Cycling vs. driving

I reckon one of the best things that happened to my dad (in terms of his health) was when he lost his driver’s licence a few decades ago. Dad belongs to that generation of people who never had to take a test before being issued a licence. Unfortunately, when he lost his licence, driving tests had become mandatory, which meant he would have to subject himself to one before being allowed to drive again. He never did. And so began a few decades of cycling to work on a bicycle, come rain or shine. As a consequence, he is pretty fit for a man in his late sixties. I know another lady who’s in her late seventies and fit as a fiddle due to a lifetime of cycling (I actually remember her from my teenage years, long before I knew her in person; an old lady riding a Chopper is not the sort of image you forget).

From childhood to age twenty-six, I didn’t own a car. When I worked at Lismore Comprehensive, I thought nothing of the four-mile journey by bicycle. In fact, I enjoyed it. Even when I worked twenty-five miles away in Belfast, I would take my bike on the train, then cycle the remainder of the way to work. In my early teenage years, probably the only thing that saved me from ever increasing obesity was my regular paper round. Bikes are great.

So, last weekend, I got the mountain bike out of the garage for the first time since last summer. I feel like I really want to make a go of things in two-wheel fashion again. Maybe get stuck into cycling to work on a regular basis. But the car is such a temptation. You can stay up later in the evening, knowing that you can spend extra time in bed the next morning, because it only takes ten minutes to get across town by car, whereas it’s twenty by bicycle. Then there are those mornings when it’s raining, or when the roads are covered in ice. Worse still, the thought of cycling in last summer’s heat wave is more horrifying than the thought of a bitter winter cold.

The thing is, if you don’t have a car, you find a way to overcome these circumstances, whether that means bussing it on certain days, or walking, or whatever. Transportation for the weekly shopping is another problem. However, one solution would be to do the shopping twice a week instead of once, carrying what I need in a backback. You see? There’s always a way – as long as you don’t mind a little extra effort.

Am I seriously contemplating getting rid of my car? On the one hands (and assuming I can resist the temptation to drive it to work), it’s terrible to spend so much money every year on insurance, tax, MOT, repairs, if you end up using the vehicle for only 10% of the time you did before. On the other hand, there’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning to the sound of torrential rain beating on the window. So, I don’t think I will be rashly selling the car anytime soon. My main concern is my health.

The modern trend is that we spend a portion of our leisure time doing exercise, but this strikes me as slightly freakish – even though I do it. It’s like we’re making up for something that our bodies should be doing in a more general sense over the course of a day. I’m always questioning the culture that I live in, and I think we could learn a lot from the way things are done elsewhere in the world, particularly from the Chinese, who have a lot more respect for the idea of cycling to work than we in the west do.

Well, I’m not going to make any drastic decisions. In true lazybones fashion, I’m going to break myself in gently and wait for warmer weather before experimenting with cycling to work.

For cycling fans, here’s a great blog I subscribe to: Free Advice on How to Fix Your Bicycle.

8 thoughts on “Cycling vs. driving

  1. Michael Reed

    Yay! Cycle! The great thing about cycling is that you get a bit of free exercise without having to actually make the effort to exercise.

    If your bike has a fixed rear suspension consider getting a rear pannier rack and some bags. The bags are fairly expensive from a proper cycling shop but fear not – a couple of times a year, Lidl have a cycling gear sale. A back pack is OK, but in high summer, can lead to sweaty back. You’ve got to really be a fat bloke with a Unix guru beard to do IT support and not be embarrassed when you leave a wet mark on the seat where you’ve been.

    Just make sure to use lots of suntan lotion.

    Hopefully, this year, I’ll get a bit cycling actually done. Last year I had a few minor health set backs that kept me indoors for much of the time.

    I’ve set up a cycling blog both as a record and to encourage myself to actually get out there.

  2. Darryl Sloan

    Hi, Mike.

    I used to do so much cycling. In my late teens and early twenties, I would cycle to Belfast numerous times over the course of the summer – at least a fifty-mile round trip. I loved all the stuff I could buy in record and book stores that I couldn’t find in my hometown. Then one day, along came the internet, and suddenly Belfast was obsolete.

    I tried to subscribe to your cycling blog, but the RSS appears to be broken. Please fix it, as this is how I view all blogs.

    I’ll maybe do a few trips myself and bring a camera with me.

  3. Michael Reed

    OK, that should work. I hadn’t done any notable rides so far this year and the problem might have been caused by the fact that the other posts were all from last year. I’ve also upgraded the blog to the latest version of wordpress.

    I also managed to get out for this year’s first proper trip, today.

    I’m planning to work some reading into this years trips and perhaps even (thanks to the Psion) some writing!

  4. Darryl Sloan

    Yep, the RSS is working now. Only thing that’s a bit odd is that no post appear once I subscribe. Normally it would grab the most recent few. But we’ll see how it goes.

    Ah yes, the old Psion. I was always fascinated with those mini computers. I would have bought one ages ago if not for the lack of full-size keys.

    There is a more recent similar device out with full-size keys called the AlphaSmart Dana.

  5. Chris

    I recently moved into an apartment close to my place of work. It’s about a ten minute drive in the car, but the area’s pretty well set up with sidewalks and cycle lanes, so the idea of biking it to work has been knocking around my head for the past couple of weeks now that the weather is starting to get better.

    It’d be great if I could ditch the car and ride to work. Not only would it be the healthier option, but it’d give my wife unrestricted use of the car.

    Of course, there are a couple of downsides: 1) how do I convince the wife that I’m not going to get squished by some maniac driver (and we have a lot of them here in Kansas City)? 2) In the summer, temperatures are regularly in the 90s (that’s the 30-40 centigrade range for you Europeans) and it gets quite humid – can I survive such conditions on the bike without dying?

    I haven’t owned a bike for years. I’d love to get one.

  6. Darryl Sloan

    Hey, Chris.

    Good you hear you’ve finally got a place of your own. You’ll have to let me know what apartment life is like (regarding unwanted noise!).

    The temperature thing is a factor here, too, for a few weeks in summer. Last summer we had an incredible heatwave during a period when I had my car in for repair. It was so hot that I chose to use up some of my holidays rather than cycle.

    If I choose to cycle to work, it is going to be on a some-of-the-time basis.

  7. Darryl Sloan

    Lidl has such a crummy website. I click on their “Cycling” link, then it prompts me to type in my postcode, then it fails. I have no way of getting past this to see what’s generally available in their stores.

    I’ve actually made a start to getting my bike roadworthy. It’s in decent shape, but makes awful creaking noises when I pedal heavily. Any idea what that is?

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