What are the benefits of riding to work and how can you make it easier?

Sustainability is understandably a hot topic just now, with governments, businesses and individuals all seeking ways to create a greener future for us all. Commuting became a distant memory for millions of workers during the pandemic, but now, with lots of people making a return to the office, this is the perfect time to reset and adopt better, healthier habits.

Riding to work is nothing new, but more employers and employees are waking up to its benefits. Not only can riding benefit the individual’s health and wellbeing, it’ll also help to protect the local environment. Employers may even stand to benefit, with riding shown to have a positive impact on brain power and productivity. 

In this post, we’ll explore the benefits of riding to work in greater detail, and highlight a few ways you can make bike commuting even easier.

What are the benefits of riding to work? 
  • Improve physical fitness and mental health. We’re all aware that riding is a great way to help keep your body fit and healthy, but did you know it can also help to support your mental wellbeing, too? One study reveals that riding is the second best form of exercise for a lower mental health burden, just behind participating in team sports.  
  • Improve productivity. Riding has been shown to improve brain function, with it increasing blood flow to the brain by 28% compared to resting, according to one study. As a result, this can help you to arrive at work in a more positive frame of mind, and help to improve productivity throughout the day. 
  • Helps the environment. If you’re passionate about sustainability, riding is a great way to play your part and help create a greener local environment. By replacing a car for a bike, not only will you be saving on harmful emissions, but if more people chose to cycle, it’d reduce congestion on roads, helping to cut pollution even further. 
How to make riding easier 
  • Use an e-bike. E-bikes are gaining popularity across the country, particularly since the 2012 legislation was passed which introduced guidelines around using e-bikes, in line with European standards. An e-bike works like a traditional bicycle, but offers the added thrust of a battery-powered motor, to take some of the strain out of your commute. Read more about e-bikes here.
  • Be organised! Riding to work will generally take a little longer than public transport or a car, meaning you’ll have to be organised to give yourself as much breathing room in the morning as possible. Be sure to pack up anything you need the night before, and also leave heavy items at the office where possible, to save you carrying them on your commute. You should also make sure to pack some food for the office, to give you the energy for that evening ride home.
  • Make use of company facilities. You’ll want to arrive at your desk feeling and looking fresh, so particularly after a longer ride in, you’ll likely want to have a wash and get into a change of clothes. If your office doesn’t already cater for active travel, ask your employer whether it would be possible to invest in some equipment and facilities to encourage more people to ride to work. Or, see if there is a local end of trip facility, where your employer could arrange for employees to make use of the changing facilities.

Even small changes like some showers and changing rooms can go a long way. It’s also helpful to consider how or where you’ll keep your bike during the day. Employers should look to include some safe storage facilities on-site, to give their pedalling personnel peace of mind that their bike will be secure during the day.

To sum up

In this post, we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to exploring the potential benefits of riding to and from work. It may seem like a major lifestyle change, particularly if you’ve been driving or getting public transport for many years. But why not try riding just one or two days a week at first, before building yourself up to a bigger commitment? You’ll likely feel the benefits almost immediately.

Article by Ross Hansen

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Sleep Tips for Cyclists

Sleep is vital for a healthy lifestyle, but how is it important for cyclists? One bad night’s sleep won’t hurt you, but prolonged sleep loss will have a bigger impact on your performance than you think. Follow these sleep tips to get a better routine around sleep and give your body an opportunity to perform at its best.

Exercise physiologist and overall health guru, Ben Greenfield states there are two primary reasons for sleep.

  • The brain cleans up unwanted ‘mess’
  • The body repairs itself
Get on a regular cycle

Our circadian rhythm governs the human body. So if you can go to bed and wake up at around the same time each night this will work with your body’s natural sleep cycle, rather than fighting against it. This is where the body works with light and darkness and is controlled by a small area in the middle of the brain. Brain wave activity, hormone production, and cell regeneration are just a few of the factors influenced by our circadian rhythm.

Understand what to eat and drink before bed

Obviously, sugar and caffeine are a big no, no. Sugar leads to a night of restless sleep and keeping your blood sugar levels steady is important any time of the day. Avoid caffeine up to 5 to 6 hours before bed, as for the average adult it takes that long to break down half of the caffeine. For example, the average coffee has about 80mg of caffeine, so after 5-6 hours you will still have around 20mg of caffeine in your system trying to break you out of that essential non-REM, deep sleep. Get some protein in your body to help restore your muscles during sleep. Something like nuts and yoghurt (low sugar) is a suitable snack before bed.  Stay hydrated during the day and this will reduce the chances of an interrupted sleep cycle.

Related: What to eat and drink during exercise

Track your sleeping habits

Modern technology does this for us these days with fit bits and whoop technology collecting sleep statistics and other insights to help us measure our recovery and sleep habits. If you prefer to go ‘old school’, keep a diary track patterns in your sleeping habits. You can also keep track of the things contributing to your poor sleep and try to remove these from your lifestyle.

Read before bed or develop a ‘wind down’ routine

Increased screen time contributes to blue light radiation exposure, which tells our brains that we need to be awake negatively affecting our circadian rhythm and reducing our REM sleep. The Sleep Foundation recommends a digital curfew an hour before bed. This allows our melatonin (sleep hormone) to be produced sufficiently. Put the kettle on, have a peppermint or ginger tea, pick up a classic printed novel and unwind. Consider selecting a book that promotes your mind to go to another place. Reading something about work or training will over-stimulate and you’ll be unable to unwind.

For a detailed guide to understanding sleep patterns check out this resource here:

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep

To find out more about the negative impact of screen time on sleep check out Sleep Foundation’s article here.

If you really want to nerd out on sleep, check out Ben Greenfield’s article here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/the-last-resource-on-sleep-youll-ever-need-the-ultimate-guide-to-napping-jet-lag-sleep-cycles-insomnia-sleep-food-sleep-supplements-exercise-before-bed-much-much-more/

How to prepare for a group ride

A group ride is a great way to stay motivated while getting the opportunity to meet new people and create some friendly competition. Although a group ride is a lot of fun, there are a few tips and tricks to know before you hit the ground pedalling!

Road Rules

Whether you’re riding fast or going for a social pedal, understanding the road rules is the most important part of cycling safely. This study shows that cyclists have a better knowledge of road rules than drivers and are therefore less likely to cause conflict on the roads. By familiarising yourself with the local state laws, you will have a greater ability to protect yourself and educate others in your group. Riders in the group must look after each other during the ride.

Planning

Do some research on the route and recognise parts of the rides that may,

  1. be difficult or unsafe to navigate (roadworks or heavy traffic)
  2. pose a potential problem for new riders (steep hills or sharp corners)

If you’re riding with a new group, establish one person that can support you throughout the ride – this is a buddy system. Some groups will inform riders that this is a ‘no-drop’ ride which means no one gets left behind. Others will not offer such pleasantries and if you get dropped, you’re on your own. This is great for people wanting to prepare for racing as they simulate the demands that racing presents. These rides are physically and mentally demanding and suited to people with a very high fitness level.

Pace Lines

If you’re riding in ‘pace lines’ then this is a single line peloton that takes turns at the front (in the wind). The best way to ride smoothly in these groups is to take short turns or ‘pulls’ on the front while maintaining a steady speed. When you’re ready for the next person to come round you, check over your right shoulder to see if there is any traffic, then flick the right elbow out to indicate that it’s safe for the next person to come around you. It will be hard work on the front so don’t take any longer in the wind than you need to. When your turn on the front is done, you should ride slightly slower than the person coming around you so that they do not have to increase their speed and use too much energy moving to the front.

Be careful not to ‘half-wheel’ the person in front of you. This is when your front wheel overlaps the back wheel of the person in front of you. If any sudden movements in the paceline occur, your wheel would hit theirs and this will cause riders to go down. It is very important to maintain consistent speed in the group so gaps between riders are more predictable.

Group Ride Etiquette

Follow general riding etiquette to make the ride more predictable. Use hand gestures and sound your intention or alert riders of any hazards. In group rides, there are no bad calls. If everyone can hear you, they will appreciate the initiative. If you’re at the front of the group then it’s your job to make the calls identifying hazards or issues you see in front such as, ‘car up’ or ‘hole’, ‘glass’ or ‘stick’. When you’re at the back of the group, it’s your job to let riders know what’s happening at the back such as, ‘car back’ or ‘hold your line’. You also have the responsibility of letting the group know if it is safe to change lanes. Take this quiz to test your knowledge.

Each group will have its own dynamic and structure, but being prepared will give you some confidence on your first ride. If you’re can’t maintain the pace of riders at the front, sit at the back of the group and let riders know that you’re just ‘sitting in’. It is better to sit within your limits and experienced riders will respect that.

How to prepare a fun family bike ride

A family bike ride isn’t about distance or how fast you go. It’s all about fun and exploration. Keep reading to learn some tips and tricks that will make your family ride one to remember.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on kid’s bikes. If you do your research, you’ll find some affordable options on second hand online retail sites. Often these bikes are in great condition but are now too small for the rider.

Before you get started

If it has been a while since you or your kids have ridden your bikes, then it is important that you do the following,

When on the path or road look to make the ride easy enough that your little ones are puffing, but still able to talk. This will help you make it through the whole ride. Aim to have the strongest rider at the back and the next strongest at the front. This will keep all the little ones safe in the middle. Pack some light snacks and plenty of water so you can stop on the way and replenish your energy and rehydrate.

Before you leave on your first family group ride, we suggest making sure everyone is skilful enough to handle busy bike paths. The last thing you want is to be out on a busy bikeway and one of your little ones gets scared and does something unpredictable. Here are a few fun skill drills to do before leaving on your first big ride.

Fun games to incorporate in your ride

  1. Turtle Race – Move as slowly as you can to a marked point without putting your foot down. First person to put their foot down is out.
  2. Slalom Drill – Place four or five markers about 2-3m apart in an empty car park or cul-de-sac. Move inside out of the cones, slowly at first until you are comfortable with a faster pace.
  3. Stopping and moving off – Slowly move parallel to a curb and practice stopping gently with the closest foot landing cleanly on the lip of the curb. Once steady, push off the curb into a moderate pedal so that neither foot touches the ground and balance remains stable. The slower you go the more control you have.

Once you and your little ones can do these skills confidently and your bag is packed with heaps of yummy food, you’re good to go. These rides are made even more fun if you can meet up with some friends during the ride.

How to prepare for a long-distance riding challenge

If you’re new to cycling and about to tackle your first long-distance riding challenge (like a 500km challenge in Pedal QLD!), here are a few tips to make it easier. 

Don’t be intimated by a big number – long-distance riding can be enjoyable and easy to accomplish with a bit of planning and perseverance. Being realistic with your riding expectations is key. Riding regularly rather than trying to hit 200km in a single day is one of many ways to stay on top of your kilometres without burning out.

So what would a week riding look like to get to 500km in a month?

man holding handlebars for long-distance riding

About 100km to 125km in total which is around 4-6hrs ride time. Try thinking of your rides in a few categories:

  • A longer weekend ride
  • A commute to and from work
  • A social ride with your mates (maybe with coffee or breakfast after)
  • A fun ride with the kids, maybe off-road on a rail trail or in the bush
  • Recovery rides

A recovery ride is a really useful way to get your kilometres up at a leisurely pace. Get a lazy 15km or even 25km in a short ride lasting less than an hour – your local bike path is a great place for this one! The simple recovery ride keeps you consistent with your kilometres after a strenuous ride the day before.

A typical week could look like this:

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Commute to/from work (say 20-30km total / 1hr)

Wednesday: Recovery ride (20km very easy pace: 1hr)

Thursday: Rest Day

Friday: Fun ride with your family or mates (15km after work / 45min)

Saturday: Long ride (30-50km /2-3hr) – bring more to eat on this one!

Sunday: Fun ride: rail-trail, mountain bike, or simply go somewhere new (20km / 1hr)

Make sure you’re fueling yourself for each ride you do. This means eating before, during and after your ride. Wear some layers of clothing if it’s cold which you can peel off and put in a jersey pocket if you warm-up.

Related: How to wear cycling gear in cold weather
man in cycling kit in carpark for a long-distance riding

Challenging yourself to ride a set distance is a great way to push your limits whilst having a bit of fun on your bike.

Keen to get on your bike and challenge yourself? Sign up to our distance-based challenge event, Pedal QLD! Every kilometre you ride gets your closer to a bunch of rewards and prizes to be won. Get involved and start pedalling!