8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

General cycling advice ( NOT technical ! )
Lehcaro
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8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby Lehcaro » 4 May 2018, 11:37am

Hi all,

I am new to cycling as an adult, and have just bought a used ladies hybrid which I am hoping to use to cycle to work which is roughly 8.5 miles. Around a third of the journey is covered by a national cycle route which runs along a river, which seems quite safe, though the first section will be on fairly busy London roads.

I am relatively active, but other than the stationary bike at the gym, it's been a long while since I've cycled this kind of distance.

I am just wondering whether this is an unrealistic journey for me? Any tips or advice to make it go more smoothly would be great!

Thank you!

Lehcaro

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mjr
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby mjr » 4 May 2018, 11:44am

Not easy but not unrealistic IMO. Some people do far more. I'd allow an hour or so at first (possibly more if you're in a busy bit of London - I've been as slow as 3mph on traffic-light-infested sections but that was back in the bad old days with fewer decent cycle routes) and if you already commute by another method, maybe consider cycling it two days a week, then stepping it up as you get used to it and maybe smooth some rough edges off the route or bike or other practicalities?
Last edited by mjr on 4 May 2018, 11:44am, edited 1 time in total.
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profpointy
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby profpointy » 4 May 2018, 11:44am

Fitness wise, from your post, I am certain you will be totally fine. London is not hilly, so it's pretty easy to cycle more or less any distance.
Road confidence - I'm not a london cyclist, but have been a city commuter cyclist elsewhere - the best piece of advice I can think of is be confident, almost aggressive, or at least be decisive. And stay out of the gutter - maybe 1m out, or take the middle of the lane entirely if (say) in a left or right turning lane, or going straight on in a lane where people are going left. When filtering, be very careful going up the inside, and there's often a lot to be said for overtaking on the right instead.

Go for it !

Vorpal
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby Vorpal » 4 May 2018, 11:48am

Congrats & Welcome!

An 8.5 mile commute is entirely feasible, but you may need to build up to it. For example, start doing it 1 or 2 days per week, then 3, then 4 with a break on Wednesday.

It's also feasible to just start doing it every day, though you are likely to feel more tired than usual. The last time I started a new commute, I basically needed to sleep 10 hours per night for the first couple of weeks, but I was otherwise okay with it. I was a regular cyclist already, but I had not done a daily commute in a while, and I'd been off the bike for a couple of weeks due to moving.

Some people who make a sudden increase in activity like that feel fine for the first week or two, but then suddenly have no energy. This is most likely a sign that they didn't give themseleves enough recovery time, though it may also relate to nutrition, hydration, etc.

As for feeling more confident, I recommend Bikeability. If you don't find a course or instructor near you, pick up a copy of Cyclecraft, which the course is based upon.

Good luck, and enjoy your cycling!
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
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JakobW
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby JakobW » 4 May 2018, 12:27pm

Which bits of London are you going to/from? Locals may be able to advise on quieter routes. As others have said, 8.5 miles each way may require building up to, as that's 85 miles a week if you're doing it every day. Tiredness and hunger are going to be normal at first. From my experience, central London is pretty good for cycling these days - some of the infrastructure is excellent, and even where it's less good, drivers are more aware of cyclists (safety in numbers!). The outer boroughs are more variable, but even there there are a fair number of cyclists on the roads. If you want to build road confidence, most councils offer cycle training for people living or working in the borough, which is often a one-to-one session with an instructor; a friend of mine got two or three free sessions by booking through the councils responsible for her home and her workplaces...

Other tips - if you have to take much in to work, carrying the load on the bike rather than in a rucksack makes life much more comfortable - depending on the load and your preference you may want panniers and a rack, a saddlebag of some kind, or a basket on the front. Good luck! After a month or two, most cyclists would never want to go back to bus and tube...

thirdcrank
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby thirdcrank » 4 May 2018, 12:35pm

mjr wrote:... I'd allow an hour or so at first (possibly more ...


You don't say what are your particular concerns but I'll stress the time factor because it's something you may not have thought about if you are worried about fitness or coping with traffic. This isn't only about riding time - which can be slow in traffic - but faffing about time at the start and end of each journey. A good routine can help. eg If anything needs doing on your bike, don't forget about it until you are on the point of setting off. If circumstances allow, it's a good idea to check your tyres in between. eg At lunchtime at work. Then, if you have picked up a slow puncture, you will have time to deal with it, rather than discovering it when you are all set to ride home.

If you intend to get changed at work, have a shower etc, make sure that you have everything ready and planned.

The main point is that it's much easier to lose time faffing about than it is to make it up by riding faster.

I'd also stress how good it makes you feel. After the first couple of pedal turns on the way home the worries of the day's work are forgotten - even though they may be replaced by some SMIDSY idiot.

xjs
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby xjs » 4 May 2018, 12:53pm

Get the best tyres you can - any deflationary incidents will be highly annoying. I can heartily recommend Schwalbe Marathon Plus and Specialized Armadillos. You'll probably need water to drink on hotter days.

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Sum
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby Sum » 4 May 2018, 1:07pm

Lehcaro wrote:...I am just wondering whether this is an unrealistic journey for me? Any tips or advice to make it go more smoothly would be great!

I have a similar commute and the first time absolutely floored me, but then I was very overweight and not particularly fit.

My suggestion would be to try the route at the weekend and see how you get on. Make allowance for the fact that you will be attempting to cycle there and back in one go (rather than resting your cycling muscles at work perhaps) so if you're knackered before you get to the half-way mark then turn back. You can also time yourself and experiment with different routes depending upon how well the trial goes.

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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby Vorpal » 4 May 2018, 1:36pm

Sum wrote:
Lehcaro wrote:...I am just wondering whether this is an unrealistic journey for me? Any tips or advice to make it go more smoothly would be great!


My suggestion would be to try the route at the weekend and see how you get on.

That's a good suggestion. Sunday mornings are good for that sort of thing, as there tends not to be much traffic. Although if you want Sunday as a rest day, it might be better on Saturday. Anyway, stop someplace for a nice tea or coffee, or whatever you prefer, before you head back. 8)
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rmurphy195
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby rmurphy195 » 4 May 2018, 3:05pm

Vorpal wrote:Congrats & Welcome!

An 8.5 mile commute is entirely feasible, but you may need to build up to it. For example, start doing it 1 or 2 days per week, then 3, then 4 with a break on Wednesday.

It's also feasible to just start doing it every day, though you are likely to feel more tired than usual. The last time I started a new commute, I basically needed to sleep 10 hours per night for the first couple of weeks, but I was otherwise okay with it. I was a regular cyclist already, but I had not done a daily commute in a while, and I'd been off the bike for a couple of weeks due to moving.

Some people who make a sudden increase in activity like that feel fine for the first week or two, but then suddenly have no energy. This is most likely a sign that they didn't give themseleves enough recovery time, though it may also relate to nutrition, hydration, etc.

As for feeling more confident, I recommend Bikeability. If you don't find a course or instructor near you, pick up a copy of Cyclecraft, which the course is based upon.

Good luck, and enjoy your cycling!


+1

Based on my experience, I would try building up to your first trip gradually (don't forget, you have to get back!).

I had a similar distance commute in Birmingham when, at the age of 40, i "returned" to cycling. But I didn't attempt to commute immediatley. It was case of going around the block from home once in the evening, then twice, then a bigger circuit, then twice. After about a fortnight I was doing the bigger circle (about a mile and a half each circuit) 2 times each evening. This is downhill, then uphill, then down, then up (I live on top of a hill!). Then I started going on short there-and-back rides of up to 6 or 7 miles, then longer. After another month or so I felt confident enough to do the 9-mile trip to work once a week, plus a ride with a local group to the pub each Wed evening, plus the 1-mile return trip to my in laws on Sat afternoons.

The after a bit I stopped feeling as tired afterwards!

The following year I tackled the Birmingham - Oxford for the first time - luvverly sense of achievement!

PS After a couple of trips to work, my boss arranged for one of the cubicles in the men's cloakroom to be converted into a shower cubicle. I'm not entirely sure what his motives were ... :D
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MikeF
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby MikeF » 4 May 2018, 8:29pm

profpointy wrote:Fitness wise, from your post, I am certain you will be totally fine. London is not hilly, so it's pretty easy to cycle more or less any distance.
It is in places, especially if you aren't used to cycling.The TV transmitters at Alexandra Palace and Crystal Palace/Norwood Hill are on quite high ground and I think less than 8.5 miles from the centre.
"It takes a genius to spot the obvious" - my old physics master

drossall
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby drossall » 4 May 2018, 10:32pm

There are lots of sneaky routes that find ways around difficult parts. If you haven't found it already, use Cyclestreets, which will offer you quick (but busy), quiet (but slow) and intermediate alternatives. Then make your own variations on that.

Annoying Twit
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby Annoying Twit » 5 May 2018, 12:03pm

From my distant past experience of cycling in London, I feel that the fact that I give clear hand signals when turning had a beneficial effect on my interactions with motorists and hence my safety. I'm on busy roads less often these days, but still hand signal and I believe that helps.

Geoff.D
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby Geoff.D » 7 May 2018, 11:27pm

I agree with all the comments about it being feasible and building up to a full week's commute in stages. You'll be surprised just how soon your legs and stamina get up to the needed level. Don't rush it, and don't be dominated by clock watching. There's pleasure to be had simply by riding, even in a commute.
I also agree with having good (puncture resistant) tyres. I commuted for many years, and after I switched to Schwalbe Marathon Plus I had no incidents at all. I would also recommend mudguards.
Having good facilities at the other end is desirable. I had to create a makeshift changing room by putting my own lock on a washroom, then using it quickly to wash and change when I arrived. It was convenient to be able to leave clean stuff in the work place.
Consider having a decent lock at the other end and leave it there. You don't need to carry it on the ride.
I use a mirror attached to my specs. It does the same job as a helmet mounted one. I find it invaluable. I can sweep my rear view from kerb to kerb if I want. It's particularly valuable when looking for a gap in traffic behind, when I'm looking to turn right. I still look over my shoulder as the gap gets closer (when riding my upright) to give the drivers a sign that I'm looking. And then I signal and move into the gap. It's not an essential (except on the trike) but it's useful.
Good luck. Enjoy.

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[XAP]Bob
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Re: 8.5 mile commute for a beginner cyclist?

Postby [XAP]Bob » 11 May 2018, 9:15pm

I started with a 10mile each way commute.

So it’s possible... but note...

That mileage adds up fast!
You will get fitter and stronger rapidly, in three months your journey time will reduce significantly.
You will need to eat more!
You will need to budget for tyres, brakes etc. And learn how to fix them.
You’ll need a half decent ‘on road’ toolkit, include a head torch and some latex/nitrile gloves.
You may want to get a second bike, so that longer maintenance jobs can be done at leisure.

Look after yourself, the drive train and the brakes/rims and you’ll be fine.
It’s a nice time of year to start...
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