Bad weather, traffic, and tiredness can grind you down when you ride to work every day. Here’s how to find the fun again.
There are big benefits from cycling to work: it’s healthy, it saves money, it’s good for the environment, and you’re almost never late. Yet there’s another good reason to go by bike that’s easily forgotten in the day-to-day humdrum: it’s fun. Not as much fun as weekend leisure riding, sure, but more fun than tapping your steering wheel in a traffic jam or waiting for a delayed train on a draughty platform. You’re still riding your bike, and that in itself is enjoyable – most of the time.
There are days, particularly in the depths of winter, when bad weather can make the ride to work feel like drudgery. Sometimes other road users will ruin your day with thoughtless behaviour. Other times you’ll be tired from riding five days a week. Or maybe you’re bored: same route, same traffic lights, same rows of shops and stationary cars. Instead of plodding on, take steps to recapture your cycling mojo.
It’s allowed. If your commute feels too long, try riding on alternate days so your body has time to recover and get fitter. Or cycle into work and take your bike on the train for the journey home. If you’re finding it too far to cycle even one way, split your commute: take the train or drive part way, then cycle the rest of the way. This strategy is easier if you have a compact folding bike. Cycling even the last mile or two saves you time stuck in city centre traffic or hoofing it from the train station.
Escape the traffic
Busy roads are noisy and stressful. Find a quieter route and you will enjoy it more. Don’t worry if it’s a bit longer. So long as you set off in good time, a pleasant 30-minute ride beats a nerve jangling 20-minute ride every time.
Finding a quiet route does require more planning. Such routes are seldom direct and are rarely signposted. Try the Cyclestreets Journey Planner, which also exists as a phone app. There are three route options: fastest, balanced, and quietest. Try the quietest, which will favour cycle tracks and backstreets, or the balanced route, which is a compromise between fastest and quietest.
If you’ve got a bicycle that’s capable off-road, such as a mountain bike or cyclocross bike, get your local Ordnance Survey map or invest in the app . Bridleways and unsurfaced roads can be wonderful – especially in summer. Mark up useful segments with a highlighter pen and explore them at the weekend.
Go somewhere new
Having the same destination each day doesn’t compel you to take the same route. Get out of that Scalextric groove! You don’t have to have The Knowledge like London cab drivers, but knowing a few alternatives (and how long they take) can keep things interesting. If you’ve got time on your hands, you can go the scenic way – or simply run some errands. In an a car or on a train, we tend to go directly from A to B. A bike commute doesn’t have to be like that, because you can hop off and park up wherever you please. Integrate your journey into your daily life rather than writing it off as dead time spent travelling. Go from A to B via C and D.
You’re saving money by cycling to work, and so long as you continue to do so you’ll recoup any sensible cycle commuting purchase. It’s money you would have spent on fuel or tickets – and less of it, particularly if you get your accessories through Cyclescheme. So pamper yourself. Buy those new winter gloves. Invest in some better lights. In fact, get another bike if you fancy it: a different type may be more suitable than your existing bike for your commute – or for the commute you’d like to do.
Make it easier
If you always arrive at the office tired and sweaty, you’re working too hard. Conserve your energy. Make sure your bike is well-maintained, with a well-oiled chain and properly-inflated tyres. Lighten the load by rationalising what you take with you.
If that’s not enough, because the journey is simply too far or too hilly, the solution may be a new bike. Option one: a road bike. You can then cruise at speeds that would have you huffing and puffing on a hybrid. Option two: an e-bike. It may be expensive to buy, but if it keeps you cycling it will save you money in the long run.
Make it social
You don’t have to ride on your own. Arrange to meet a cycling workmate or friend at a certain point and time each morning, and then cycle in together. There are days when you might give up on the bike if were going by yourself, but if you know someone else is waiting for you, you’ll go to avoid letting them down – and they’ll do the same. The chances are you’ll both enjoy it.
Are you ready to improve your commute?