Looks like we made it

me, cycling

My first bike ride in 15+ years. Seems a lot longer than a month ago!

Regular readers (and I believe there are some these days!) might remember something I wrote a while back, about potentially ditching the car and cycling to work. I’m very pleased to announce that just shy of two months later I’ve turned that idea into reality, having this morning covered the 15.5 miles to work using nothing more than pedal power.

And it feels fantastic!

Obviously there’s been a lot of planning and work to get to this point, but not as much as I’d anticipated, which has surprised me a lot to be honest.

Buying a bike was the first step. Having not even ridden a bike for at least 15 years, and never having bought one myself, it was a pretty steep learning curve deciding what I wanted and trying to find it within the budget I’d set myself. A budget which, it should be pointed out, grew several times as I learned more. I decided to go for a hybrid bike (a cross between a road and mountain bike) because I wasn’t sure I was ready for a pure road bike, but knew I didn’t need the strength (and added weight!) of a mountain bike. After poring over specs, weighing up various pros and cons, I plumped for a Trek 7.2 FX, financed by selling our about-to-be-surplus-to-requirement second car.

Trek 7.2 FX Disc

My new wheels. Just ignore the weeds…

After that, it was a simple case of building up to being able to cover the 31 mile round trip. My original plan was to build up gradually, parking at railway stations and advancing a station every few days. However, once I started riding I realised that with a few practice rides I should be able to jump in with both feet and cover the full distance.

And that’s what I’ve done. Today’s morning commute tipped me over 100 total miles in the month since I got my bike, with my longest ride being Saturday’s 25.6 mile ride, scouting most of the route to/from work in a single journey. Managing that in one go was a real boost, and made me sure that I’d manage both legs today without any problems.

There’s been a lot of effort off the bike too, planning a route that was safe – keeping me away from the busiest traffic – without becoming a long, meandering loop that added time and miles. The route I’ve settled on goes through three parks and follows the courses of the Rivers Clyde and Kelvin. And the bits where I’m on the roads almost entirely involve cycle lanes, which is ideal.

Next achievement is cycling both ways, five days a week. I’m not expecting that to be this week, and possibly not even next. But it won’t be long. And then? Who knows. A year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d have bought a bike, let alone planning to ride 150 miles on it every week, so I’m not going to make any bold predictions, and I’m certainly not taking on any crazy challenges quite yet.

Actually, thinking about it, my next challenge is the 15.5 miles back home. With the added incentive of an amazing welcoming committee when I get home. Better than I arrived to here this morning, that’s for sure!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

I want to ride my bicycle

It’s fair to say that most people aren’t fond of change, especially when that change has been forced rather than chosen. That’s about to be the case for me, as it looks like my car-sharer and brother-in-law has been given notice of redundancy. Big change for him, but also big change for me, as I’ll no longer have someone to share petrol costs with. Which means my travel costs are about to double, and that’s definitely not a good change.

I wrote a couple of years ago about my desire to ditch the car and make more use of public transport. At the time, it didn’t make sense, mainly for cost reasons but also because it would cut down the time I get to spend with the girls during the week. But with change being forced upon us, it’s time to revisit how I get to and from work, and look at all the options available to me. And since I’m doing that anyway, I might as well get a blog post out of it, right?

For comparison purposes, here’s an estimate of my existing travel costs. To keep things simple, I’m ignoring holidays/illness and assuming I work 5 days a week, every week.

Car payments: nil
Insurance: £15 per month (as part of a multi-car policy)
Maintenance (annual): £140 road tax, £500 MoT + service, £500 for other repairs
Fuel: £160 per month, of which I pay half

Total annual cost to me: £2,280

So what options am I looking at? The short answer is anything I can think of. And what I’ve come up with so far is as follows:

Car – cost £3,240, travel time ~1:20 per day
The simplest to work out, I simply need to account for the full petrol cost, ie add £960 to the figure above

Train only – cost £1,226.40 (12x monthly tickets), travel time ~ 3:00 per day
Glasgow has a pretty good local train network, second only to London in terms of local transport. Or so I’m told. I can get to work with one change, but have to walk about a mile at each end to get to/from stations. Oh, and walk between stations in the middle too.

Bus and train – cost £1,484.60, travel time ~2:40 per day
Rather than switching trains in the city centre, I can switch to a bus outside Glasgow Central that will drop me off right at work. The cheapest and easiest way to do that is with a ZoneCard, which covers both methods of transport within selected zones. I need 5 zones to travel door to door, which comes in at £114.20 for 4 weeks.

Bus only – cost £676, travel time ~2:30 – 3:20 per day
There are various bus only options, each of which involve one or two changes. Cost wise it’s the cheapest public transport option (£52 for a 4 week ticket), but I’ve always found buses to be less reliable than trains and slower too.

Cycle – cost £150, travel time ~2:30 per day
Not so long ago I wouldn’t have even entertained this option, but I’m leaner and fitter than I’ve been in years, and love a challenge so when this idea popped into my head I didn’t instantly dismiss it. I’m let to believe that 15 miles or so each way should be do-able in about an hour (with practice!) but have accounted for a little over that. I don’t own a bike, and haven’t even been on one in at least 15 years, but it’s something you never forget, right? Right?

In terms of annual costs (I’m ignoring purchase for now) all I can think of is servicing/tyres etc and insurance. £150 might be a bit low for all of that, but it does for comparison.

There are, of course, hybrid options – cycle or run part of the way then public transport the rest. That would certainly be how I’d work up to cycling the whole way, but as a permanent solution it doesn’t completely make sense because the tricky part public transport-wise is at this end, and I wouldn’t be keen on leaving several hundred pounds of bike attached to a bike rack in Glasgow every night, no matter how good the lock was. Also, it doesn’t really save much money, or (more importantly) time.

Based on the above, and assuming my body is (or can be) up to it, I reckon a 30 mile round trip by bike is the way forward. With bus/train as an option for when the weather turns nasty. There is, of course, the small matter of buying a bike, and I’m disappointed to say my work doesn’t currently participate in any cycle to work scheme. They are going to look into it though, so fingers crossed it’s something they like the sound of.

If that fails I guess I’ll need to fund the purchase myself, although without the savings that cycle to work schemes provide my budget is likely to be a bit more limited.

Unless, of course, there are any bike company PRs out there who’d be interested in a sponsored blog post or two…? :)

NOTE: Queen’s Bicycle Race video may not be safe for work!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

The Wheels on the Bus

This morning I travelled to work by public transport, making use of both the train and bus network. Nothing remarkable in that, millions of people do it every day, but for me it’s a change because normally I make the 30ish mile round-trip by car. And it got me thinking, yet again, about whether it’s worth making a more permanent change.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. Until 5 years ago, I travelled to and from across the city by train. Cambuslang, where I grew up, has a great service to and from the city centre, and when I moved to my current job, although it was way over on the other side of town, it was directly accessible by train, up to 4 times an hour.

All that changed in late 2005, when my work was relocated. At the same time we were looking to move to a bigger house, and the planned city centre office opened up various neighbourhoods that we’d previously not considered. Which is how we came to be in Hamilton. Unfortunately for me, the city centre office fell through, replaced with accomodation in Maryhill.

For a while I continued using public transport, because it’s what I was used to and I liked being able to disappear into my own little bubble: play some music, read a newspaper or a book, and generally just switch off from the world for a bit. But it was never quick. The time required to change between rail and road varied on a daily basis, which meant my arrival time (at either end) became hard to predict.

And it didn’t save me any money either. Both of my end-points were just outside of zone boundaries, meaning that I was paying the same for my Zonecard as someone who journeyed twice as far. But that was my only option, because I need both bus and train. And it worked out roughly the same as my petrol costs would have been.

When Ian started working with me, and therefore started making the same daily journey, it was a no-brainer – 2 people in the car halves the cost, therefore making it a good bit cheaper than public transport, as well as being quicker, something that’s even more important now that we have the girls.

But I never find time to read any more. And petrol prices just seem to be spiralling ever upwards. So I thought I’d revisit public transport.

Zonecard (covering bus and train) still works out around the same cost as the petrol I’m using. So even if/when I’m no longer travelling with Ian, there’s little incentive to make the switch. I don’t have a convenient rail only option (nearest station is about a mile from the office) which leaves an all-bus journey. And what I’ve discovered is that there’s a lot of money to be saved here.

If I’m reading First Glasgow‘s web site right, I could more than halve the cost of my daily commute, which isn’t to be sniffed at. And I’d get my “me” time back too, which is nice. Best of all, if it’s that much cheaper, even if I did drive over the odd day for convenience, I’m still saving overall. The only downside, then, is the extra travel time. I’ve got little enough time to spend with the girls during the week already – do I want to sacrifice any more?

That’s something I can maybe work on, though. I’ve noticed that the journey planner recommends different services depending on my journey’s end point, even though each option I enter is within walking distance of the same bus stops, so maybe I can get the journey time down a bit. Maybe I’ll give the bus a try one week, just to see how it is.

Back to the present, though, and while I’ve been writing this, I received a phone call from the garage, to say the car is ready to be picked up. So for a while, at least, normal service shall be resumed.

Update: Over the weekend, First Glasgow updated their pricing structure, and there no longer appears to be an option to buy more than one week’s bus travel at a time. So weekly tickets would be my only option, which bumps the cost up a good bit. Still about 40% cheaper than the Zonecard option right enough.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!