If you have read the page About Me on this page then you will know that I am what is known as a “time-poor” cyclist. Family takes priority over everything and then comes a demanding job and then any spare time is divided between various hobbies and activities of which cycling is just one.
Having said all of that, I first started to commute to work by bike before I started my role as a father and it was driven (no pun intended) by an inescapable need to escape the soul-sapping routine of being stuck in rush hour traffic to and from work.
The feeling of filtering through traffic is right up there with the first sip of beer on a hot summer's day. I used to be one of the people, stuck in the car, pleading for a song that I liked to come on the radio or silently wondering how much trouble I would actually get in if I drove along the pavement to get home faster. Now I observe from above as I glide past them and as I do there is a large part of me that wants to open their doors and let them have a ride on my bike to feel what I feel. I genuinely believe that more and more people would ditch the cars and join me on the road.
The physical benefits of commuting were just a happy by-product.
But then I became a father and it suddenly appeared as if someone had accidentally hit the fast-forward button on my life. Free time was a precious commodity and one that I took for granted in my younger days. Not just that, but free time now had a more tiring quality as I tried to adjust to the sleepless nights. Now commuting by bike became essential for my physical and mental well-being. I adopted a ruthless efficiency to my life; at work I had to be more productive to get things done during office hours and could not rely on being able to finish projects in the evenings. Evenings were a sacred time now for taking the load off of my partner and bonding with my son. No more idle-chatting about the latest episode of Bake Off for me. Now commuting by bike became my exercise routine, driven by a desire to not only be a better cyclist but to also be a father that could do things and who looked after himself.
Apart from the efficient use of time and the manifold physical benefits there are other more subtle benefits that I have discovered that all stem from cycling to and from work. Sometimes I have to take the car if I am going to meetings or travelling and it is on these days that I understand why I cycle even in the worst weather that Scotland can muster. I feel lethargic at work. I start to feel anxious about the car drive home, stuck in traffic. These days of driving to work act as a useful motivator to keep cycling and not take the easy option.
Everyone’s commute is different so let me tell you about mine. At its shortest it is about 7.3-miles but I usually extend it up to closer to nine miles depending on how the legs are feeling. It might be short but this is Scotland and therefore it is pretty hilly and I usually go as close to full-gas as I can on a given day. Remember I use it as exercise, not just for transport. I wear Lycra because I wouldn’t even dream of anything else when doing big efforts. I cycle on roads but chose which ones wisely. I have showering facilities at work (most welcome by my colleagues I am sure) and I need them as I am usually a sweaty mess by the time I get there. On an average day I probably cross paths with a couple of other cyclists, in winter even less so but I have to say that there is a hint that more and more people are doing it and most encouraging of all, more and more women are taking the plunge. I say this because, rightly or wrongly, I feel that more women cycling is an indication that it is become more accessible and potentially more safe. The next step is to see kids using it as a means to get to school but for that we need to proper Dutch cycling lanes and my thoughts on this can be found in another blog altogether.
I understand some of the very real barriers to commuting by bike and I explore some of these in my other blog post but for me the benefits far outweigh the any perceived drawbacks. At 32 years old I am fitter than I have ever been and I used to compete in cross-country running!