Some observations after cycle commuting for the past year

In March 2019 I started commuting to work by bicycle regularly, building up slowly from once a week to now 4-5 days a week. During the past 12 months and riding about 2000 km, I have learned and observed a number of things which I feel are worth sharing. I have listed them below in no particular order.

My commuting/club riding/all purpose bike. 2019 Giant Contend 1. Lovely bike, very comfortable.
  1. Not all motorists are dangerous lunatics out to kill cyclists
    Contrary to what seems to the the prevailing opinion among those who commute by bicycle, I found that on the whole, most drivers are fairly considerate and realise cyclists are vulnerable road users. I have had many an occasion where cars stopped to let me enter onto a main road, or where they stayed behind me patiently until they could overtake safely. These drivers will always get a thank you from me. Ofcourse, there are the few rotten apples who think they are more important than anyone else (not just cyclists) and have cut be off or performed a dangerous overtake. One of them lost an expensive wing mirror because of this as they did not leave me an escape route after cutting across me… it was crashing into the curb or into the mirror, I chose the latter.
  2. Rain is annoying, but not for the reason you think
    Having cycled through the winter, I have dealt with a fair share of rain. Although riding on a nice sunny day is always better, rain is really not that bad if you dress accordingly: a good waterproof jacket, and a change of clothes at work/at home make it very manageable. The one thing that is very annoying though is visibility. As someone who needs glasses on a daily basis, I have learned that rain drops on glasses in the dark are very annoying. They prevent you from seeing what is ahead, and any headlight coming towards you will effectively blind you for a few seconds. If anyone knows of a good solution please do let me know.
  3. Winter is hard on bikes, very hard
    I have had to up my maintenance game significantly during the November – January period. The combination of wet weather, crud on roads, gritting salt and oily lubricants are incredibly tough on any moving parts. Both front and rear wheel hubs have had to have a full service after 6 months from new, and a full drivetrain deep clean is a weekly affair instead of a monthly one during the summer. Additionally, caliper brakes require a weekly decrudding as everything sticks to them. On the plus side, I have gotten a lot quicker at doing the weekly maintenance, and used it as an excuse to buy a decent set of bike tools.
Maintenance is a key skill if you want to save some money… and is also best taught early!
  1. Clothing is key, and layering is the secret
    During colder months, it is tempting to go for thick jackets and warm jerseys. However, I found that during my 45-50 min on the bike I get quite sweaty, so using multiple thinner layers is more effective. As a side-note, I have found that cycling clothing can be quite expensive, but that there are really good value items from cheaper brands that do very well too. My favourite brand for clothing at the moment is Triban (a mid-range Decathlon brand), which I find does really good value for money jerseys, jackets and tights. Slightly more expensive is DHB, which is still fairly good value for money. Cycling kit doesn’t need to be expensive, but I feel that paying a bit extra for a good quality jacket and scrimping a bit on a jersey works better than the other way around.
  2. Cycling improves both physical and mental health
    I have noticed that when I cycle to work, I arrive less stressed, and when I cycle home from work, I am more relaxed when I get home. More importantly, my family have noticed too, which encourages me even more to jump on the bike when the weather is less than ideal. My mental health has seem improvements since I started cycling, probably because riding for 2 hours a day gives me time to unwind, and I don’t have the luxury to be distracted by work-related thoughts when riding. Physically I feel fitter, although I have a few minor bike related niggles that started playing up. However, these should be easily solved by having a look at my position on the bike, so I will be looking for a professional bike fit over the next few weeks. It is not cheap, but as I spend 8-10 hours each week in the saddle, I think it is important that I am comfortable…

There are ofcourse other lessens learned, such as “falling off hurts, even at slow speeds”, but the above were some of the more regular thoughts I have had about my cycling commute. My 2020 goal is to complete the Cycling Weekly 5000 mile challenge, and to complete my first 100 km ride over the summer, hopefully commuting by bike will help me achieve these goals. Anyway, enough ramblings for now. Thanks for reading, and watch out for the next post.

Technological developments

I was cleaning out my storage space at my dad’s house as he is moving and the place has been sold. Whilts going through boxes I came across the following tech: 

 

The left phone was my very first mobile phone, bought roughly 14 years ago. The right one is the one I am currently writing this post on. It made me reflect for a minute on how fast technology has developed, and how the practice of bioscience education had evolved. Who would have thought 14 years ago that mobile phone would become edicational tools, and students would use mobile devices during lectures to support their learning? It makes me wonder what the future brings…

Writing inspiration

Yesterday I spent most of the day preparing the first draft of a manuscript. This invariably meant that my wife and son had to entertain themselves. They went on a hike with a friend and afterwards the four of us went for lunch at a local pub.

I was struggling quite a bit before I went for lunch, but a good craft ale, some soul food in the form of a great burger, and ofcourse the lovely sunny day, gave me lots of inspiration and motivation to finish the paper. I left my wife, son and friend at the pub and by the end of the afternoon the first draft was ready.

I’m going to leave it for a few days and then have another look at it, but I am pretty happy as is. I might need to go to the pub more often, perhaps Rachael Cayley () over at Explorations of Style needs to do an article on it…

Impossible List

tick-listAfter coming across a blog by Lee Fallin (@leefallin) I have followed his excellent example and started an “Impossible List” (idea by Joel Runyon). My list is not very long yet, but it will expand over time. With a bit of luck, I will also be able to cross things off it. Fingers crossed!

 

Cycling to work

carrera-virtuoso-road-bike
The new addition to the bike family

In January I became the proud owner of a new bicycle. A road bike this time, to add to the bicycle family of two mountain bikes. The main reason being that last year I have tried commuting to work on my MTB, and although it felt good, it wasn’t quite right. Now, a year on and still wanting to improve my health and fitness by commuting to work by bike, I have finally made the decision and bought a road bike for the purpose of commuting.

The bike is a 2015 Carrera Virtuoso in white with blue details. It might not be a high end road bike, but as I won’t be racing, it doesn’t need to be one either. Made from a 6061 T6 aluminium alloy it sports an 8-speed Shimano Claris drive train/chainset and Tektro brakes and weighs in at just over 11 kg.

I have bought the bike from Halfords. Although I am very happy with the quality of the bike and the price paid, I am less happy with the quality of the build and attention to detail: On collection I was rushed through the build checks and when I came home I noticed that there were quite a few loose bolts and screws, mainly in areas which were supposedly checked by the Halfords technician who built the bike.

After doing my own extensive check and tightening all bolts and screws, and adding the necessary accessories, I took the bike for a test ride the next day. Following a few minor set-up tweaks, I am impressed by the ride and an looking forward to commuting on it. So there it is, commuting to work by bike will become the new norm.