Cycle to work challenge

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Over the last few years, I’ve dabbled with cycling to work. I have a 20 mile commute there and back and used my mountain bike. It took me about 45 minutes to get into work and around 50 to get back (because it’s uphill all the way!).

I should explain why I choose to ride to work, as there several reasons. Firstly (being the son of a Yorkshireman), it saves a bit of money which always helps! It takes roughly the same time as driving the same distance (including parking and walking from the car to the office) - and there is something quite satisfying about passing cars that are queuing in traffic, that passed you five miles back. More importantly, there is one less car on the road sitting in traffic during the rush hour, emitting fumes into the atmosphere. Finally, the main reason is that I love to ride my bike and without that I don’t think I would have the motivation to commute 20 miles in a day.

Uphill all the way

Apart from the commute already presenting some challenges, I was using my mountain bike to commute and consequently,  road riding was wearing out my mountain bike tyres. Therefore last summer, I decided to take advantage of Upbeat’s benefit scheme by getting a road bike specifically for riding into work. I opted for a Specialized Allez and managed to cut 10 minutes off my commute in either direction, which also made it quicker to ride into work than it took to drive, park up and walk the short distance to the office!
Up until now, I had only ridden to work when daylight hours were available. I decided to start riding home in the dark, kitting myself out with lights and reflective gear. I had some reservations on the safety of riding at night, particularly on the town and main road, which is half of my commute. It did take some persistence in getting used to and making sure I was as visible as possible, particularly to lorries, but after a few weeks, I found it was no problem.

So this year, having survived a few months of riding in the dark, I decided to set myself the challenge of doing 1000 commuter miles on my bike, which roughly translates to 50 rides into work and 50 rides home. This would more than double the number of commuter miles I had ridden in the previous year.

50 rides to work doesn’t actually sound like much. It could be achieved in just 10 weeks if I rode in every day. However, I only work in the office twice a week, which immediately means I would have to ride to work for half of my commutes in the year. Also I don't tend to ride in when its raining (and it does tend to rain more often than not in Cumbria), then on some days I have other things that means I have to drive in, and if you then add on holidays I calculated 50 rides to work would be an achievable goal.

Two thirds of the year into my challenge and I have ridden 700 miles (34 commutes), which is pretty much on target to manage 1000 miles by the end of December. Hopefully I will achieve it and be able to set another challenge for next years cycling to work.