Tillie’s tips on cycling to work


Meet Tillie, she writes the fabulous blog Tillie&Coco, with her friend Coco who lives in Sydney.  We love checking out what is happening over in Sydney and hearing about Tillie’s journeys on her bike.  Tillie has recently started back cycling to work and has kindly offered some of her wisdom.


Tillie and her gorgeous Pashley, so cycle chic!


Like many people I know, learning to ride a bicycle was one of the greatest achievements of my childhood. I rode my mother’s rusty Raleigh Shopper to school in suburban Melbourne, which felt so much more independent and grown-up than walking. I eventually upgraded to a mountain bike, which had an unnecessary number of gears for my route (a good few kilometres of entirely flat pavement) but was the height of cool. Then, also like many people I know, I simply stopped cycling – no doubt deterred by the fact that I was no longer small enough to get away with cycling on the pavement, yet didn’t feel safe (or indeed welcome) on the road. After a disastrous foray into car ownership, followed by a move to London, I was inspired to start cycling again by the Ride2Work scheme. The V&A has offered the Scheme since 2007, and estimates that approximately 7-10% of staff now cycle to work. Along with services such as Dr Bike, the Museum has recently upgraded its provision for cyclists, and now boasts approximately 80 spaces for on-site parking.



Cycling to work is infinitely more interesting and eventful than a peak-hour tube or bus journey, yet this activity goes on quietly behind the scenes, except perhaps for a short conversation between cyclists locking their bikes up in the morning or donning high-visibility vests after work. I was curious to learn more about my colleagues’ daily commute. When did they start cycling? How far to they ride each day? What do they enjoy most? Many people I interviewed have been cycling to work for a number of years, so are naturally experts in the field of dressing for the bike as well as the office. I had hoped to come up with a foolproof Cycling to Work Master Recipe to share with Bikeminded readers, but – unsurprisingly – there is no single technique that suits everyone, and indeed no two responses were the same. Many colleagues outright disagree on what you should wear on the bike. Some prefer to shower and change at work, others insist on not changing as a matter of principle, despite a 12-mile round trip. One thing everyone does agree on is that the best thing about cycling to work is that it keeps you fit and happy. One colleague said, “I cycle through Kensington Gardens past the swans,Kensington Palace, the Albert Hall, I often see the guards out training the horses. It’s special indeed.”


Colleagues I surveyed cycle between 2 and 10 miles each way (except for one who comes in fromKent). I compiled the many and varied responses I received into the following list of tips:


Tip #1: Go easy.

So far, Science has not found a cure for sweat. However, if you wish to cycle to work in your normal clothes AND arrive at work a bastion of composure and chic, allow enough time to take it easy. Take the opportunity to cross at the lights instead of merging across four lanes of traffic. Alternatively, consider an electric bike, which will make hills a piece of cake.


Tip #2: Small but clever wardrobe adjustments.

Keep a pair of shoes (or why not a whole outfit?) in the office, take a top to change into for particularly hot days, and consider Velcro ankle bands for trousers. Not only do gloves stop your hands getting cold in the cooler months, they prevent nasty callouses (which makes for better handshakes). Waterproofs are universally recommended, as are covers for saddles if your bike is parked outside during the day to foil that unexpected 4 o’clock rain cloud.


Tip #3: Helmet hair.

Not an issue if, like a number of respondents, you are “middle aged and balding”; but for those with long hair: gather hair in a bun under your helmet (I’m assured that this “helps to combat flatness”). Cycling to work with wet hair and letting it dry on the way was another suggestion.


Tip #4: Panniers, baskets or backpacks?

Purely down to preference, but panniers and/or baskets over backpacks for long distances unless you want a sweaty back. I have a pannier and a basket and could quite easily transport the contents of my flat to the office, if I so wished.


Tip #5: Be polite.

Almost everyone I surveyed mentioned their frustration with inconsiderate road users, including other cyclists. As one person wrote, “the motor vehicle has had a terrible effect in people in so many ways, and old fashioned sociability and good manners seem to have suffered the most”. Follow the road rules, make eye contact with drivers wherever you can, always signal your turns, and ride safely.


Tip #6: If you’re thinking about cycling to work, but aren’t sure how to start…
Use the resources available through your local Borough, such as maps and journey planners, to help you find the best route (preferably one that takes you though a park, or past an interesting landmark). My favourite word of advice: “try your ride to work very early on a Sunday morning, do it again a few times, try varying the route, time it.  Then try it for real on a day you know you have no9am appointments, do it once a week, then twice, then find out that you can’t stand the bus/train any more.”


Finally, I asked colleagues what they like most about the ride to work, and they all mentioned the feeling of independence and enjoying ever changing views of the city. I think this quote sums it up best: “I love cycling through London on a sunny morning and wizzing past everyone else.”


  1. Winnecke says:

    Oct 5, 2011


    omg that’s my sister !!! & her bike !!! I really want to ride to work because I would love to ride home but am worried about my alertness at 3am … the last tips about trying the route on a day off and once a week then twice to begin with are great! perfect well paced confidence boost. Riding at 3am might even be calmer than riding on a Sunday.

  2. Coco says:

    Oct 5, 2011


    Go Tillie! Isn’t she just full of great advice folks! I love riding to work. It’s such a nice way to wake-up and be energised before sitting down in front of a computer for hours. And the ride home provides a nice transition period allowing you to leave work at work and arrive home refreshed. Plus it’s bloody fun.

  3. Tillie says:

    Oct 12, 2011


    Hi guys! Yes, riding to work is great. It’s true that you never get home stressed. And panniers are truly the most brilliant invention ever!

    • Tillie says:

      Oct 12, 2011


      Oh, and I should mention that I don’t cycle in a pencil skirt, obviously.

Leave a comment

Name required