Did you know the average cyclist has the fitness levels of someone ten years their junior? So it’s no wonder that Britain now has around 27 million cyclists leaving the car behind and embracing the outdoors. Cycling isn’t only a way to maintain your health and fitness levels, though. This environmentally-friendly means of transport can also save you thousands in car costs, bus fares and gym memberships.
- Where to find the best value bikes
- Essential kit
- Save on gym membership
- Cycling to work
- Warning – Bike theft
Where to find the best value bikes
You don’t need a top-of-the-range, Chris Hoy-style road bike to enjoy the cycling experience. In fact you can get a really decent bike for around about £200. If you’re hoping to use your bike to cycle to work, as well as for leisure and off-road riding at the weekends, a hybrid is a really good option. Hybrid bikes take some of the tougher elements of mountain bikes, but are built with riding on the road in mind.
Evans Cycles, Halfords and Homebase all stock a great range of bikes, and they all have sales running at the moment. Hybrid bikes in the sale start from £224.99 at Evans Cycles, and £119.99 in Halfords. They are also great places to go for advice, with knowledgeable and helpful staff who can point you in the direction of the right kind of bike for you.
If you’re really looking for a bargain, you could always consider a good-quality second-hand bike. Check out ads in your local area, or bike hire shops that are selling off older models (these will have a particularly good service record). Of course sites like Gumtree are always worth a look, and if you live in a large town or city you could try a police auction.
OK, so now you’ve got your bike there are a few other things you’ll need. Safety-wise you’ll need a decent helmet, a good solid bike lock, some lights and reflective clothes/armbands etc. You’ll be able to get all those bits in Evans and Halfords too, but Amazon.co.uk is definitely worth a look as it’s probably the most competitive on price.
The average family is said to spend more than £1,200 on petrol and over £460 on insurance every year. If you drive to work then you can add to this the cost of parking your car once you reach your destination, car tax, servicing and extra costs, such as the congestion charge for all those driving in London. That way you have an average expenditure of £2,200. It’s best not to think about the thousands you will also spend every four years on a new car.
Bike insurance is significantly cheaper and can save you more money in the long run. Bike theft is such a big problem that insurance cover is often already included in your home insurance. However, insurance, including both theft and third party cover, will be no more than around £30 a year (see our bicycle insurance article for further details). Altogether this takes the average price of cycling to just over £300, saving you a total of £1,900 a year.
Save on gym membership
Cycling to work is also a great way to multitask, as you not only get from A to B, but complete a full workout at the same time, saving you a trip to the gym. But the benefits don’t stop there as you save around £1,200 a year on gym membership and you enjoy the fresh air and change of scenery that the real thing offers. Not only are you saving money on a gym membership, but the health benefits of cycling will also save, and make, money for you in the long term.
Cycling to work
Many of us are put off taking our bike to work because of the logistics involved. It’s getting easier all the time though – more and more offices have places for you to shower when you arrive, and most importantly somewhere secure for you to leave your bike.
Planning your route is important, and safety is of course paramount. Try to stick to cycle lanes as much as possible, particularly if you’re on busier roads – remember that the quickest route might not necessarily be the safest.
For Londoners, TfL gives out free cycle guides covering the whole of the city so you can plan your route.
If you’re unfamiliar with the area through which you’ll be cycling on the way to work, why not scout out the roads in the car at quieter times – like the weekends – to get a better idea of the safest route?
If you live in London you’ll probably be aware of the TfL initiative to get more people out on their bikes. The so-called ‘Boris bikes’ are for hire across the centre of the capital.
There are various hubs spread over zone one where you can pick up and drop-off bikes and you just pay for your usage. Its a great way to try out cycling in London before you buy yourself a bike.
If you’re going the whole way and taking your own bike to work, you’ll be pleased to know that TfL has also introduced ‘bicycle superhighways’. Four are up and running now, with eight more to follow by 2015. TfL also has a special offers page for cyclists, so you can get at least 10% discount at various cycle shops on bikes and accessories.
Don’t forget, even if the distance from your workplace is too far to cycle the entire way, you can still get on your bike. Cycling to the train station will save you parking costs, as well as making sure you don’t miss your train due to the morning rush hour traffic.
Folded bicycles can now be taken free of charge on any train network at any time, with some restrictions on non-folded bicycles during peak travel times on London underground services.
Warning – Bike theft
The best locks aren’t necessarily the most expensive…
- If you’ve been filled with enthusiasm by our article and you’re going to get cycling straight away, you must be aware of the huge problem with bike theft in the UK, especially in the bigger cities.
- The only way to ensure someone doesn’t walk off with your bike, and all your good intentions, is to get a sturdy bike lock. This website will tell you which locks have been safety certified. Basically, they’re rated by how long they resisted attack. The minimum resistance you need is one minute and to protect you against those really determined thieves, the government recommends a lock that can resist up to five minutes.
- The best locks aren’t necessarily the most expensive, but the government reckons that you’ll need to ditch the cheaper chain locks and go for a hardened-steel D lock to ensure someone else doesn’t ride off into the sunset on your bike.
- You can get these solid, secure, tested bike locks online at Halfords or Cycle express, or check out your local bike store.