I promised you a list! here. So here it is.
I had to go through a list of pro’s and con’s before I could convince myself I could take on the work commute. This list isn’t it. Mine started something like:
“Oooooooh cycle to work scheme, which colour bike would I like?”
I jest. I’ve done the commute by cycle before, at different work places and you have to scope out your options before you decide it’s for you. but once you’ve set your mind to it, found a place to store your bike, clothing and get changed you can be assured the rest of the first day you do this will be spent with a massive smile on your face. That day will feel like a bike ride, not a day at work!
Please note: In order for this list to be effective you must read each heading with a whiny voice.
1) “It’s too far!”
If you live some distance from work and think it’s too far it probably isn’t. Use the car to half the journey, stick the bike in the back and cycle home, then cycle in first thing and drive home. A journey can be made an impossible task by having the incorrect style of bike too. Some rear suspension designs absorb pedalling energy and front suspension too can “steal from the wheels”, especially on climbs as the lower gears will make the front end kick upwards putting your effort into mini wheelies…. Thicker tires, knobbly treads, lower tire pressures also contribute to slowing the bike on Tarmac and making cycling any distance that bit harder.
2) “Time restraints make using a cycle impractical”
Some people (myself included) have to go from childcare to work within a short amount of time. So wouldn’t be able to cycle to work in time. Well, when my kids were young I’d deliver them to school using a bike trailer, one to school then one to the child minder, I remember a driver waving at me frantically as I flew off the curb with the empty trailer attached, they thought I still had children in it….. It’s something we have created over time as being ok. Before cars and far away jobs and the need to do that task 5 miles away on the way to work we all just…… coped…..
3) “Haven’t got the right equipment.”
Just starting out? That’s easy. The Cyclescheme allows you to package equipment along with the bike. You’ll start fully geared up with helmet/waterproofs/gloves/shoes, all you have to do is add them.
4) “No shower facilities, I’ll spend the day stinking of sweat!”
Stale sweat smells. yeah you’ll sweat but that’s what the body does when you push it a little. It’s only when bacteria mix with your sweat and becomes “stale” that you’ll smell. We’ve become a society that looks on this as a no-go so if paranoia takes over and the side effects of cycling (losing weight, being more alert and feeling great) aren’t enough to counter this I’m not sure what will. the losing weight bit alone can make you feel as confident as smelling nice? The reality is if you keep your clothing fresh and even shower before the ride the amount you sweat probably wont be an amount you can’t mask with deodorant. It’s a trade-off. Leaving scented wipes at work to clean before getting changed is an option. As is using the disabled cubicle if you’ve no where private to change.
5) “I’ll get cold/wet.”
Yup. My experience is it will be those who don’t normally cycle who get cold, those who do are used to the layers they will need to maintain the right body temperature. ventilation is actually a greater issue than getting cold. When you choose your first cycling jacket be sure to choose one with under arm ventilation zips, the bigger the better, you can just make adjustments as you ride then without the need to stop and strip off a layer to stop you overheating. In winter I’ve arrived at work with ice forming down my front due to temperatures in the minus and cycling through freezing fog. I wasn’t cold though. Take care of your feet and fingers in really cold weather. these are the parts that will make a ride uncomfortable. For very little money you can get neoprene overshoes (about £15) and you’ll quickly consider them lifesavers.
Getting wet? even in dry weather you’ll sweat, getting wet from the inside out. So what harm can rain do?
A major consideration is putting wet gear on again at the end of the day. I’ve read numerous articles about ingenious ways of drying clothing around the office (I’d consider the still and stagnant air within an office one of the harder places to dry clothes.) people hang their clothes at the back of their computers (using the heat from the fans) or position hangers over the radiators in the toilets. It’s a tricky one but without making your workplace look like a laundry you just have to think out of the box. Also challenge the bosses perception of what is “normal” to have hanging around the office. 8-10 hours is a good time to get well placed clothing dry.
6) “It’ll get stolen”
The best form of security is for it to be out of sight and hard to get to. Your security sometimes only has to be better than the bike next to it. Thieves are like that, path of least resistance. It’s no good relying on grainy CCTV or Inspector Morse to solve the crime once it’s happened. this just doesn’t happen. Keep the bike with you as part of your lifestyle. Mine all live in the house with me. Anyone who doesn’t like it has the opportunity to get over it. Anyone who doesn’t think a bike belongs in a house should also consider putting the push chair/pram in the shed, heh heh. These days there are wall brackets and ceiling hooks, just make sure its drip dried first. Garages and utility rooms are ideal.
When you are at work try a hefty lock. Nothing half-hearted and leave it in the cycle shed/locker so you aren’t carrying it backwards and forwards. remember to oil the lock like you’d oil your chain!
7) “It’ll break”
This is the bit newcomers always seem to neglect?
Buy a double action pump. something you can get your foot involved in order to keep it still. take a spare inner tube and plastic tire levers with you everywhere. I don’t bother with repair kits unless the ride is over a couple of days, then practise changing the tube before you are forced to. Pack zip ties (large ones can be cut down) a decent multi tool with at least a 4mm, 5mm, 6mm allen key attached and I also carry a leatherman (the pliers are invaluable).
Don’t jet wash the bearings on your bike, this includes the chain, bottom bracket and hubs. Instead buy a degreaser from a bike shop. It will come in a large spray bottle and your bike will thank you for it in the long run.
I suppose the easiest way to stop a mechanical breakdown is to check your bike frequently. Your chain will stretch and if replaced in time, you’ll get a good couple of chains worn out before you’ll need a new cassette. Bearings will collapse and the housings they are in disintegrate, but learning how to re-pack bearings with grease can save a fortune. If you didn’t understand a word of the last paragraph, take the bike to a good bike shop for a service. It’s still cheaper than leaving things till they crumble on the road.
8) “It’s too dangerous”
Riding amongst traffic takes a great deal of confidence. With increased road presence comes increased safety. It’s fine to fill your bike with flashing lights and wear fluorescent clothing but once you’ve mastered the unwritten rules of the highway code you’ll be far more alert to your surroundings and be better able to react. Eye contact with drivers is a must. You’ll know where they are looking and confirm they’ve seen you. You can even communicate your intention to them better than just sticking your arm out. If a vehicle is waiting to pull out watch its wheels. You’ll see them turn before you see the vehicle move. If you are taking the long route round a roundabout on approach try to command the position in front of a vehicle but only do so once you’ve got them to slow down and let you in. Takes practise but this way they’ll be stuck with you in front and Shield you from any hazards behind. Especially great if you end up perched on the line waiting for a gap. But the one major technique is just don’t ride in the gutter. It’s where all the broken bits of vehicle live and where punctures happen. It’s away from the smooth bits of road and it’s when you dodge round things like grids that you’ll place yourself suddenly in the path of a vehicle who hasn’t bothered to account for the space you’ll need. It’s a cheeky and in your face way of riding, I’m only giving examples. Just remember the road is yours and you need to be in control.
9)”It’ll take too long” or “Time restraints 2”
Ok this ones a valid point and its my way of acknowledging that number 2) didn’t really provide an answer. Our lives are tied together by events timed ridiculously close together and until fossil fuels run out we’ll all continue to bolt between them If there’s somewhere you have to be straight from work or you have to pick the kids up on route then things get difficult. But if not take into consideration what your journey times will be like in a few months, not just when you start. As you get fitter you’ll struggle/sweat less and ace it in a faster time. Plus, I had an 8 mile commute some years ago. It took half the time to cycle during rush hour than it did by car. That meant even with the cooling off and getting changed period at the end I’d get there earlier. The flip side is that unless you are fighting traffic every day it is likely to take longer. But….. The way I see it, the moment you get in a car your working day has started. When you get home in the evening (for all you easy street non shift workers!) as you stop outside your house the working day ends. Using your car becomes a tool to get you where you need to be (unless your hobby is cars?) Using a cycle is different. It’s massive on escapism if you want to take a step outside yourself. It can preserve your sanity to the scale that means the daily commute is fun. Start work when you get there and blow the cobwebs away cycling home. Working up an appetite as the same time.
10) None of the above!
Yeah, problem is life can’t change overnight. I’ve presented a bunch of ideals and if we started out on the career path without cars there wouldn’t be a problem, but; we got kids who need carting about and they have stroppy days, we work shifts and don’t like being screamed at out the window by drunken idiots as their friends drive as close as they can when they go past you at 2am. We got off days and hectic days and sometimes we’re not sure where we are working that day or we didn’t iron all our shirts to drop at work for the week or have an appointment in our lunch break or have a horrible cough this week…… So, whilst I’m all for this being an alternative lifestyle, any opportunity even if only once a week is better than not at all. I’ll take it as often as I can.
This blog: Tony Hemans and Glen Eccles cycled the Camino Frances from St jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela covering 845km in 6 days in October 2012. If you are trying to get fit, planning an adventure, long distance cyclist or just curious about my mid-life crisis then subscribe and share!