Living in a big city has its frustrations: Property prices for one. Or that advertised dream job already having 432 applicants ahead of you. Or trying to get a tradie to fix your hot water system before the next olympics. And yet there’s that one particular type of city-angst that affects the most people on most days: My recent experience simply highlighted the dilemma:
A visiting international lecturer was to present his research to a dozen or so within my profession. The venue was a rather swish harbourside hotel, with a not unreasonable 8-30am start. I arrived early, along with another colleague; she was from Melbourne and had stayed overnight at that same hotel. By 8-30 no-one else had turned up, and the organiser suggested we politely wait.
By 8-45 three more attendees shuffled in; “grumble-grumble road closures and grumble-grumble impossible traffic and…just lots more grumbling.."
At 8-50 another rocked up; “I had to change trains at Central, but they were delayed, so i went to get an Uber, but the traffic was horrendous, and what’s with that surge-pricing ??!!...."
9-05a.m. and a younger professional came in and collapsed next to me. She was gasping for air; “Sorry…... I’m really sweaty……. I had to run because the bus doesn’t go past Martin Place and……... god-I’m-so-unfit-I-really-need-to-start-going-to-the-gym…”
And so-on. The last to arrive skulked in, sheepishly, at about 9-30am. i don’t know his reason - I heard him mutter something about parking costs, but judging by the way he tried to hide at the back of a small room amidst the small audience it was clearly not a great start to his day.
So there it was: a Monday morning, and - of my small sample of a dozen people - 10 of them could not get to a city function on time.
But I was there on time. Early even. The only difference? - I commuted by bike.
The maths doesn’t lie: It’s about 15km from my front door in Concord to Circular Quay in the city, total travel time = 40mins, cost was zero (ok the bike was purchased a few years back). Parking is anywhere I can loop a chain........ And I didn’t need to go to the gym!
There may be reasons commuting by bike is simply not viable for some people. But for many others getting from A to B would be a whole lot easier, cheaper, and healthier if they considered cycling instead. That decision begins with getting a good commuter bike, so here’s a guide to help you out:
The best bike for commuting?
Its all about comfort and confidence; A comfortable bike makes you confident as a rider.
Comfort is not just size and fit, or a cushy saddle. A comfortable commuter bike should make your ride easier.
- Aim for a light-weight; Heavy is your enemy! Some town bikes may look retro-cool, but most are designed to plod along the flat streets of European villages. Choose a commuter bike with lighter weight, which makes riding further easier, and faster.
- Some cities are small and flat. Sydney is not. Look for a full spread of gears to make those hills an easy pedal.
- Rim brakes are proven (and cheaper) but modern disc-brakes offer better stopping power, and are simply superior when things get wet.
- Think of the type of bike that suits you best. How flexible are you? Can your shoulders and back happily maintain the prone riding position of a sports road bike? Or are you happier with the more upright flat-bar stance?
- Style of bike is often a personal taste, but should reflect intended use. Mountain bikes offer suspension, but that adds extra weight for no real benefit on the road. And those knobby tyres need a lot more effort to get rolling. Far better to have proper mid-width road tyres for the perfect balance between comfort, lower rolling resistance, and sure-footed stability for safety.
- Road bikes with race-style drop handlebars and skinny tyres are built for speed and efficiency. The trade-off is handling that is fast and responsive, and a harsher ride, which can be a challenge for inexperienced riders.
- You’ll want to carry stuff: mounting points for racks and panniers are really helpful. Ditto mounting points for mudguards to keep any road debris off your office getup.
- Don’t buy any bike without a test ride first. The difference in feel between the different types of bikes, even within the same brand, will amaze you. Different components (brakes, bars, saddles) will affect how confident you’ll feel riding.
- Some stuff - saddles, pedals, bars grips - can be customised for you to offer better comfort. A good bike shop will always adjust the bike for you.
Shop around, The most important part of choosing a bike is to try before you buy. Your commute will only get better…..