I was shocked at how tired I felt when I started cycling to work and began to wonder, does cycling to work get easier?
Yes, cycling to work does get easier. If you stay committed to cycling to work, you should find things get easier after around two months as your fitness builds and your body gets used to exercising.
It’s important to understand what is happening to your body and how best to overcome fatigue, especially if you’re not used to cycling. Read on to find out more!
Why is Cycling So Hard?
“It’s as easy as riding a bike”, right? Well, cycling isn’t always easy, in fact, it can be difficult but only as difficult as we make it.
Firstly, we humans like to put pressure on ourselves and go as hard as we can as quickly as we can. With cycling, we just wear out, fast.
Secondly, and more importantly, we have to give our bodies time to get used to the exercise.
Cycling isn’t a form of exercise that is tough on the body but it does get your heart pumping and you can put a strain on yourself.
Ensure you know about gears, which is the correct gear to be in etc. If you’re in the wrong gear for the terrain then you’re going to find yourself working harder than you need to and therefore finding cycling more difficult than it actually should be!
From my own experience, when I first jumped back on a bike as an adult, I was shocked how difficult riding a bike was, it was nothing like I had remembered it when I was a child.
However, I stuck at it and now I wouldn’t be without it.
Tips On Making Your Commute Easier
There are a few things you can do to make your life a little easier, here are a few small tips you may not have thought of!
Pick An Easier Route
This may sound like a cop-out but until you get used to commuting by bike, it’s the best option, trust me!
Find a route that is the shortest distance to work. You can do this using Strava or Google Maps (just be sure to click on the bike icon!). I have used Strava in the past to find routes to work and I discovered a nice canal route I didn’t know existed – small bonus!
It may be tempting to add extra miles but initially go for the shortest route.
If when you’re looking at the routes, you find that you have a few options, pick the one that is the flattest. Hills are tiring and if you’re not used to them, you’re going to find yourself fatigued quickly.
The pace you’re going at is also something you need to consider. Don’t go at full pace – you’re going to become fatigued pretty quickly.
I’d recommend going at around 70 – 80% of your effort. You won’t notice a huge difference in your average speed but you should feel fresher when you get to work!
Just like fuel to get your car going, you need fuel to get your body going.
In theory, you can commute on an empty stomach or practicing intermittent fasting (unless you’re commuting a long-distance), I wouldn’t recommend it but it can be done.
Taking in the right type of nutrition can see you feel better when you get to your endpoint and that you’ll build muscle along the way. Win-win, right?
If you’re not used to riding a bike, you’re going to feel hungry quickly and this can lead to overeating, ultimately putting on weight. So what you need to do is fuel properly. Take onboard proteins largely, but I would throw in some carbohydrates, not too many but they do give you energy and there’s a reason why professional cyclists load up on carbs!
If I know I’m going to be riding my bike the next day, I always try to eat some carbs the night before. Mentally, I know I’ll have the energy to get me through the ride. The important thing is to keep things balanced, proteins are slow-release and help you to build muscle, vegetables give you fiber and vitamins so if you keep things balanced you should see results.
When you eat is also important. Don’t load up on your breakfast and then jump on your bike, you’re likely to become bloated quickly. Most people will need to allow time to digest before starting their commute. However, that isn’t true for everyone, find what works for you and go with it!
What I would say is, you don’t want to go on your bike when you’re feeling completely full. So eat enough to fuel your body but no more.
Related article – Cycling Nutrition: Your Ultimate IIFYM Guide
Type Of Bike
The type of bike you use for your commute is important, more important than a lot of people give it credit for.
Is your commute 100% road-based? You might be best suited to a road bike. A road bike will give you speed and they’re generally lighter than most other types of bikes. Is a road bike right for your commute? Read more here.
If your route is flat then you might want to opt for a fixed gear bike. They are popular in cities and require little maintenance, which for a commute, has huge appeal. Though they can be a little tricky to get used to. Want to know more? Here you go 😃
A hybrid bike offers a lot to many people. It gives you the ability to jump off-road when you want but it also performs well on the road. It sounds like the ideal commuting bike and in many ways, it is but if you only intend to go on paved roads, then it can be heavier and make commuting more difficult. Think about what type of roads/surfaces you will be riding on and this should quickly establish whether or not a hybrid bike is for you.
What Is Needed To Start Cycling To Work?
If you’re still in the process of getting ready to start cycling then here are a few things that are worth considering before you do your first commute!
Plan Your Route
When you first start thinking about cycling to work, the route can seem a little daunting. That happened to me!
I thought I was going to have to do a big roundabout (well several actually!) and that didn’t fill me with joy.
However, by using route planning software (as mentioned earlier), I realized I could have a pleasant ride to work, which wasn’t very tricky.
Ask A Friend
If you know somebody at your workplace who already cycled to work, ask them if they’re willing to chaperone you on your first week, this can be a great confidence booster. It also has the added benefit that they might know the best routes to take, any unknown shortcuts etc!
Plan Your Work Day
If it’s at all possible, try to plan how your workday is going to look on your first week of cycling to work.
Don’t start when you have an important deadline or an important meeting first thing in the morning – it’s not going to go well!
My Absolute Top Tip – Cycling The Route At A Weekend
This is something I did before I started commuting and it was the best confidence booster out of the lot!
On a weekend, the roads are usually quieter and those on the road tend to be calmer so I’d highly recommend giving your commuting route a go at the weekend.
It gives you the opportunity to figure out how long it’s truly going to take you, any points you need to be particularly mindful of.
Something which will somewhat depend on the length of your commute and personal preference but either way, I’d recommend keeping a spare set of clothes in the workplace on a ‘just in case’ basis.
If you have a long commute, it might be worth changing clothes every day.
Work out what’s best for you and go with it!
Always carry a set of lights with you when commuting. Personally, I always have mine on, anything that is going to help me be seen is a bonus.
Even if you’re confident you won’t get stuck in the dark, you should still carry a set, you never know when you might have to work late or something crops up.
Need some help choosing lights? Check out the best bike helmet rear lights.
How Long Should A Beginner Cyclist Ride?
Depending on your current level of fitness, you might find that you can ride for a long time or not – however long it is, it’s all good!
One thing I would say is whatever your fitness level, you need to pace yourself. So many people say “listen to your body” and it’s true, your body knows its limits. Riding a bike consistently is all about building a habit so it’s important to choose a pace that you can maintain throughout your commute.
When you become comfortable with what you’re currently doing, then you can increase it but build up slowly. Before you know it, you could be commuting 5 days a week! I would also suggest that you keep things realistic with your average speed.
Generally speaking, someone who is getting used to commuting on a 5-mile route will be averaging around 10 to 14 mph. If you’re slower than this, the important thing to remember is 1) you’re doing it! 2) you now have a goal if you want one!
As you get more comfortable, you can expect to see speeds up to 13 – 17mph. Don’t expect to go above 17mph but kudos if you do!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take For Cycling To Get Easier?
If you cycle between 2 to 5 days a week then it’s likely to be around 1 to 3 months before you start to feel like it’s getting easier.
I get that’s a bit of a spectrum but a lot of it depends on your route and how you’re riding. A 5-mile flat commute is going to get easier, more quickly than a hilly 8-mile route.
Something I was very guilty of when I first started riding to work was going at it too hard, too quickly. I was shattered and sweaty. I felt gross that day so that’s not what you’re going for.
Try to skip that bit and focus on building the habit of cycling to work. You want it to be as enjoyable as it can be and arriving at work as I did, won’t achieve that.
Is It Better To Cycle Faster Or Longer?
If you’re looking to improve your cycling, it’s better to do a mix. If you have a training regime, factor in some quick, short rides and some longer slower rides.
Depending on your ultimate goal, focus more on one than the other but do both!
Benefits of short rides?
How do you ride long distances?
Pace yourself and do a good bit of planning, those are my golden nuggets of advice for cycling to work.
Greg Lemond once said, “it doesn’t get easier, you just get faster” and that’s kind of true but you should feel comfortable and enjoy your ride! 🙂
How long is your commute?
You might also be interested in this – Is Running Or Cycling Worse For Your Knees?