Cycling 10: Chris of Life Cycle

Chris Lewthwaite, a Queensland-based cyclist, maintains the blog life cycle. His posts, often about awe-inspiring rides through lush, leafy landscapes, are always accompanied by stunning photographs. Here are his responses to my 10 questions about commuter cycling…

How long have you been commuting by bicycle, and what made you decide to do it?

I have been officially riding to work since 1999, but I was doing "other" transportational riding before that.  In fact, when I was growing up in the country, it wasn’t unusual for me to ride to the next town to visit friends or do the family’s shopping.

I started riding to work specifically because I got frustrated with the inefficiency of public transport in this city [the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia], and didn’t want to pay mega bucks for a car (I was a student at the time).  I figured that if I was already riding up 1,000 metre mountains on weekends, a ride to work or uni shouldn’t pose any problems.

Can you give a brief description of your route?

At present it’s a 17km [10.5 miles] round trip, totally flat. Partially on suburban streets, and partially on (usually gridlocked) arterials.  I’d prefer it was longer and hillier, and often do extra riding before or after work to add some distance.  I once had a commute that was a 47km [29.2 miles] round trip, and rode it every day.

What’s the best thing about commuting by bicycle?

Time, money and convenience.  I am not
about to pay whatever it costs to buy a car just to spend an hour each
day sitting in gridlock — especially when I can ride home in under 20
minutes.  I like the fact that if I break down, I can usually fix it
myself (or at least do enough to get out of trouble).

I also like the fact that it doesn’t pollute or add to traffic congestion, but I regard that as more of a side benefit. I think if I was riding to work solely for that reason, I would have given up by now.

And the worst?

I
had six flat tyres in the month of January 2006, so I’d say that.  I
have no trouble fixing them (I’ve had plenty of practise with all the
debris on the roads around here), but they do frustrate me.  The heat
and humidity during summer (which lasts for six months in Queensland)
really bugs me too. I could also whine about the notoriously bad
Queensland drivers, but from what I’ve heard they’d annoy me just as
much if I was driving a car.


What sort of bike do you ride?

I ride a hybrid.  It’s more efficient than
a mountain bike, but still sturdy enough to cope with what pass for
"roads" around here, as well as the fact that the Gold Coast City
Council always seem to be digging something up.

What’s your favourite piece of cycling kit/clothing/gadget?
I just love my E6 headlight and the Schidt hub dynamo that powers it.
It’s so good to have a light that doesn’t rely on batteries and is
therefore always ready for spontaneous night riding.  I also don’t have
to worry about whether the batteries have enough charge left to get
home if it’s dark.

Helmet or no helmet?

I wear a helmet because it takes about two
seconds to put on and I appreciate the protection it offers.  I am,
however, aware of its limitations, and don’t necessarily support the
mandatory helmet legislation in this country.

Cycle lane or no cycle lane?
If the road is wide enough to share with the addition of a painted
line, it’s wide enough to share without one. Some of my commute has a
cycle lane, some of it doesn’t — and I don’t really feel as though it
makes much difference either way.

Are you a member of any cycling organisations/clubs? If so, which ones?
At present I’m a member of Audax Australia, which organises
long-distance cycling events. In the past I’ve been a member of
various advocacy groups, but for a number of reasons I’ve become a
little disillusioned with that scene in recent years.

What would you say to convince someone who is considering commuting by bicycle to get on board their bike?
Simply to try it, and if there’s anything you don’t understand or find difficult, just ask an experienced
commuter.
Most are only too willing to help, and will usually have a practical
answer to your question. One thing to be aware of, however, is the
number of self-appointed "experts" out there who think they know what
you "should" be doing, but don’t have the experience to back it up.
Cycling is an activity that seems to attract a lot of those people for
some reason.

Chris, 30, is
an accountant, who lives on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.  His blog is at
http://life-cycle.blogspot.com
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