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Friday, 30 June 2017

I want to ride my bicycle: For health and wealth

The biggest change to my life since moving house three years ago is that I can ride my bike to work every day. Apart from saving a bucket load of money I feel so much better. And hungrier. And a lot more likely to die. And I sing a lot of Queen.

Before I became a bike rider, I was pretty terrified about the concept of riding on roads with cars, who are obviously jerks according to most of the comments on news articles. My route to work takes me down the main road of the CBD, which is also where the majority of the busses are picking up and setting down. The bike lane is almost permanently blocked down that road, which means easing around the busses and out into traffic.

There are a lot of people out there who aren't particularly fond of the idea of sharing the road with a cyclist. Riding down that particular stretch of road means constantly looking behind you for a decent sized gap to slide out into traffic, generally trying to pick someone who will graciously give you the road for a few seconds. Coming up to an intersection I'm more worried about the idiot next to me gunning it, pulling in front of me and then hauling on the brakes to turn left. The trip home through town means watching out for pedestrians who are so engrossed in their phone they don't think to check the bike lane before stepping out onto the road. Waiting for two pedestrian walk cycles because it is the only safe option for 'turning right' at one specific intersection gets me dirty looks from everyone. And I've been heckled by pedestrians.

Despite how much I whinge about my near death experiences, it's actually really nice riding to and from work, and people are mostly not jerks. It just doesn't make a good story to come home and say "Wow, over 100 cars drove past me today and gave me a decent amount of space". Whinging about that jerk who tried to kill you by screaming around a blind corner and then panicking and slamming on the brakes blocking the entire road is a much better story.

Before I started riding I only heard the scary stories, because they are exciting and memorable. It's not that interesting to tell your friends about the warm quiet burn in your legs and lungs that makes you feel alive. That you walk into work feeling awake. That you can leave the office tired, grumpy and ready for a nap and be energised by the time you get home. Or that the path home is slightly downhill and flanked by trees that shade you from the sun and the rain and just look so darn pretty. Those things happen to.

Source: http://www.n2e.org/problems/why-you-should-ride-a-bike/

Safety is sexy

I think what people miss when they think about the dangers of riding a bike, is that every single one of the issues I've faced could have happened in a car. I've seen just as many car-on-car near-misses as car-on-bike near misses. I'm not a scared rookie anymore, I don't ride with one curb-side earphones in, I check two or three times before pulling out into traffic, and I'm on the brakes at every intersection even when I know the cars have a stop sign. I also happily glare down drivers trying to enter roundabouts in front of me, and I'll swear at (and flip off) anyone who drives too close. It probably doesn't help the cyclist-driver war, but it makes me feel better when my heart is trying to leap out of my chest.

On my bike I'm aware of how fast I'm going. I feel the wind in my face, and I feel my bike start to shake a little bit or wiggle wildly if I try to pedal in low gear at high speeds. In my car the only indication of how fast I'm going is that little needle on the speedo. I'm also aware in my car that my accelerator and brakes are much more powerful and likely to get me out of trouble. On my bike my accelerator (legs) and brakes (fingers, and core strength that keeps me from going over the handle bars) aren't as great so I need to be more aware of my surroundings.

Since I am aware of my surroundings, I feel pretty darn safe. I'm a adult and I can take care of myself, and I am responsible for my own safety. Whether I'm in a car or on my bike I can't control the choices of people around me. That mentality has been the key difference for feeling safe on the road.

Burning all them calories

I'm also a lot hungrier thanks to riding. I've had to up the value of my meals to balance the fact that I'm riding over 16 kilometres every day. I've try to be thrifty about it by adding diced cashews to breakfast, but diced cashews are a slippery slope to porridge with strawberries, blueberries, chia seeds, honey and diced cashews. And trading toasted sandwiches for homemade chicken stir-fry twice a week. And homemade chicken Hawaiian. I've still kept a few tricks though, like adding lentils and grated carrot to pasta.

The thing that amuses me is that despite eating more, heavier foods to keep up with my appetite I still can't gain enough weight to kick over the magical 60kg. Since the weight on the scales isn't actually a measure of self worth I didn't bother buying a set when I moved out but I weigh myself every time I donate blood. I also know that according to the mirror I'm leaner, with better muscle tone in my legs, butt and even arms. According to my legs, heart and lungs I'm getting fitter because I don't feel like a shaky blob of jelly when I get home.

Hey wait, this is a personal finance blog

The best part about riding my bike to work is that I can now happily skip over that $22 p/week gym membership I was going to get. Considering I ride 80 kilometres a week I don't need anymore cardio. I even get to chuckle to myself as I watch people pull up to the 'fitness club' in their cars, and sweat on their stationary bikes and treadmills whilst I'm enjoying the outdoors and getting to work. 

On top of that $22 p/week I'm not spending, I also get to save $34 p/week on the bus, or $100+ per week (mostly parking fees) if I was crazy enough to drive. Any extra I'm splashing out on filling healthy foods is still less than I'm saving. Plus I really love food, so I'd probably be splashing out anyway.

Even after having my bike stolen back in January I'm much further ahead on my finances by riding than any other kind of commuting (well, except walking). I spent just under $800 on my new bike including accessories (and replacing the light that was stolen in the first week!). After riding to work for six months I've saved $816 on bus fare, so it's all money in my pocket from here!

Source: http://www.streamlinerefinance.net/cost-of-commuting.html

Finally, I feel better. Not just physically, but mentally. I don't feel like taking a power nap the second I sit down at my desk. I don't spend the bus ride home scrolling the meaningless Facebook posts, or succumbing to road rage. I still grump when people risk my life to shave five seconds off their commute, but I'm generally a little out of breath and I can't get properly worked up. When I was suffering through an hour long bus ride to and from work, I got to reflect on the time I was wasting and it was pretty darn depressing. I don't feel like my ride home is wasted, and I still have enough spare brain space to plan these soap-box soliloquies while I watch out for cars, and laugh at people failing terribly at golf. 

Even more than saving a couple of grand each year, having the appetite to really enjoy my delicious food and keeping myself physically and mentally healthy, I love cruising past cars. I've had cars and trucks overtake me multiple times in one trip because while they're stuck in traffic, or waiting at a red light, I'm sneaking down the bike path. It's just the icing on the cake, to know that my ride home takes about the same amount of time as trying to do it in a car would.

For health and wealth - you should get a bike. On the weekend I plan to ride mine to the bakery. It'll probably be bad for my wallet and my physical health, but I won't mind while I'm relaxing in the sun with coffee and a danish.


  1. Wow, 16 kms! You must be really fit! Also, what a great way to save money. I'm too scared to ride a bike on the road (I'm also scared to drive) but I do spin classes in the gym and I love it.

    P.S. You and my boyfriend will get along well - fishing and Queen!

    1. Yes - someone got the Queen reference! :D

      It's 8kms each way, so that makes it a lot easier - I don't think I've ever done sixteen in one hit. Although I did work out that I ride over 100kms each week.

      Works out great when I'm pigging out on muffins :D

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