Want to make your commute easier? Start early.
In the last few months I’ve wound back the time of day I set off for the office from somewhere between 7 and 7:30 to nearer 6:30. Yesterday, I hit the road just before 6:30.
It was glorious.
An early start makes bike commuting quicker, easier and more fun.
Beat the traffic
For starters, there’s far less traffic. For the most part traffic doesn’t bother me much. After 20 years of riding in cities I think I’m a pretty competent be-part-of-the-traffic-flow urban cyclist.
But even if it’s not a hazard, traffic gets in the way. A 15-car queue at the lights is harder to pass than a three-car queue. There’s more chance of getting through a sequence of synchronized lights if you can keep your speed up between them, and that’s not going to happen in stop-start traffic; and so on.
The early start is good for about five minutes off my time for the 32km (20 miles) to the office. That’s a few more minutes to catch up with overnight emails and plan my day before anyone else gets into the office.
Beat the hazards
I have no statistics to back this up but it also feels like the motor vehicles I’m sharing the road with are safer. I’m most of the way to the office before the school run hour starts; drivers distracted by their kids are a notorious hazard. Don’t get me started on all those kids getting driven to school because the roads are so dangerous because of all those 4WDs ferrying kids to school…
Between 6:30 and 7:30, though, drivers are just aiming to get to work, and the traffic is light enough that they’re not all fuming about being stuck in it. I’m convinced that the sheer awfulness of peak-hour driving is a major source of road rage. Definitely worth avoiding.
Beat the heat
It’s not an issue right now, but in a few months the early start will get me out of the heat of a Sydney summer and into the cool of the morning. Right now, though, it’s the coldest part of the day, before the sun is up high enough to make a difference. Yesterday, it was 6°C at 6:30, which is cold by local standards.
This won’t be a problem for UK readers, but before you think, “Stop grizzling about the Aussie sunshine, Stevenson,” it’s not unusual for summer mornings to be well into the high 20s by 9 am. Combine that with our typical high humidity and things get a bit sticky and unpleasant.
Beat the load
While I’m musing on commuting, I’ve finally got my act together to stop carrying so much crap around. I used to lug a full change of clothing, but I’ve found it’s far more pleasant to take public transport once or twice a week and swap the previous week’s dirty clothes for a clean set.
This is one of those techniques that ‘how to commute’ articles always contain and I’ve always been skeptical about ever being this organised. But I got thoroughly sick of carrying a backpack, and there’s no simple way of mounting panniers on my trusty Planet X Superlight team.
I still need to carry more than I can stuff into my pockets, so I grabbed one of these from the local shop.
It’s a Vaude Off Road Bag H2O. It’s just big enough for my lunch and a few other bits and pieces and it sits far enough behind the saddle that it’s not in the way. Best of all, it comes with its own frame and a Rixen & Kaul KlickFix mount so it’s dead easy to take off the bike when you’re not using it.