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Working to ride, riding to work: The Commuting Essentials

Working to ride, riding to work: The Commuting Essentials

The number of people commuting to work by bike has risen dramatically in recent years as a growing number discover the numerous advantages of cycling to work over taking the car. Whether you’re looking to save a bit of money considering the ridiculously high prices of fuel of late, or you’re keen to shed a few pounds that you simply can’t shift no matter how many different diet plans you try, there’s dozens of reasons to take up the cycle to work. The majority of cycling commuters we’ve encountered find their daily commute by bike to be something they look forward to, and that’s not to say they simply hate their jobs!

Mildly interesting bicycle commuting fact # 1: Cycling commuters in the UK have a 97% chance of not getting rained on.

The demographic which has been affected by this growing trend to a far greater extent than any other is that of men between 40 and 64 years old. In the United States for instance, between 2001 and 2009, the overall share of bike trips undertaken by men within this category rose from 10% to 21%. In the UK, more people now travel to work by bike than by train.

You might be among those already cycling to work – or you might be considering the prospect in the near future. Either way, we’ve put together this blog which consists of tips to remember when out on the roads and our pick of some essential items that you simply can’t go without when commuting by bike. Hopefully there’ll be something in this blog for the newbie and the weathered commuting veteran alike!


Why should I cycle to work?

For someone new to commuting by bike, it’s probably easy to overlook the numerous benefits of cycling to work and focus on the few detrimental effects. You’re probably imagining angry motorists in rush hour traffic, commuting to work in blizzard-like weather conditions and all those potholes which cause enough problems in your car – never mind on your bike. But before we scare you off and you scrap the idea of commuting altogether, an interesting statistic we came across when doing a bit of research suggests that cycling is 20 times less dangerous than not cycling – at least in the UK. While we wouldn’t put money on this statistic being completely accurate, it’s easy to see that the risks associated with commuting by bike are often exaggerated.

Moving on, it’s worth remembering that the risk associated with cycling decreases as more people cycle. Using this information, the simple solution is to get all your friends and enemies out on the roads with you. The more people you get out on the roads with you, the safer you are!

In all seriousness though, cycling to work has so many benefits over other forms of transport it’s really a no-brainer. There’s a number of reasons which spring to mind that any cyclist will be able to corroborate. For instance, one of the most widely publicised benefits of cycling that has surely spurred countless commuters into action is the health benefits. Sports psychologists have already discovered that the body’s metabolic rate is raised during a ride and also for several hours afterwards, so essentially you’re still burning calories at a faster rate when you’ve been sat at your desk in work for a few hours! All makes fairly reasonable sense but it’s good to know that a little effort goes a long way.

Mildly interesting bicycle commuting fact # 2: A middle-aged cyclist is typically as fit as someone 10 years younger.

Another good reason for cycling to work is the happiness factor. More time outside in the sunlight boosts levels of the hormone serotonin in your body, ultimately making you feel happier! For anyone like the team at PBK who work by artificial light, this can make a major difference! Research has also proven that people who get more daylight get more sleep at night. Certainly something for the insomniac in your life to try.

Let’s not forget how much money you can save by using your legs to power you to work rather than the engine in your car. With fuel prices reaching new heights of late, even public transport isn’t an option because the costs there have also gone up.

While there’s plenty of other reasons to commute to work by bike, the beneficial effect it has on the environment has to be a major plus point in anyone’s book. According to some research we came across, if all commutes in England under five miles were done by bike rather than by car, a collective total of 44,000 tonnes of CO2 would be saved each week – apparently enough to heat 17,000 homes. Scale this up to an international level and we’re talking some serious numbers.


The Trials and/or Tribulations of Commuting:

Take the decision to cycle to work and you’ll probably encounter at least a handful of people who’ll respond, “good luck” or “you’re brave!”. However, it’s something of a myth that commuting by bike is really all that dangerous. While certain cities around the world are obviously better than others in terms of cycle commuter friendliness. Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Portland, Oregon, USA, spring to mind as two cities with cycling at their heart. In Portland for instance, the fact that bicycle use has quadrupled in the last 20 years with no noticeable increase in bicycle related accidents, suggests that commuting can be a safe and enjoyable affair.

However, if you don’t happen to live in Amsterdam or Portland, all is not lost. Here’s some tips from commuters around the world:

  1. Take the lane! It’s recommended that you ride at least 50cm or so away from the side of the road, if not further. In doing so, you make yourself more visible and encourages cars to overtake properly rather than attempting to nip through at the earliest possible moment. As an added bonus, you’ll avoid rumbling over drains and general debris left in the side of the road.
  2. Think about your route: If you’ve been commuting to work by car for some time you’ve probably got a handful of routes you regularly use to get there in the quickest possible time. However, when commuting by bike, many new alternatives will present themselves and merely utilising the same old route may not be the most efficient way of getting to work.
  3. Be brave! It’s easy to be intimidated on the roads when you only have a bike and most other road users have a car. However, be bold and keep your place on the road. If you need to initiate a manoeuvre of some kind, make sure you give signals that are precise and clear. Don’t forget – you’re telling the motorists where you’re going, you’re not asking for their permission! If you’re clear about your intentions, other road users will be aware of where you’re heading and will leave room for you to enact your master manoeuvring plan.
  4. Use your eyes: Make sure you make eye contact with other motorists whenever possible. If you’ve seen them and they’ve seen you, there’s far less chance of any kind of misunderstanding.

Mildly interesting bicycle commuting fact # 3: A 16 mile/26 km commute = 800 calories. That’s the equivalent of 4 bags of crisps or 6 cans of coke.


The Essentials for Commuting:

So hopefully by now you’re at least mildly interested in commuting to work by bike if you weren’t already. However, before you get started it’s definitely worthwhile getting kitted out with everything you might need.


Be seen:

Crucial if you’re commuting when daylight is not at a premium is a good quality lightset. As luck has it, we’ve just got a brand new range of lights in at PBK for 2011.


First up for consideration is the brand new range of Cateye lights. Self-proclaimed industry leaders in lighting technology, Cateye certainly have the know-how when it comes to producing high quality lightsets from their entry-level commuting lightsets to their top-end Sumo performance lighting systems. Cateye have even been thoughtful enough to put together some lightsets specifically designed for commuters – the ideal choice for getting straight out onto the roads, hassle-free.


Also new in is the new range of Blackburn lights. Blackburn have over 35 years experience in the producing innovative bicycle products at a reasonable price. Their elegant angular designs have a futuristic look about them which wouldn’t look out of place in an intergalactic war. The beam produced is just as striking as the light’s looks and will safely guide you on your way through the darkness when getting from A to B. The flagship Flea 2.0 is one of the brightest rechargeable lights around and has now been adapted to be recharged via a USB point. If you’re nowhere near a computer then the Flea is compatible with a solar charger. A greater commuters light ahead of the curve.

Light and Motion:

If you’re looking for more powerful, fully rechargeable, completely dependable lights then look no further than Light and Motion. Designed and built in Monterey, California, Light and Motion produce lights that are literally second to none in terms of quality. Their most powerful light, the Seca 1400, producing up to 1400 lumens of light output outshines and outlasts anything else in its class. Furthermore, Light and Motion’s new Urban range (consisting of the Urban 180 and Urban 300) is again specifically designed for commuters and is probably everything a bike commuter could ask for – a powerful light system, safety side lighting and environmentally friendly USB rechargeable batteries. Light and Motion is certainly worth a look if you’re in the market for the best your money can buy.


We’ve also just acquired a new range of lights from Topeak. Perhaps most striking is their Alienlux LED Rear Cycle Light, in the shape of an Alien’s head. Very reasonable pricing combined with superb quality makes these lights a relatively low cost addition to your kit.

Fibre Flare:

If you’re looking for a novel approach to bicycle safety then look no further than Fibre Flare. Their stylish light sticks really look the business in the dark and offer superb visibility. Here’s Fibre Flare in action for your viewing pleasure:


Finally, we’ve also just received some additional stock from Knog – quite possibly the most ‘hip’ you can extract from a cycle light. Hailing from Melbourne Australia, Knog produce easy to attach lights in almost every colour under the sun. The choice of many a fixie riding hipster these lights have racked up a cult following with their distinctive styling.


Be comfortable:


Gloves are a personal choice for riders. Your commute can be dramatically improved with the right pair of gloves. Palm padding, grip and protection against wind are all factors which should be examined when choosing a glove. For those warmer rides there’s the Castelli S.Tre Cycling Glove. With an I-Vario padding system ensuring comfort and grip an air mesh fabric provides excellent ventilation. Also perfect for adding a touch of Italian to your commute.

Depending of the weather some may choose not to ride with gloves but there’s no doubt that when the mercury drops the last thing you want is to arrive at work with numb fingers unable to carry out the simplest of tasks until they’ve thawed out. SealSkinz offer a great range of waterproof, breathable and thermal gloves ideal for bearing the brunt of what Mother Nature has to throw at you. If your commitment to commuting is as strong as the sideways rain of Scotland then the SealSkinz Winter Cycling Glove is perfect. This rugged glove is thermal, insulated, waterproof, breathable and windproof. A nose wipe will take care of those winter sniffles and a reflective trim gives you that little bit of extra security. Sealskinz do a whole range of gloves to suit varying temperatures and even have a couple of high-vis versions great for gesturing your feelings after close calls with fellow road users.

Padded Shorts:

However long your ride to work is padded shorts are always a must for the cyclist wanting a comfy commute. For those not wanting to brandish their club or team colours on their way to work, either for fear of rival club attacks or heckling from rival fans the ProRace Cycling Bib Short is a great alternative choice. Simple in its appearance this classic looking bib short would be the perfect companion on your journey. If you’re looking for a warmer, waterproof alternative the Endura Stealth Lite Waterproof Cycling Bib Tight is perfect. With a waterproof membrane and external waterproof stretch taping these bib tights will ensure you keep bone-dry in even the wettest of conditions.

For those of you who don’t want to walk through reception in their Lycra there are alternative baggie short options. The Pearl Izumi Elite Barrier Short offers both breathability and waterproofing as well as being easy on the non cycling eye. If you’re looking for something a bit more casual then the Endura Hummvee Lite 3/4 Baggy Cycling Short is perfect. This short combines casual looks with a cycling specific design to produce a great alternative to a bib short.

Rain Wear:

For those lucky enough to live in a place where the sun outshines the dark clouds you may want to skip this paragraph. For the rest of us a waterproof is an essential. Breathability and waterproofing have not always gone hand in hand but the Vaude Town Cycling Jacket manages to pull off both. Vaude are one of Europe’s leading names in sport and have built an affinity with the European commuter who may not always experience the nicest of weather. The Town Jacket has been designed specifically with the urban commuter in mind with underarm Zippers offering great ventilation while reflective elements keep you seen. To keep your pins equally dry we recommend pairing this jacket up with the Vaude Fluid Full Zip Waterproof Cycling Trousers.

If you’re looking for a full waterproof outfit you might want to check out the AGU Passat Commuter Rain Suit. This combo of waterproof and windproof jacket and trousers combination are perfect for the hardcore dedicated commuters out there who will pedal to work no matter what.

For those days when the weather is looking undecided overhead the Reflex 2 jacket and gilet from Sportful are perfect offering wind protection and water resistance. The red high vis option is also great for those gloomier rides quelling your concerns of not being seen by weary drivers.

To give you that extra piece of mind you can’t go wrong with high visibility clothing. The Gore Bike Wear Power Neon Helmet Cover uses high visibility yellow material and reflective detailing to make sure you stay comfortable and seen out on the roads in the worst of weather.

Be prepared:


There’s always a couple of necessities that you should endeavour to carry with you whenever possible. First up, don’t forget to carry a multi-tool. A decent one won’t cost the earth but could save your blushes in the morning if you’re already a little late setting off and something goes wrong. Knog do a handful of really high quality multi-tools while Lezyne’s range has some excellent feedback from previous customers.

Spare tubes:

A spare tube is also a good idea incase the unthinkable happens! We currently have a range of tubes on offer in packs of 5 so you can always have one to hand when you need it most.


While a spare tube is all well and good, it’s not going to be much use without some air inside it. Consequently, a good, reliable mini pump is absolutely essential. We have a large range of mini pumps in stock from the Beto and Giyo mini pumps which are excellent if you’re on a budget, right up to Lezyne’s Carbon offering if you’ve got the cash to splash!

Saddle packs:

Finally, if you need something to store all these essentials in, a saddle pack is one requirement that you simply can’t ignore. Continentals Saddle Pack even comes with a tube and levers as part of the package – an excellent choice for the commuter.


Be clean:

Mud guards:

One thing that’s easy to forget until it’s too late is a mud guard. The last thing you want on the way to work is a load of dirt and debris from the roadside all over your clothes. Luckily for you, we have a couple of mudguards in stock which will do the job perfectly!


Over to you!

So we’ve given you the low-down on the kinds of necessities you need to tackle the commute to work by bike but we’d like to hear from you about those essential items that you’ve had to use on your daily commute more often that not. Also, is there anything you’d like to see PBK stocking in the future? Please don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts below – we love to hear from you!

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