Things about cycling to work you wish you knew

So…on cycle to work day I was cajoled into writing this article for the work intranet, cut and pasted here for the record

PaulDarbyCyclist

Three years ago, I had never ridden a road bike. The last time I remembered riding any bike was doing wheelies on my Chopper in the late ’70s.

Now I find myself cajoled into writing a blog on ‘Cycle-To-Work Day’ with a photo of me donning Lycra (apologies to all for the latter).

Like many, my exercise regime had fizzled out with the arrival of children and the demands of 21st century adult life. I thought I would give cycling to work a go as it looked like a fun way to get fit and would save money.

After two years of cycling to work, I feel I’ve benefited enormously:

I’ve lost a bit of weight and I’m fitter – cycling has increased my stamina, strength and aerobic fitness. There is less huffing and puffing playing football in the park with the kids and a 50-mile cycle at the weekend is a regular occurrence. Weight loss has proved harder, but that says more about me and my relationship with full-fat coffee than it does about the benefits of cycling.

Heart and health – I got the thumbs up rather than furrowed eyebrows from the doctor on my last check-up. Research shows cyclists have lower risk of developing cancer, and a 46% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

I’ve unleashed the explorer in me – you see the world differently on a bike. I’ve got to know my local back roads and seen some hidden natural and architectural treasures I never knew existed like on The Wandle Trail. I’ve been known to take a detour on the way home just to see what was ‘round the other corner’.

I’ve saved time and money by incorporating a health regime into the everyday – a commute by bike means no need to head to the gym. I’ve also saved 33% on transport fares. Some of that went on the cost of a bike, but after the initial outlay cycling as a hobby and mode of transport has been cheap. A good roadworthy bike doesn’t have to be £1,000, you can pick one up for £300.

Mental health benefits – I’ve noticed how a bike ride can help with my mental health, even on a commute. I get to slow down, relax, get some fresh(ish) air and clear my mind!

There are also the wider benefits to society. Getting out of the car and cycling contributes to cleaner, healthier air. A reminder, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic!

So…if I’ve piqued your interest, some next steps:

  • Get a bike – the cycle to work scheme allows you to hire a bike (tax-free) to get to work
  • Make sure you have the essentials – helmet, pump, a few spare inner tubes, bike and third-party liability insurance.
  • Learn how to ride a bike on a road – have a practice and ride around on local familiar streets. There is plenty of video guidance on positioning on the road etc. Your local cycling group may also have rides for beginners, or join a Community Cycling Club.
  • Learn the basics on how to maintain a bike – change a flat tyre and look after your chain.
  • Prep your ride to work and do a dry run – do it off-peak to start with and take your time.

After commuting, who knows what it might lead to. I’ve been mountain biking, had a go at track cycling on a velodrome and completed some Sportives including the 100-mile Ride-London. Some of my best memories though have been taking my children for a pootle around the local area using my new-found skills and knowledge.

And the Lycra? Well there are plenty of alternatives out there but the thing is it really is the most comfortable material to cycle in!

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