I’ve been cycling for commuting and practical purposes for almost a decade now.
In that time, I’ve heard almost every conceivable excuse from friends, family and colleagues as to why they do not or can not ride a bicycle.
Yes, I have heard the odd legitimate excuse, like medical or health reasons, but there are also an awful lot of cop-outs used.
So, below are a list of the five most common excuses – and how you can combat them and still ride.
1) “It’s too far to ride and there’s too many hills.”
Using a standard and inexpensive commuting bicycle, distances of under 10km are more than doable for a person of average fitness and stamina. Although the first few rides might feel like a challenge, within a week or two your fitness will scale up and after a while the commute will seem like nothing.
But what do you do if the route to work is longer and/or hilly, so much so that you’d rather just jump in a car and drive instead? There’s two solutions.
Firstly, you could commute using a light weight road bike with narrow, high pressure road tyres and carry less belongings on you.
Or you could use an electric assist/pedelec bicycle. These ‘ebikes’ make those longer, hilly commutes a breeze and have automatic or manual electric assistance modes to help out when you’re tackling a long, steep hill.
They aren’t cheap but will pay themselves off many times over if you stick to it.
2) “It’s too cold/hot to ride.”
This one is a common complaint, and one that is generally more of a mental barrier than a real one. I ride all 12 months of the year, rain, hail or shine. Honestly, once you’re outside and moving the weather really isn’t as big of a factor as many believe.
My simple solution is to adapt to the weather and make yourself comfortable.
This means, for example, wearing long-sleeve, breathable jerseys and a cycle cap during summer to protect you from harmful UV radiation and heat, and a large, chilled water bottle for the ride.
In winter, as discussed in a previous article, simple solutions include a good quality rain jacket, winter cycle cap, base layers and rain-proof overshoes to keep your feet dry and warm.
3. “I have to carry lots of things – it’s just not practical.”
First of all, only carry the essentials on your daily ride. Doing so makes life (and hills) much easier.
I like to do two big rides during the week. On Monday morning, I bring a week’s worth of fresh clothes into work, and on Friday evening I bring them home again. I’d leave all other items that I needed at work.
This meant that for 80 per cent of my commutes to and from work, I would only need to carry my phone, wallet and a small tool kit.
For the two long rides during the week, and for those who don’t have the luxury of storage lockers and change rooms at work, I recommend using a rear pannier rack and good quality, waterproof pannier bags over a backpack.
Pannier bags are a practical solution to carrying larger, heavier loads on a bicycle as they keep the weight low, thus the bike stable, and off your back.
4. “I have children that are too young to ride.”
Believe it or not, people in countries with high numbers of cyclists manage to get along just fine, even when they have very young children. How is this possible? There’s a number of practical and safe solutions on the market.
These include seats for children that are located in front of the adult for safety and to allow visibility, bicycle trailers with enclosures that protect young ones from the elements, tag-along bikes and systems, and cargo bicycles with seats.
Of course, practical matters aside, there’s also the real and perceived risk to children while using our roads due to the generally low quality of bicycle infrastructure provided throughout Australia.
I know many people that, upon discussing this topic, have told me that they’d love to ride with their children, but they simply felt that it was too risky on our roads.
Ultimately parents will decide what risks they are willing to take, but there are still options to ride with your children in safety such as using separated paths away from the road and riding on quiet local streets.
5. “I don’t like arriving at work sweaty and with ‘helmet hair’.”
Unfortunately, this cop-out is heard more frequently than I’d like to hear.
I don’t deny that wearing a helmet may mess up certain hairstyles, and I understand that some members of our society place a great emphasis on personal presentation.
My solution has been to always shower and change at work after the ride before going into the office, but many do not have the luxury of these end-of-trip facilities.
Here’s some other simple solutions to try: wear lightweight and breathable cycling clothes and get changed when you arrive, use a good quality helmet that has lots of ventilation, ride at a more relaxed pace, experiment with low maintenance hairstyles, and use wet wipes as a convenient ‘instant shower’ to freshen up post-ride.
As a final note, I want to point out that I am all too aware of the real, underlying reasons why people don’t ride, even though many aren’t even aware of this themselves.
Simply put, riding a bike isn’t always easy or fun in Australian towns and cities because of the general poor quality of infrastructure and end-of-trip facilities.
Our local and state governments, through a combination of ignorance, incompetence and neglect, have done little to facilitate and encourage practical, daily cycling here in Australia.
I’ve discussed this already in previous articles, and I will continue to bring it up, because it needs to change before we’ll see any real improvements.