Back to Basics Cycling

Guest post by David Lesser – keen cycling enthusiast.

Our busy modern lifestyles leave us all too frequently stressed and struggling with debt. We have to work long hours to pay the mortgage and the finance on the car, run around being a taxi service for the kids and then, if we’re lucky, try to find time to go and get some desperately needed exercise in the gym.

Many of us strive to improve the balance in our lives, but any changes we make need to avoid adding to our stress and save us both time and money. My previous post described how, for many of us, cycling to work instead of going by car, could help us with all three !

So what holds us back from doing so ?

What are the barriers to cycling ?

It wasn’t that long ago when bicycles were the only real form of transport for most working people, taking them to work and back during the week, and giving them the freedom of the countryside at the weekend. A period that was beautifully portrayed in the 1949 film A Boy, A Girl and A Bike.

As more people became able to afford cars, bikes became rarer on our roads, even though many people had to struggle financially and encumber themselves with debt to afford to buy a car.

Between then and now the image of cycling has changed. On TV bikes often seem have become comic plot devices for sad middle aged men squeezed into inappropriate lycra trying to shed excess pounds. Occasionally we are treated to the sight of a middle class woman gently cycling through parks, with a baskets on the front of her bike. The only other time we tend to see bikes on TV is in sport.

The association of bicycles with sport has been a long one, but it sadly these days it seems to have the effect of ‘raising the entry bar’ for cycling – compelling us to believe we need hi-tech bikes and a huge range of accessories, even for using a bike as an everyday means of transport.

Going into a bicycle shop today you’ll be faced with rows of carbon fibre bikes, replete with hundreds of gears. You’ll be offered all sorts of extras for your safety, expensive lights, yellow jackets and light-weight helmets. All together it may well cost more than the first years repayments on a car. And it won’t even include anywhere to carry your sandwich box !

For most of us, all we need from a bike in order to cycle to work every day is an ordinary solid road bike with a handful of gears, mudguards and a chain guard so our work clothes don’t get dirty, and a set of basic lights. It’s probably a good idea to also have a simple maintenance kit too.

Is this part of what is stopping us using bikes for commuting ?

We should reconsider any preconceptions we might have about cycling, and, as with many things in our over-complicated lives, strive to get a little more ‘back to basics’, and just enjoy cycling more.

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Photo by Indywritervia Flickr