Hey everyone, Unspokin Movement is a blog about urban cycling and city commuting and I've been bike commuting for more years than i'd care to admit. I get a lot of questions from customers and from people I know and so I thought I'd try to help you all beginner bike commuters out there by pointing out a few mistakes that you can easily avoid. 

Mistake number one: trying to do too much

It is really strange how bike commuting gets kind of wrapped up into fitness and macho culture. I often hear from cyclists who want to commute, but are kind of worried that they won't be able to meet these sort of unwritten expectations from other cyclists. You know maybe their commute is too short or maybe they want to use an e-bike, or maybe they don't have the right gear and somehow that makes it feel like they're not a real bicycle commuter or something strange like that. Well, we are here to say don't listen to other cyclists. There are no rules about bike commuting and everyone is welcome to try. There is no club you have to join whether it's once a week or once a month. It doesn’t matter whether you do it to save on parking fees or whether you do it for climate change or for fitness or just for mental health. It doesn't matter your motivation, it doesn't matter why you're doing or the reasons you've got or the gear you've got. Just get out and give it a try any day that you get a bike ride is better than a day without a bike ride so there really is no downside give it a shot!

Mistake number two:  gear overload

I often hear from people who want to start bike commuting and they feel this need to go out and buy a whole bunch of new stuff. Be it new panniers or a new gps trackers or even a new bike. If you've got the money and you like doing that, go for it. But i don't think it's a requirement - all you really need is a bike maybe a backpack to put your stuff in. Then you can start and hopefully you will develop a habit. Before you know it, you'll become a bike commuter for years and years which will give you time to hone your approach. Don’t worry! You'll have plenty of time to figure out what gear you need and you can go and buy it then, but i don't think you need it to start all you really need is a bike and the will to give it a shot. 

Mistake number three: choosing your route 

So I found in most cities there are multiple ways to get to a destination. This is especially true on a bike more so than in a car and if all you've done in the past is drive a car, I find a lot of people have a pretty limited mental map of their city. So i think it's important when you first start bike commuting to keep experimenting with your routes and look for routes that have less car traffic. Look for cut throughs through parks, gardens, small lanes and even housing estates and HDB blocks. Look for trails that are not on most city maps. There's usually some cool ways to get around and just keep trying what works. Sometimes you want to just find a beautiful route to work because it feels nice riding there. You might chose a different route that’s shady when it’s sunny and another that has shelter when it’s raining. So keep experimenting. I think it's worth the time to maximise your efficiency and the pleasure of your route if you just keep trying new routes.

Mistake number four: being impatient with the logistics 

When I first started bike commuting, I remember the hardest part was not riding or dealing with traffic or the lack of bike lanes. Although that's still a problem, it was the logistics like: when I get to work where do i park my bike? Do i shower or do I not shower? Where do I hang my towel? Those sorts of things I found really difficult and I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all solution. I think the answer is to be patient and just keep trying. You will work it out eventually here's an example: it took me a long time to figure out that if I just leave a pair of work shoes under my desk at work that gives me a lot more options when I'm riding. I could choose my footwear based on the weather without having to think about a whole change of clothes when I arrived. This seems like a no-brainer now but it took me some time to figure that out so be patient with those day-to-day logistics.

Mistake number five: thinking about speed rather than efficiency

When bike commuters first get started they tend to want to go as quickly as possible but i found what's more important is efficiency and i mean this in two ways one ways is to think about transportation efficiency i mean being on a bike is just way more efficient than a car in downtown areas going for lunch for example whipping out on your bike is way faster than trying to search for parking in a car i think stopping for errands on the way home on a bike is way more efficient and than a car because you can just roll right up to the front door and lock your bike but efficiency applies to your bike as well sure it's tempting to go for the fastest bike but sometimes those bikes are geared in a way that requires a lot of effort from the rider which means you can sometimes end up a sweaty mess at your destination what you really want is a bike that maximizes your forward momentum with as little effort from you as Possible it means you will use as little energy as possible and get to your destination quickly and efficiently that's bike Efficiency i think that's way more important than raw speed.

Mistake number six: Bragging about your commute

We know there's a temptation to brag about your bike commute because you feel so good doing it. We know that's  why we do it too. But try to resist the urge for a couple of reasons: number one is that it does tend to perpetuate the stereotype of the self-righteous full of themselves cyclist which we kind of dislike number two is that it's just not brag worthy. You never hear people bragging about their bus commute. If you go to a real bike friendly city that's full of bike infrastructure and safe bike lanes and safe routes you'll see all kinds of people riding. Moms with kids, older people, younger people everybody rides and nobody brags about it. It's just a way of life so that's really the goal, and helping our cities get there is about advocacy and encouragement. Just be a friendly partner to other people who want to cycle and ride their bikes. You're going to get questions from people so answer them, be friendly and encouraging but don't be insufferable about it. Be a cycling friend not a competitor.

So that's it - Six mistakes that new bike commuters tend to make. Hopefully that was helpful to you. One of the reasons we started this blog was to encourage people to make the bike a bigger part of their lives because it meant so much to us and we hope this is helpful for somebody like you. If you have other tips or suggestions on improving this blog always drop us a note. We are happy to hear them. Thanks everyone, until next time.

April 14, 2022 — Douglas Koh

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