Cycle to work day is just next week – Thursday September 3rd– and we have teamed up with Chain Reaction Cycles to offer some suggestions for how you can:
a) Get your bike in shape
b) Keep your bike in shape
Primarily you want to make sure that your bike is road worthy and is going to survive the journey to and from work. We don’t want you breaking down on the way in or home, other than being incredibly inconvenient, if this is your first time cycle commuting then it is going to be a bit off putting, or worse, dangerous.
If you have not used your bike for quite some time, then it is generally a good idea to get it checked over by a professional. Once this is done, the items in this post are still great to have for everyday maintenance.
Firstly, a clean bike is nicer to ride, will last longer and just look a darn sight better! Muc-Off make some great cleaning products, and the Nano-Tech cleaner is super easy to use – simply hose the bike down, spray it on, hose it off. If you live in a small flat such as me, you can also spray on and wipe off on smaller areas at a time, putting an opened up bin liner under the bike.
There are three main things you want to check on your bike if it has been in a shed for a while or only used occasionally. You want to make sure the tyres are inflated, brakes and gears work and the chain is well lubricated. If you are interested in getting more into fixing up your bike and knowing what to check over and how, we recommend the Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair from Park Tool. This book will give you everything you need to know to check over your bike, but it is also a great resource should you decide you wish to upgrade parts of your bike, or have a more complicated fix, down the line.
Chains need TLC too, and depending on the conditions you ride in different weathers. After the bike has been cleaned, you can either use a dry or wet lube.
A dry lube is great if you don’t intend to cycle in the winter much and are happy to reapply after a wet ride.
Wet lube is good if you want to cycle in all conditions going into the winter and don’t want to have to worry too much about reapplication. The only down side is you will have to spend a little more time cleaning your chain sometimes, but that is a conversation for a later post!
The right tools for the job
Two good general maintenance items to keep on you during your commute are a multi-tool and a pump. A good multi-tool provides you with all the things you need to perform minor adjustments on your bike, things like saddle position, as well as adding any small accessories you acquire such as a bell, lights or phone mount.
The Topeak Hexus II is a good choice as it has a Philips screwdriver and a couple of different socket wrenches and is not too expensive or bulky.
For a portable pump, the Lezyne Pressure Mini Pump is good as it allows you to pump up standard city tyres, but also higher pressure road bike and Brompton tyres. It also has a tube attachment meaning you can get the pump attached to lots of tyres without having to worry too much about spokes getting in the way, something I really find fiddly.
Be seen and heard
Two final items it is worth adding if they are not already present on your bike are a bell and some small lights.
Bells are supposed to come as standard with all bikes, but are often taken off if you are not cycling through a city on a regular basis, or if you think they look dorky. However, as many of you will know, having a bell when cycling around the city is really very helpful. Pedestrians are not always looking out for bike as they should and it is really the easiest way to alert them to your presence on the road. For those of you with standard handlebars, this BBB bell is cheap and effective, which is really all you need from a bell!
It is sad to consider, but summer is coming to an end and with it the nights are drawing in. It is always worth carrying bike lights around with you, but particularly if you are cycling to and from work and you have somewhat flexible hours or social colleagues.
We recently did a video review of the Lezyne Femto front light, but a set is also available. These might not be the best lights for lighting your way, but they will certainly get you seen. As they take batteries rather than being rechargeable, they are good for keeping in your work bag as emergency lights should a project keep you after normal hours, or you decide to stop at a pub or restaurant on your way home to celebrate a successful cycle to work day!
If you have any tips for people starting to commute on Cycle to Work Day please let us know!