(Feb 17th 2012)
The challenge – to go carless, and travel everywhere on a Fixed Gear bike.
In truth, I do not come to this project as a beginner cyclist. My family was very interested in cycling and I learned from a young age. I have always cycled habitually, to school, college, and now to work. But these have always been short distances of around 1-6 miles, in fair weather only, on the cheapest mountain bike I could get 2nd hand. So in making the choice have a bike as my only form of transport, I was going to have to commit to cycling in all but extreme weather, cycling longer distances, and lets face it, getting a better bike and keeping it maintained. Here’s the process I went through to decide if it was worth it.
I weighed up the pros and cons. Is it really cheaper to cycle? Would it not just be physically unpleasant and a huge effort? Won’t all my journeys take much longer? What if my bike breaks and I don’t have a car to come and pick it up with? I did some research and came to the following conclusions.
It IS cheaper to cycle, but not by as cheap as you might think. Leisure cyclists can get away with cheap heavy bike, with no mudguards, lights or other accessories, but full time cyclists can’t. However, it’s hard to spend an amount on cycling that would even compare to owning and maintaining a vehicle
Would it be a huge effort? I was hoping that with the right warm and waterproof clothes, and a nice light roadbike, cycling would seem like a joy rather than a chore. Fortunately, despite some setbacks along the way, and that one unexpected snowstorm, I was right. These days I wake up in the morning looking forward to the ride to work.
And as for it taking ages to get anywhere, I quickly found that this isn’t true overall. Long journeys, which also include train travel in part, can take longer than driving would (if there was no traffic). However, most short journeys in and around the city are faster by bike. Since most of my journeys are under 10 miles, I probably save more time by cycling overall.
I also researched bike breakage, and found that with a well maintained bike, unless you’ve buckled the wheel in a massive pot hole, or had a full on crash, the only thing that can really go wrong is getting a puncture. I bought a repair kit and have learned to use it… so not feeling worried about that anymore.
One thing that didn’t cross my mind, but may worry others of you who are thinking of taking up cycling, is safety. Obviously there is a risk, but I myself haven’t felt worried, since I know I take the right precautions. I feel experienced on the road, take cyclepaths a lot of the time. There is still a risk, but I generally assume that there’s a risk with every form of transport from cars to airplanes, and I’m comfortable with the risks involved in cycling.
The next step of course, would be getting a suitable bike. Stay tuned for next week’s post, and my guide to bike buying…..
Here’s a clue: