For many years I had all the range of a mediaeval peasant, working no more than five miles from my home in Farnborough, Hampshire. When I started work at CTC, just over the border in Surrey, my daily commute changed from a mere six mile round trip to 26 miles - that may not sound like much but, when you add it up, it's an additional 100 miles a week, 400 miles a month or 4,800 miles a year compared to what I was used to.
My initial instinct was to sell my old petrol car and buy a diesel; my fuel economy went from 23 miles a gallon to over 46 miles a gallon, so that was a good start.
However, I was finding it hard to reconcile being a cyclist, working at the national cycling charity and yet still driving to work and back.
In my defence, my very young daughter does have to be at her carer's house by 8:30 in the morning so it has been quite a challenge to find the time to be able to drop her off and cycle to Guildford for a 9am start; leaving earlier means increased childcare charges, so that’s not feasible.
However, Thursdays are good because my wife has a day off during the week and so, after being CTC’s new Webmaster for just 8 weeks, I found the time to finally cycle to work.
Setting off at 7:40am, I planned to leave just over an hour to cycle the 13 miles to Guildford. It was a gorgeous, sunny morning and hot too. Whilst I do own a vintage Raleigh Banana, but my main steed is a 2006 Specialized FSR XC Pro full suspension mountain bike so I jumped on my trusty hack with a rucksack on my back and set off on my journey.
Rather than explore a new off-road route, and potentially risk being late for work, I decided to stick to my regular roads. I did consciously avoid an extremely busy stretch of the southbound A331, which isn’t exactly cycle-friendly, by hopping off road and onto the Blackwater Valley path for a mile or so.
Once I’d bypassed the, er, bypass, I was out of Farnborough and on to Mytchett, still in the urban environment, and another mile before the notorious "Pirbright bends" - a series of lovely tree-lined roads, winding past Keogh Barracks, the former HQ of the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The road climbed out of Mytchett and this is where I started to find the going got tough; but reaching the top of Porridge Pot Hill, on a mountain bike with a fairly heavy backpack, I freewheeled down the other side, winding between the trees, keeping following cars at bay as I picked up speed.
Having driven to Guildford and back every day for two months, I knew the lie of the land – every incline, no matter how slight, and every downhill section had been noted as I drove into Surrey with the mind set of planning to eventually cycle to work. This came in handy as I knew where I was going to have a good hill climb and where I could whistle down the other side - after all, what goes up must come down, right?
Grange Road into Pirbright is a beautiful stretch of Tarmac and was immensely enjoyable at speed. Nipping through the huge queue of traffic outside the village school was totally satisfying. Fox Lane, Perry Hill, Stoughton and on to CTC National Office, I made it to work a little bit on the warm side but I felt energised.
Once I'd locked up my ride in the company bike shed, it was into my cycle-friendly HQ where being able to have a shower at work was just brilliant - I've not worked at a place with such considerate facilities before; wouldn't it be great if all employers were cycle friendly ?
Afoot in the office, climbing the stairs was fun – I had a few leg muscles arguing that they still wanted to be cycling, but other than that, having cycled into work felt really good.
The buzz from telling my fellow staff about my ride was good too, and they really appreciated me putting in the effort to cycle the13 miles from Farnborough.
Going home was fun too – after a long day at work, the ambient temperature was up and the ride back to Hampshire was mostly uphill. It took an hour to ride to work and an hour and 10 minutes to ride back and, after 8 hours at my desk, I have to admit I was pretty tired on the ride home.
Will I be cycling to work again? Absolutely. I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of cycle commuting and, although it took twice the time of my car journey, it was exhilarating to be out in the fresh air, kept me fit and saved me money; and of course, I was generating a lot less pollution into the bargain!