During the COVID-19 pandemic, cycling boomed as people turned to two wheels to get their daily exercise. As we slowly switch from working at home to returning to the office, many have continued to cycle and joined the ranks of commuters for their journey to work. Commuting by bike has become the new normal for millions of people and not only keeps you healthy but saves you money and does your bit to help save the planet.
If you're contemplating making the switch to a mountain bike or gravel bike as your daily mode of transport, we have all the tips you need on the best bike lights to the best frame bags from a seasoned commuter.
Christina Gaiger commutes into Edinburgh every day, regardless of the weather, and very rarely skips cycling to the daily grind. I joined her for her morning ride and found out more about what it takes to motivate yourself on an early morning and what advice she has for an all-new bike commuter.
Christina lives in the stunningly beautiful village of Carlops in the Scottish Borders which for her route is around 28 km from Edinburgh. It was a choice she made with her firefighter husband Chris back in 2018, deciding to flip life around and move out of the city and into the countryside. Committing to using the 28 km there and back commutes for fitness and training rides for the various sportives and epic rides they regularly participate in.
I arranged to meet Christina at her home, not at her usual 6 am start, a more reasonable hour, with daylight. The day started in beautiful sunshine that lit up the stunning backdrop of the Pentland Hills which sit basically in her back garden. However, with it being Scotland we quickly got hit with the typical four seasons in one day weather, highlighting the need for preparation and proper kit when commuting.
As we set off bizarrely in the opposite direction, south away from Edinburgh, Christina told me that "the route had been finely tuned and is a balance between road traffic, safety and enjoying the commute as a stand-alone cycle; not just a means of getting from A to B." The 'enjoyment' came quickly as we hit a punchy climb that takes us to a beautiful elevated 8 km stretch of road known as ‘the Moor Road’. Christina tells me that she frequently encounters low-lying fog that lingers in the valleys, giving a feeling of being on top of the world. "I often have to pinch myself or stop to take a photo as a reminder of how lucky I am that this is my daily commute."
As we ride along the Moor Road she chats more about her daily ride "some days I think I am completely nuts, it’s 6 am, the alarm is going off, it’s dark outside, I can hear the rain lashing on the window, and I’ve just remembered that I didn’t hang up my overshoes to dry. I can’t press snooze for a third time so drag myself out of bed and get layered up. There’s a sense of empowerment as I hit the road, I clip in and think - let’s do this."
After around twenty minutes we hit the first local town and the first rush hour traffic and after the open roads, we are suddenly paying close attention to our road position and immediate surroundings. Though less scenic, seeing other commuters stuck in their cars makes me feel grateful for being on a bike as we quickly pass the queues.
Christina tells me more about how she makes her ride more manageable, "I set multiple bite-size segments, and the kilometers fly by, and in no time I'm hitting the outskirts of Edinburgh. Sometimes at this point, if cycling with my partner it’s game on as we hit some of the Strava segments, there's a few climbs and we find ourselves racing up in the early hours of the morning." It certainly gets my heart going as she opens up the afterburners in a show of her commuting power. Luckily for me, it's pretty much downhill cruising afterwards into Edinburgh city center and we arrive at her office around an hour after departing.
Before Christina headed off for her day's work, we sat down for a coffee and she shared her top tips for commuting by bike, which we will share soon in another article.
If you’re not already inspired to give it a go she shared one more fact with me "commuting five days a week, 28 km each way, saves approximately 1800 kg of CO2 emissions per year over driving my Ford Focus. That's the equivalent of planting 83 trees per year and saving approx. £1,100 in fuel. In terms of the climate emergency, the estimations highlight the importance of active travel."