Finally, the half-term holiday has arrived. And breathe… It’s been my first half-term back as a permanently employed full-time teacher in a secondary school for quite a few years. I’d forgotten just how tiring that can be. But I survived and am looking forward to a week of rest and relaxation. Kind of… A few bits and pieces on the agenda this week; a podcast interview to record in Harrogate on Tuesday, potentially a second interview to record online but upmost in my mind is the potential purchase of a new bicycle.
At this point you are probably thinking, hang on, didn’t he buy a very expensive new bike a couple of years ago? The Koga? Wanda? Well, yes, I did. But I am keen – in preparation for the Baltic cycle later in the year – to get back to being a cycling commuter. This hasn’t really been a feasible option in recent years as, working in different school across West Yorkshire, often with little notice (such is the exciting life of a supply teacher…), commuting by bike would have been impossible. However, as mentioned, I am now working in one school and have a regular daily commute that never changes. Wanda the WorldTraveller however is not a bicycle I feel comfortable leaving unattended all day at school. Neither is she the niftiest of bikes when it comes to the very hilly commute that is involved. Ideally I need a bike which has a very easy gear for those pesky steep climbs of the Pennines, is light and (compared to Wanda) is relatively cheap, hopefully well under £1,000.
I’m not sure what is more appealing; the prospect of cycling to work again or the prospect of not commuting by car. I have a car but I’m no fan of driving. It’s a stressful, expensive, environmentally unfriendly and socially questionable activity. Cycling is none of these and I have a good track record of being a regular cycling commuter in recent years. Here I am back in 2014 on what was one of my final commutes from my flat in Reading to my then school in Henley-on-Thames:
And here I am more recently in 2019 cycling the route to my current school when, for a period of time, I had been asked to work for a couple terms teaching maths, I think. The bike I had at the time – a Cannondale – was subsequently sold prior to buying the new Koga. This is the route that I will be adopting once again from the start of March:
Other commuting-themed videos can be watched on the Cycling Europe YouTube Channel.
My return to the two-wheeled commute will not be a sudden flip from the car to the bike. In recent months I’ve been trying to walk as often as possible to work and, since January, have only used the car on five occasions to drive to work choosing instead to walk on 29 occasions. Aside from the exercise provided by such a walk, it’s been a great opportunity to spend 45 minutes every morning listening to a range of audio material. In the run-up to Christmas I was exhausting the bank of podcast content relating to the Baltic Sea and the countries that border it. (I wrote about these podcasts in the first post of 2022.) In January and February my listening choices have diversified a little; I kicked off the year by listening to a couple of audio books; The Art of Sisu by Katja Pantzer and then Tim Moore’s The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold. Both books had strong Baltic connections. Since then, it’s been back to a more general morning fix of long-distance cycling podcasts, often with a EuroVelo theme. There are some great stories out there!
But that morning fix of audio will have to be jettisoned when back on the bike – I’m not a fan of wearing earphones when cycling – and I will be commuting to a soundtrack of increasingly spring sounds, the purr of the chain… and the unpleasant roar of the passing cars whose drivers only have a scant appreciation of what it feels like to be passed by their vehicle. Most only have a fleeting ability to match their speed to that prescribed by the road signs, especially in 20m/hr zones. And don’t get me going on the parking…
But back to the new bike. What to choose? Well I’m quite tempted by this Ribble Cycles Hybrid AL Commuter – SRAM – 2.0:
I love the idea of the 1×11 set up:
With only 32 teeth on the front plate, the gear ratios range from 2.91 down to 0.76. On the steep climbs around here that 0.76 would be very welcome and I have yet to find a bike in this class that has such a low ratio. (I imagine I could find mountain bikes with lower ratios but I’m not in that market…)
There’s also a ‘trail’ option (the one on the right):
Here are the specs:
Visit the dedicated Baltic Sea Cycle Route / EuroVelo 10 page of CyingEurope.org to discover more about the planned cycle around Europe’s other big sea.
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