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On moving house I thought that the additional commute into work would be awesome! I love cycling as a weekend warrior, sportive sensation and Wednesday wobbler (avec biere) and who wouldn’t want an extra couple of k per year on their Strava. Moved from a mile each way (pootling) to an undulating 9 miles each way with a variety of route options; hilly and quiet, faster but busier b-road and some in between. Why don’t I like it?

 

Trouble is, I only started a couple of weeks ago, weather has been glorious! If it’s annoying me now, October through February isn’t going to be pleasant… Any top tips on enjoying the commute?

28 comments

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Canyon48 [990 posts] 1 week ago
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I had an 11 mile commute [each way] (which then became a 16 mile commute when I went back to uni) and has now reduced to a 7.5 mile commute now I'm working. EIther way, my usual commute is a comparable distance to yours.

Firstly, watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deuWgGzNCK8 that covers almost everything I'd point out.

  • Prepare the night before (bag and bike ready the night before so all you need to do is hop on your bike)
  • Go lightweight (leave lock and shoes etc at work)
  • Mix it up, different routes
  • Treat yourself occasionally (have coffee and cake at work)
  • Take it easy (there's nothing wrong with doing some hard commutes - but don't overdo it)
  • Take a day off

I did almost all my 16 mile each way commute over winter. Rain and negative temperatures were pretty usual, I looked forward to my commute almost all the time as it split the day up. Just make sure you have some REALLY good winter kit, mudguards and try and get your kit dry throughout the day.

 

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nniff [245 posts] 6 days ago
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Get a rack and a pannier.  Rucksacks are sweaty things.

Neoprene overshoes for the winter, with HotHands handwarmers inside on top of your shoes/toes if it's really baltic.

Decent waterproof jacket, plus a cheap spare in the office for when the weather forecast lies.

Leave shoes and suits in the office.  Rotate suits etc through the dry cleaner.  You need 4 items a day (shirt, tie, underwear, socks).  If you don't have 4 items, something's missing: far easier than thinking if you've got everything.  Pack everything into a rubble sack - it keeps it all in a neat block and they are waterproof, unlike rucksacks.

Good lights, two of each front and back in case the battery goes flat.  If you don't look like a Christmas tree, you're doing it wrong - day or night.

Decathlon wotsit 900 gloves - really warm.  Decathlon microfibre towel - dries quickly.

Ultra-light gilet - best bit of clothing ever for commuting.  Warm, and easy to remove at the lights (if you're not wearing a rucksack).

Come to terms with getting wet from time to time - wet mornings are worse.

Persuade your employer to get heated lockers to dry stuff.

Find some reflective wrist bands - some have flashing LEDS - good for peripheral vision for those who half pass and then forget that you are there, and for turn signals.

Runners reflective tabard

Chap stick

I also carry a Petzl e-lite micro headtorch, for fixing punctures in the dark.

 

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Joe Totale [56 posts] 6 days ago
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Some very sensible advice above.

Make sure you have some full length mudguards would be the most important advice. Good quality wet weather clothing is also a must along with reliable lights.

I'd also say that those crisp winter days with the winter sun can actually be a joy to cycle in, it's nice to not get to work a sweaty mess as is happening right now.

Does your work have showers and lockers for your gear? That all makes a big difference.

Also don't feel like you have to commute every single day by bike. If it's chucking it down out there then you are allowed to have a day off and get the train/drive instead!

What I would say is that a commute is a great way of keeping your fitness up as you can do some intervals and incorporate some hills into your day. In the winter in can be hard sometimes to get the miles in and IMO commuting in the winter is still much preferable to the turbo trainer.

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Simon E [3332 posts] 6 days ago
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Only you can answer why you don't like it.

Why think about winter now? I started commuting in June, I thought that I'd not bother through winter but when the time came I couldn't face going back to driving. It isn't as much fun but it's still rewarding, there is more of a sense of effort and putting yourself out ('suffering' is the wrong word). I feel so much more alert arriving at work and it helps keep the weight off.

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ClubSmed [692 posts] 6 days ago
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Are you finding that you do not enjoy the commute in either direction or just on the way to work?

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Duncann [1347 posts] 6 days ago
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I've found with commutes that there are phases:

  1. the early stages are fun and invigorating, including trying different routes
  2. there's a middle phase where the high wears off and it becomes routine and irritating
  3. a third phase where you stop thinking about it so much and just relax and get on with it.

Might only be me - anyone else been through that cycle (pun slightly intended)?

There might be little incentives you can build in to keep it interesting - have a Strava segment you go for on the way home, try a pub or cafe of visit something/someone maybe once a week. Depends on the time you have available and the specifics of the area, of course.

As a previous poster said - if you have other modal options, use them occasionally. Nothing turns you against something as feeling forced to do it when you can't be arsed. I quite enjoyed taking the much slower bus occasionally (time to read, gaze out the window, etc.) and felt refreshed when I went back to the bike.

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BehindTheBikesheds [2018 posts] 6 days ago
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Why, because commuting isn't the same as leisure riding.

Yes they have similarities (knob head drivers for one) but you actually have to be somewhere for a specific time for a specific reason. You cannot, or should not be late. So you have to take more time thinking about preparation, stuff you don't need to think about so much for leisure rides, then there's more motons to deal with plus extra traffic lights plus extra pedestrians and even other cyclists of varying degrees of competency 9though obvs you'll get that on sportives anyways)

If you like your job this also makes cycling in easier mentally, if you don't like your job that much, meh. How easy it is to lock your bike up, how secure it is, how easy it is to get changed or freshen up all makes a difference in the mental aspect of cycling in. On leisure rides it's a different kettle of fish in all those respects IMHO.

My first commuting for work was back in 1990, 7 miles each way, it was mostly back country roads and then a dual carriageway for 2.5 miles within the city, it used to be 60mph back then or maybe even 70 but it did twist in places. They lowered the speed to 40mph some 20 years ago. I had to completely change into a uniform that was always at work, we also had showers and was working in a hot environment anyway so it really didn't matter if I got to work like a sweaty oik and I could shower straight after work in any case. Similarly I had a job around '99/00 that was a back road and I could cut through the old rectory road that was unused due to stopping up the road for motors going back into the town, meaning I could avoid most of the traffic and swing in through the houses and rejoin the dual only 800m from work. again showers on site and my work clothes already on site and washed/cleaned for me so just needed my cycling togs.

Change of job and had to wear a shirt n trousers (fuck the tie!), no shower, site a bit of a pain re locking bike up, shorter journey but more lights, more motons to deal with and it was, uuugggh, I hate this crap.

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kil0ran [918 posts] 6 days ago
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Winter commuting is great. Get dyno lights, panniers, and decent kit and bask in the glory of being seen as even more of a weirdo/badass than usual. Summer commutes I didn't enjoy quite so much, particularly the way the weather has been at the moment. April/May & Sept/Oct are the best months down south.

I was fortunate I had good facilities at work and a variety of routes/distances as my commute was always a part-drive/part-cycle (I lived 22 miles away)

I'd have a day off only if I got all three of the unholy trinity (cold, wet, windy) and even then would ride sometimes.

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Yorkshire wallet [2047 posts] 6 days ago
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Recently I was doing an enforced commute when my car's steering rack died and it took two weeks to get the bloody parts and a bit more time to actually fix it with what little time I have. 

It quickly became a grind when I knew there just wasn't another option (not on any bus route) and it was going to cycling day in, day out. If the car had been working and I'd just chosen not to use it for that period it would have felt different. 

First thing I did when i fixed it was take a day off riding and throttle it to work. Felt good just to reset. Can't imagine i'd enjoy an enforced commute, I'd feel like Sisyphus.

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crazy-legs [1014 posts] 6 days ago
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Why aren't you enjoying it?

A lot of the advice up there ^^ is very good but most of it is about logistics, kit, preparation etc rather than "enjoyment". That said, only you can really say why you don't like it. Too tough? Boring / repetitive? Worng bike? Too stressful?

Wrong bike is a definite pain - trying to do 15 miles on smooth roads on an MTB for example will be awful. Facilities at work make a big difference so if they are inadequate is there any way you can lobby for better ones or strike a deal with a local gym to use their showers / lockers?

The boring one I definitely get. I have several options, same as you and the only way to stay sane is to mix them up, vary the routes a bit. The other problem is that by the time the weekend comes round you're so tired form all the riding and so bored of cycling that you no longer look forward to "proper" riding! To be honest I'd say that's where you're at right now. The extra mileage is probably making itself felt now so at a guess you're probably a bit tired, hungry, maybe irritable? Perhaps bored with the constant washing of kit?

Might be worth knocking it back a bit, maybe do 3 days a week or possibly a ride in, train home (if that's an option?) or drive in (with bike), ride home, ride in, drive home maybe? Use the car or train as a way of taking in clothing etc that you can then leave at work meaning that you shouldn't need to carry as much on the bike. 5 days of 9 miles each way is a big jump from 1 mile of pootling and I reckon the sudden extra mileage is just taking time to adapt to.

 

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Beecho [368 posts] 6 days ago
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I have two huge highlights of every working day: getting there and getting back. It’s London (SE15 to NW1) and 10 mostly chilled miles that could be 8.5 of madness if I took the satnav route...

If there is one, find the chilled route. I’d gladly ride another 5 miles of some sections of mine.

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CXR94Di2 [2113 posts] 6 days ago
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9x2 miles is really nothing in terms of distance.  You mention busy B road.  Have you tried leaving a bit earlier to see if there is less traffic?  

alternativley trying different routes.  It will take you a few weeks to adapt to consistent 18 miles per day, but once you're adapted it will be a doddle, less than 30 mins, even taking it easy.

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PRSboy [285 posts] 6 days ago
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Try as best you can to appreciate your surroundings. 

If you aren't enjoying it, imagine commuting by train for example, crammed in, no seat, massive expense, delays etc! 

Actually I find the really hot weather more wearing on the bike than when its cooler... you may find you enjoy it more when this hot spell ends.

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ClubSmed [692 posts] 6 days ago
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Some of the issue may be fantasy meeting reality. As pointed out by others, leisure rides are not the same as commutes, so if you were expecting it to be then you are going to be dissapointed (Imagine the difference in a car journey on a commute vs the car journey at the weekend to go out to a country pub for lunch). That is not to say it isn't as good, it is just very different. Once you get over this comparison though and just get into the flow of the commute it can be an absolute joy so don't throw in the towl just yet.

Most of the suggestions here though have been around the practicalities of the commute, which can be useful to reduce the stress involved which can also lessen the enjoyment.

A major factor of stress and loss of enjoyment for me can be the post ride facilities at work. Do you have adequate bike storage, showers, dying room, clothes storage, cafe/kitchen etc. at work?

 

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KendalRed [206 posts] 6 days ago
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PRSboy wrote:

Try as best you can to appreciate your surroundings. 

If you aren't enjoying it, imagine commuting by train for example, crammed in, no seat, massive expense, delays etc! 

Actually I find the really hot weather more wearing on the bike than when its cooler... you may find you enjoy it more when this hot spell ends.

This.

My only alternative is to drive, as public transport to work just doesn't exist (I live on the south coast of Cumbria and work in Ambleside in the middle of the Lake District) which is 23 miles each way, and not flat by any stretch. I find I can't really do it more than three times a week (especially if those three days are consecutive), so will take the car once or twice a week, depending on work patterns, but hate driving to work, especially in the summer due to the roads being clogged by tourists who don't know the roads. So although the cycle commute can be tough, I just tend to look upon the alternative as much less desirable. I've been lucky lately as I can pick and choose my days to cycle due to the constant dry and warm weather, but even during the cold and dark months UI have usually cycled 3 out of 5 days - an MTB with ice-spike tyres helped with that.

Another advantage (for me) is that the distance replicates a standard triathlon bike section, or a 25 TT, so it's good to blast it home sometimes with the tri-bars on!

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crazy-legs [1014 posts] 6 days ago
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CXR94Di2 wrote:

9x2 miles is really nothing in terms of distance. 

It is if you're coming off 1x2 miles a day!

It's going from 10 miles of pootling split into 10 x 1 mile blocks to being 90 miles of proper riding, split into 10 x 9 mile blocks. It'll take a few weeks to adapt to it properly.

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alansmurphy [1830 posts] 6 days ago
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Thanks all, some great advice.

 

Equipment wise, the pannier rack is on, the lights are all ready to go and I’m very much a believer in the “don’t give them an excuse” theory of being lit up like a Christmas tree. Work facilities are good so no issues there and I will very much consider the weeks clothes being part of the Monday/Friday routine. The bike may be a bit of an issue, it’s good don’t get me wrong but rather fallen out of love with it – Specialized Diverge Gravel bike, thinking I may look to swap for a hybrid which may in turn help change the mindset. I've also got a Livall helmet with the speakers so maybe some podcasts may make time fly...

 

The routes, the b-road isn’t a huge issue, it’s perhaps the constant 2% incline home that’s a little annoying. The other routes are good which means I can mix it up, find a little protection from wind and even make the odd ride longer and a bit more of my weekend warrior plans. It also means it’s downhill on the way in which again is a good thing to meet deadlines J The b road is also likely to be gritted in the winter so will probably become the primary route then.

 

I think a couple of responses have picked up on the mind, and I think it is partly that. I don’t drive and the bus route would probably be 3 times the time on the bike. I suppose it is the sense of having to do it rather than wanting to do it. There are a couple of colleagues that drive from the same direction so maybe once a week I tap into that offering. It may also be that I set myself up for a fall by deciding I would enjoy it and I’m just below that at the moment. Also, I’ve enjoyed bits, smashed it home up the big hill one day and gained that sense of satisfaction and sometimes just rolled down the hill nice and relaxed with the sun shining. Perhaps I’m overthinking it, over thinking is rare for me!

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alansmurphy [1830 posts] 6 days ago
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I generally ride 60-100 miles on the weekend, 20-40 on a Wednesday ride and the smaller old commute to work. It's not legs by any stretch (probably) but I do understand that it's again the every day element potentially after a rough night or long day in work. Again an adjustment I'll perhaps have to make.

 

I also found after last weeks mad Wednesday ride 48 miles at 15mph with 2,300 ft of up that the spin in downhill loosened the legs nicely; the climb home was horrible. All lessons to learn  1

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nniff [245 posts] 6 days ago
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The mind is an interesting one.  My old commute used to have really nice bits - riding through Richmond Park at night when it's closed to traffic and there's a full moon to see by is rather special.  The new one is just wretched by comparison.  If CS7 has any redeeming features I've yet to find them.

To add insult to injury, I live on the far side of Epsom Downs from London, so most of the ride home is uphill and that does get wearing.  Plan B is therefore to drive some of the way which takes the sting out of the final long grind (invariably into the wind) and cuts the distance down from 20 to 13 miles each way.  Drive/ride takes the same amount of time in the morning and it's 10 minutes faster on the way home - but it feels like a huge cheat in the evening and makes a colossal difference if the weather is crap or it's been a long week. 

If I can, I'll try and do a luggage free day and ride a proper road bike in for a change.  I'll also go the scenic route via Richmond Park and the other London Parks for a change (24 or so miles) which is even better if it's a luggage free day.  If there's a grim head wind I'll also try and go as light and aero as possible, but I'll enjoy the tail wind-asssisted blast in the morning first.

Chasing Strava segments is entertaining for a while, but you'll eventually get to a point where every PB was wind assisted and you're buggered.  Then just chase the fastest of the day, which is actually quite fun because you know people have had much the same conditions as you (bar the bloke who managed to draft a fire engine with its blue lights on and got all the lights on green).

Revel in your entitlement to hoover up all office cakes, and to consume lots of forbidden fruit during the course of the day - Waitrose 2 for £1 Belgian buns are my fuel of choice mid-afternoon :o)

Remember Velominati Rules 5 and 9 - essentially harden the f up and bad weather does not matter; lift your chin, step out into the dark and get stuck in. 

 

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hawkinspeter [1989 posts] 6 days ago
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Commuting isn't always fun and energising, so I'd recommend getting into a routine and just cycle out of habit. That way, you won't be second-guessing yourself as to whether you want to cycle or not - you just cycle as a matter of course. Once it's a habit, you'll probably find yourself enjoying it more as your expectations will be lower (i.e. it's just a ride to/from work rather than being a fun cycle).

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srchar [858 posts] 6 days ago
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I think one's love of cycle commuting can depend on what your other options are.

I have a ten-mile each way commute through some fairly grotty bits of London, on some awful roads.  My other options are a lengthy bus/tube combo, or half an hour on a packed commuter train.  I'd take the bike any day - and I do.  The only thing that will see me joining the sardines on the train is ice on the roads.

If I lived somewhere more rural, and the alternative was a 10-mile blast through empty country lanes in my "weekend" car, I probably wouldn't commute by bike.

I see that your other options are a lift or the bus.  Whenever you're not enjoying the bike, just picture yourself sitting on that bus, taking all that time to get to work, getting less fit and costing yourself more money.

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ClubSmed [692 posts] 6 days ago
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My commute has taught me to love cycling in the rain.

If it is raining I know that it doesn't matter as I will get to work, have a warm shower and get changed in to dry clothes. Once I realised that I'm not going to be sitting in wet clothes at the end of the journey (unlike on a cafe stop on a leisure ride) I REALLY started to love cycling in the rain. It also gives me some smug satisfaction that my colleagues who drive or get the train however will be sitting at their desk in wet clothes from the walk from the car park/train station.

Of course the journey home can be miserable if your kit has not dried out by the end of the working day, that is why I keep an old (would otherwise have been binned so not missed from the kit rotation) kit at work for those few occasions.

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kil0ran [918 posts] 5 days ago
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Having a slow grind home isn't great, is there any way you can find a steeper route to get it out the way? I had the option of lumpy versus 5 miles on a fast B-road at 2% and I usually took the lumpy route. I hate straights, it's like swimming lengths.

I'd say 9 miles is about the limit of a commute on a hybrid, even with bar ends you may find you don't have enough positions, and there's nowhere to go if it's windy. I did that for a while and hated it, which is how I ended up with my first road bike. 

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matthewn5 [1201 posts] 5 days ago
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I love commuting. It's the best part of a work day. Miss it when I work at home. I do it every working day of the year, rain or shine, unless I have to get a train wearing a suit.

Just get your bike set up right - i.e. just the same geometry as your 'best' bike - so it feels completely normal when you're on the bike, have the right rainproof gear in your bag, and go. I don't mostly wear rain gear unless its raining, but carry a very light jacket and very light overshoes in case it starts raining later in the day.

Uphill on the way home is a bonus, means it's downhill in the morning so not too sweaty, and think of all the hardening and conditioning you're getting coming home, when you can really give it some welly. Turn it into the training session you never miss! It will do wonders for your bike handling, hardening up and putting down the watts. The only problem is you can get so used to your commuter bike that it feels better than the 'best' bike!

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brooksby [3292 posts] 5 days ago
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My commute is the only time I ride: I've never been given a pass "to just go for a ride" at any other time. My commuter bike is the only bike that I own.

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FlyingPenguin [7 posts] 5 days ago
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alansmurphy wrote:

The bike may be a bit of an issue, it’s good don’t get me wrong but rather fallen out of love with it – Specialized Diverge Gravel bike, thinking I may look to swap for a hybrid which may in turn help change the mindset.

 

If you think having to do 9 miles each way is a chore on a nice bike, it's going to blow absolute donkey balls on a hybrid.  You could consider relaxing the fit of the Diverge with some spacers or a shorter stem to be a bit more upright? 

 

Or if you do get a new bike, get something a little more relaxed but still a bit speedy.  If you've got a pannier rack on each, you can swap bikes depending on whether you feel like caning it.

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Stratman [118 posts] 4 days ago
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Loads of good, practical advice above., all of which I would, agree with.  I’ve a choice of routes, from c22miles to c26 without adding detours, tonight’s was 37 as I did detour to get a 100k day, I regularly mix them up a bit.  

I started about 6 years ago, and set a goal of commuting a couple of times a month.  This rapidly became c once a week, and then daily inside a year.  For the last five years or so only high winds or ice have kept me off the bike.

I remember that when I started, three days in a row was hard, but as I did more I got fitter and it became easier. I also accept that I have fast and slow days, and the wind is the biggest factor.

I also have a second breakfast when I get in, and sometimes elevenses, and always a cereal bar before I set off, eating enough is important, and it’s completely changed how I think about food.

 Facilities are pretty good, although I don’t use a shower, just a good wash.  I do keep suit and shirts at work and only bring socks and underwear (I can get shirts laundered there).   I use panniers and rack, or a bike packing bag if I don’t need to transport a laptop.  I’ve also got good gear for all weathers.  I’m a castelli fan, and have one of most things!  

I always carry spare socks and gloves - when they get wet it can be miserable - and use waterproof shoe covers and goretex MTB shoes most of the time.

I’ve just got dynamo lights, which will ease a bit of battery life anxiety, but exposure Sirius and flare have served me well.

I’m lucky in that I don’t really have a 9 to 5 job, so as long as I’m in at a reasonable time, no one cares. I also find that the commute time is more consistent than driving, and so if I have to get in for a given time. I know when to set off, and it’s not much earlier than if I drive.

My job is mainly about thinking, so I find the time on the bike quite productive, and I think that it helps the time pass on the commute.  I also listened to music, although I’ve recently stopped (for no particular reason)

So all of this says, I think, get the right gear, and stick with it as it will get easier.  It takes time to build a habit, and the necessary fitness (although I started at a lower level than you).  Now I can’t imagine going back, and I still enjoy riding past the traffic queues in Derby

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DaxPlusPlus [5 posts] 4 days ago
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What Stratman said about building up your fitness is bang on - been commuting for the last 6 years (approx 50000 miles + a lot of climbing) and when I started (and for a long time) could only really handle 3 days a week max but over time that changes.

I find having a commuter bike with mudguards etc is the way to go BUT I've also got a lightweight race bike for when the weather is fine - means I get to mix it up. 

Also got HR and power meter - riding to zones/intervals and treating the commute as training all means that again I'm mixing it up.

I went through a phase of hunting strava segments (and occasionally still do) .. to mix it up. Ditto strava challenges.

So yeah look to find ways to make it interesting\different and keep at it as it gets easier, which then means you have more options.