The Return Of The Two-Wheeled Commuter

Sunday 13th January 2019. No, I haven’t got the date wrong. I know that today is Wednesday 9th January but my mind is focussing upon the 13th. Here’s the forecast:

screenshot 2019-01-09 at 08.08.35

Looks OK for January, no? Now, when the Cycling Europe Podcast returned for its second series of four episodes in April 2018, I kicked off by exploring why I hadn’t been able to motivate myself during the winter of 2017/18 to get out on the bike. Specifically, I asked various cyclists to contribute their thoughts on how they were able to maintain their motivation throughout the short, cold days of winter. Have another listen:

The common thread of all those cyclists who gave me their thoughts was commuting. They were all prepared to get on their bike and head off to work irrespective of what the weather was outside. It’s a habit and, in this case, a very good one to have. I speak from experience as a few years ago, I was one of those day-in-day-out winter cyclists prepared to pedal off into the darkness of the early morning or evening. At the time I lived in Reading and worked in Henley-on-Thames and, after a longish crawl up the hill of Caversham towards Emmer Green I was, within minutes, in the wide open countryside of South East Oxfordshire and it was – when there was sufficient light to see it – beautiful:

Indeed that final tree – in the grounds of Gillotts School where I worked – was a real stunner, especially in its leafless winter state and was photographed numerous times. It was my visual reward and a calming way to start what could, at times, be hectic days in the classroom:


December 2012


December 2013


December 2014

I did make life ‘easier’ for myself in one crucial way: I had sold my car and cycling was by far the most practical way of getting to and from Henley-on-Thames. The regular morning and evening cycle also kept me fit and I have always told people who asked how I trained for the long, long rides across Europe the truth: I didn’t. I just commuted to work every day on a bicycle. Regularity, it turned out, was far more important than duration; the ability to get on a bike every day for many consecutive days and cycle. So the commute was my training, even though I didn’t quite appreciate it at the time.

Time has moved on. I’m now in Yorkshire, the hills are steeper, longer and more frequent… Stop! I’m making excuses. I have a car and I don’t feel as though I’m in a position to sell it to ‘encourage’ me back into the daily commute. Indeed I now have a commute that would often be impractical – if not impossible – on a bike as the work of a supply teacher requires flexibility in terms of location; I am the Superman of teaching, flying in at the last minute, saving the day for a teacher who has broken their leg, crashed their car, caught a cold or, well, just fancies pulling a sickie. Perhaps… One morning I might need to be down the road at my local secondary within 15 minutes, the next in a far-flung educational institution on the other side of Bradford. A car is, unfortunately, usually the only option.

But hang on! I also work two or three days a week at an arts centre in Halifax that never moves. There’s no reason whatsoever why I shouldn’t, at least a couple of times a week, be getting out on the bike and commuting to Halifax. I have done in the past and I should start again, irrespective of the weather outside, irrespective of the season.

The bike has been idle since November – perhaps even October – but this weekend, this Sunday, I will venture out for a 2019 test run and as from next Monday (if I’m working in Halifax), I shall rejoin the band of winter cycling commuters. Again. Bring on the beast from the east!


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4 replies »

  1. Ah I feel for you. Cycling in Edinburgh was tough most of the time while I lived there for that reason . Every country has its downside…in Australia it may be warmer but there are flies and insects everywhere which makes cycling a different kind of endurance sport.

  2. I’ll be commuting on the bike when I’ve lost a bit more weight. 15 mile each way a good distance for commuting, but good to see you’re getting the wheels moving. Keep safe.

  3. Been commuting daily since April last year – only 11km each way I know but have only stopped when it is too icy ( i run 7km instead then ). Minus 8 has been the lowest ride so far this winter. Oh, and I do have a company car sitting outside the house and work in the Automotive industry too! The few days I have had to drive due to family commitments I realise how much I miss the bike. I am in Sweden so will have to see if I can keep going all winter. Fingers crossed!

  4. right you are now committed. Will expect to see a write up of that ride. I didn’t go out this morning but have been out early doors 2 mornings this week and woke up the birds. You can do it!!

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