Andy’s Top 10 Cycling Tips For Commuters

We all know cyclists should obey the rules of the road, wear high viz, lights etc.  Some choose not to and take their chances with their health and Garda fines, but these tips are more about things I’ve learned over the years, that aren’t so obvious to cycle commuters.

  1. Wheels are for turning OR braking – not both.  Braking before the corner and not while turning, ensures you wont slide on gravel or leaves etc and reduces the chances of snatching a brake and coming off.  Also, its best not to cycle while turning.  Freewheel through the corner, with the pedal high on the side of the direction you are turning.
  2. When cycling through a tight space or in cross or gusting winds, cycle pushing down with your calf muscles in a heavier gear.  It’ll help keep you stable and reduce any wobbling briefly.
  3. Always have your front light on and flashing, even during the day.   Helps prevent people opening doors or pulling out.  Of course lights, High Viz and helmets should be worn as standard at night.  However if you’re lights are very bright, tilt slightly to the ground, so it doesn’t dazzle other road users.
  4. Never undertake a bus, van or lorry.  So many serious accidents occur because of this.  They cannot see you in their blind spot – even if they look.  Checkout this short clip to see how big blind spots can be.
  5. Wear a helmet.  If you cycle regularly and value your brain, wear a helmet that fits correctly.  Don’t believe they provide protection?  Headbutt a wall with one, then without and see if there’s a difference?  Then, multiply that by 10-30kph and do you then think it would provide protection?  A poorly fitted helmet (a pet hate of mine) like the guy in the photo below, offers no protection.  Unless you cycle backwards? In a long enough timeline cycling, you will have accidents.  If you’re an adult it’s your choice of course and we obviously can’t go round in a protective bubble but a helmet should be an easy way to significantly increase your safety.  Having split a helmet in a crash in the past, I know I would have suffered brain damage or worse without it.
  6. Get your saddle height fitted correctly at the right height (click here).  It’s way harder to cycle if you set it too low and you lose lots os stability at low speeds, so can wobble if turning and indicating.  Too high and you are also making it harder for yourself and can hurt knees or hips in the long run.
  7. Learn how to use your gears correctly and practice (click here).  It makes the world of difference to the ease of your commute.  Especially taking off from lights.  It can also help you accelerate out of danger if needed.
  8. Don’t panic or stop suddenly – If you drop something, hear a noise behind you or hit a big pothole.  Indicate, slow and pull over when safe, to avoid another cyclist or car running into the back of you.  Looking behind you if at speed, can also cause you to veer out into traffic or cause you to hit someone if they pull out or brake in front of you. 
  9. Use caution in poor weather – Normal brakes are extremely ineffective in the wet.  It’s also very easy to slip or slide while turning, so slow down and stick to rule 1 above.  Luas lines are dangerous at the best of times but lethal in the wet.  In high cross winds, it’s sometimes best to get off and walk, or don’t venture out.
  10. Get your bike serviced or learn to oil and pump your tyres yourself.  Tyres with low pressure really affect your speed and make it way harder to cycle.  Likewise rusty or dirty chains and gears, will make it even harder to cycle and in the long run, break sooner.  Use oil not WD40, WD40 is for loosening not lubricating and will soon collect dirt and have the opposite affect.  It’s like pinging your house with poster glue.  Checkout rothar.ie for great bike maintenance courses.

Personally I love cycling around the city, primarily because you’re guaranteed to get somewhere by a certain time and I hate traffic with a passion.  With the right clothing you can cycle in most types of weather.  I cycle my own bike or the Dublin bikes, 4 times a day, 6 days a week.   And in almost 1300 bike journeys a year, I get soaked just 2/3 times at most.  It saves me lots on LUAS, Taxi, bus fares and frustration sitting in traffic.  The poor roads, lack of maintained cycle lanes, other cyclists and road users can be an annoyance at times but with caution, cycling in a city is a relatively safe, cheap, healthy, fat burning and green way to get around 🙂

author: Andy Kenny