Cycling: Cheerful and Fit?

Zoe Williams, in the Guardian, reports on how to cycle for best results-“don’t wear a fitness tracker, plan your route so there are fewer junctions and remember you won’t get up any speed wearing tweed”. November 2020.

If you have any sort of journey to work at the moment, it’s likely you will have thought about a bicycle commute. And likely, if you have, you’ve concluded that it’s a little bit longer than you’d prefer (otherwise you’d have been doing it all along) and that you need to dangle some reward in front of yourself, such as, “It’ll make me really fit.” (Meanwhile, if you’re working from home for lockdown, you may be eyeing up your bike as a means of escaping reality, and getting fit at the same time.)

The truth is, cycling to work is in a different league from club cycling. It may cheer you up, count as moderate exercise and be better than nothing, but it won’t hugely boost your fitness levels for the following three reasons: you go slowly so you don’t get sweaty and ruin your work clothes; you endlessly stop and start, because of traffic lights; you only use your leg muscles, rather than your core or arms (and you only use half your leg muscles at that).

So, to take those in no particular order: do not under any circumstances wear a fitness tracker to monitor your heart rate, for the sake of morale or the challenge. I tried that, and ended up shooting a load of traffic lights, because I wanted to stay in my zone. Then I got stopped by a police officer, who said, “Do you know what you just did?” And I said, “Yes”, and she said, “Then why did you do it?” And I was about to say, “Because I was trying to stay in cardio rather than drop down to fat burn,” but it struck me that she might give me two tickets, one for shooting the light and the other for being an arsehole, so I just said, “Sorry” and rode off 50 quid (but no actual pounds) lighter.

Instead, plan your route so that there are fewer junctions. Johnny McEvoy, ex-pro road cyclist, suggests: “Pick a safe section and go for it as fast as you can – a phone app [like Strava] will time you – then challenge colleagues to beat your time.” I’ve no idea how this would go down in the workplace, or what kind of WhatsApp sub-groups it would generate. So I’m going to leave it to you as to whether you do this.

Kerry MacPhee, professional mountain biker (both she and McEvoy are ambassadors for, is uncompromising on the work clothes point: you’re not going to get up any speed in tweed (or whatever people wear to the office): “The solution for lazy cyclists is to use bike packing gear to stow your work clothes in.” Try panniers or a neat backpack.

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