How to: Split your journeys and cycle the last few miles

Cyclescheme, 08.05.2018

How to: Split your journeys and cycle the last few miles

Using a bike for the final leg of a commute by car or train saves time and money. Here’s how to make the most of that last mile.

Commuting between towns and cities is time consuming by bike; the distances typically suit cars and trains better. For travelling across towns and cities, however, the bicycle is king. It’s faster than a car, incurs no parking charges, and will deliver you right to the door. Whether you’re travelling in from a railway station or a park-and-ride, nothing beats cycling. 


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A mile by bike takes five minutes at a modest 12mph. On foot at 3mph, it takes 20, wasting half an hour every day compared to cycling. Bus, taxi and tube passengers, meanwhile, will still be waiting for their transport while you’re already halfway there – and they’ll probably pay more over the year than you would for a brand new Cyclescheme bike.

The key to making such short journeys by bike efficient is not to ride faster but to cut down on pre- and post-ride faff. You want to be a cyclist as soon as possible after you’ve shut the car/train/office door. This requires a seamless transition: no changing into special clothing, no hunting for lights or other paraphernalia - just get on the bike and go.

For this, you want a bike that’s practical and comfortable to ride in normal clothes. It needs mudguards, perhaps a chainguard, a saddle that doesn’t demand padded shorts, easy on/off luggage, and integral lights – either dynamo ones or bolt-on battery units. You could leave a roadster or fully-equipped hybrid locked up at the station. Better yet, take a compact folding bike with you. There’s no time lost locking or unlocking it, walking to or from its parking place, or hunting for the special bike carriage. Where you go, it goes.

Folding Bicycle

As well as being practical, your last-mile bike needs to be reliable. If you have to stop to fix a puncture or fiddle with your gears, you might as well have walked. Fit puncture resistant tyres and/or tyre sealant that will instantly seal holes. Use simple, dependable gearing; a singlespeed or hub-gear is ideal.

In stop-start urban conditions your top speed is irrelevant, as you’ll see by the number of cars you pass. What’s important is a decent, predictable average speed, which you’ll achieve with a route that enables you to keep moving. Avoid busy roads with traffic lights; pick quiet backstreets or cycle paths. When you know your cycling journey time to the minute, you can catch an earlier or later train or maybe miss the rush hour by car. You’ll waste less of your life waiting. Train leaves in seven minutes? No sweat: you’ll be there in five.


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