Cycling to Work
Some of us are lucky enough to live quite close to where they work. Some are brave enough to try cycling to work on our bikes. Out on the streets, you’ll see a huge variation in what people ride to get to work. You will see everything – cheap heavy mountain bikes to the fanciest carbon bike.
Aside from the steed, clothing choices show similar amounts of variation. There’s plenty of garish yellowy-green hi-vis on show. Footwear is also interesting. Roadie shoes, regular work shoes and even one person with roadie shoes without the clips. The same as having football boots without the studs. There’s even the odd Rapha jersey worn for some reason. I’ve already covered the world of cycling kit as a whole here. The commuter kit throws in a whole new world of possibilities though.
Personally, I go for the tweed jacket with laptop bag ballast, suited and booted approach. As it has the aerodynamic properties of a woven sail flapping in the wind, it makes my ride to work that bit harder. It’s still easier and quicker than having to get changed more than I need to for a 10-15 minute ride
It’s only natural then that we want to defeat the others we ride with on our routes to work. Some battles get played out at the same times and the same places, only on different days. There are often different unofficial ‘stages’ on a route. For me, the most common one in Birmingham is the Gooch Street – Pershore Road – Hurst Street bike lane blast. Also, between all the lights on Broad Street was once a happy hunting ground. There’s also a special place in my heart for beating people up the hill on Russell Road into Kings Heath.
Each rider has their own route and points where they come across other commuters. Like all cycle racing, a hill climb victory is worth more than being quicker than someone on the flat. Especially if you’ve got a laptop bag to weigh you down.
Now there are a couple of unofficial rules. Going through red lights is a big no-no and an instant disqualification. Being able to then catch up and pass someone who has gone through a red light is a moral victory. There’s no sense of achievement by blasting past riders going slower. It’s not as cool and you’d have to blast past about six for one real victory.
Also overtaking and then turning left across their path is a bit of a dick move. It’s dangerous enough when drivers do it to cyclists. Drafting is acceptable. Don’t expect much information about holes like you would get on the club ride. Their last-minute swerve around the pothole could see you hit it for instance. The questionable quality of mudguards also makes this practice disadvantageous. If it’s a damp day, you’ll only end up mucky for work.
The Commuter Racer Mindset
It takes the right sort of person to start a race with someone they don’t know. Someone who probably doesn’t know they’re racing and is only using a bike as a means to get to work. Hyper competitiveness is a must. A turn of speed is very useful, as is the ability to self-justify this behaviour. ‘I’m just doing it to get to work quicker’, ‘good training’ and ‘my anaerobic levels are through the roof!’
Some races start by accident. The number one goal is to get into town and make that train, despite leaving the house 5 minutes late. Pretty soon you have lots of overtakes in the bank. Sometimes someone smart has jumped onto your back wheel, so you have to try and burn them off where possible.
The dream days are the ones where all the lights are green and all of the islands are clear. When you can smash it cycling to work in under 15 minutes without having to stop at all on the way.