Since 2004, a 70-mile round-trip from Liverpool to Manchester has been my daily bane; a journey that may have appeal for the cycling uber-milers out there but for an ambler like me was never a regular reality.
So it was bike/train/bike for a long while, until financial reality curtailed it. There followed by a long stint of motorway driving, breaking my spirit. The commute from hell was a big factor in eventually changing jobs, moving closer to home, opening up the tantalising vista of a daily bike commute.
My new job is around eight miles away as the crow/cycle flies and lies at the end of Liverpool’s Loopline, a Sustrans marvel that is part of the Trans Pennine Trail, which stretches the breadth of England, from Southport to Hull.
My commute now is a world away from the stress of the M62, eight miles of largely traffic-free bliss on ‘roads’ that look much like ancient rural lanes, cutting right through Liverpool’s suburbs.
A short, less-than-one-mile road section leads me onto the trail and into a leafy, man-made sandstone gully. There follows around 30 minutes of trundling along the old Cheshire Lines railway bed until I reach Halewood. The trail continues through Halewood Doorstep Common, around the back of the sprawling Jaguar-Land Rover factory and into work.
This change of daily rhythm has been profound, made all the more special by the bike itself, which seems more than at home in commuter mode.
To allow normal shoes I switched to MKS Sylvan Tour flat pedals and I added a Carradice Cadet saddlebag, with a vintage Pletscher Model C rack to support it. My work satchel, lock, tools and waterproofs fit in nice and snug, the saddlebag keeping the load off my back and keeping me comfortable and cool.
Full-length SKS Longboard fenders keep the trail dirt off my work clothes; I don’t change for the ride, apart from switching from wool t shirt to office shirt when I arrive.
I ride at a sedate pace, enjoy the sounds of the morning and arrive fresh, awake and ready for a day’s work. Simple.
Has anyone else recently rediscovered the joy of bike commuting? Or are you ready to give up on motorway Groundhog Day?