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10 cycle commuting mistakes and how to avoid them

Make sure your rides to and from work go without a hitch

Riding to and from work is quick, cheap, green, and healthy; here are some mistakes to avoid for commuting with confidence.

1 Not having the spares/tools you need for roadside fixesLifeline tube.jpg

Chances are that you're going to have a puncture sooner or later, so you need to carry a spare tube, some tyre levers and a pump to deal with it. A multi tool is also essential; make sure it has all the functions you need for your bike, including any sneaky Torx heads.

Whatever you need, put it in your backpack, seatpack or pannier and leave it there. 

Check out 12 of the best multi tools 

2 Racing!

It's easy to find yourself racing someone you don't know to a finish line you've not agreed for a reason you can't fathom. 

Really, though, you're old enough to know better. Aren't you, huh?

Impromptu racing will also get you sweaty and that's no good for anybody if you're intending to wear the same clothes for the rest of the day.

9 reasons why you should ride your bike to work plus top tips to get you started

If you're a Strava user, you probably don't want to get too obsessed with bagging KoM/QoMs on your commute. 

3 Riding more than a couple of miles in everyday jeans

If you wear jeans at work you might try riding there wearing them, but you'll soon find out that it's a really uncomfortable experience. The biggest seam known to mankind is positioned right where you sit. Ouch!

Lycra cycling shorts will provide plenty of comfort but if they're overkill for your commute there are plenty of cycle-specific jeans and trousers out there that you can wear both on and off the bike, so there's no need to change when you get to work.

We've reviewed very good jeans and trousers from the likes of Endura, Giro, Osloh and Resolute Bay, each with its own take on providing comfort on the bike. 

Check out the best casual cycling commuter wear 

4 Hugging the kerb

There are many reasons not to hug the kerb. That's where slippery drain covers are positioned, it's where the camber of the road takes the detritus, and it's where pedestrians step out. The only way to avoid something that appears in your way is to swerve out into the traffic, and that can be dangerous.

Riding close to the kerb can also make you less visible and tempt motorists to squeeze past when there's not enough room for them to do so safely.

Take a look at 23 of the best commuting bikes

Riding close to a line of parked cars can also be dangerous because those car doors sometimes open... with ugly consequences.

For these reasons, take up the primary position in the centre of your lane when you feel that's the best option. You're fully entitled to do so and it's often the safest choice.

5 Taking the shortest route

You needn't take the shortest, quickest route from home to work. If you don't like riding on the busiest sections of road, give them a miss and take the towpath. If you're riding from the countryside into town, find some quiet lanes rather than the taking the most direct roads. You can also vary your route from day to day to keep things interesting.

Google Maps will suggest cycle-friendly routes between your home and work if you hit the bike icon at the top of the page, while some Garmin devices, such as the Edge 530, feature 'trendline popularity routing' which uses the many activities uploaded to Garmin Connect to suggest the most popular navigation for cyclists between any two points.

6 Riding without mudguards

You don't get to pick the time of day you ride to and from work which means you'll inevitably encounter rain and wet roads from time to time. If you're riding in cycling clothing you might not be too bothered if you get wet, but if you're riding in clothes you're going to wear for the rest of the day it's a big deal. 

Mudguards will stop spray from your tyres soaking you and the rest of your bike. They make a huge difference.

Check out 13 of the best mudguards for any type of bike 

7 Forgetting your day clothes

Many of us leave a few bits at the office – a pair of shoes and a jacket, say – and ride to work wearing cycling kit and carrying other clothes for the day in a bag. It's a system that works well... until that inevitable day you forget to pack something. You can get away with forgetting your underwear – it's not comfortable but you'll survive – but you'll really struggle without your trousers.

Top tip: keep an emergency stash of backup clothes at work, just in case.

Find out how to save money on a bike with the Cycle to Work scheme

8 Skimping on a lock

You might be tempted to buy a cheap lock but it's a false economy if you rock up at the end of the working day to find that your bike is no longer where you left it.

Look for locks with a Sold Secure Gold rating, like the Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard U-Lock (£39.99). No matter how much you spend, it'll be less than the cost of replacing a stolen bike.

If you don't want to lug a heavy lock on your commute, leave one at work.

9 Not having dry kit for the ride home

If your cycling clothing gets wet on the way to work, you either need to dry it out during the day or have a spare set for the journey home because putting soggy kit back on for the ride home isn't pleasant. A still damp seat pad is really grim!

One way to avoid it is to keep spare kit at work. Tuck it away somewhere for those days when you're in dire need.

10 Letting your lights run out of charge

It happens! You get on your bike to ride home from work on a winter's evening and you find that your lights are out of juice.

You could always use a dynamo light that you power as you cycle. 

Check out our review of Hunt's Superdura Dynamo Disc wheelset 

The other option is to keep a couple of emergency lights squirrelled away in your bag at all times. The Moon Mizar front light that we reviewed, for example, weighs just 31g while the Moon Alcor rear light is even lighter at 27g. You'll barely notice you're carrying them. 

Check out all of our front light and rear light reviews 

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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