Purpose: This study aims to provide an in-depth individual level understanding of the psychological factors that affect cycle commuting. Design/methodology/approach: A total of 15 participants (eight cycle commuters and seven potential cycle commuters) from a "cycle-friendly" employer based in a Scottish city took part in the study. Semi-structured interviews and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) were used to collect and analyse data. Findings: The present study found that cyclists are more aware of the benefits of cycle commuting than potential cyclists. Those who did not currently cycle to work displayed a heightened awareness of the challenges of cycling to work, whereas cyclists reported more coping strategies for negotiating or overcoming the challenges involved in cycle commuting. These individual cognitions are potentially modifiable through psychological interventions. Research limitations/implications: Future research should be carried out on samples in different contexts to examine whether some of the findings would be supported in other populations. Practical applications: The findings from this paper suggest that psychological interventions based on challenging perceptions of the benefits of and barriers to cycling may have a valuable role to play in enhancing cycle commuting rates. Originality/value: This study uses IPA to explore the complexities of perceptions in relation to cycle commuting. It also brings to light the types of coping strategies used to enable cyclists to overcome some of their challenges associated with cycle commuting.