Guest Post: My Cycle Commuting Tips — by @stevecastle

Over the last few years of cycling back and forth to work I’ve had to develop some ideas to help make the journeys easier and trouble-free. Most are common sense but I thought I’d share them!

Bike light charging

The USB faceplate power outlet


I quickly got bored with replacing AA / AAA / CR batteries in bike lights and making sure I had spares at both work and home so replaced all of my lights with the USB rechargeable type LED lights.

This presents another set of problems. The LED type lights don’t seem to dim slowly before losing charge they just stop working. Yes, there is often a low power indicator but for my main light that usually means I have about 3 miles of juice left.

An aside top tip is that I ride with two sets of lights. A main front and back light and a smaller flashing set (Knog blinders to be exact) which mean I can be more visible and also means I have a failsafe if one of my main lights runs out of power.

I now try to keep to a charging routine which is usually powering all my lights every 4 to 5 days but my top tip at home for managing charging was to replace some of our double sockets in the kitchen for ones with the USB charging points built-in. This means I can plug my lights in the same place I leave keys / wallet e.t.c and means I don’t forget to take them (which used to happen when I plugged them in upstairs at the computer.)

It also gives us a handy place to charge phones!

Dry Clothes

The dry liner bag

Riding to work in the rain is inevitable and you will get wet to some degree. This shouldn’t however affect what happens when you arrive at your destination to get changed… The last thing you want is to arrive soaking wet, open your backpack or bag to find your change of clothes soaking too.

I used to ride with my clothes wrapped in a carrier bag (specifically a drawstring carrier from a famous fruit based store) but plastic bags are harder to come by these days!

I then bought a dry liner bag from a camping shop (or Tredz – G) which has good waterproofing and a good seal at the top to prevent moisture getting in. That, combined with a back pack cover, means I never again have to face putting on damp socks.

Talking of backpack covers…


The reflective back pack cover

Basically I’m a snob. Whilst there are many of the rules of the Velominati I don’t follow, wearing a YJA (Yellow Jacket of Authority) is not something I will ever do. There are too many articles about victim blaming when it comes to cyclists and I fall on the side of that I won’t dress up like the Blackpool illuminations but I will try to help out those poor hapless motorists a bit.

Some jackets have reflective strips or like the ProVix jacket be extremely reflective but sometimes it’s too warm even in winter to wear one and even then, you may be covering them up with a dark back pack.

So I got the reflective backpack cover from Pro viz which means no matter what I’m wearing I will have a large degree of reflectivity from behind and I won’t be wearing any yellow / orange / pink hi viz. Phew.

Tools of the trade

Topeak Joe BlowWhere I work there are a few of us who regularly cycle commute and we would often discuss the odd mechanical issues faced by regular riders and would often need to share bits and pieces like tools, lube and knowledge. After a while we decided to pool a bit of cash together and bought a track pump to keep at work for those essential air top ups or worse still, the work day slow punctures.

A track pump is quite frankly an essential piece of kit for at home, especially one with a pressure gauge. Keeping tyres anywhere between 80-110 PSI is impossible with a hand pump and I credit regular checks with a track pump as my reason for only having two punctures in the whole of last year.

So for about a fiver between three of us we bought a track pump and some wet chain lube and along with a set of allen keys we now have all we need to get us out of trouble at work. Cos at the end of the day, everyone wants to leave work on time..

Essential carry on Tools

The tool bottle

img_4321If you are not carrying a spare tube / tyre levers and maybe a small multi tool everywhere you go then you’re either incredibly lucky or don’t mind doing the trundle of shame to get home after a puncture.

But where to keep all this paraphernalia? I can’t stand the saddle mounted bags that wobble about under my backside as I ride and chucking it all in my already clothes laden back pack just adds to the weight my shoulders have to bear.

After completing the metamorphosis from weekday commuter to weekend roadie I discovered that Monday – Friday meant that I had two empty bottle cages just asking to be filled with something (of course, who needs a litre of liquid on the 5 mile commute?).

There exists such a thing as the tool bottle, a converted bidon that is the perfect size for a multi tool, a spare tube and a couple of tyre levers. I used to even carry some antiseptic wipes and some plasters in there, in case of a crash but they sort of disintegrated after a couple of years of not hitting the deck (thankfully).

The whole thing slides nicely into the seat tube bottle cage and means it is always with the bike, whether I ride with a bag or not (my pump is also mounted on the frame alongside the seat tube, which I admit is a contravention of Velominati rule 30.. in fact this tip contravenes rule 31!)

Steve Castle

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