Time Out Melbourne

Melbourne's pedal power is at an all-time high... but the prospect of commuting through peak hour still spooks many

We answer some FAQs, offer safety tips and nominate the day to give the work ride a whirl

"Will I trade fat for fit?"

• Long-term health benefits of cycling include increased strength, better muscle tone, decreased body fat and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.

• Cycling gets endorphins flowing – a great stress release.

• Rookies remember: bike riding should not feel more strenuous than walking (unless you want it to). Don’t go too hard too early!

"Will it take long?"

• City trips of under 10km are faster in peak hour than cars or public transport.

"Do I need special equipment?"

• Just a bike, helmet (it's illegal riding without one) and lock.

• If you’re riding in the dark you’ll need front and rear lights.

• Make sure your brakes, tyres and chain are in good condition.

• Ensure your bike set-up is ideal for your body size. Are you over-extending your upper body? Is your seat at the right height? Is your helmet fitted correctly?

"I hate spandex! Alternatives?"

• Unrestrictive, light, warm and fast-dry clothes are ideal. They should be bright for maximum visibility. 

• You can ride in work clothes or change at work. Or bring in a week’s worth of work clothes by car or train in one go!

"How do I carry my stuff?"

• Travelling light? Try a backpack or bike basket. Panniers (a bag fastened to a rack) are great for larger loads. 

• Bike trailers are a good option for large or heavy work materials.

"How do I plan my trip to work?"

• Speak to regular riders and check out maps from your local cycling organisation. Aim for a route that avoids fast traffic and narrow roads. You might be able to utilise off-road bike paths and on-road lanes. 

• If there’s a neighbour who cycles in from your direction, arrange to ride together. Bike riders are social animals and love to share tips and help others get started.

• Consider a trial ride on a weekend.

"But I live a long way from work!"

• So jump on the train with your bike and get off a few stops from work, or drive part of the way and ride from there, or cycle to the train station.

"I'm nervous about riding in traffic."

No worries. Keep in mind the Three C’s:

• Common sense: Bicycles are vehicles and must follow the rules of the road. Riding on the left, obeying traffic signals and using hand signals before turning right are all essential for safe riding.

• Courtesy: Be assertive but considerate – know the road rules and act on them. If you make eye contact with motorists you can be more confident they’ve seen you.

• Caution: Find the safest riding route – try quiet streets or off-road bike paths. Ride predictably and leave room to manoeuvre. Watch for opening car doors!

"What if I get a puncture?"

• You can minimise the chances of a puncture by making sure your tyres are in good condition and inflated to the recommended pressure (the PSI marked on your tyres). Ask your local bike shop about tyres and linings that offer extra protection against punctures.

• If you get a puncture and you’re carrying a basic repair kit, you can replace the tube or repair the old
one pretty quickly on the spot.

Updated on 17 Aug 2011.

By Angus Fontaine   |  

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