Starting cycle-commuting

You might be considering cycling on a regular basis to work, or a place on the way such as a rail or bus station.

This note explores some of the issues and concerns you might have and seeks to address them. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch.

My first attempt to cycle for more than a couple of miles came when SSE decided to move its offices to Penner Road and I saw the opportunity to cycle-commute from Bacon Lane. So I know what it’s like to contemplate cycle-commuting for the first time. For what it’s worth, I’m happy I went for it, and cycling has become a big part of my life, continuing on into retirement.

Click any of the following headings to find out more:

Cycle-commuting can improve your:

  • Health
  • Wealth
  • Happiness

There’s a list of 20 benefits of cycle-commuting on the Cycling UK web site here. Hopefully, you’ll agree it’s impressive.

It might be hard to believe, but conditions are not often bad enough to prevent cycling.

I’ll admit, I didn’t cycle if it meant leaving the house in the rain (I still find that difficult). But I estimate this stopped me from cycling from West Town perhaps 15-20 times a year – if that. Obviously, once you are at work, you’re more or less committed to cycling back, but that didn’t seem too much of a problem for me since I knew I was heading back to the comfort of home and a change into dry clothes. I did occasionally decide to leave the bike at work rather than cycle back in the rain (meaning I’d have to use a different method to get to work the following day) but that was very rare.

Wind was sometimes an issue – especially cycling south on the Billy Trail – but it was never bad enough to stop me from cycling. Instead I saw it as an opportunity to improve the exercise value of my cycle ride.

Icy conditions are a bigger obstacle. Ice – and black ice in particular – is dangerous.

So, you’ll find that you’ll be able to commute most days, but it makes sense to have a fall-back option in case of bad weather. I used to use the 30/31 bus and, occasionally, a helpful wife as taxi driver.


If you don’t already own a suitable bike, the best advice is not to spend a lot of money to start with. It could be argued that buying an expensive bike will give you an incentive to use it – there are a lot of bikes on eBay that say otherwise. Instead:

  • Buy a relatively cheap bike to start with; or
  • Borrow one

That way you can explore what kind of bike will suit you, and your journey, best. Some notes:

  • If you intend to use a train for part of your journey, consider a folding bike that you can carry on without restriction otherwise you might be prevented from travelling with your bike.
  • If you intend to use the Billy Trail (see section on routes below), you’ll need a bike that can cope with bumpy conditions. That means some kind of suspension, bigger tyres, or both.
  • If you intend to use roads or tarmac paths, bikes with suspension or big tyres might seem attractive but they will make cycling harder. A lightweight bike with thinner tyres and a rigid frame will get you there faster and with less effort.
  • Obviously, if you intend to use both the Billy Trail and a significant amount of road, there’s a compromise to be made!
  • An electric bike might be worth considering. At the time of writing, the only legal options that can be ridden as bikes are ‘pedelecs’ that you have to pedal in order to engage the motor. There are other restrictions described here and here. Pedelecs are relatively expensive and don’t give the full benefit of a bike, but they are still better than using a car!

New bikes rarely come with puncture-resistant tyres. It’s worth investing in puncture resistance in our area – consider an upgrade.

It’s difficult to give prescriptive advice so, if you’d like to discuss options, please get in touch.

The Government appreciates the value of cycle-commuting to employees, employers and the environment. It therefore provides a tax incentive to people wanting to buy a bike used at least 50% for commuting.

Bear in mind our advice not to invest heavily in a new bike until you have a good idea of what you need.

There are two ways to use the scheme:

  1. The company buys a bike on your behalf and hires it to you using a salary sacrifice scheme that deducts your payment before tax and NI is deducted. At the end of the hire period – typically a year – you buy the bike at its residual value (HMRC is happy with 25% after a year – although for legal reasons the option to buy cannot be guaranteed at the outset, even if that’s the intention).
  2. The company buys a pool of bikes (could be just one) made available to all directors and employees (could be just one) – use of the bike(s) for commuting will not be considered a benefit in kind and therefore not subject to tax or NI.

If your company (there’s no limit on the size of company, so it can be a one-man-band) does not already have a scheme, it is pretty easy to set one up:

  • Schemes don’t have to be registered with HMRC – no tax paperwork
  • The large cycling outlets and collections of smaller outlets will administrate cycle to work schemes on behalf of an employer – some for free
  • Provided the scheme follows some simple rules, the legislation (described here) is straightforward

So, if your employer doesn’t run a cycle to work scheme, do your research (including benefits to the employer) and propose it creates one.

The good news – it’s probably further than you think. A journey of five miles (from the bottom of Hayling to the top using the Billy Trail) will take just 25 minutes on the bike at a very easy pace.

Even better, we don’t have any hills on Hayling to get in the way. You can get to Chichester or Portsmouth entirely on the flat.

The easiest way to find out is to do some trial runs, but be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. And your range will improve the more you cycle.

We have several routes to get off the Island, all of which have issues – hence our campaigning for a better infrastructure. You have five main options (which can be used in combination):

  • The Billy Trail – off road, but poor condition and even worse after heavy rain.
  • The main road: the A3023 – busy and unpleasant
  • West Lane – less busy and straighter than the main road, but you are more likely to encounter speeding cars
  • The Cycle Hayling ‘green route’ as shown on our map – least busy roads, but they take you out of your way
  • The Hayling ferry and, possibly, the Gosport ferry – and take advantage of commuter rates

To get from the east of the Island, there is a cycle path running all the way from Eastoke to Beachlands and beyond, but commuters usually use the roads unless they’re in no hurry.

For what it’s worth, I used to use a trail bike (big tyres and full suspension) on the Billy Trail but, now I’m more experienced cycling in traffic I use a road bike to cycle the green route, and either the main road or Daw Lane/West Lane.

You can legally cycle the full length of the west side of the bridge and most of the east side. The pavement can feel narrow, especially in cross-winds but there’s no shame in stopping and pushing sections if you feel unsafe.

From the north side of the bridge, there’s a cycle path passing behind the houses to Mill Lane. From there the Billy Trail goes all the way to Havant station or you can legally ride the pavement all the way up to Langstone Technology Park (but take care crossing the driveways).

We understand that planning permission was given to LTP on condition it allowed pedestrians and cyclists to use the car park. As a frequent user of that route I have never been challenged and have been waived through by staff checking cars for legitimate use of the car park.

Havant Borough Council has published a simple cycle map here. The Ordnance Survey publish a map of the National Cycle Network here. Cycle Streets has an excellent map and route planner.

It might make sense to use a conservative route to start with and then explore alternatives over time.

If you need help with route planning, please get in touch.

It’s often far easier to arrange to car share to work than it is to car share back. If you have a colleague prepared to help you out, how about putting your bike in the back of their car (easier if you have a folder, or your colleague can fit a bike carrier) and cycle back from work.

Even better if you can arrange for your colleague to carry all your work stuff for you!

After a while, of course, you might want to cycle both ways.

Unless you are already in to cycling, the chances are you’ll start out without any ‘proper’ cycling gear. Nothing wrong with that.

As you get more experience, you’ll start to value the benefits that cycling-specific gear can offer. We discuss possibilities here.

Depending on how far you need to travel and the nature of your work, you’ll probably want to carry a change of clothes. You might also need to carry a laptop and papers. Maybe a packed lunch.

Carrying options (which can be used in combination) include:

  • A rucksack – some riders are happy using them; others find them to be uncomfortable, especially in warm weather.
  • Panniers – usually attached to a rear-mounted rack – provide the biggest carrying capacity; but it can be tempting to fill them!
  • Seat-post mounted panniers (sometimes called long-form panniers or seatpacks) don’t provide as much capacity as other solutions but are the most practical, but you should not use them with carbon seat posts.

Unfortunately, decent panniers are expensive. You might therefore want to start with a rucksack.

Whichever solution you choose, you should either make sure they are waterproof (even if you intend to cycle only in the dry – you will get caught out) or that important items are wrapped in waterproof materials.

The state in which you arrive at work will depend on weather and how hard you ride.

It’s possible that all you’ll need is a change of clothes in which case locker facilities would allow you to store kit and equipment securely while at work. Shower facilities could also be desirable for you – and your colleagues.

It’s possible – if inelegant – to do a bit of cleaning up using a sink.

You’ll need to explore what’s available and – if necessary – start a campaign to get better facilities for cyclists.

There are some basics to take on any bike ride:

  • Lights. If you cycle after sunset you’ll need suitable lights front and back, both fixed to your bike. The law involving lights is a little murky, however; more details here. When riding during the day, lights with a ‘see me’ setting are a useful way to ensure you’re seen by other users. Having two sets of rear lights is a good idea since you can’t tell if they are on, or not, while riding.
  • Spare inner tube. If you get a puncture, the quickest way to fix it is to replace the inner tube with a new one. In any case, some punctures can result in a damaged inner tube that can’t be repaired.
  • Bike pump to reinflate your tyre after a puncture – we’d recommend one with a gauge but a more basic one will be enough to get you home.
  • Puncture repair kit. You’ll need tyre levers and either self-adhesive patches or glue-on ones with glue, chalk, etc. Even if you carry a spare tube, being able to repair a puncture could keep you on the road if you suffer multiple punctures (or you fail to find what caused your first puncture). More about repairing punctures here.

Also consider taking:

  • Mudguards – they’ll stop you from getting a stripe up your back in wet conditions; there are several types including ones that allow you to remove and replace them depending on conditions.
  • A multi-tool that combines a number of cycle-related tools in one, small package. Especially useful if bits of equipment get loose.
  • Cable ties – I’ve lost count of the number of uses I’ve found for them on rides.

The photo at the top right shows the main tools I take with me on rides.

If you will be cycling more than a mile, or two, you should know how to repair a puncture. We provide some videos here.

In addition, some basic maintenance tasks will keep you moving smoothly and help prevent serious issues developing. You can find out more here.

We plan to set up a bike clinic in cooperation with the Hayling Island Men’s Shed. We’ll publish details on this site and the Men’s Shed one when we open for business.

Ideally, you’ll have secure bike parking at work. In the worst case, however, you’ll need to park your bike in a public space.

Your need for security will therefore depend on the facilities available to you. All security is inevitably a compromise between protection and convenience. We describe a number of options here.

Reports in the media would have you believe that you risk life and limb every time you get on a bike! That’s simply not the case. Just taking the bare statistics:

  • You are more at risk doing an hour’s gardening or DIY, than you are spending an hour on your bike.
  • Compared mile for mile, the risk of a cyclist being killed is virtually the same as that of a pedestrian.
  • Cycling UK calculates the general risk of any injury from cycling in Great Britain to be around 1 per 20,000 miles.
  • The risk of death while cycling in Great Britain is 1 in 27.7 million miles.

It gets better, your risk of premature death or serious illness decreases if you cycle because of the health benefits you get from exercise which reduce the risk of, for example:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Depression

Put that way, the risks associated with cycling are significantly lower than those of driving a car.

To start with you might want to stick with cycle paths, cycle lanes and quieter roads (unfortunately easier said than done on Hayling). If you are unused to road cycling, you can gain confidence by riding in a group. Portsmouth CTC runs easy rides from Havant that might help.

Here are some tips for staying safe on your bike gleaned from our commuter survey:

  • If you are on a shared pavement, look out for cars coming out of driveways.
  • On the road:
    • Avoid cycling too close to the gutter: it’s where litter (including broken glass) collects; you can catch your pedal on the kerb; and you might encourage cars to pass too close – try to cycle about a metre out from the kerb.
    • When passing parked cars look out for drivers opening their doors into the road.
    • Watch out for potholes – and muddy puddles that might be potholes in disguise.

Andy Henderson