I have now been cycling for 3 months, I bought a bike to improve my fitness and to stay away from public transport as much as possible. Although the train service into Birmingham city centre isn’t that bad and it is usually on time I do sometimes get tired of the same journey and monotony, the same faces, the same coughs and splutters in the Winter, the sweatiness in the Summer and also the struggle to get into a train carriage in rush hour. I haven’t entirely given up on train journeys into work but by cycling to work it has improved my green credentials and lowered my carbon usage in general.
My usual routes takes me either up the canal side which has recently improved due to the Birmingham Cycle Revolution or through Cycle Route 5 which take me into parkland, through back roads, suburban areas and the city centre. I usually cycle in to work via Cycle Route 5 and then take the canal home as it is quieter and flatter, as the canal is flat it does mean I have to cycle more, therefore I can really go for it and work up a healthy sweat before I get home.
Apart from the greener aspect what I really love is the fact I can feel my wellbeing improve when I get on the saddle, soaking up some daylight whilst building energy up and serotonin makes me feel more prepared for work, if I have had a stressful day and then cycle I am usually OK when I get home. The 30 minute cycle ride clears my head, the need to focus on the road and my positioning doesn’t allow me to think about work like I would on the train, this ritual is a solid preparation and conclusion to what is usually a deeply busy day. I have found work based solutions on my bike for issues at work, it’s a nice way to subconsciously think.
I can now feel my journey times going shorter, I stay in higher gears for longer and enjoy the fact I am cycling harder and at more pace, the 30 minute journey can sometimes go down to 20 minutes if the lights are all on green – I feel fitter and more productive.
Another positive is the freedom, the freedom to zip through a park into a canal side, through a piece of waste land and then back onto a main road without having to wait in traffic. Familiar roads that I have journeyed in my car have a new feel when I am on my bike – these roads look different and going from one side of the city to the other is expressive as I can choose a different route quickly and with little planning.
Although I understand why people wear comfy cycling clothing, I am not one of these people who do the lycra thing. I wear a UV bib and a helmet, in the Winter I will pick up some lights for the darker mornings and evenings. At the moment I go to work and freshen up with wet wipes when I get to the office. I am not breaking huge sweats and I can usually stay fresh with a quick clean up in the bathroom at work, I have a basket which stores my rucksack on so my back doesn’t get sweaty. I also have a little pouch under the saddle with a small tool set and a puncture repair kit if needed. The basket has had my weekly shopping in, plants, parcels, documents and even a crate of beer.
The array of bikes in Birmingham that are being used currently by cyclists are fascinating, the traditional old-fashioned bikes right through to the thin and light racers are so interesting to look at. My bike is a Giant Hybrid, it has 21 gears and if I was going to improve it after 3 months of cycling I would make it a little lighter and also I would have bought suspension as an add on, going over the cobbled part of the Birmingham canal system can sometimes be a bit rough but it’s not so bad and is only a slight inconvenience. The bike is a comfortable ride in general, I can go long distance and I am pleased it is going through its paces with no difficulties.
For any readers on Self and Roots who have watched the scary YouTube videos of cyclists getting threatened and cut up or read the media scares and can’t face getting on a bike out of fear, I would recommend that the National Cycle Network can potentially come to the rescue and alleviate these worries, the route are usually quiet and used by walkers and cyclists only – if the route does go on to a road it is usually on quieter strip of the city centre allowing slow approaches to junctions and no worries of big lorries coming past and cutting you up. According to Sustrans 75% of us are within 3 kilometres of the National cycle Network and these routes cover 16,200 kilometres.
Cycling has saved me money, the train fares are not spent as much which has lowered my expenses and as a result I am healthier, happier and feeling more in touch with a greener commute, I am following closely the spirit and mission of Self and Roots when I get on my bike. I am pleased to be cycling and look forward to many more journeys across Birmingham in the future.