10 Reasons to Ride Through the Winter

On reflection, it’s an odd time to start a cycling blog. The pro racing season is over, it’s dark on the commute to and from work, the roads are busier than ever and most of all the weather leaves a lot to be desired. If you can navigate your way around the tailbacks, then you still have to contend with the cold and increasing numbers of potholes caused by the constant freezing  and thawing of standing water on the road. Even as I type the weatherman is warning of continuing gales of up to 80 mph due to a ‘Weather Bomb’ otherwise known as ‘Explosive Cyclogenesis’. It’s been pummelling the UK for the last few days. It sounds scary but in English it means there’s an area of low pressure, and given that it’s in winter it might be a bit wet and windy outdoors.

Tonight my ride home was pretty dismal. Wind and rain was lashing in my face and in some cruel twist of fate I tackled a head wind for the second time today (normally one would expect riding in to work with a head wind would be rewarded with a tail wind on the return leg, but oh no, not today). By the time I was home I was thoroughly soaked through. As I peeled off my wet clothes I noticed something odd. I had a stupid grin on my face. Yes, today was the day I had clocked 3,000 miles cycled. 6 months ago today, I pledged to change my life for the better. I had just changed jobs (which I was really happy about) but I seemed stuck in the same old routine.

Every day I got up, ate my breakfast, drank my coffee and set off out the door with my car keys. My new commute was only 9 miles but was taking at least 60 minutes, sometimes longer. Most of this time was spent sat stationary in traffic. It was infuriating. Two weeks in I noticed a cyclist wizzing past, clearly he was getting somewhere a lot faster then me! Then it dawned on me, that could be me! Fast forward to the present day, I cycle-commute 5 days a week and get out as often as I can in between. I joined my local cycling club and have tagged along on a few long distance rides to honey pot towns all over Yorkshire. I’ve attended 50+ mile cycling sportives. I’m even due to go and try track racing at Manchester Velodrome this week. Lets say my commute is a lot more stimulating than it was back in June.

So, why should you take up/continue riding this winter? Put simply:

  1. Unless you do significant motorway miles or work outside regular office hours, you’ll get to where your going faster!
  2. Riding a bike is significantly cheaper than driving and public transport. I save £120 on petrol alone. If you factor in the reduced wear and tear on your car, you’re saving more. If you lose the car completely, well, you do the maths.
  3. You’re waist line will thank you this Christmas. Mince pie consumption will be guilt free (mostly) given the amount of calories burnt on the typical ride.
  4. Riding through the winter has the added benefit of being fitter in the spring, meaning you can make some serious improvements next summer, without having to start building your fitness from scratch.
  5. There’s no need for a gym membership.
  6. There’s always more cake to discover. For the uninitiated,  cycling is all about stopping for cake (and coffee) in as many different cafés as possible.
  7. Riding is fun. Period.
  8. Cyclists tend to have less time off work sick, which means you’ll have to pull a sickie, if you want a day off. I’m pretty sure this is still a positive. I definitely don’t enjoy the lurgy.
  9. With the right clothing, you don’t feel the cold.
  10. You’ll develop legs like these!

legs

 

 

Welcome to the Bike Blog

Welcome to The Bike Blog’s inaugural post. As you could have gathered, this blog is about bikes, bikes bikes bikes! I think bicycles are amazing. They make you filthy rich, leaner, sexier, funnier and they even give you better hair. Yes, seriously! With anything, you can spend small fortunes, but if you’re sensible, bikes really are dirt cheap. They are efficient and practical, powered by carbohydrates and body fat, don’t cost loads to maintain. You don’t have to be an expert mechanic to keep them running, they don’t need a pricey MOTs or require emissions taxes. At worst you need to be prepared to learn how to change a tyre in event of puncture, but there are ways and means to minimise the risks of flats. We will get around to those later. You can either have your local bike shop do all the servicing and maintenance which won’t cost much, or if your only a really tight budget, you can do most of the maintenance at home. It’s one of the most accessible and friendly sports I know, and did I mention? Its really really practical. You’ll never need to worry about starting the car, or buy another bus or train tickets for those local journeys, which will do wonders for your bank statements. Yes there’s an initial down payment for the bike and accessories, but the more miles you clock on the bike, the sooner you will see the bike earning you money.

I prefer two wheels for my off-roading!
I prefer two wheels for my off-roading!

A brief history

I grew up with bikes, living in a rural area, getting out and about on a bike was my favourite way to pass time. I must have spent hours rolling around in the dirt, building make shift ramps for epic jumps, creating off-road race tracks and riding on the local trials and roads. It just what boys did at that time.

I recently rekindled my love for the humble bicycle after 15+ years out of the saddle. I now ride my bike almost every day, most months I fit in excess of 800 miles in the saddle. It had me wondering, why did I ever retire my pride and joy to the garage, where it would inevitably collect dust, begin to rust and eventually be sold on or scrapped? I have no idea what my father did with it.

As I grew older I guess I began to focus on other things. Building ramps and racing the other boys in the village probably lost its novelty. Increasing time was spent on studying for exams… cough, cough, playing video games and eventually even girls became more interesting than bikes. I was never really the athletic type, so going on to become a pro rider was never going to happen. I guess I just had better things to do and it quickly became part of my childhood memories, rather than an everyday part of my life. But why?

A series of poor choices

Life has its ways of bully us into becoming lazy. Giving up the bike was encouraged due to increasing ‘danger’ on the roads. I was fortunate enough for my parents to set me up with a driving instructor. As a young adult with a drivers licence in hand, what possible reason would I have to cycle everywhere? At the time I had a 12 mile journey to college, and eventually a 7 mile journey to university, yet despite the crippling traffic, chronic shortage of parking and rising fuel costs I was charmed by the automotive industry and thought the most sensible approach was to journey these by car. I don’t know how people formed these horrible habits, or how driving cars has encroached so far into most peoples lives, but looking on it from the outside as a cyclist, I no longer get it! Driving is no longer easy, convenient or cheap, so why do people persist?

The attitude of getting everywhere by car, bus or train, or not at all, is so ingrained into us all that the bike isn’t even a consideration for transportation for most people in the UK. According to the CTC national cycling charity, nearly 43% of UK’s population own a bike. Yet only 8% of people cycle 3 or more times a week, and even worse, only 34% of people can admit to cycling at least once a year. Who are these other 66%? Get of your lazy rear ends out of the couch on wheels and ride!

Car culture is bringing this nation to its knees, nobody seems to bat an eyelid while our roads are full to bursting with the amount of cars on the road, yet the average journey made by anyone is only 7.1 miles. The average person could cover this distance on a bike in 40 minutes. Yet during rush hour, inner city driving would probably take far longer in the car.  All this driving has serious implications for our health, environment and wealth (as individuals and as a nation). While cycling will never be suitable for every journey made by every individual the answer to all our problems, The answer to many of our daily woes is simple, switch to riding a bike for those local journeys.

I’m not 100% sure where this blog is going just yet, but please join me for the ride (pun intended!). I plan to share some helpful guides and how to’s for those both new and old to cycling. Whether that means empowering individuals with the knowledge and equipment needed to finally commute to work, or go on a quick trip to the local shops, or even just for improving general fitness. I’ll bring you some great product reviews that will get you out on the road or out on the track with minimal expense.

A blog dedicated to arguably the world's greatest invention, the bicycle.