Commuting by bicycle. The ups, downs and why it’ll make you happier.

You’re sitting in your car, listening to drive time radio, crawling along to the next traffic light. It’s sunny, the birds are chirping and just as you’re zoning out thinking about your taxes a cyclist zooms past you with a very smug grin on her face.

The work commute isn’t something that’s going anywhere anytime soon (excuse the pun). And if you live within a 10-20km radius of work, you should seriously consider commuting by bicycle.

With more and more people moving closer to major cities, traffic and congestion is only set to get worse. If you’re on your bicycle, it’s total freedom. You can stop where you want, park where you want. Take in the sights and smells of the city and arrive at your destination feeling awake, alive and energized.

It’s not all smooth sailing though. The South African public along with its municipal governments have not yet embraced this commuting culture entirely. Bicycle lanes are few and far between, and you’ll need to be super spatially aware. Cars are not looking out for you. Ride as if you’re invisible to them and train your senses to anticipate other drivers movements.

For most commutes you’ll also be getting a work out. This means a little sweaty at times... which doesn’t always feel good 4 hours into the work day.  So you’ll either need a change of clothes and some deodorant packed. Or convince the workplace to hook up a shower (ideal). You can tell the boss you’ll be able to park 12 bicycles in the space of 1 car. Surely that’ll spark some interest. If you’re the boss reading this... then do it!

But workout also means endorphins! Ditch the coffee and arrive with an engaged and active mind as well as a smile on your face knowing you didn’t sit in traffic. Most bike commuters report losing 6 to 10 Kilograms during their first year in the saddle without changing their eating habits.

The byproduct of all this pedaling is great for the environment. A bicycle takes up less space, produces no emissions and and has a tiny manufacturing footprint when compared to a car. Buy the right bike and it’ll outlast a car no problem.

If you’re new to a city commute, we’d recommend setting incremental goals:

Start by commuting by bicycle at least once a week. This commitment will get you into it. Then take Sunday rides on your route. This will allow you a quiet road to get familiar with the obstacles and conditions. You’ll probably find you’ll want to commute more often by bicycle and the progression to a daily ride will be natural.

Remember to wear a helmet and always indicate your turns using a hand signal.

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