Over the last few months, I’ve been getting more and more interested in getting a bike – of the pedal cycle or push bike variety. Yet there are many – real or perceived – barriers that are stopping me. I know in the FIRE community biking is popular for health and financial reasons, so I want to share my roadblocks and see if you can dismantle them. Hence my question – should I get a bike?
What is stopping me?
But I have a dilemma – I’m not sure I need a bike. Or would even use a bike. Moreover, I have tons of excuses/reasons/barrier to getting a bike. I want to ensure if I do go ahead with this, it’s a well-thought-out practical decision, not a fad or jumping on the bandwagon. So here we have my should I get a bike dilemma – time to lay out all the issues and pros and cons for some experts to review and critique.
Would I actually cycle?
Observations and many studies have shown that London’s cyclists are generally white middle-class males, of which a sizeable subset ride like idiots. Honestly, I see at least one cyclist jumping a red light each day in the city. The aggression is scary, and it doesn’t look like an appealing environment or culture to join. Many articles confirm my observations:
Hence, the first barrier to overcome is could I hack it on the roads? Cycling alongside buses, lorries, taxis and aggressive mamil type cyclists? This is a complex issue to pinpoint the fear, is confidence the issue? Or perceived safety? Or just a club of jerks that I’d rather not join or be associated with?
And then the question becomes, when would I use the bike?
Commuting to Work
I live ~15 miles from where I work and there are a few hills in the way, not to mention copious amounts of traffic. I would need to ride from outer London land – where the car is king – all the way into the city where buses and taxis jostle for space in narrow medieval streets.
Although, in writing this I have had a look at Google maps, which does cycle routes that I never noticed before. And there is one route from home to the office that is not too bad for busy roads. It doesn’t look that difficult to follow and avoids the absolutely horrendous roads. Now, this inspires me and makes me feel that this might be possible one day a week. Now when pondering should I get a bike, my mind turns more positive and some doubts show signs of evaporating.
I tend to go out in central London, and usually in the evening. While I’m happy getting public transport home at all hours, I’m much less keen on the idea of cycling home. Maybe because of tiredness? And the implied dangers of the dark? Either way, I don’t think I’d be comfortable cycling back after an evening out. And then there’s alcohol. I do like the odd drink, which is completely impractical with a two-wheeled mode of transport.
Errands and shopping
Now we come to an easier one – I could easily use a bike instead of the car or walking to run local errands, and to get groceries etc. However I quite often do this on foot, and I’m not sure I’d even save much time on a bike? I may end up having to take the long route home avoiding the hills!
Riding for Pleasure
I absolutely love the idea of going out for a ride in the country for a day out. My romanticised notion of a day out cycling has visions of easy flat riding over impressively scenic hills with no other traffic around and perfect weather. Perhaps not at all realistic, but a woman can dream.
It does sound like a fun way to spend a day, but is it more pleasurable in idea and abstract, rather than in the actual reality? Using my own muscle power would be tiring, and like most things would one experience diminishing returns the more I cycled?
Now, in practical terms, you can take bikes on trains at the weekend to get to pretty places in the country. But then I can see the need for additional expenses in getting a car bike rack to travel to more remote and scenic places.
Where would I keep the bike?
Another perceived barrier to the question should I get a bike is where to keep it. And you know what, this one could be easily sorted. I have a house with a garden, but I’ve got nowhere easily accessible to keep the bike. I don’t have a garage, and my shed is at the back of a 100 ft garden and is not configured to easily take a bike.
I would need to move a useless raised bed that the last lodger left (it is in the shade, and sadly functions as a cat toilet nowadays – grim). Then either go low tech and buy a tarp, or some sort of bike shelter. But, I’m reluctant to spend money on this, there must be an easy way? Where do people keep bikes? Or could I keep a bike inside? My hall isn’t big enough to hold a bike and allow someone to pass easily, but maybe there are other options I have not considered? Hanging the bike somehow?
What type of bike?
Do I get a road bike? Or a cute city bike with a basket etc? Or a mountain bike? And really what is a hybrid bike? Truth be told I know that these types of bokes exist, but am not really sure in detail what the differences are. What is the best type for riding on tarmac, yet potholed and occasionally gravelly roads? Or what about a folding bike? Does that count as a real bike?
Another barrier is the thought of being stuck somewhere with a broken bike. Punctures seem like a regular occurrence that you need to be able to fix, how hard are they to patch? I can’t imagine anything worse than breaking down, than having to walk your bike many more miles. Given bikes are banned on public transport at rush hour, I can foresee being stranded the odd time. Do I need a plan to lock up the bike in a random place and get the bus? And as for punctures, I presume I’d need to be prudent to learn how to sort them before going out for more than a few miles on the bike?
Clothing, Gear and Luggage
Do I need special clothes? I assume those special shorts reduce the chaffing? And what exactly do bib shorts do? Although there is some conflicting advice going around now – see forcing people to wear helmets will not save lives – I’d need to get a helmet. Security wise, some sort of bike lock also seems like an essential purchase, with a myriad of different options available – what makes a bike lock good?
How does one transport stuff, like clean clothes – a backpack? Does that not give you a sweaty back? Or these fancy pannier things? Obviously, if I was to ride anywhere for more than the fun of riding, I’d need to take a change of clothes and the usual kitchen sink contents of my handbag.
One of my big drivers to get a bike is to get more fit and incorporate exercise into my daily routine. I wouldn’t say I am the fittest person, I love to run but am slow. But if I could do commuting and exercise at the same time, life would be good. I’d see this as easily achieving two wins in parallel, which seems like a good choice.
Over-analyser and planner alert – would buying a bike be a sunk cost, or could some of the costs be recovered if I changed my mind? As I am quite prone to changing my mind. Over the years I’ve had many hobbies and interests, and not many of them have stuck with me over the long haul. I need to be realistic about this and avoiding buying stuff that I will not use, as I’m trying to adopt a more minimaist mindset.
Would it save money?
I know a lot of people bike to save money, in my circumstances I’m not sure it would. I already have a 80% savings rate. I pay about £12 a day to commute on public transport and only go in 2-3 days a week at the moment, working from home the other days.
So what would a bike cost me? I’d have to buy a bike, suitable clothing and accessories. So, even if I got a second-hand bike, this seems to be easily running over a few hundred pounds. Say £200 at the bottom end if I manage to get some bargains.
My current position
I’m erring towards not buying a bike immediately, but keeping an eye out for a bargain second-hand bike. When I see a bargain, I am ready to pull the trigger. Although I need to learn what to look out for when buying a bike. I also might attempt some London cycling by buying a helmet and trying a Boris bike occasionally, to see how I feel cycling in busy streets with loads of buses.
Barriers? Can I crush them?
I know I am seeing barriers that I can easily crush, or put a bit of effort in and crush. So why don’t I use my time an ingenuity to work around them? Should I get a bike and work around these barriers?
Over to you
- Are you a cyclist?
- When/where do you cycle?
- What do you think about my situation?
- Should I get a bike?
Looking forward to your thoughts and ideas – all are welcome.