My commuter dog days are over

For years I’ve worked in a job where a simple door-to-door bike commute has been nigh-on impossible. 

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. 

 The Clubman is the most adaptable of bikes, happy on a long road ride, great on gravel and also a delight on the daily grind.

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?  

 

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3 thoughts on “My commuter dog days are over

  1. George

    Two years ago my office closed and I lobbied for another existing office 7 miles from home rather than the 55 mile daily motorway gridlock they wanted me to navigate. It all panned out and I have been daily cycling ever since…interspersed by cycling to the station for the odd day in London. I have massively evolved the bike and kit…and have spent a fair amount to stsy dry and non sweaty over winter. Super satisfying though and I feel so much fitter after two years of this. On rare occaisions I have to drive..to give lifts to a non cycling family member or collegue and I really feel cheated on those days. Like you I cycle in work clothes and have temperature control down to a fine art. I have only just discovered your extensive blog…many of the posts really resonate with me..so watch out for more posts!! 🙂

  2. James

    I too like to take my time cycling and savour the country air on the way to work. I have been blessed with a very pleasant 17-mile commute through mainly country lanes for the last 30 years (!) in the current job. However, I only started cycling to work regularly in 2000 – after the tanker drivers’ strike – starting with 1 to 2 days per week (complimentary with my wife’s part-time working) for the first few years, then 3 days a week once my son started in secondary education. Cycling in my work clothes is not an option for me, because I work in an open office environment, and whatever the weather and whatever my pace, I end up covered in sweat by the time I get to work – so I cycle commute in Lycra, and shower and change when I get to work (hence the large pannier). I actually enjoy chilling (or warming!) in the shower before clocking on – the changing room is usually empty by the time I get there! I work in an R&D environment with Flexitime, so a quick change is rarely a necessity. If I lived nearer to work, I would consider cycling every day, but as it is, 3 days cycling to work takes so much energy and time out of my week (6am to 8pm all included each day) that it is a pleasure to drive in occasionally (down the same country lanes).

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