Daily Commuting Tip - When the Daily Commute Becomes the Daily Grind
Posted: 19th October 2009 | Eddie Allen
On Monday, you just ended up going fast. You got on your bike and you didn't know if it was going to be a fast day or a slow day. But then something kicked in. A favourite section of road or trail, the sunshine on your back, that espresso you had before you came out - something kicked you into another gear. You used every traffic light as sprint training, at every hill you attacked out of the saddle. The world passed by in a blur but you were stationary in the centre of it, in that cycling zone where you're completely unfocussed but totally aware of your surroundings. You arrived at work out of breath but totally alive. After a quick change and freshen up, you were ready to do battle.
Tuesday was an easy day. You weren't tired, or lacking in motivation, but something about the day told you to pedal soft, lope along in a high gear, sit up and watch the world around you. You were in no rush, you left in plenty of time and had time to capture the infinite detail of your daily commute; the smell wafting out of the bakery, the housemartins strafing low over the grass in the park, the steam rising from someone's coffee cup on the pavement. For a few minutes you passed through this sensory tunnel and meshed with the world in a way that you never could when going fast.
Marketeers and product managers would be keen to shepherd Monday Man into the lycra wearing ‘fast hybrid' pen, while Tuesday's Child would be herded into the Utility Bike enclosure. However, whatever day of the week you are, you can have it all.
The key to enjoying this bike commuter duality is to keep your options open and not be defined by the bike you're riding or the clothes you're wearing. Just because you're in your jeans and t-shirt today doesn't mean you can't rip it down the High St. Take a look at the kids playing football in the park, in jeans and with jumpers for goalposts. They don't need matching kit to play the game. And neither do you.
You don't have to dress up as a proto-racer to go fast. You just have to push harder on the pedals. It doesn't matter if you're riding your old beater bike either. It's about your state of mind. The endorphin rush riding an old clunker fast is the same as with a brand new road bike. You might not go as fast but it's the quality of the experience that counts.
If you're lucky enough to have more than one bike, use them but don't become a slave to the niche. Ride your road bike down the towpath. Rush across town on the old 3 speed. You'll learn that the limitations of each bike are not always where you thought.
Sometimes, the things we buy make us slaves. So take that speedometer off your bike for a few weeks before you become a hypnotised by the average speed function. Leave the heart rate monitor in the drawer at home for a while. Let your body tell you when it's time to push on or ease off. Get back in touch with the simplicity and spontaneity of cycling. It's what you fell in love with in the first place.
Bikes are all about freedom from constraint. Freedom from petrol prices, gridlock, stress and boredom. So don't impose limits on yourself. Don't get stuck in a market segment. Ride how you want to ride.