Richard has cycled from a young age, but we caught up with him to see what made him switch to a Brompton and how it has benefited his life:
What made you consider taking up cycling?
I have always enjoyed cycling, whilst growing up I was lucky enough to have new bikes. Each new bike marked the next stage in my cycling adventure.
When I went to university, cycling took a back seat but I got back into it initially for commuting to work. Living in Brixton and working in Westminster offered a great cycle commute. Things got more serious when road cycling became more popular (around 2009/10) – great news for me as my friends all bought bikes. Now I had a group to ride with. We all entered into Sportives and enjoyed regular training rides in the Cotswolds.
My commute from Bristol to Wallingford (Oxfordshire) was largely via train and then taking the company bus from Didcot station. Recently the bus has been cut due to the down turn in oil and gas (which is the market that I work in). As a result I had to reconsider how I was to fill the transport gap between Didcot and the office in Wallingford. The route is mainly via country roads and only a 26km return journey.
Public bus wasn’t really an option due to the cost, and schedule.
Cycling provides regular exercise into my day as well as the mental downtime after work. So I physically and mentally, feel better as a direct result of cycling to work.
What made you go for a Brompton?
First question really is ‘why a folding bike?’
I have taken bikes on trains for around 10 years as part of my commute. Each time my bike sustained regular dinks and scratches as a result of storing it in the bike carriage. I wasn’t prepared to risk my carbon road bike by using it as part of a regular commute – not to mention the general wear on a bike. On top of that, there is the avoided fuss in terms of running down the end of the train and the risk of finding a full bike carriage – ever increasing as more people take to two wheels!
So a folding bike was definitely needed.
Why a Brompton? Three reasons why Brompton makes me smile;
It works – by this I mean, the engineering is right. A folding bike has to be functional, it has to be easy and it has to fold into something that can be carried on and off of trains / buses etc. Also it has to be quick to ride. I have touring handle bars which allow that ‘drop down’ feel – similar to my road bike.
The pedigree – British made is really important to me. Supporting UK engineering, for me, is valuable and puts Brompton ahead of the game.
Aesthetics – folding bikes can look petty horrendous. The Brompton doesn’t. It’s plucky and has a nice amount of attitude.
How did you find out about the Cycle to Work scheme?
I have bought a couple of bikes via the cycle scheme before. My present employer had a poster next to the coffee machine. It makes a lot of sense if your going to spend a reasonable amount of cash on a bike.
Can you describe your daily commute and how your Brompton helps with this?
I live approx 5km from Swindon station. It takes me around 15 mins from home to the station via the extensive Swindon cycle network. Much quicker than taking the car due to morning traffic.
I arrive at the station, often with the 07:28 train pulling in. Not to worry – I know I can jump on the train anywhere with my Brompton – rather than having to run down to the cycle carriage. I also know that I can fold the Brompton in under 10 secs. Geeky – yes! Plenty of time, therefore, to board the train!
15 mins later and I’m at Didcot Parkway. Unfolding the bike is a breeze and I’m quickly cycling past the bus stop (still no bus).
Once past the first kilometre, I’m onto country roads. The landscape is in constant flux – always with something new to see. A few small hills are a good chance to get out of that saddle and work a little harder to keep up the pace. The touring handlebars of the Brompton (with the slight drop down position) are a nice reminder of my road bike. The speed and handling is great – slick tyres are the way to go!
I arrive at the office 25 min after leaving Didcot. Quickly fold and store the bike next to my desk. Pride of place. Secure, dry and warm! Total ride time is around 40 mins covering 13 km. I’m refreshed and ready for the day. At the end of the day I do that in reverse so that I ride 100 km per week.
What do you love about cycling?
Quite simply it’s the fact that I can cover good distances, under my own steam, at a pace that allows me to connect with my surroundings.
Out of the city a car is faster, but not as rewarding!
Also, using my bike as a source of regular exercise is important to help maintain a good base fitness. I have a 17 month old boy – so time is very limited. Exercise during the commute just makes a lot of sense.
If you didn’t cycle with your Brompton what would your commute look like?
Not cycling would make my commute significantly slower. I like public transport, but only when it’s done properly. The buses just don’t connect with the trains so I would spend a lot of time waiting at each connection. Life is too short!
I would spend approx. an additional 30 mins in the morning and another 45 mins en route home. 1 hour 15 mins is a huge chunk of time and, more than that, it means I get to bath and do bedtime for my son!
If you could give any advice on those considering taking up cycling what would it be?
Invest as much as you can afford on the bike and some essentials e.g. helmet, lights, Lycra shorts – go for comfort, windproof/waterproof top (high viz) – and good gloves for winter riding. If you’re going to leave your bike you will need a decent lock.
What type of cycling will you be doing? Does it involve trains/buses, or purely road/off-road. If in doubt by more than one bike to suit your needs.
Learn basic bike mechanics – save money and get yourself out of roadside issues.
If your commute is in traffic heavy and you’re not very confident – take a cycle proficiency course, and cycle in a group, use google maps or sustrans.org to find best routes for bikes.
Stop at the lights. Follow the Highway Code and stay safe. Maintain good road presence. Cars don’t own the road we share it!