Beginner’s guide to riding a bike to work

Man riding bicycle in Fitzroy


Posted August 03, 2023

Whether you're a regular rider or haven't been on two wheels since you were a kid, now is as good a time as ever to rediscover the joy of riding a bike. 

Riding to work is not only a convenient and cost-effective mode of transport, it’s also a low-impact activity, making it ideal for people of all fitness levels. But if it’s been a while since you last dusted off the old two-wheeler, riding a bike is as easy as, er, riding a bike.

Biketober, a fun, free, and friendly biking challenge presented by Love to Ride and RACV, is the ideal excuse to get back on your bike on the way to work. The Biketober program is free for workplaces in the City of Melbourne and available at a 50% discount for businesses located in other local government areas. Plus, by registering for Biketober, all participants will receive their first year of RACV Bike Assist for free.

So, if you’re planning to make cycling a regular part of your daily commute, here are our top tips for beginners. 

Choose the right bike for you

Getting the right bike to suit you makes all the difference when it comes to enjoying a ride. If you’re planning to commute to work or are spending most of your time on the road or a bike path, either a hybrid or a road bike is going to be your best bet, with skinny tyres and a light frame getting you around quickly.

If you’re looking to spend more time off-road and make the most of Victoria's great rail trails or gravel biking paths, a mountain bike will be your best option.

When buying your bike, it’s important to make sure you get the right size. Head to your local bike shop to make sure you get a bike that fits you and your needs. And, if you don't want to commit to outlaying the cost for a new bike, buy one second-hand or even try restoring one you might have gathering dust in the shed

Man riding bike across Webb Bridge in Docklands

Riding without headphones means you can tune in to your surroundings. Photo: Getty.

Consider going electric 

There's a reason e-bikes are booming in popularity across the globe.

While going electric doesn't mean the bike will ride itself, it might make your commute slightly more enjoyable. E-bikes look, ride and brake the same as a regular push bike, only they have a motor that can give you a little oomph, particularly if you're traversing hillier terrain, riding into a headwind or, simply, your legs are running out of juice.

When it comes to commuting, they also offer myriad benefits - the extra pedal power will enable you to get to your destination quicker, and you'll arrive less sweaty because you won't have to work as hard on the journey.

As e-bikes put less strain on your joints, muscles, and cardiovascular system, they make a for a great option for anyone looking to get back into cycling. 

Get the right gear

Now that you’ve got the perfect bike, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got the right accessories to make riding enjoyable, and also keep you safe while you're on two wheels.

A decent set of lights will ensure that you can see - and be seen - when you’re out and about, especially if you'll be riding at night.

Gloves are also a smart purchase to help you maintain a safe grip on your handlebars and keep your hands warm on wet or cool days. A drink bottle attachment so that you can easily maintain hydration is also a smart accessory and, if you're planning on keeping up the bike commute long after Biketober ends, consider bike racks or panniers to take the weight off your back.

Dress comfortably

If you're just starting out, it might be tempting to go full MAMIL (middle-aged man in Lycra) and splash out on all the latest cycling gear, but for the casual commuter, this isn't necessary.

If you want to invest in a couple of key pieces to make your ride more comfortable, a waterproof jacket or windbreaker is essential in all seasons, especially when riding in Melbourne. Otherwise, comfortable clothing and sensible shoes (see: sneakers) are all you need to get moving.


RACV Bike Assist team member helping fix a person's bike on an urban street

Don't be stopped in your tracks, RACV Bike Assist can get you moving again.

Get to know the road rules for cyclists

We like to think about safety by remembering the three H's – helmet, headphones and hand signals.

  • Helmet: Wearing a helmet can be the difference between life and death, and in Victoria, it’s mandatory. Find one you like the look of so wearing it isn’t such a chore, and make sure it's been certified and fits correctly.
  • Headphones: A toot of a horn, the skid of a tyre, the sound of a siren in the distance – all of these are important to hear when you’re cycling on the road. It’s a contentious point, but if you must listen to music, make sure it doesn’t completely mask the sounds of your surroundings.
  • Hand signals: Cars use indicators, bike riders use their hands. Be sure to acquaint yourself with Victorian road rules for cyclists and all the common signals to avoid confusion and collision.

Carry a spare tube and patch kit

What’s a tube, you ask? Well, the inner tube is the inflatable rubber or latex doughnut that sits inside your tyre. It’s important to know this because if you end up with a flat tyre on the road, this is what you’ll need to replace.

A spare one can be easily stored in a backpack, along with a couple of other tools to help you replace it. This might include a multi-tool, a couple of small levers and a mini bike pump.

If you can’t remember everything you learned about fixing a punctured tyre from the helpful lady in the bike shop or the nice man from YouTube, RACV’s Bike Assist service can get you moving again. Our patrols will even provide you with a new tube at no additional cost.

Plan your ride 

If you want to get your cycle on and put pedal to the metal, preparation is key – especially when you’re just starting out. Use a journey planner app like arevo to find the best cycling route and, if you haven’t ridden in a while, maybe allow a little extra time, just in case.

It’s also a good idea to consider where the nearest bike-parking or storage facilities are (if your office or workplace doesn’t have them).

Get a sturdy bike lock

It might seem obvious but, if you're going to park your bike in a public or even shared private facility,  investing in a sturdy lock and chains will help keep your two-wheeled baby safe from theft.

There are many types of bike locks so, even if you're parking it in a safe place, learning how to lock your bike properly will ensure it's secured, and always double-check it before you leave.


Register for Biketober and get one year free of RACV Bike Assist.
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