How To Ride to Work
Three simple words: Ride. To. Work.
Little did I know what this was going to mean. In my simplistic mind the decision to combine long working hours with the need to exercise could result in no other option than commuting to work on my bike.
Congratulating myself on my problem solving and motivation – I wondered why everyone didn’t make the same simple decision. The same amount of train time commuting, instead spent exercising, arriving at work in a good state of mind – with less contribution to pollution. Smug was an understatement.
What followed was a significant learning curve. So, I would like to share a few of my lessons with you.
1. How to ride to work – in a straight line with no detours and wrong turns.
I need to go from St Albans to London. But not on the M1 or A1. Right. My first trip I used a route mapper to find a cycling route that didn’t involve main roads. 23 miles it said. I memorised the route and set out. 32 miles later I arrived.
In order not to ride more than necessary, invest a little in a holder for your phone so you can follow turn by turn directions. Don’t try and memorise the route, and don’t rely on your ‘instinct’.
2. How to ride to work – without doubling your effort.
I planned and packed. Laptop, cables, charger, shoes, clothes, toiletries. Check. All in a backpack. A self-reliant two-wheeled commuter. 2 hours later, a sweaty back and aching neck made me realise that what seems a light weight at the beginning soon creates a significant drain.
So with a little extra planning, take your stuff into work on one of your non-ride days. Leave it there – and when you ride to work just carry your beautiful sweaty self. No need to make it more difficult than it already is.
3. How to ride to work – and not stink the place out.
Get to work, find some place to change, wipe down. I raided the baby wipes from my daughters’ room with the goal of making sure I was not going into my first meeting like the swamp monster. For 2 weeks I dutifully stood in the bathroom naked as the day I was born wiping myself down with baby wipes. Until the door opened and a fella walked in.
“Why don’t you use the shower?”
“The one on the next floor down.”
A little recon and a quiet word round the office can make your morning hygiene after the ride in better for everyone.
4. How to ride to work – with safety in numbers.
My ride exists in three main stages. Rural; the ride from St Albans to Barnet. Beautiful countryside, birds chirping, mist swirling in a silence only punctuated by my deep breathing and the stream of white van men looking for their manhood.
Suburban; the ride from Barnet to Finchley. Moving through Greater London dodging the morning parade of buses moving from depot to their starting points.
The city; the final stage of narrower roads and the danger of pedestrians with no common sense and heads buried in mobile phones.
But after a few commutes I realised my rural stage would be a lonely delightful one, but that if I timed it right I would meet the increasing gang of other cyclists that set out. There is safety, comradery and fun in numbers. London is now cris-crossed with good cycling routes and it is worth getting your timings right.
Each of these lessons was hard won – and after my initial decision to ride to work, have helped me make this sustainable.
It certainly didn't feel like there was anyone for me to ask (it's one of the reasons I wanted to start Gallivant) and what seems to be the simplest of things, took me a number of trial and errors to get right.
Really though all it takes is the simple decision to really appreciate getting to work in a totally different frame of mind.
"Today I will... ride to work
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