Cycle commuting

· culture ·

Part of my plan for this year is to get rid of the car, and spend more time outdoors. Something that helps both aims (as well as saving us money and saving fossil fuels) is for me to commute to work by bike. I actually planned to start commuting in by bike last year, but my hospitalisation set that plan back a bit. Last week, I cycled in a couple of times, and I'm really enjoying it.

We're really lucky that we're almost on one of the National Cycle Network routes, which in turn happens to go very close to the University. So I can do almost the whole route through parks and very quiet residential streets, which makes an enormous difference to the feel of the ride. I used to like commuting in Oxford, but you did have to have your wits about you the whole time, and a healthy sense of paranoia that everyone in a car was trying to kill you, which didn't make for a relaxing ride. Now, I can mostly glide along serenely -- daydreaming, thinking about work, mentally composing blog posts -- with only the need to keep half an eye out for rampaging dogs or oblivious pedestrians.

The ride takes a fair bit longer than going by train (about 45 minutes, with a few minutes either end to load or unload the bike), but it's an easy, flat ride, and I deliberately don't race along. I've realised (not before time) that the secret to happy commuting is to ride at a sedate pace, so that you can arrive in your everyday clothes and not dripping with sweat. Despite the fact that I had to endure torrential rain and strong winds on a couple of the journeys, I was surprised to find that I arrived relaxed and wide awake, and with much more energy than I usually start the day.

It's wonderful to breeze along, listening to the birds, watching the bulbs start to emerge, and hearing the distant roar of traffic that you're not having to battle with. It's also a lot more sociable; you can smile at and pass the time of day with other commuters and dog walkers as you go along.

It will be even better when I get my new bike. I'm using Mr. Bsag's mountain bike at the moment, which is heavy, makes me lean too far forwards (which plays hell with my wrists and shoulders), and has a saddle that feels like a razor to my generously proportioned backside. The route is rather muddy, so it's also a pain to have to keep cleaning the block and gears so that bits of grit don't damage it. Mr. Bsag is annoyingly strict about that... For the same reasons, my recumbent would also not be suitable for the route, and would get wrecked quite quickly. That's why I'm getting a Farrhad Manufaktur Comfort under the tax-free bikes scheme, which is a Dutch-style town bike, with hub gears (much less maintenance), full chainguards and mudguards (clean clothes), and a very comfortable upright position. In other words, a 'proper' bike.