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I made a bit of a boast in the office a couple of days ago when it was suggested that I ride into work, it's a 13 mile trip one way.

My boss is a bit of a MAMIL, and has cycled quite a bit, to him 13 miles is a walk in the park.

My bike is a £70 jobby from Halfords, only really used perhaps once or twice a year for going on a short bike ride with the kids.

I also have a very sedentary job and am sat at the computer 8 hours a day, I used to be fit 20 years ago as I was in the forces but since leaving, the only excercise I have done is one 10Km run (as a bet) about 8 years ago, and today I'm nursing the effects of riding 29.5 miles on a bone shaker in flip flops.

Problem is, I liked it and want to do this, initially once a week but want to build up to several times a week.

Any advice on what I should buy to make my life easier?

  • What sort of budget are you thinking of? Just wearing shoes that slip less on the pedals will help, as well smoother tyres. But after any new exercise you'll be tired and ache, and that's quite a long way off your not used to it. If you can go one way one day, and the other the next day (e.g. by taking the bike in the car, or getting the bus home) you can ease off into our a bit more. If you do want to upgrade your bike, second hand is good. You'll find a lot of useful information if you browse the [beginner] tag. And welcome – Chris H May 19 '18 at 6:49
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    Practice. I'd ride your bike until it wears out, and then start looking for a new one. Don't try to upgrade the bike you have. Have a look at other questions here for what is recommended for commuters. – Jonathon May 19 '18 at 6:53
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    If possible, start by riding the bike in one direction and car or public transport in the other. – ojs May 19 '18 at 8:21
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    Right now, I’d say that 13 miles each way is way too much for you. I’m a fairly keen cyclist and I’ll be going out and doing 30-40 miles this afternoon. I have a variety of routes I can take into work, ranging between 3 and 12 miles. Usually, I do 6-7. If the weather’s nice, I do 10 maybe a couple of days a week. I very rarely want to do more than 10 and definitely not if the weather’s too hot, too cold, too likely to rain, ... going from zero to 26mi is a huge jump. You should investigate options for cycling part of the way (maybe start with 5mi) and taking a bus/train for the rest, at first. – David Richerby May 19 '18 at 12:09
  • I find that 30mins is pleasant, 45mins is fine, 1hr each way is tolerable, but getting wearisome, 1.5hrs is too long after work, but quite enjoyable when it is only going to work in the morning. You are probably looking at a 1hr+ ride. If you can find a way to get a ride part way home, you will find it a lot more workable. – Henry Crun May 20 '18 at 0:11
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Before you ride, give your bike a safety check. Its been sitting about for a while, and there could be problems you're not aware of.

The Sustrans website covers this at https://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-you-can-do/cycling/your-bike/bicycle-maintenance-made-easy/m-check-your-bike-11-steps

For things to buy/find:

  1. Wet weather gear - You mention Halfords so its likely you're in the UK, which seems to be enjoying a riding renaissance. But the weather's going to be wet someday. You'll need a coat that works for wet riding. Later you can add overtrousers or overshoes. Personally I ride in gumboots (wellingtons) in the wet.

  2. Helmet - Not mandatory in the UK, but still a very good idea.

  3. Lights - again if your job hours mean riding after dark, lights are probably mandatory for you.

  4. Spare clothes, towel, deodorant. Either carry them with you in a waterproof bag/rack, or store them at work for a change on arrival. Consider using your non-bike days to carry that bag to/from work for starters.

  5. Bike security. Its no good coming out of work and finding your bike's missing. Even though its a cheap BSO bike, a lock will help prevent it from vanishing. I've got access to a bike room at work - check with your MAMIL about where to park it safely.

  6. Water bottle and bottle cage on the bike. On a hot day you can go through a lot of water, so its easier to carry that on the bike and not on your person. Your bike should have a couple of screw holes on the downtube, and a cheap plastic bottle cage will bolt in there with M5 screws. Use grease. Any convenient sized bottle will do, but poptops work best if you drink on the go. Screw tops require you to stop for a sip.

Those are all I'd call immediate needs, and its likely you have a lot of it already (how many people in the UK don't have a waterproof jacket already ?)


If you're handy you would consider carrying pump/spare tube/levers and whatever you need to get the wheel off, for changing a flat. You will get a puncture eventually. Its just a part of cycling.

Depending on how old your bike is, it might benefit from new brake pads. They dry and harden with age, and braking suffers.

If your bike has knobbly MTB tyres, consider replacing them with smoother ones when they wear thin and punctures start getting frequent, or you see canvas.

Otherwise simply keep riding. Aim to wear your bike out and then reward yourself with a better one in a couple years.


Related - recording your rides can be of massive value over time, to see how you're getting faster. Personally I use strava to record my commutes and rides for future comparison. Downside of this, your MAMIL might do so as well, and it may become competitive. Don't be put off if this happens, just use strava to record your own progress and don't compare with other people.

Seeing improvement over time is an awesome ego boost, because it never feels faster at the time.

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    Have a medical check-up if you have not ridden for a long time. – Carel May 19 '18 at 15:17
  • How about "if something hurts after riding, think about why it has started, and alleviate the cause" like buy padded pants if the backside hurts. – Criggie May 19 '18 at 20:40
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    I'd also suggest not going once a week - if you make it twice a week, maybe have way car/half way bike in the beginning, you will get adopted to the riding much more quickly than doing it only once a week. – user33275 May 20 '18 at 15:41

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