5 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Started Bike Commuting

This is a guest post by Andreas Kambanis who runs a blog, London Cyclist, about cycling and London. You can find him on Twitter here.

I started commuting into work by bike in the same way I do many things in life. With little or no plan! The way I look at it is if there is anything I need to learn I’ll soon figure it out along the way. Here are 5 of the lessons I soon picked up.

1. Route

When I first started bike commuting I had just moved to London for a new job. It was my first day in that job so I found my route on Google Maps and looked at it once. This was a major error.

After a good start I forgot the route and took a wrong turn. Then another wrong turn. And another. I somehow ended up on Oxford Circus. One of the busiest, most horrible roads for cyclists in London.

After a quick call to my new boss who I had yet to meet I confirmed I would be late for my first day at work.

Lesson learned: Plan the route ahead and do a test run.

2. There are some things you shouldn’t economize on

I noticed something on all the other bikes parked at office that my bike was lacking. They all had massive U-locks. I looked at my weak bike lock and realised a thief could probably chew through it with their teeth. A couple of days later I made sure I got myself to the nearest bike shop and purchased a proper bike lock.

Lesson learned: Spend as much as you can on a good bike lock. It is worth it for all the effort and money you will save by preventing theft.

3. A little maintenance goes a long way

I made all the maintenance mistakes you can possibly make. I over lubricated my chain, I didn’t keep my bike clean and I didn’t replace my break pads until they wore through my wheel rims. I caused a lot of damage to that poor bike. After a while I replaced it with a new one and pledged to learn bike maintenance.

Lesson learned: Learn the basics to bike maintenance as it will give you a much smoother, more enjoyable bike ride and will make your bike last longer.

4. Don’t undertake vehicles

An early error in my cycling technique was frequently undertaking slow moving traffic. The problem with doing this is that drivers are not on the lookout for someone overtaking on the wrong side. This is particularly dangerous with heavy goods vehicles that are a frequent cause of injury to cyclists.

Lessons learned: Be sure you are cycling where drivers can see you and don’t undertake vehicles unless it is safe to do so.

5. Shop around

Whenever I needed something new I would head into the nearest bike shop and pick it up there and then. I didn’t realise how much I could save by having a look online before buying. I ended up spending 30-40% more on a cycling jacket I didn’t particularly like.

There i. also a second lesson to be learned here. It is worth building up a relationship with a local bike shop so they can help you out at a time of need. I have since got to know my local bike shop owner so whenever I head in there to buy something new I can ask some advice on any maintenance problems I’m having.

Lessons learned: Shop around for a good price and build up a relationship with the local bike shop owner.

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