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14.02.17 / The London cycling commute – from first-timer Matt

When I was told cycling was our February trend and that I was going to start commuting in by bike, I was less than enthusiastic. Yes, it’s more cost effective than getting the tube, yes it’s a good way to exercise, but it’s so cold! Eventually I changed my mind and decided to plunge in head first. I was mainly persuaded by the two Northerners on my team who both commute by bike and proceeded to tell me how soft I was for even mentioning the fact it had been snowing recently…

After deciding I wanted to start cycling to work, the next thing I did was try to narrow down my choice of bike. For me, reliability and cost were my biggest priorities. With this in mind I choose to get a single speed over the more traditional road bike. It was generally the cheapest option and the fact that I would be using this bike mainly in London and for commuting meant that I had no real need for gears due to the stop and start nature of TFL’s road network. After this, some online research, coupled with friends’ recommendations, helped me to finalise the exact model and specification I wanted.

Despite my early apprehensions I’ve found cycling fun (even in February). I am quite a competitive person and will readily admit that I enjoy trying (and failing) to keep up with other cyclists who had proper road bikes and cleats. I also enjoyed seeing the city that I love from a new perspective. There are a couple of things that I would recommend if you are just starting to commute, though:

  • Gloves (although not a necessity) can make cycling in winter a much more pleasant experience. I’m no stranger to having cold hands from rowing but the combination of wind and rain on a cold day can turn the daily commute into a less than pleasant experience
  • Secondly, make sure you have some sort of device that can accurately tell you where you are. In my first week of commuting in I found many ‘alternate routes’ into work. These were neither time efficient or more scenic! If I had a phone that could use maps properly then maybe I would have found the first few days a lot easier…
  • Lastly, give yourself an extra 10 minutes on any journey in your first two weeks. This ties into my last point but it’s also just to enjoy the route. Cycling past some of the world’s most iconic landmarks is far less fun when rushing to get to work on time. That extra time means you can appreciate those sights so easily forgotten when you’re in a rush.  

I’ll be updating more with further thoughts at the end of the month, but in the meantime, enjoy this montage of my bike commute through London…

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