There’s a charge for excess baggage when you’re riding to work: you pay it in sweat. The more weight you carry, the harder it is to accelerate the bike, particularly uphill. A lighter load lets you ride faster or arrive fresher. Commuting isn’t racing, so weight-saving need not be obsessive. It’s more a matter of losing any dead-weight items in your commuter bag.
Lightening the load makes a bigger difference if: your commute is hilly; it’s a long journey; it’s stop-start; you carry your bag on your back; you have to lift your bike at any point; you’re riding a lightweight bike to begin with.
It makes less of a difference if you have a short-distance, flat commute and carry the load on your bike. But even then, you might be surprised by what you can leave behind – or ahead.
Learn about the scheme
Clothing: wear or carry?
The simplest, lightest way to get your office clothes to work is to wear them as you cycle there. You need a few things for this strategy to work. Your commute needs to be undemanding enough that you don’t break into a sweat. You have to be content to cycle at a steady pace. Your luggage must go on the bike. And your bike must be comfortable and practical to ride in normal clothes, with full-length mudguards, perhaps a chainguard or chaincase, and a comfortable saddle that doesn’t require padded shorts. Good choices include a roadster, a fully-equipped hybrid or a pedelec.
If your bike or your commute isn’t best suited to everyday attire, you can still avoid carrying in clothing by choosing casual cycling gear that is smart enough to double as work-wear: cycling shoes with recessed cleats, cycling jeans that don’t have thick seams where you’d sit on them, shirts or tops made from wicking fabric, and so on. You’ll want mudguards, on-the-bike luggage, and an easy-does-it attitude for the reasons above.
If you’re a Lycra commuter, try to avoid carrying all your office duds every day. If you’ve got somewhere to store them, you could take in five shirts/blouses, your trousers/skirt, and a towel at the start of the week. Three days a week, you’ve then only got to carry your undies.
You could take your bike by train on Monday morning and home on Friday if the accumulated clothing is too awkward to carry all the way. Your shoes and jacket could stay semi-permanently at your workplace.
Leave the lock
Security corresponds closely to weight when it comes to bike locks. Good D-locks and chains rated Sold Secure Gold typically weigh 1-2kg – or more. That’s a lot to lug about. So don’t. You have the same destination each day, so leave the lock at work – in your locker or attached to a cycle stand. If you need a lock at home as well, just buy two; you’re not restricted to one in your Cyclescheme package. A lock that lives outdoors will need lubricating occasionally to stop it seizing up. Turn to page 42 for some buying options.
You might be able to do without a lock at all at one or both ends of your journey. If you can park your bike behind a locked door, that may satisfy your worries about theft – and the small print in your insurance policy. If you commute on a compact folding bike, you may be able to keep it in sight at all times, parking it under your desk at work.
Do your digital homework
A laptop may allow you to work in different locations with access to all your important files, but it’s a lot of weight to haul daily on your bike: 2-3kg for a typical 15in model. Consider:
- Getting a smaller, lighter laptop. An 11in ultra-portable might weigh only 1kg. Peripherals, such as bigger screen, DVD drive, or keyboard can be plugged in at either end of your journey.
- Carrying just the data. A portable hard drive could contain all your work files and will weigh a fraction of your laptop. A flash drive can fit on a keyring.
- Cloud storage. Documents that live online can be accessed anywhere. IMAP email offers the same convenience for email and is available free.
Don’t accumulate clutter
Use the smallest pannier(s), saddlebag, backpack or courier bag that will accommodate everything you need. Lay out everything you plan to take and then put it in a carrier bag or shoe box. That’s the size of bag you need. A big bag is easily filled with non-essential stuff, and you might even forget what you’ve ‘temporarily’ stashed there.
De-clutter periodically by emptying and repacking.
But don’t leave home without…
Anything you’re likely to need on your journey can’t be jettisoned. Find room somewhere for your essential tools, a waterproof jacket, and your bike lights (if not fastened to the bike).
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