7 things to consider when commuting
Commuting by bike can be brilliant, not only because it will generally take less time to get to and from work, but also because it will often cost less and is better for the environment. Plus it's always more fun to be on a bike, obviously.
But it can all go horribly wrong if you or your bike aren’t prepared. Here are some things to consider when commuting on your motorcycle…
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Pick the right kit
We’ve all been caught out from time to time in a sudden heavy shower when what started out as a nice day, turns grim. We can’t control the weather (d'oh) and at some point you are bound to find yourself in wet, icy, not completely fun-for-riding weather.
Therefore it’s important to make sure you’re wearing the right kit to keep you warm and as dry as possible. There’s plenty of affordable four-season kit available now too, so there really is no reason why you should be caught out.
If you’ve got the budget opt for a technical membrane such as Gore-Tex, it’s both waterproof and breathable, otherwise there are plenty of alternatives that will suffice.
Layering-up will also help regulate temperatures on colder days and it’s worth considering some technical base layers into part of your kit budget. If you can’t afford the latest and greatest super high-tech material, then have a look in an outdoors shop where you can pick-up simple but effective base layers for pretty cheap.
Don’t be the person who thinks that just wearing a normal leather jacket with a jumper underneath will suffice on a cold wet day in January, you’ll earn nothing but a good giggle from your co-workers when you arrive in the office completely sodden.
Pack it in
Another consideration that can sometimes be overlooked until you learn a nasty lesson from mother nature is to make sure you have waterproof luggage. Your rucksack may keep your belongings pretty dry when you’re caught in a storm walking down the high street, but riding at 70mph in driving rain will prove just how susceptible to the elements the average rucksack is.
If you end-up riding through a storm only to find that your change of clothes is completely soaked, along with perhaps your laptop, phone, notepad and other consumable, then you’re not likely to have a good day at the office.
Panniers are one of the obvious solutions to carrying your kit around, they’re practical and there are plenty of waterproof options available. They can be expensive though, which could lead you to look at other options. Thankfully there are brands like Kriega who, while expensive, offer brilliant bags such as the R30 that will keep all of your belongings dry. They’re also made of tough stuff too. Half of the MCN office use these bags, and for good reason.
If you're on a tighter budget, there are still ways around keeping your stuff dry. There are plenty of roll-top dry bags on the market that will do the job when necessary.
Finding the way
It might sound completely daft to think that you don’t know the way to your place of work but if you regularly travel to different places for work then sometimes actually knowing the way there helps. A bike-specific sat-nav will keep you pointed in the right direction and can also allow you to perhaps explore a little more without the worry of getting lost or making yourself too late in the morning.
Maintenance is key
Maintaining your bike is obviously important, but even more so when you use your machine for commuting on. Using it most days will mean that it will invariably see the very best and very worst of mother nature and the latter can give your bike a real battering.
Road salt in the winter, mud and general crap that belies our great British highways will only ever spell trouble for your machine if it isn’t properly maintained.
Regular maintaining and cleaning of your bike each week will not only help keep your machine in good condition but will also help you to spot any developing problems early, letting you deal with them before they become much bigger problems that could potentially keep you off the road.
A decent brush set will help you get at those hard-to-reach places when cleaning and there are also plenty of cleaners which will help shift the dirt too. If your bike is chain driven, fitting a Scottoiler will also make maintaining a chain a lot easier and help it to last longer - definitely something worth considering if you’re doing big miles.
Sort your vision out
Those who only ride on a sunny Sunday may not understand the frustration and anger you feel when you pull up to the traffic lights on a cold wet morning unable to see a thing because your visor has fogged up.
It will always happen unless you can hold your breath as long as a Whale while you wait for those lights to turn green so you can open the vents on your lid until you can see properly again.
Of course, you could just lift your visor and then ride off with full vision before shutting your visor to the realisation that you’ve let water enter your lid and now the fogging problem is even worse. It’s a horrible cycle of events.
There are various anti-fog treatments that can be applied to help try and resolve this situation but by far the most effective is the Pinlock insert, which creates a layer between the visor surface and the helmet inner. They’re simple to install, providing your helmet will accept them, and will transform your riding in cold or wet weather. Your eyeballs will be grateful.
Pick the right bike for the job
You can use any bike at all to commute on, but there will sometimes be shortfalls to using your pride and joy on the daily ride to work. Thinking about the practicality of the machine you will be using really helps when making a decision on what bike to buy if you haven’t already bought it.
If for example, your commute takes you through heavy central city traffic that will see you dicing it up with other cars, then having a bike that’s as wide as a small barge won’t really help too much and will eliminate some of the most obvious benefits of riding to work in the first place.
Likewise, if you travel a long way or hit the motorway for a big stretch to get to work in the morning, then having a bike that offers very little comfort or wind protection will leave you sore and resentful.
Sure, there will be days ahead where it can be cold and grim but this shouldn’t deter you in the slightest, especially if you’re kitted out properly. These days will be long forgotten too when the weather is absolutely glorious anyway.
Then think about how much money and time you’ll save over being stuck in a car, or on the misery aka public transport. If you're in London for example, a yearly pass for the Underground can set you back £2250 (zone 1-5).
Take into consideration that you could buy a decent second-hand bike for half of the yearly tube ticket price, before even taking into account that you wouldn’t need to buy it again the following couple of years. With the money you’ll be saving it becomes a no-brainer.
There's also the resale value to consider and of course the glee you’ll have as you whip past frustrated drivers stuck in their cars going nowhere.
Another tip, why not get up early one morning and take the long way to work? It's guaranteed to make your day better.