I started commuting by bike in my final year of secondary school. My parents lived 4 and 10 miles away from St Andrews and I had got through most of my years in education with lifts or using bus. As I was getting older I started to want more independence. I was serious about my long-distance running and enjoyed keeping myself as fit as possible. Suddenly I found myself considering cycling. One parent was more amenable to the idea than the other…but I got myself a new bike and started using it. First I was only commuting the 4 mile route (on a designated, flat bike route away from the main road), but I passed through winter and with the longer days I took on the whole 10 mile route. I set myself some harsh standards and cycled every day, even in the winter and driving Scottish rain. “If I skip the cycle ride for a good reason, I’ll skip it for a bad one,” I warned myself.
The outcome of this was unexpected: I felt fantastic.
I expected to be healthier and fitter, but I assumed the daily pedalling would tire me. In fact, it seemed to energise me. 4 miles felt too short. I enjoyed the cycle ride – I shuffled my thoughts around and it allowed me to pedal off stress and bad moods. It gave me a vital dose of fresh air and sunlight. My metabolism speeded up and I stopped worrying about my weight or diet: I could eat what I liked. People always comment on my legs and how great they look – that has to be down to all the pedalling.
Cycling 10 miles in the rain sounds like an icky prospect, especially if at the end of the day you’ve got to change back into your wet lycra (…urck) and repeat the experience. Yet once I acclimatised myself to getting through the wet weather I found other things in my life became easier to cope with. You can cycle into work through a cold rainstorm, you can accomplish anything. With regular cycling I felt more principled and mentally focussed: it impacted other spheres of my life.
I would urge anyone who has ever complained about inadequate public transport making them late; or lamenting they have no time for exercise; or wishing they had explored more of their city…maybe a bike would help?