How I learned to stop worrying and love two wheels

Cycle to Work Day is Wednesday, 13 September and Sam Hargreaves, Senior Communications Officer, shares his experience of signing up to the Cycle to Work scheme and the joys of commuting to work on two wheels.

In December 2015 I made the choice to stop driving into work and start cycling. There wasn’t one single reason I made this choice but having seen an advert for the Cycle to Work Scheme I made the leap and bought my first bike since I was a teenager. The process was surprisingly simple, involving only a couple of forms and by the end of January I was able to pick up a brand-new bike. I won’t go into the full process but you can find a simple guide on People First .

Now I had the exact same concerns that you probably have about cycling when I first took it out of the shop. Those being Safety, Fitness and the Weather. Luckily I’m happy to allay your fears:

1. It’s simply not safe to cycle to work
It’s hard not to feel nervous going out onto the road for the first time, my last time cycling on the road had roughly been at the same time as my A-Levels. I can assure you that you’ll find your confidence growing in leaps and bounds as you start to ride. I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t encountered some less than considerate road users but in the last year of cycling I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to brake hard to avoid mishap.

Fortunately for new and old cyclists there are websites; Sustrans and Transport For London that can help you find quieter and car free routes. They are much more useful than Google Maps which has an unfortunate habit of directing cyclists onto completely inappropriate routes.

2. Cycling to work is just for the super fit
The image of the cycle commuter is unfortunately tied with the lycra clad super human who cycles 20 miles to work each day and knocks out a triathlon every other Sunday for the fun of it. Most bike riders don’t fit this picture.

Don’t get me wrong: the first week will be less than fun, you’ll ache in muscles you didn’t know you have and spend the weekend wondering if you’ve not made a huge mistake. However it’ll be a distant memory as you get used to the new routine in weeks two and three.

No matter the distance of your commute if you ease into it you’ll be able to take it on, perhaps by only cycling in one day a week in the beginning and then adding more days as and when you feel confident to do so.

3. I can’t cycle to work when it rains
The final and perhaps most common reason that people want to avoid picking up a bike is that we live in a wet and cold country. I won’t try and sell the merits of cycling through a hail storm on a December morning but I can let you know that if you’re wearing waterproof shoes and a rain coat you won’t feel the weather after the first five minutes. It can also be a lot of fun to release your inner eight-year-old and cycle through puddles as fast as you can.

As with your car it’s simply a case of using common sense. As you start cycling in, you’ll know where your line is for when you’ll ride and when you’ll want to use public transport instead. For me, I draw a line at flooding after a Monday where I walked into the office looking as though I’d swam to work. . . .

I am sure that you have been told a million times about the many health benefits of cycling. Let me simply say that my commute might take 15 minutes longer,  but it is far more enjoyable. It’s a big decision to make the leap and most people won’t be able to ditch the car all together but I can guarantee that, in the long run, you will save more money than the cost of your bike.

Final Tips
Wait for the sales. Through sheer luck I had procrastinated before joining the scheme. By the time I registered the New Year sales had started, I was able to pick up the bike I wanted with a 25% mark down.
Don’t buy top of the mark road bikes. It is very tempting to buy the top of the range bike – if it’s good enough for Wiggins it must be ideal for you. Talk to the staff in the cycle shop. Most of the retailers in the scheme want to find you the most suitable bike at the right price, they can guide you to a bike which matches your needs.
Plan which safety gear you want to wear each day. It is very important to put safety first, you can get a range of safety gear and helmets through the scheme. Be sure to try on the helmets and gear before leaving the shop. When I walked into the shop I simply pointed at a reflective jacket which I thought looked good. It wasn’t until I first put it on at home that I realised that my back pack covered all the reflective strips. When buying your gear consider what you feel comfortable wearing.


For more information on Cycle to Work Day, visit https://www.cycletoworkday.org/


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5 Comments

  1. 1

    I enjoyed your blog Sam. I spent 3 years doing a 20 mile round trip to Brentwood in the 1970s and can’t recall ever missing a day due to bad weather – I had no choice as I didn’t own a car but I certainly finished up very fit. These days my commute is 110 miles but i still manage to cycle the last mile or so using the folding bike in the boot and it’s a quick and easy way to nip out at lunch time. Keep it up!

  2. 2

    Nice writing Sam, thanks. You might be mistaking me as one of your Category 2 individuals, but I completeley agree that there is so much good clothing and equipment available that anyone can ride in comfort on almost any day of the year, and the fresh air and feel good factor can’t be overstated (the schadenfruede of zipping down the outside of a rush hour traffic jam is also worth something)

    The Cycle to Work scheme is excellent – I have used it twice already (working on a third attempt…)

  3. 3

    Great blog Sam! I too have just dipped a toe in, taking it slowly but saving money and calories already feels good!

  4. 4

    Well done Sam – I bought a bike through the cycle to work scheme a year or so before you and have worked up from cycling in one day a week to, well, two or three times a week. Unless it rains, or looks like its going to rain later, or… any one of a number of excuses. But it really has made a lot of difference; I feel fitter, enjoy rather than dread the commute, only visit the petrol station half as often. On the odd occasion BBC Weather gets it wrong I do carry wet weather gear but more importantly I always keep a spare set of clothes at work rather than sit steaming all day.
    The only things I’d add to your list would be a good bike lock and a rack with pannier or other bag so you can carry bits and pieces if you find a back pack uncomfortable when cycling – all available as part of the deal through the scheme.
    Hope it keeps dry for us this Cycle to Work Day! (Enjoyed the Dr Strangelove reference too)

  5. 5

    Thank you for your blog Sam. I am glad that you have had a good experience of using the Cycle to Work Scheme.

    If anyone is interested in joining and wants some more information, please look at People First, or contact myself through HR Direct.


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