As the wet weather begins to dampen our mornings, fair-weather cyclists may turn to the dry warmth of their cars or the local bus.
But the hardy few who continue to commute to work on their bikes will battle through the wind and the rain to keep up this healthy, happiness-inducing habit.
Who cycles to work?
According to recent statistics compiled by Cycling UK, you’re most likely to see a man in his early thirties cycling to and from work. In fact, men complete nearly three times as many cycling journeys as women and travel four times as far.
This is backed up by research from ‘Sustrans’ which has shown that women tend to be more intimidated by the traffic environment. Further studies reveal confidence issues with women more likely to describe themselves as ‘inexperienced cyclists’.
In England, the Department for Transport says 3.4 per cent of us cycle five times a week, adding up to 1.5 million people. In Wales, the stats are slightly different with 3 per cent cycling at least three times a week and in Scotland around 2.8 per cent cycled at least 1-2 days as a means of transport. But interestingly, this is despite 42 per cent of us owning or having access to a bicycle.
So, is it dangerous to cycle to work?
Well according to Cycling UK, the risk of danger should be looked at in comparison to the health benefits. As their website states, “Cycling is excellent exercise. It helps people meet recommended physical activity guidelines, improves mental health and well-being and reduces the risk of premature death and ill-health. It also fits into daily routines better than many other forms of exercise, because it doubles up as transport to work or school.”
Their stats show that the health perks outweigh the injury risks by: “between 13:1 and 415:1 according to various studies. But the figure that is most often quoted is 20:1”. This represents life years gained due to the benefits of cycling, versus the life-years lost through injuries.
But on top of this, they also quote that regular cyclists in mid-adulthood have a level of fitness equivalent to someone ten years younger and their life expectancy tends to be two years above average.
It’s also beneficial for children, with boys aged 10-16 regularly cycling to school being 30 per cent more likely to meet recommended fitness levels and girls being seven times more likely to do so. Start the habit early in life!
How to stay safe on a bike
There are lots of precautions you can take to try and make your cycle ride to work as safe as possible:
- Equipment and clothing – wear the right clothing for the weather conditions, always wear a helmet and ensure your lights are switched on and you have reflectors wherever possible.
- Check – regularly look over your bike, testing the tyres and breaks. And learn how to fix a puncture and fix a chain.
- Plan – plan your route carefully, trying to avoid busy traffic areas where possible. Do a practise ride first on a quiet weekend so you know where you’re going and what your possible hazards might be before Monday morning.
- Inform – tell someone that you’re cycling and the route you plan to take. Your partner or a parent or colleague. Someone who will know when to start worrying and where to start looking if you haven’t turned up at work and told them you’re safe.
- Follow the code – follow the rules of the road, just as every other vehicle on the road has to. Don’t jump red lights, undertake or sit in blind spots. It’s common sense. And always signal carefully to other traffic on the road so they know what you are doing.
How can you protect your gear on a bike?
What you need are panniers. The word is derived from the Old French word, ‘panier’ meaning bread basket. Modern day panniers are bags, usually carried in pairs, and attached to the sides of a bike – usually either side of the back wheel using a rack that’s bolted onto the bike frame. The frame is there to bear the weight of whatever’s in your pannier, but also keep the pannier from getting into the spokes of the wheel.
Panniers are a particular favourite of touring cyclists, for whom a backpack would be too cumbersome and annoying. They’re filled with food, a sleeping bag, warm clothes, a stove…whatever else they need for their latest bikepacking adventure. But for anyone commuting to work, they’re perfect for paperwork, a lunch box, laptop and a change of clothes.
What should you look for in a bike pannier?
- Waterproofing – even if you’re a fair-weather cyclist, most of us will experience a shower of some sort on our bike even during the summer. Aquapac’s panniers have a proven 3-roll seal which results in a waterproof rating of IPX6; the equivalent of Stormproof. They also feature an all-welded construction – keeping any water out and your work stuff completely dry inside.
- Size – make sure you’re buying the right size for the right purpose. How much do you actually need to take and bring back from work every day? Aquapac panniers measure 17 litres but can be sealed at the side to compress whatever’s inside and make them smaller when you aren’t carrying as much.
- Colour – anything that helps you to be seen when cycling is a bonus. Aquapac’s panniers are designed with bright stripes down each side and reflective strips to shine in headlights.
- Lightweight construction – Aquapac panniers weigh just 795 grams, making them robust and lightweight.
- Bonus features – look for grab handles for ease of use once you’ve removed your pannier from your bike as well as adjustable rack fixings so they can be attached to most bike models.