‘I pedal my problems away’: three commuters on the joy of cycling to work

Rachel Mostyn
·5-min read
<span>Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images

Crowded trains. Traffic jams. Wasted time. Commuting comes with so many headbanging frustrations. Unless you’re a cyclist, that is. New research from SEMrush has found Google searches for cycle-to-work-related terms have increased by almost 100% from July 2019 to July 2020. It’s no surprise that the pandemic is a factor; research from HSBC UK and British Cycling has found that since lockdown, a third of adults are now less likely to use the tube, bus or train to get to work.

But you may be surprised to know that cyclists are the happiest commuters, according to research from the University of Minnesota. We asked newbie riders and seasoned commuters racking up major mileage one question: why?

‘I literally pedal my problems away’
Stephanie Briggs, 50, a managing director from Wiltshire

Related: ‘Who hates cycling once they’ve tried it?’: how I learned to stop worrying and love the bike

“I only learned to ride a bike when I was 27 – we lived on a hill as kids and there was a busy road so we never got the chance. In my 30s I’d cycle with my kids but I was always nervous. But in the past two years I’ve become more interested and then my husband bought me a new bike for my 49th birthday and it spiralled from there.

We’d cycle at the weekend and then during lockdown – with such quiet roads, I went out more often. It was bliss to hear the birds singing and hardly any traffic noise.

I became more confident and as lockdown lifted, and it was time to head back to the office, I decided to give commuting by bike a go. It’s a 25-mile round trip through the Wiltshire countryside and I honestly haven’t looked back since.

I now try to cycle to work every day so that’s 125 miles a week. I’ve found it enormously beneficial on a mental health front. If I have a problem I say: “We’ll take it to the bike” and that will be my focus for the next ride. It’s getting me physically fitter but it’s the mental fitness I really love.

I’ve been commuting successfully for several months and I feel proud of what I have achieved. The roads are busier now. But I have built up confidence in the route and we have grown together so I don’t mind the traffic. I’m proof anyone can commute by bike if they put their mind to it.”

‘I’ve found a community on the road’
Charlene Concepcion from north London, 33, is a trade union technical analyst

“I cycle four miles across London to work and love that it is both faster and cheaper than public transport. And it’s a bonus that exercise is built into my day.

My passion for cycling has really grown in the six years I have been commuting. I started off on a rusty old mountain bike and upgraded to my first serious road bike this year.

I had been thinking about joining a cycling club for some time and then I discovered the women’s only Velociposse. I wanted an extra push to get me out of my comfort zone and learn new things. In July, I joined one of their free women of colour training sessions, which was both inclusive and friendly. Since then I have completed a 100k challenge with the club, cycled at Herne Hill velodrome and completed group rides.

There is such a community feel on the road and it’s wonderful to be with others who love cycling. It’s not just heads down cycling fast but chatting and learning from your ride partner.

My next goal is to start racing. Next year’s women’s league starts in April and is open to beginners, which is hopefully enough time to gain accreditation and get more confident. Watch this space.”

‘Cycling is my escape. I’ll take a 25-mile detour, just for fun’
Steve Henry, 37, is a risk investment manager from Edinburgh

“Cycling is the perfect way to start the day and I feel so refreshed by the time I get into the office. My commute door-to-door is actually only six miles but I always take massive detours so I can spend longer on my bike. I don’t worry about the weather and might come home via the Pentland Hills or Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and do anything up to 25 miles extra.

I just love being outdoors and the freedom my bike gives me. I’ve also built one of my bikes from scratch – my wife is ever patient when I bring bits of the bike into the sitting room to work on.

I’m so passionate I even designed my own cycling jacket, called the Meander, which is perfect for commuting. Our bikes come on holiday, too. My wife and I recently flew to Switzerland and cycled direct from the airport around Lake Geneva and Lake Annecy.

Over my years of cycling I’ve learned that it is worth investing in good quality tyres as, after all, that is the one part of the bike that touches the ground. City roads can be full of potholes and glass so it’s particularly important for commuting to get really good puncture-resistant tyres, such as Schwalbe Marathon Plus.”

To find your flat-less tyre, visit schwalbe.com