Not Evangelism

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Commute

One of the greatest factors on the choice of bike, commuting clothing, lights and so on, is the commute itself; how long it is, how much of it is on rural roads, without streetlights, or in a town. I thought I'd share a bit about my commute, and the reasons I've made some of the choices I have for lights, clothing, bike and so on.

My commute is about 11 miles long, the majority of it (about 8 miles) on unlit country roads where the speed limit is 60mph, interspersed with brief stretches through small towns and villages along the way. In the urban areas the speed limit is 30mph and there are streetlights every 50 metres or so. Barring occasional roadworks, there are no traffic lights on any of my route; I rarely have to come to a complete stop.

There's pretty much only one route I can take to and from the office, without adding significant extra mileage. So there's not a lot of variety in my route (so it's great that the rural scenery is always changing - I see something new every day). There are also very limited options for public transport. If I have a serious mechanical, then it's a question of limping home or calling for backup.

Commute Details

The first mile and a half is mostly downhill, in town, and lit, at 30mph. Obviously, this means that on the way home, the last stretch is pretty much all uphill. But at least I'm nearly home by then!

The next three miles are unlit, country roads, 60mph speed limit, with 4 foot ditches on either side of the road. When it's dark, I want very good lights for this part of the ride. I want to be seen, and I want to be able to see.

After about half a mile straight through a little town, I'm back into lanes between fields and hedgerows once more. Now my ride takes me along a bridlepath that runs beside a dual carriageway; it's an unlit stretch, but it's pretty much traffic free (the dual carriageway hidden by a wooden fence). At the far end, it's a short, sharp climb up the bridge over the dual carriageway where I sometimes stop to admire the sun rising (or setting) over the water parks and lakes. Then down the other side and into another village where I rejoin the main road.

I'm over halfway there now.

Barely a tenth of a mile of streetlights, houses and 30mph before it's back onto country roads and another mile and a half on unlit rural roads. After another mile of 30mph lit roads through yet another small Cotswolds village, all yellow stone and pretty cottages, it's back to country roads alongside fields for the last couple of miles to the office.


The elevation of my commute is shown in the image below. The descent over the first mile and a half is a nice introduction to the ride, then except for the couple of lumps towards the end (around mile 10) the ride is pretty flat (which makes it ideal for a single speed bike).

Lights for Cycle Commuting

Because so much of my daily ride(more than 8 of the 11 miles) is on rural roads where the speed limit is 60mph, I want good lights that enable me to see where I'm going. My primary light has a good beam that lights up the road sufficiently far ahead so that I can avoid potholes and major obstacles. Of course, I also want to be seen, so I've got a secondary light that I usually run flashing, and I've got reflective patches on my jacket, gloves, pedals and frame. Research has shown that reflectors are most effective on moving parts, such as ankles so reflectors on the pedals are a good choice. In the UK, bikes are supposed to be sold with reflectors on the pedals, and I've got some inserts for my SPD clipless pedals that have reflectors front and back.

I've got little LED lights on my helmet too, for that added visibility. Lights in unexpected places tend to make road users and drivers look twice, which I figure is a good thing.


For the urban stretches, as brief as they are, I'm sometimes cycling in traffic, and I have a little bar end mirror that gives me that bit extra information about my fellow road users, without having to turn my head continually.

Clothing for my Commmute

My office has shower facilities and our dress code is smart casual. I've got room to store shirts and suits for the week if I need to. So I can ride in cycling gear - warm and weatherproof for those unexpected downpours - and know that I've got clean, dry clothes waiting for me at the end of the ride.

All the distance and elevation information provided by the excellent Gmaps Pedometer website.

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