee is an instant stimulant giving me a kick start and the banana is the fuel.

A healthy pre-ride meal

As a rule of thumb 2 bananas will give you enough subsistence for a 90 minute work out. I have one banana and this works wonders, I really feel the difference on the days I don’t have a banana, they are great fuel.

This combination works a treat, the coffee is an instant stimulant giving me a kick start and the banana is the fuel. As a rule of thumb 2 bananas will give you enough subsistence for a 90 minute work out.

Again, personal preference is always key here. You want to keep it light, imagine things you would not eat before a run and you wont go wrong. If you like a big breakfast, start with something like fruit juice and a cereal bar, then have a late breakfast after the ride.

Is cycling to work enough exercise?

Thinking hard

Not only is cycling to work enough exercise, it is good form of exercise.. provided you don’t live around the corner from your occupation. Some sports like running or weight lifting can result in high impacts on the joints.

This in turn can cause health issues later in life such as arthritis. Riding a bike, even when your giving it some, is a low impact exercise. A ride to work will burn calories & fat, cause muscle to grow and improve your mental health.

It will reduce your environmental impact and allow you to eat that Friday takeaway guilt free!

In short, yes cycling to work is enough exercise.

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