The joys of commuting

Over the last 6 months, I have taken up commuting to work on the bike. This is not a bombshell, millions of people around the country do this every day. For me, the car was the transport of choice to travel to and from work and cycling after work and at weekends. It wasn’t until I quickly realised how much money I was spending on fuel each week and other costs triggered by the commute that pushed me to use the bike as much as I could. I am only 6 miles away from work and have access to a shower, so I have no excuse not to.

The main expense is the bike — using the ‘best’ bike everyday just isn’t an option. The route I take is over a multitude of surfaces (some akin to the surface of the moon) which would reduce the life of most road bikes. The bike of choice at the time was a family-owned from new, a 1987 Peugeot Ranger mountain bike, complete with cantilever brakes, a rack and made from scaffolding — weighing, no exaggeration — about 30kgs fully loaded. Riding it takes some getting used to; handling needs careful planning, the brakes are….well… they are on the bike, they’re just not effective and due to its sheer bulk, turns slight inclines into the Pyrenees. Luckily, the route is fairly flat otherwise it would take a calendar to record the time taken to get to work.

1987 Peugeot Ranger — the stuff of dreams

However, this didn’t matter, I was riding to work each day and saving money and getting fit at the same time. My route mixed tarmac, bridleway and cycle lanes and apart from the bike requiring a near wheel after about a month after the axle snapped, the bike has been spot on. The cost of running the car each week has halved (I still need to use it for work occasionally) and I generally feel better from de-stressing from work on the way home. I try and increase my weekly commute just to get some more miles in, to prepare for longer weekend rides with friends.

To help make the ride more interesting, I try and use it as a training run making it my aim to catch other commuters in the distance, racing people at the lights and to trying to hold off other riders from overtaking — seeing people’s faces whilst overtaking them on a near 30 year old retro jalopy makes this worth the additional effort. I have failed miserably at ‘just’ riding gently to work, despite my best intentions, I just can’t do it. It’s full speed and nothing less will do. Watching people’s faces whilst overtaking them on a near 30 year old mountain bike complete with panniers is worth the additional effort — albeit, it’s usually short lived come the uphills.

Since commuting more, I’ve now built a dedicated winter road bike and the old Peugeot has been consigned to the shed only being ridden to the pub (it makes an excellent pub bike) or to the shops. The road bike is better in every way, it’s quicker, takes less effort and I can use it for weekends. I’ve bought new cold weather gear to keep my warm this winter and a myriad of reflective tape to ensure that I am seen and I’ve now committed to ride as much as I can over the colder months. I hoping that I won’t be tempted to jump in the car each morning.

I would really recommend commuting to work wherever possible. Obviously, if you live in Bristol but work in London then, of course, this will be difficult. However, just use your bike more — it’s free! In addition, give a nod to the people who commute on their bikes, their commitment to the daily commute takes traffic off the roads, reduces pollution and takes a small burden off the NHS by being healthier. It really couldn’t be simpler or easier.