Redacted Good News

This may look like one of those letters that was published at the height of the parliamentary expenses scandal, but it isn’t. The first line explains all:

I am writing to advise you of the amendment to your contract of employment following your recent Cycle-Plus application…. I can confirm that this salary sacrifice has now been approved…..

This now allows me to go ahead and purchase my new bike – probably the Ridgeback Panorama. The “salary sacrifice” scheme means that I can get around 40% of the cost paid by the government by allowing my employer (Oxfordshire County Council) to purchase the bike on my behalf. I pay back the remaining 60% of the cost over a 12 month period and pay no tax or national insurance on the cost of the bike.

I now just need to wait for the letter of collection to arrive from the people who manage the scheme – Cycle-Plus – and then get booked in for a measuring session at AW Cycles. The letter signs off ย “Enjoy your newย bike!”. Thank-you OCC.

Categories: Cycling

15 replies »

  1. Just been checking out the spec of the panorama compared to my voyage.
    It seems they have addressed some of the small niggles with the spec on the wheels and the rest of it looks very well kitted for a tourer with lots of sensible choices. So in theory it should be more bombproof than mine has proved to be and a little bit lighter all up as well.
    One of the highlights of the bike for me, and they have them on the panorama too, have been the continental tyres. These have proved fast rolling, grippy in all conditions and have had only 1 P******re since new. I keep thinking I will need to change them the amount of mileage I have put in them but they still keep on going. The extra comfort over 28c tyresthe 32c gives is worth the very small extra rolling resistance which they tell me they have but I still beat the guys on racers in a straight decent on them. I keep them at 85psi and have had no problems with them.

    • When you think of the cost benefits it makes sense to get a new bike on he bike to work scheme and I would do that next time. You might also want to check out a company called Breton Bikes who organise bike tours across France for one of their well priced secongd hand bikes. They get theirs made specially by Orbit Cycles of Sheffield. I emailed Breton Bikes and bought a very high spec used bike complete with kit for around ยฃ500 and it has done me proud and saved me a lot ot time and worry. Once paid, they shipped it over, and i was on it same day.

  2. Well Done!
    After 2 years of bugging them I got personnel at our spot to talk to finance. Even thogh the principle approved it in principle from the start :-). Our work force took delivery of 12 new bikes in june 2008 (average cost ยฃ550) and we got ours over 18 months. they are now running it again after much pressure from the staff but only to people who didn’t get one last time! :-(. The final payment was Judged to be 5% after 18 months. The only thing about ours which may also catch you is that as we are in the education sector, although we are allowed to pay VAT. we cannot claim it back so they may not give you that benefit. It should not effect your pension benefits.
    As for insurance, well check out your household policy….. some do it already, some need it adding but that is usualy the cheapest way. Of the 12 bikes, one got nicked from a shed. the rest were all right. but we bo live in Cumbria, not exactly the big smoke.
    Enjoy the smugness of riding a government subsidised bike. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Andrew, this is simply a fantastic site and brilliantly executed too. For good reason so far as I am concerned as will become apparent.

    For the last ten years of my always-too-busy-to-get-on-with-it life I have been dreaming of planning my cycle route from London to Bari (well, a little beyond actually by about four towns). I am a Pugliese Londoner (I remember the three day week and beyond by quite a way) who has spent at least the last five years trying to make a decision about how- if I actually start the journey- I should traverse the alps. The idea was to go from home here in London to my family town between Bari and Brindisi but knowing the Italian roads I have been puzzling the best route once I get in. I have been working on a route over the Simplon Pass but only as a result of driving over and thinking I could make it. So it by pure chance whilst googling for a route south I find that not only has someone mapped a route but also has some of the best tips anywhere. My plan is to go to Rome where my daughter is working then, somehow, down south. Your site is pure heaven from my point of view. And more besides- I am supposed to be organising a blog for work and seeing how well you have done it using wordpress is a real inspiration. You should be on the payroll!

    I was, perhaps rashly, thinking of going in June to fit in with work commitments but I reckon I am going to put it off a year (shall I , shan’t I- I don’t know) to be able to read your blog and learn from it. Incidentally, how will you actually blog en route? ie what device are you going to use to do it and how will you avoid racking up enormous cost?

    The pilgrim routes are great and those who promote them really helpful. I cycled the Camino de Santiago to Compostella three years ago and the experience on the pilgrim route will stay with me forever. I can see entirely why people choose to walk these routes. So thank you for keeping my flame of hope alive that not only can I do it but that I should get on and do it before the grey hairs get any more noticable.

    Thanks Andrew,…. from Andrew (thats too many coincidences for one blog,)

    • Hi Andrew or should I say ciao. Thanks very much for your kind comments.
      As far as the blog goes, I think you over estimate my abilities! The “look” of the whole thing is simply a template provided by WordPress – there are lots to choose from. You could have something similar up and running within half an hour or so and by the sounds of it, your employers will be impressed (although, I’m open to offers if they want to pay me to do it!!!!!)
      My choice of place to cross the Alps is dictated by the fact that the Eurovelo 5 route leads me through the St Gotthard Pass. It is interesting that you mention the Simplon Pass – perhaps it is worth looking into.
      What is your home town in Puglia? My destination is nominally Brindisi (and I will make sure that I get there and dip my toes in the Adriatic) but my friends live near a town called Cisternino – do you know it?
      Keep reading the blog and please keep commenting. It is good to know that there are people out there watching and reading ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep me up to date with your own plans and start a blog!!!!

      • Andrew
        I know Cisternino very well. it is quite popular with English visitors and the whole of that area, the Val d’Itria and its olive groves, trulli and the rest has become the part of southern Italy that is becoming increasingly well appreciated. The pugliese are well spoilt for countryside and especially the rage of fresh foods available from the best olives and therefore finest oil and the famous san marzano tomatoes and Italia grape plus the benefits of fine cheeses and a sea town now close to even what used to be remote inland areas. Everyone seems to have invaded Puglia- the Normans, Greeks and Romans among them, all leaving their history behind which you can still see, sometimes in quite specific local dialects as well as physical artefacts.

        I am from a place called Mola, an old crusader town close to Bari- about 20km and therefore generally bypassed on the grand tour because places like Monopoli further down – and Polignano with its sea gorge- make for a better stopping and rest point. Every summer the town fills up with returning emigre Itlalan Americans – an interesting feature as they still speak the wonderful unadulterated local dialect- and often better- than the locals themselves who have assimilated more standard italian and of course modern idiom than those who left. I think we are probably the only Italian- Anglos who make a regular return.

        Puglia is a wonderful, sun- blessed region which had more than its fair share of historic poverty- Read Carlo Levi’s ‘Christ Stopped at Eboli’ for a description of Matera’s terrible poverty during the pre war fascist period- a town chosen by Mel Gibson as his best location representative of 1st century Palestine- and which is now a UNESCO world heritage town but which I remember visiting as a younger man to see its still-occupied ‘sassi’- homes hewn out of the rock face.

        I might well get you to set up our wordpress blog if that is a serious offer…(!) after I have screwed it up.

        What is puzzling me is whether you are taking all those maps with you or posting on to yourself at postoffices along the way. The thinkg that slightly bothers me is making sure I find the traffic free routes as far as possible. One of the frustrations, on the other hand- as I discovered on a sustrans recommended route across Ayreshire on a ride to Oban a couple of years ago- is that you get taken all the way round the houses- on that occasion hugging the coast line- very pretty, but id don’t half go on a bit.

        Andrew P

    • I don’t seem to be able to reply to your reply to my reply to your original comment (does that make any sense?), so I am posting my reply to your most recent comment here instead!!!
      Interesting information you give about Puglia; thanks. I visited the area, albeit briefly back in 2007 to visit my friends near Cisternino and I agree with your description of the area. Having never journied any further south than Rome on previous visits to Italy I was taken aback with the beauty of the area; much more like how I imagined Greece to be than southern Italy.
      Maps: yes, I will take the full set of 1:200,000 maps with me. They seemed like a good compromise between sufficient detail and portability. They pack up quite small and I may cut off any excess (including the hard covers) map areas before I set off. Having them sent to me en route would be too complicated.
      I agree with your comment about being sent around the houses by the National Cycle Network in the UK btw. When I cycled the Pennine Cycleway (route 68) last summer, the distance I was able to cover in a particular day was limited if I stuck to the route. The Eurovelo 5 doesn’t exist in anywhere near as much detail as the Sustrans routes in the UK so I will use the equivalent of B roads on the continent but probably not too many dedicated cycle tracks unless they are very obvious and direct (for example canals in northern France and Belgium).
      In your original comment you mention blogging en route. I am able to send pictures from my mobile phone directly to the blog and this will be the main way of communicating with this site. I can also text from the phone although it would be quite a laborious task sending much more than a few sentences at a time. When I pass an Internet Cafe I may well pop in and write a little. The other option will be to use my i-Pod touch in a Wi-Fi zone as I pass through a town or city. There are costs to all of these options but by buying a local SIM card and using “pay-as-you-go”, I should at least be able to monitor what I am paying rather than be stung by a massive phone bill when I return. I am also hoping to be able to track my route via a GPS enabled phone using a system such as Sanoodi. This, in theory, would allow people visiting the site to see where I had cycled, perhaps even where I am at a particular time. That said, my initial testing of this technology has so far been a bit hit and miss and whether I will be able to depend upon it for the entire route is open to question.
      Again, thanks for the continued interest! I’m happy to advise on the blog situation; let me know how you get on ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I have been looking closely at the route from Benevento south along the Via Appia. It is a particularly challenging part of the journey because of the terrain and relative remoteness. It goes right through the area described by Carlo Levi- and looking at google street view of places like Aliano and Grassano you see what he must have endured. For a Roman Road it bends and winds the whole way from Benevento until you are virtually at Taranto. You will need to be well provisioned for this part given the time of year you will be travelling. I am trying to work out how far one could go and where to stop on this bit. What have you decided, or are you taking a different road?

      • Staying connected while touring:

        Well I have not been connected to the internet for the past two days since a high truck pulled our phone line right off the pole. The driver was kind enough not to stop. All is well now after the wire was repaired, well after an additional two hours on the phone spent with Technical Support to reconnect to my modem (a long story). Curiously the wonderful techie who helped me is stationed in India and I am at the west coast of Canada. Amazing.

        I spent the time between phone calls, disposing of programs, computer books, video cards, hardware, CDs and the rest of my 3 ยฝ inch floppy disks. Ten years worth of my life this time, not to mention the cost. *smile*

        What we were talking about? ….. Yes, staying connected. A popular trend with touring cyclists no doubt is the shift to carrying a small โ€œnet bookโ€ computer. The kind with 10 inch screens, 160 Gig hard drives and wireless capability. I have read many accounts of riding up to say a library, in the U.S. a highway rest stop, or say a cafe then with their coffee attaching to an unsecured Wifi signal.

        At two pounds I am considering this option. โ€œbloggingโ€, route planning, emailing, Skyping, IM, Google Earthing and Street Viewing, storing photos, bringing your music, and on and on seems appealing. I can justify the weight to be carried, I just lost three pounds.

      • Quick clarification, “…. at two pounds …..” That is the weight of the net book.

  4. The buy back of the bike at the end of the loan period (estimated 10% of purchase cost), need to insure it (ยฃ80?) and need to buy an approved lock for the insurance (ยฃ40?) makes the scheme less appealing and less profitable. Good but comes up short of what it could do for cyclists et al.

    • Thanks for that view of things Iain but I disagree with the sentiment. Getting tax-free bikes is a pretty good scheme and not to be sniffed at. The final payment to my employers is only ยฃ20 (there has to be this final payment to transfer ownership as legally it must remain the property of the employer for 1 year and a day). I’m buying quite an expensive bike so my saving will be of the order of ยฃ400; that’s certainly worth the minimal form-filling that I had to do….

      • I’m not dismissing it outright. It is pretty good but could and should be great. I wanted to take use of it after my employer took ages to finally implement it (quite depressing for a large government department who you would think should be setting the standardโ€ฆ….).
        I’m surprised to see you have already agreed a final purchase price as the scheme should not allow this as it then becomes a benefit in kind. My employer will not agree to this at all (possibly because we should be setting standard) and will only give a guide of 10% of the original purchase cost as to the end payment. If you pay the full market value (value at the end of the loan period – 12 months or 18 months) I am sure will be much more than ยฃ20 (as you say it remains the employers property until this but they can chose to keep ownership and still loan it to you after this).
        Also if you are doing it correctly doing 50% of your commute on it (another point I think isn’t fair as someone making the effort over a big distance regularly maybe could struggle to match 50% of the time when someone only covering a few miles could do so easily – but hey who checks so why even bother with that and the rest of the rules) and insuring it then there will normally be a cost to you here as well as purchasing any approved lock you might need.
        There is a ยฃ1000 limit which I understand you can’t (maybe shouldn’t would be better) top up yourself. So are you getting a discount on the ridgeback or are they doing you some under the counter deal to add on ยฃ99?
        With offers such as 10% of the bike price in kit for free when you buy a bike from some mainstream retailers there are other savings to be had in an outright purchase and if balanced against the hidden costs of the tax free scheme (if applied properly) then maybe they are not too far apart.
        I think I’d prefer just a bit more freedom and trust from those that implement it. Why not just give the saving and the loan and allow you to buy the bike, add extra cash to it if you wish, have to get a quote of bike price, to then have to apply for a voucher that you have to wait a month and a half for the voucher, have it as yours from the start and at the end, just provide proof of purchase/use and have the government do more about the theft and resale of bikes rather than expect you to insure the bike against a theft. Maybe just a bit too much to ask?
        Me I think I’ll maybe take advantage of an interest free loan from my employer to keep my savings in the bank (not that the interest rate is that great!). There is still a bit of me thinking about applying for the tax scheme but I think youโ€™ll be able to guess that is a small bit of me. Maybe I should just ignore what I should do and take what I want from it?

    • Sometimes you need to look at the half-full glass….. ๐Ÿ™‚ The final payment of ยฃ20 may be an estimated final payment based upon an “average” bike, I don’t know. Despite buying the bike to cycle to Italy, it will cetainly be used to cycle to work as well; I have been a cycle commuter for about three years now and certainly beat the 50% of journeys made to work on two wheels. Having sold my car, I am probably in the 95-100% bracket. Clearly the scheme has to tick certain legal boxes to squeeze itself into the fiscal system we have in the UK (such as the ownership being retained by the company for a year and a day), but few employers would argue that “practical ownership” (if not “legal ownership”) rests with the emplyee.

What do you think?