The Ultimate Guide to Commuting by Bike
Are you thinking about switching from sitting in a car every day to going by bike? Do you have friends who swear by cycling to work in all weathers and rightly ask yourself, “How does that work?” But do you still not have enough information or arguments to make the switch, or have questions that your cycling colleagues couldn’t answer? Then you’ve come to the right place.
Clarifying the “Why?”
You know how it is: fitness centre operators in particular love New Year’s resolutions because although people get annual memberships, their membership cards are gathering dust by March at the latest. To ensure that your bike doesn’t disappear into the depths of your basement after a few weeks, you should think about why you’ve decided to switch as soon as you make that decision.
People are creatures of habit, and for many people commuting is like brushing their teeth. During lockdown, psychologists even advised people to drive round the block a few times in their cars before starting work at home – if you’ve been in the same habit for years, or even decades, you need a good plan for how to change it!
So ask yourself: why do you want to cycle to work?
• Make a written “pact with yourself”: write down what you want to change.
• You shouldn’t forget your motivation for doing this, so write those reasons down. Especially if you suffer setbacks, you should have this list at hand quickly and read it through.
• Keep track of your pact, either on paper or directly in an app like Bike Citizens. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the kilometres build up when cycling.
• Reward your achievements by treating yourself to something for each week of commuting by bike.
• Ask a good friend to monitor your progress as well.
• Trick yourself into stepping away from your habit: deliberately park your car further away and put your bike very close to the door.
The most frequently cited reasons for commuting by bike
Asking commuters about cycling to work, whether they’ve done it for many years or have recently switched, highlights reasons that weren’t obvious before switching to a bike. So to give you an idea, here’s a list:
1) “I’m balanced”
After a few weeks, the daily commute by bike becomes a habit and fairly soon an addiction. Riding your bike requires a certain amount of attention in traffic, so your brain is distracted and free from thoughts of work. If commuters have to switch to travelling by car for a short time after many years of commuting by bike, they miss that sense of balance: it’s easier to switch off in the fresh air and in motion than sitting in a traffic jam in work clothes. It has been proven that cycling stimulates the brain and helps against depression.
2) “I’m keeping healthy”
Not only does our mind get much-needed fresh air – our body also gets a regular “service”. Frequent exercise strengthens our cardiovascular system, and the temperature changes between cold and warm train our immune system, so commuters suffer less from colds and flu in the long term! The many benefits of cycling in winter (linked article is german only) have recently been demonstrated. Cycling is also a form of exercise which is easy on the joints (and the knees), and it improves the supply of nutrients to your joints. So people with joint problems can and even should cycle. As your fitness increases, cycling generates an indescribable feeling of freedom and you’ll be amazed at the journeys that open up for you in one fell swoop. Commuting by bike can lift your fitness to a level you’ve never known before. Plus, you’ll discover that it gives you more energy for other (sporting) activities and helps you appreciate and enjoy them more. Check out 10 reasons why cycling (really) makes you healthy for an even better summary of this topic.
3) “I’m saving time”
What do you mean, I’m saving time? Surely I’m slower on the bike? Apart from the fact that’s not true, especially in urban and suburban areas, cycling means you’ve already incorporated endurance sports into your routine. Even if it only takes you 20-30 minutes to cycle to work, that’s 40-60 minutes of basic endurance training a day. That’s time saved in the gym. And this regular exercise will also increase your life expectancy by up to 6 years!
4) “I’m doing something for the environment”
As a cyclist, you’re doing something for our environment and helping to fight climate change. Once it’s seeped into your consciousness, this is another feeling that helps you enjoy life to the full.
5) “I’m always arriving on time”
When planning a journey, no means of transport is as reliable as a bike: cyclists can simply avoid traffic jams and roadworks, don’t need to look for parking spaces, and can ride at (almost) the same speed even in bad weather. While car drivers often need to play it safe and allow an extra quarter of an hour because of traffic jams or the need to find a parking space, cyclists can arrive bang on time. You’ll never find yourself complaining about the terrible traffic again, because your mode of transport can finally be planned almost to the minute.
6) “I’m saving money”
For self-motivation, it’s very important to write down how much your car costs per kilometre (or use an official kilometre allowance as a guide) and calculate how much money you would save per week, per month, even per year. The next point will illustrate that this isn’t a small amount.
Let’s talk about money
As a means of commuting, the car is four to six times more expensive than public transport and not comparable to the cost of a bike. Don’t believe it? Let’s do the maths. More than half of all journeys to work in Austria are shorter than 10 kilometres. If you calculate how much your car actually costs (including loss of value, fuel, taxes, fees, insurance, financing costs, maintenance, repairs, additional equipment, parking and tolls), you quickly come close to the official kilometre allowance of 42 cents per kilometre.
That’s €8.40 for 20 kilometres per day, €42 per week, €168 per month, and €2100 per year.
The things you could treat yourself to for two grand a year, besides new bikes and gear… we’ll leave that to your imagination. But we’re not done yet. Aside from the economic significance of inactivity (sitting in a car increases the risk of diseases and reduces your life expectancy), you can also get something back from your employer.
Talk to your boss
You’re well on your way to discovering the many benefits of commuting by bike. Many companies already recognise these benefits and are happy to help you! So talk to your boss or the HR department. Big companies will often pay you a bonus if you give up your parking spot, or provide facilities to shower and get changed and offer secure, covered areas for you to park your bike. Car parking spaces are expensive, so your switch to carbon-free commuting will also pay off for the business. And companies sometimes run competitions such as “Bike commuter of the month”, with various bike shop vouchers up for grabs. If you can convince your bosses of the upsides of commuting by bike, the company will strengthen its image as a good employer, and you’ll benefit directly.
Feel like you’re banging your head against a brick wall in salary negotiations? Maybe you can get a special goodie out of it, like a company bike, an extra payment for high-quality cycling equipment, or a bike service? There’s no harm in asking! You can save money and give yourself stronger motivation to get on your bike every day.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only poor equipment
OK, we’ve all heard that before – but there’s an important reason why. In principle, cycling can be fun in any weather, so you should invest the money you’ve saved in quality equipment, especially when starting out.
Bicycle: There is the right bike for everyone
From the currently popular gravel bike to the e-mountain bike, you can commute on basically any kind of bike, depending on your route, your preference and your budget. Many commuters have summer tyres for the perfect ride and winter tyres to handle all weathers. If you decide to buy an e-bike, please bear in mind that you’ll miss out on many of the health benefits from commuting. We’ve already put together a decent selection of commuter bikes for you. (Linked article is german only!)
If you find a great bike that’s perfect for you and get some stylish sportswear to go with it, you’ll instantly look much cooler than any sports car or SUV driver. Especially if they’re stuck in their smelly work clothes in a traffic jam as you speed past them with a cheery whistle.
The basic equipment you need
You can leave the ice scraper and parking disc at home, but bike commuters do need some basic equipment. The right rain cover, a small bicycle pump and a padlock are essential, and then you can choose whether you prefer a backpack or a pannier. Our tip: ask people for advice or read our article on the must-haves when commuting by bike. (Linked article is german only!)
Careful planning is half the battle
Your usual route by car is probably not the best way to cycle to work. While many side roads are perfect for cyclists, main roads can quickly become dangerous and unpleasant. The only thing that can help here is to plan ahead: use as many cycle paths as possible and look for new routes. Most navigation apps were designed for drivers first, but not so with Bike Citizens. Created by cyclists for cyclists, the app shows you the best cycle-friendly routes to suit your exact needs. So be sure to try it out.
Mix it up
Have you got into the habit of commuting by bike but are looking for something new? Find new cycling routes with Bike Citizens. Especially on the way home, you have time to enjoy the beautiful weather or make your journey more active and challenging.
This way, you’ll get to know like-minded people and can indulge in your new hobby in your free time. In the process you’ll discover new routes and landscapes and give yourself even more options for your cycling trips.