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16/07/2010 // INFO 1 Comment

What does it take to be a top Cycling Commuter?

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There is a top article by Jamie Wilkins on the Guardian website today on what an individual needs to possess in order to be a top level road racer. Fitness, power and the support of a fully committed team are all cited before he concludes that passion for the bike is the critical element for road cyclists at the highest level.

Top level sports performance fascinates me and I admire pro cyclists as athletes with immense skill, bravery and strength.  However, talk of three week grand tours and thousands of meters of climbing all seems a bit distant for me. A recent performance in the Alps demonstrated how far my ability is from a strong amateur, let alone a pro. As a result I began to wonder what it takes to be top level cycling commuter. For that is the level I shall forever remain.

I was surprised to conclude that we cycling commuters share many of the same attributes as Jamie Wilkins identified were central to a pro cyclist:

Strength and fitness – A commuter’s strength should not be underplayed. We have to make constant accelerations from a standing start at countless traffic lights. It’s simply not possible to move off slowly because the traffic behind won’t tolerate it. As a result we have to accelerate fast and get all our extra weight (certainly when compared to a pro cyclist) into gear fast. 

We not only have to get our bikes and body going but most commuters carry a rucksack, strap a courier bag to their back or have panniers full to the brim attached to their bike.  All this extra weight, stopping and starting, and with the need to accelerate fast means commuters have to be strong cyclists to make it to and from work every day.

Sacrifices – Commuting by bike is the best way to get to work but let no-one claim it does not involve making sacrifices. The number of post work drinks I have had to miss or sit through nursing a soft drink indicates the levels we have to go to.

It’s not just a bit of post work fun that cycling commuters sacrifice. Sartorial elegance at work is deeply compromised by cycling in to work. It does not matter whether you wear the same clothes at work as you commute in, or you change at the office you are never going to look as professional if you cycled in to work. This ain’t gonna have a direct effect on professional advancement but, particularly for the increasing number of girls commuting, not being able to take in different pairs of shoes (because they don’t fit in the bag) or not being able to wear a certain outfit (because it might get ruined by cycling or being put in a bag) is a sacrifice.

Lifestyle – Much is made in the Guardian article about the lifestyle of a pro-cyclist being permanent and continuous and not limited to seasons. Well, this is the same for any true cycling commuter. We pull on our lycra, switch on our lamps, chain up our bikes throughout the year on every working day. Commuting by bike is a lifestyle. It’s not seasonal.

Passion – What is it that gets cyclists out on their bikes, onto the dirty roads, in the dark, in the rain when they have plenty of alternative modes of transport to get them to work? It’s passion for cycling.

Unlike pro-racers this passion and enthusiasm cannot be linked to money…we earn no cash prize from outsprinting the Genesis Flyer next to you away from the lights. No, we commuters have cycling in our blood and a firm passion for the bike within. It links us all and we should be proud of our share passion for the bike.

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1 comments [leave one]
Corin July 20, 2010 at 11:39 am

Great article! Totally agree, but might also add Having A Thick Skin, to cope with the emotional strain of being out in heavy traffic with unsympathetic drivers every day!

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