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Top tips for commuting on your bike in Wellington

Sick of traffic and public transport meltdowns? Thinking about the environment? Or just taking to the bike as summer creeps ever closer? Don’t be nervous – heaps of people commute by bike into Wellington CBD.

 

Photo: Getty images

A good way to get confident riding is by taking a practice trip on the route you plan to take on a Sunday arvo – just to get it into your head that you can do it.

Practice your route

Practicing your route in advance at quiet times is a great idea because you can suss out potentially dodgy intersections way in advance and check that the map isn’t lying to you.

When you are on the road, try not to feel intimidated by the cars, buses and other cyclists, just focus on you and your journey. Wear hi-vis clothing and take it slow. Check over your shoulder before pulling out into traffic/changing lanes and use hand signals.

Pay attention to other cyclists and have no shame in tailing them or copying their manoeuvres if they do something that looks safe and smart. Getting a buddy to cycle in with for the first couple of days can be helpful.  You could ask colleagues at work to see if there is anyone else already cycling the route you are. They could be a “buddy” to show you the best route or things to watch out for.

There’s also a programme called Pedal Ready https://www.pedalready.org.nz/ which offers free courses to people wanting to start commuting in the Wellington region and gain confidence cycling on the roads.

Practicing your route in advance at quiet times is a great idea because you can suss out potentially dodgy intersections way in advance and check that the map isn’t lying to you.

Clothing choice

I personally wear a suit or other work clothes and don’t shower, because I have an ebike and I can get enough grunt from it uphill that I don’t break a sweat. Miramar to Thorndon is potentially on the flat all the way and you could get away with it if you’re modestly fit and prepared not to cane it. I certainly prefer to take a little bit longer and not have to shower and change at the end.

Showering

But if you are a Sweaty Betty and your workplace has showers – then probably best to bike in your cycle attire and then keep/change into office clothes at your office. This means you avoid getting sweaty and having to stay in those clothes all day.

Make note that the waterfront route can get super windy and hard on some days. For example don’t be surprised if you get blown off your bike.

I would also suggest joining the Cycle Wellington group on Facebook, lots of commute advice and heads up about things on there.

Tires are one of the most effective differences a person can make

Smooth tires require less effort, and handle better on pavement, bigger treads actually reduce your traction on pavement, increase exertion, and cause noise. All of these things reduce the quality of your experience. High pressure tires roll better, and skinnier tires require higher pressure.

German and Italian tires will almost never be punctured, their tire reliability adds convenience to your life which you cannot imagine and are well worth the extra money.

Reflective stripes on tires are great, and arguably essential for any road-commuting bicycle. Wheel reflectors will fall off your spokes very quickly.

Always lock your bike

Even at home – even in your back yard, and always carry a lock.
You will not find a better lock than the HipLok DX (at Burkes Cycles) – but you WILL find many locks which cost far more money and far more weight than the HipLok DX, which are inferior. When choosing a lock, convenience is just as important as security – you might think your combo lock is pretty smart until the sun goes down.

Frame bags are super-great
They are more practical than you can imagine and custom frame bags are even better – luckily Wellington has one of the world’s few makers of custom frame bags.

Vehicular cycling

Vehicular cycling (also known as bicycle driving) is the practice of riding bicycles on roads in a manner that is in accordance with the principles for driving in traffic, and in a way that places responsibility for safety on the individual.

The phrase vehicular cycling was coined by John Forester in the 1970s. In his book Effective Cycling, Forester contends that “Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles”.These techniques have been adopted by the League of American Bicyclists and other organizations teaching safe riding courses for cyclists. As a method for strong and confident riders to cope with fast motor traffic, many recommendations of vehicular cycling are widely applied.

Rules

Check out the NZTA roadcode for bikes to double-check the laws around cycling.

Have fun and be safe!