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Countdown to your first commute

The day before Buy any essentials you’ve overlooked. Things like batteries for your bike lights, a couple of emergency snacks (because you will be hungrier), and a packet of wet wipes. Wet wipes are your one-stop-shop for sprucing up if you don't have a shower at work, removing sweat from armpits and groin. They’re also useful for cleaning your hands if you end up having to fix your bike en route. Ride up and down the street on your bike to check it’s okay. If it’s a new bike, it’s probably fine. But the cables on new bikes stretch slightly as they bed in, so you may need to adjust the cable tension for the gears or brakes. It’s easy and doesn’t usually require tools: see http://cycsch.me/gears http://cycsch.me/brakes. The tyres may need topping and http://cycsch.me/brakes up with air too. If you have a floor pump with a gauge, use that to inflate them to at least the minimum pressure that’s stamped on the tyre sidewalls. If your pump doesn’t have a gauge, just pump the tyres until they feel firm – like you’re trying to squeeze an apple in your hand.

The night before Pack your commuter bag and put it beside the bike kit you don immediately before heading out the door – for example, your cycle clips, bike jacket, gloves, or helmet. You don't want to start your first day's cycle commuting rushing around looking for a lost lock or shoe. When packing your bag(s), put the heaviest items at the bottom. Keep separate any potentially dirty items such as shoes, tools and lock; stuff them in a plastic bag if you're using one bag with one big compartment. If you’re taking clothes to work, roll them up rather than folding them and put them at the top of the bag where they won’t get squashed. Even if you’re not planning to change clothes, it’s worth taking emergency pants and socks. If you get too sweaty or are caught in a cloudburst and get soggy, it’s nice to have something to change into.

On the day Don’t rush: give yourself plenty of time. Equally, you (hopefully!) don’t need to get up at 5am. Your bike is ready, your bag is ready, and you know roughly how long it will take to cycle to work. Give yourself a time buffer of about 10 minutes for your first journey to deal with any unexpected eventualities. And don’t forget to add in any extra time you’ll need to get from your parked bike to your desk. That might be almost nothing if you’re commuting Dutchstyle in your work clothes but could be 15 minutes or more if you’re showering and changing at work. On the journey itself, ride calmly and confidently. If you act like traffic, the vast majority of other road users will treat you like traffic. Your route planning should mean that you’ll be circumventing difficult junctions and busy roads. If any part of the journey makes you uncomfortable – perhaps the rush hour traffic makes that roundabout you sailed around on Sunday much more daunting – just dismount and push your bike past that bit. Later on, you can research and recce a route that avoids this bit. It’s much better to have a commute that you enjoy that takes five minutes longer than a faster one that makes you anxious. www.cyclescheme.co.uk

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Cycle Commuter #17