I was happy to hear it’s cycle to work day. I saw some signs advertising it near Rawdon, Leeds a few days ago. I didn’t notice any difference on the commuting roads of Oxford today, but hopefully a few people were inspired to dig out in the bicycle from their garage and cycle to work. I’ve been cycling to work for the past 13 years (I used to be a teacher starting at 8 or 9am. But, these day I call work – going to a cafe for 9am to write some economics). Even though I work from home, I still like to create a cycle to work in town.
I’ve only ever been late once (when I fell off a slippery manhole and lay on the ground for 15 minutes. Perhaps I also got a puncture once and had to go in by bus, but that is a very distant memory. The bike is very reliable – ust avoid those cheap tyres you may get on a £100 bike from Cycle King.
In those 13 years, I’ve saved a lot of money. An alternative is the bus. Roughly the bus costs £3 return 13 years * 200 work days a year = 2,600 days. 2,600 * £3 = £7,800.
£7,800 – Wow, that is nearly enough to buy a new bike. In those 13 years, I’ve had only two commuting bikes. (one got stolen). My current commuting bike is quite low maintenance. Every year, I spend about £70 for service at Reg Taylor cycles to get a new cassette, chain and brake blocks. Overall, I must be in profit by about £6,000.
By the way, if I’d driven into town, I would have faced a car parking charge of over £10 a day before even petrol and all the costs of a car. I’ve never tried working out how much it would cost to drive into town. I’m a great believer in expensive car parking charges, but that’s another story.
The other benefit of cycling into work is the added benefit of saving time. Even a slow steady recovery ride is quicker than a bus that gets stuck in traffic jams and has to stop every 200 metres.
But, the main reason I cycle into town is that I enjoy it. Yes, traffic is quite heavy, occasionally you can get bad driving which makes you annoyed or even puts you at risk. But, the dangers are not as great as you might imagine. A 15 minute slow cycle is an excellent kick start to the brain. When I leave the house, I have no idea how I’m going to write a 1,000 essay on the failings of the European Central Bank, but after a bit of blood to the brain and a good warm up, I’m ready to write all kinds of nonsense.
The other thing about cycling to work is that it provides an ideal opportunity to do some slow (potentially boring) recovery rides. They say slow cycling can aide recovery from races and hard intervals. A daily commute is 30 minutes of slow, steady riding which helps loosen the muscles. There are many days when you can’t be bothered to get the lycra on and all that jazz just for a 60 minute slow recovery ride. But, the commute keeps a good base of recovery rides, whatever the weather. Sometimes, I’ll purposefully add a few miles on to the cycle to work, just to tick off a few boxes on the training scheme.
Tips for cycling into work
Buy good waterproofs – trousers, lightweight jacket and you’re good to go in any weather. I rather enjoy cycling in the rain – so long as I’ve got right kit on. Make sure you have lights when it gets grey or dark.
Don’t be intimidated by other vehicles, learn good riding positions a good balance of careful confidence and common sense will make your ride a lot safer.
Not matter where you live, take a good look at various different options. There are usually quite a few nicer alternatives to the quickest way from A to B. Finding quiet roads can make all the difference in making the cycle to work more enjoyable.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever turned up to work, sweating like the proverbial pig. I ride slowly and if I feel I’m getting a little warm, I take off a layer and go slowly. It’s not often in England you get sweltering hot.
Fast cheap bike. There are many commuting types of bikes to choose from. I like a cheap road bike because you can cycle slowly and still get there in good time. Buy the best tyres and you’ll hardly ever get a puncture.
Give yourself an extra five minutes and it will be a much more calming experience. Cycling is quick, but if you give yourself an extra five minutes. You’ll be more patient even in jams and at traffic lights.