Cycling to work in less time doesn’t necessarily require getting fitter or pedalling harder. There are other things you can change.
There are various reasons why you might want to get to and from work quicker. Maybe you’ve got a longer commute. Perhaps an earlier start or regular after-work commitments? Or maybe you want a little more time in bed in the morning. You could ‘step on it’ to travel faster, or you could…
Change your bike
Seriously. Keen cyclists often have multiple bikes. You can save money on a second (or third…) bike and spread the cost by getting it through Cyclescheme. If you’re faced with a new commute that seems too hard or too long, it might be the best option.
– Get an E-bike. An e-bike isn’t a motorbike; you still have to pedal. But the electric assistance enables you to pedal easily even when the going is hard. That makes an e-bike especially suitable for hilly journeys – or for anyone who wants to ride without working up a sweat. The assistance cuts out at 25km/h (15.5mph), so cyclists who can maintain a higher average might want to…
– Get a road bike. Road bikes are fast because the riding position is aerodynamic, the racy tyres roll efficiently, and they’re light. You’ll gain most on a longer commute where you can keep moving rather than one that’s stop-start – riding to town as opposed to across it. For commuting, a more practical road bike that accepts full-length mudguards and a ideally a lightweight rear rack is a better option than a full-bore racer.
– Get a folding bike. Go part way by train, bus, or car, and cycle the rest. Splitting your commute like this is generally faster than driving or cycling the whole way. It’s ideal for commuters whose journey is too far to ride every day.
Not change your clothing
Not going far? Wear on the bike what you wear off it: you’ll save loads of time in the transition between cycling and not cycling. No need to look for your cycling shoes. No need to get changed into and out of bike kit. No need for a shower. Just hop on your bike and go. It works best for shorter journeys, where you’ll save more time by reducing pre- and post-ride faff than you’ll lose by riding slower to avoid sweating. You’ll need a bike that will keep you comfortable and clean. Good choices include an e-bike (see above), a folder, a roadster, or a fully-equipped hybrid.
Change your route
The direct way may not be the quickest. Let’s say the busy road route is five miles. At an average of 10mph – not unusual if you’re stopping a lot – it will take 30 minutes. If you can average 15mph by avoiding hills and hitting fewer junctions and traffic lights, you can travel two miles further in less time (i.e. seven miles in 28 minutes). It might be a nicer journey too.
Your top speed is irrelevant. The key is to avoid being slowed down too much and to be stationary as little as possible. The right route will help you do that. You can even ride slower and arrive faster.
Change your riding position
Pushing air out of the way is what makes cycling increasingly harder the faster you go. The more aerodynamic you are, the quicker you’ll be for the same effort. Don’t fancy a road bike? Adapt your existing bike. Set the handlebar lower and possibly further forward, so you’re less upright. Try fitting the stem the other way up. If there are spacer washers, move these above the stem. Maybe try an adjustable-angle stem. If your bike has a riser handlebar, fit a flat one. If the handlebar is wide, fit a narrower one. Note that the new position may not be comfortable, so be prepared to adjust it or change it back if it’s not working.
Change your tyres
If you’ve got a mountain bike, cyclocross bike or gravel bike, the tyres will have tread lugs designed for off-road grip. These drag on tarmac; you can hear them. Hybrids, folders, and tourers, meanwhile, typically have robust, thickly-treaded tyres with deep sipes. A lighter-weight slick tyre will transform any of these bikes. Good choices include Schwalbe’s Kojak or Marathon Supreme, Continental’s Contact Speed or Gatorskin, Specialized’s Fatboy, and many more.
Road bike tyres are already pretty quick. The usual trade-off with faster ones is less puncture resistance and a shorter wear life. Yet quick and reasonably tough road bike tyres do exist – for example, Michelin Pro4 Endurance, Continental Grand Prix 4-Season, and Panaracer Race D Evo 3. If you want to commute on even lighter rubber, tubeless tyres, which have liquid puncture sealant inside, are the way to go. Your bike shop can advise.
Change what you carry
The less you carry, the less effort your bike will take to accelerate. It won’t make a huge difference for a few of miles across town, but if you’ve got a longer or hillier commute, it’s a big deal. Try lightening your load.
Ready to improve your commute?