Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Daily Commute - 22/3/11

And so for a thought of the day. Daily commute morning, about 8 miles into the ride, I picked up a courier on his way into work. OK were I say “picked up” I mean he rode past me going down a steep hill at speeds I would not consider wise. Anyway I thought that it would be a good idea to follow him and watch how he deals with the traffic etc. To be honest although I may have driven for more than 25 years, I still have things to learn about best practice when riding a bike.

So to cut a long story down to a respectable length blog (that would make a change) I suddenly found myself able to keep up with this courier! Now please, I do not for one minute suggest even being 50% of the fitness of this guy (or maybe he was new to the role) – he was, as usual, on a single speeder and he was carrying more weight on his body (though my Abus lock is like having a small child on my back) than me but even still I was there trogging (is that a word) behind him. Now what I do know was he was getting faster and faster, he started by cruising at about 16mph on the flat and after about 2 or 3 miles the cruise speed was a far more aggressive 22 mph. To be honest, I can keep 22mph cruising up for long without starting to get tired, I am comfortable at 20mph, once I edge above that I know that I will have to slow after a while. I am more than aware than Mr Courier could probably cruise at 30 mph for hours and is a different league from me in biking terms, but it was nice to make him work harder than he expected.

So what was the lesson from all of this? After all, why post about this without so sage lesson being learnt and imparted on my fellow Mambos? Well I learnt a few things:

  • Keep the faith, 3 months ago this guy would have left me for dead after 10 meters.
  •  I learnt a few (though not necessarily the safest) things about dealing with traffic.
  •  Couriers are way too dangerous at red lights – even slightly deranged me can see this.

The faster you ride – the safer (in my opinion) it gets – rather than having to cut across streams of traffic to make a right turn etc. when the traffic is moving at around 20 mph you can just place your bike mid-lane like another car and this is much safer. Remember speed doesn’t kill – it is the sudden stop at the end that kills.

A sneaky look at Mr Courier hide the fact that under his jeans he was wearing go faster Lycra (he probably forgot to shave his legs that morning) and although his shoes looked like trainers, he was all cleated up!

Anything funny about this morning? Yep the seriously large amounts of traffic and the jealousy I saw on a few driver faces as I zoomed ahead of them. Seriously, door to door I think my journey this morning would have taken between 2 to 3 times longer if I had driven and I get the benefit of some exercise and not petrol costs – all in all a winner.

I am at last starting to see the benefit from all those early aches and pains, at some points I was really starting to worry I would never be able to make cycling a viable transport mode for me at my age. I have certainly paid a cost for no real exercise for 5 to 7 years, it has taken a lot of patience and perseverance, forcing myself to go for a ride in the evening when I would rather have slouched in front of the telly with a glass of wine. It has also cost a lot in buying the right bike, equipment and clothing, and the cost is still not over as I will need to get clothing to deal with the weather as it gets hotter. But really now I am starting to feel the gain – I am fitter, I am taking more care of myself generally and I am getting away from those overly packed, smelly and late trains. To sum up (and keeping the train metaphor going) I am at last seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

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