Ever wondered how your commuting experience differs to others? Each month we share the story of a real Cyclescheme cycle commuter and ask them seven questions to sum up their experience from their two-wheeled commute. This month, it's Mike.
Each month we feature one Cyclescheme participant and share their commuting story. We ask the same seven questions (hence the name, The Cyclescheme Seven) in a bid to build up a picture of cycle commuters across the UK. From John O'Groats to Lands End we scour the country for the real cycle commuters who take to their bike each morning. If you'd like to feature on our website, just drop us a line on: firstname.lastname@example.org with "I'm in' in the subject line.
This month we caught up with Mike to see how his commute has changed his life.
CS: Where in the UK are you?
Mike: Portishead, North Somerset
CS: What was your main motivation for getting a bike through Cyclescheme?
Mike: I changed jobs last year and my new Civil Service employer launched Cyclescheme just after I joined. Being able to spread the cost of the bike was an important factor and the tax saving helps too. I hadn’t cycled on a regular basis for over 40 years until around 4 years ago when I bought a low budget bike to see how I got on with it. Although serviceable I wanted to upgrade to something that would be better suited to my needs.
CS: What bike did you get and why?
Mike: My bike is a Marin Fairfax hybrid with 24 gears and disc brakes. A colleague recommended a cycle shop in Clifton and of the 3 shops I visited they took the most interest in my riding habits, guiding me to a choice of two bikes. Marin have a good reputation for frames so I opted for that one as the rest of the bike can be upgraded, I’ve already changed the seat and fitted ergonomic grips.
CS: How much did you spend with your Cyclescheme certificate?
Mike: In addition to the bike I bought lights (even in summer I need these for part of my journey under a tree canopy), mudguards, a lock, rack and panniers (much better than carrying my change of clothes in a rucksack) and other extras for a total of £927.
CS: How often do you commute to work by bike?
Mike: Commitments outside of work mean I can’t use the bike on Wednesdays but I aim to use it the other 4 days. On the days I don’t cycle I use a motorbike.
CS: Where do you commute from and to?
Mike: My preferred route takes in a couple of miles of A road which leads to a two mile climb on a country road which is also quite twisty, I enjoy the early morning scenery and have seen deer in the woods. Then it’s along an undulating B road and a descent to the outskirts of Bristol where I pick up cycle paths to the office at Lawrence Hill. It’s 12 miles each way and some evenings I take a longer way home. Aside from the cycle paths the traffic is fairly busy but I find most drivers give me plenty of room, although there’s always one or two who pass closer and faster than I feel comfortable with.
CS: How has cycling affected your daily life - do you feel healthier? Have you saved money?
Mike: I initially thought of using the bike just for commuting but find I use it at weekends too. Recently I completed the Bike Bath 100 mile sportive to raise money for Sunshine Hospital Radio and while neither I or the bike are likely to go as fast as cycle club folk I was pleased to finish and am developing a cyclist’s suntan! My fitness level has improved dramatically, I'm the fittest I’ve been since I hung up my rugby boots, and have also dropped a trouser size in the last six months.
Commuting by bike saves me petrol money and building exercise into my routine means I no longer pay out for evening gym classes, which in turn means I get to spend more time with my wife including going on cycle rides together.
Some colleagues think that 12 miles is quite a distance to commute but once you get used to it you don’t even think about it. If someone had said to me 5 years ago that I’d be regularly cycling to work, deliberately incorporating a hill and taking the long way home just for fun I’d have said they were joking. Now I find that if I don’t cycle to work at least 2 days a week I really miss it.