Sunday, 2 January 2011

Warning: cycling is addictive

Happy New Year! 2011 is here and there are going to be a fair number of people who make a resolution to get fit and lose weight.  Good luck to you, its a hard slog, will take you a long time and as they say, No Pain, No Gain.  If you are going to keep up your new regime my recommendation is to build it into your lifestyle and the perfect way to do that is to walk, run, or cycle to work.

10 years ago I was an overweight chubby, car commuter queuing my way to work. On a good day it was a two cigarette commute, on a rainy day the queues into Cambridge make it four smokes.  Then I moved to Cottenham, seven miles north of Cambridge, UK.  Since then, I have undergone a personal transformation.  I am physically fit, and I enjoy my commutes on my two wheeled transport.  It's never mundane - most of the time it is there is great pleasure, sometimes hardship and oohhhhh the weather. But, you do feel like you are living rather than existing.  I wholly recommend it.

Cottenham is 7 miles out and everybody living here owns a car, including our family.  It definitely feels separate from Cambridge in a way that Histon does not, and I think it is the exposed flat fields surrounding our village - it can feel remote and exposed, merely clinging on to Cambridge. That image is reinforced by the "Fen Edge News" dropping through the letter box.

It is then no surprise when you talk about cycle commuting to Cambridge, that it is an impossibility to some even though there are the visible few that cross the void by bike from Cottenham to Histon.  In winter they are hard to spot, but come summer, the cyclist tap opens and they drip drip drip their way over the void.  It is possible. You just need to try.  And once you try the addiction starts, then the craving.  But for most, there will always be the excuses ... no time ... nowhere to change ... sweaty ... helmet hair ... weather ... the school run ... the danger.

If you ever think your journey is impossible read a little about Ranulph Fiennes and you will realise what a human can be capable of.  A little closer to home there is probably one of those cycle commuters living near you, silently wheeling out the bike every day. There is your inspiration, in your street.

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1 comment:

  1. It's interesting that you refer to such a distance being considered to be "an impossibility". We found this too in Britain. I used to ride from Melbourn to the Cambridge Science Park and back for work, and people would see this as very strange indeed. Even when my commute was just Melbourn to Barrington, not much more than four miles, this seemed odd enough.

    However, it's not the same here. There is an odd perception in the UK that Dutch people cycle more because everything is close together. However, in fact, Dutch people simply cycle further without anything being made of it.

    I get less hassle now on a 19 mile each way cycle to work than I got in Britain on a 4 mile each way cycle. I also average much higher speeds.

    It's not at all unusual for school children who live in villages to make 20 mile round trips each day by bike, including in the winter when the days are short, they'll be riding in the dark, and it gets very cold compared with most of Britain (we've had weeks of -10 C and lower temperatures every winter here so far). In fact, the cycle paths from villages to the city are kept clear of snow in large part to enable this to happen. The school cycle parking is just as full in winter as in summer.

    The villages around Cambridge, and Cambridge itself, could be just the same. But they're not. I think it's quite obvious why. Cyclists are treated as exceptional human beings in Britain, even in Cambridge, but here it's just normal. It's expected that people will continue to ride whatever the conditions simply because that is the normal thing to do - not just in cities, but between them, and right out in the countryside.