What’s happened to me?!
When I first learnt to ride almost 10 years ago, it was primarily driven by the need to commute to London in a more efficient way. I needed to get to work and back faster and cheaper than train, tube and bus. Too many changes, too much walking to/from stations and tight childcare drop off/pick up deadlines simply meant public transport was no longer working for me.
London biking wasn’t necessarily enjoyable, but infinitely preferable to public transport
Over the years that followed, I became a hardened London biker, commuting in all weathers, all year round, carving my way through the traffic, idiotic drivers, suicidal cyclists and oblivious pedestrians. I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as enjoyable, but it was infinitely preferable to public transport and it certainly kept one alert and on the ball. Though, London weather was rarely ever too bad to contemplate riding in.
Like many, the COVID pandemic changed everything. The office commute stopped just like that and working from home became the new norm. My employer reducing office space, introducing flexible days and new hotdesking plans meant that even when lockdown restrictions eased, I was still only commuting into London just once or twice a week. The change of pace, and the additional time freed up in the day all added up to a better quality of life and something I was keen to take advantage of permanently and somewhere outside of East London suburbs. If you can work anywhere, you may as well work somewhere nice.
If you can work anywhere, you may as well work somewhere nice
Fast forward to today, I’m working from my dedicated home office in beautiful Scotland and only pop back down to the London office for a couple of days every couple of months via train. It’s 5.5hrs train vs ~9hrs on bike and tickets are a similar price to the petrol! This is all great, but the amount of biking I’m doing has dropped considerably. No more motorcycle commuting, just fun blasts through the Scottish mountains on free weekends when the weather is decent. A leisure ride in Scotland in torrential rain or snow is not something you want to do out of choice…
Yep, I’ve become that stereotype I used to mock, I’ve turned into a fair weather biker and a weekend warrior. Uh-oh!
No more do I use the bike as an essential means of transport, it’s now a toy for a weekend blast or a tour (yet to be planned). No more will I grit my teeth, gear up and head out in the rain because I need to get to work or home.
Mary is in a similar boat, however, she is still commuting to the local hospital. But since the roads are much quieter here, there is no call for filtering, there’s free car parking and thus no advantage to commuting on bike. In fact, it’s a disadvantage due to the additional hassle of needing to change in and out of motorbiking gear and locking/unlocking the bike!
It’s quite an adjustment. Such intermittent riding needs a different approach. Previously, I’d have given my bike a thorough check every week (when riding every day, you generally notice any change of condition), but now I’m finding between rides my chain has dried out and I need to check everything before each ride. I’m also leaving the bike on a trickle charger – I never had to use one prior to lockdown! I’m not wearing through gear and rarely need waterproofs. There’s also a concern as to how I keep my skills up and stay sharp, we all go rusty after periods off the bike.
Having also left my old biking posse in London and Essex, I’m still hunting around local groups to find a new posse to ride with. The local IAM group is nowhere near as active as the East London group. Nonetheless, I’ve found a couple of new biking buddies and I’m looking at joining the Scottish Motorcycle Club which seems fairly active.
I certainly plan to do more riding up here, particularly summer evening rides after work to make the most of the late daylight up here. Working from home here in Stirling does mean I can be in gorgeous surroundings within 5 minutes. I also want to do some longer rides up into the Highlands, the Isles and the Cairngorms. Lots of great routes in every direction and riding solely for the pleasure of riding.
Have you switched your biking habits in the past? How did you find the change?