Cycling to work has, at least here in the UK, achieved new heights of respectability.
There are the health benefits, the money saving aspect, the chance to avoid sitting angrily in traffic with steam coming out of your ears, and the fact that many work places run a cycle to work scheme, which allows you to buy a brand spanking new bike whilst paying no tax on it whatsoever; if the number of people who claimed the cycle-to-work tax benefits actually cycled to work, trust me, our roads would now be clogged up with bikes, not cars.
But that’s another subject entirely.
Either way, you cannot deny that the cycling commuter is on the rise, and in true Darwinian fashion there is one who has risen above the crowds and carved out their own niche in the cycling habitat, whose biking behaviour on a twice daily basis singles them out as a rider of rare commitment; I am talking about the super-commuter.
I’m a walker to work not a cycler, for the simple reason that my commute by foot is approximately 8 minutes door-to-door: barely enough time to get my bike out of the shed. But as I stroll around the corner at the end of my street, my local super-commuter swings into view, predictably and timely, like one of Jim Carrey’s neighbours in the Truman Show. Judging by the direction he’s heading, his impressively wiry physique, and the fact that I know a man who knows him, I’m led to believe that he rides around 20-25 miles per commute (one way); even with my limited maths I can tell you that’s 40 or 50 miles a day, giving him a weekly commute total of 200-250 miles.
Add that to any mileage he racks up over the weekend for fun and we are talking one serious mile-muncher.
Hour after hour of riding has whittled him into a perfect union of man and bike, surely ill-equipped to deal with the everyday, mundane, non-bike-related tasks required when working for a living, but perfectly suited to negotiating the morning rush hour with minimal fuss. Locked in and machine like, it’s difficult to imagine him performing any task that doesn’t involve pedalling.
Can he even walk?
He rides with a fixed impassive expression, serene, in his element, and unflustered whether riding through sun, wind or rain. He’s small, wiry and weather beaten in a healthy ‘Norwegian fisherman’ kind of way, calf muscles lean and rippling, body fat minimal. He has the look of a man who’s never complained, moaned or whinged in his life.
If he has a cold or a dose of the dreaded man-flu, I suspect he simply leaves home 15 minutes early to mitigate any potential poor performance on the bike. If you asked him how many miles he rode last week he’d say, ‘well, I went on the club run on Sunday morning, that’s all’.
Apparently not counting the 200 odd miles he rode Monday to Friday; to the super-commuter this is just the daily commute, and hardly worth a mention.
On the bike, life is reduced to black and white, but I like to think that once our man reaches his place of work he is left floundering and incompetent as he attempts to negotiate the myriad grey areas to be found in the average work place. Away from the pure simplicity of the bike he is out of his element and clumsy. His colleagues have learnt that the super-commuter’s serotonin levels will drop as the day passes, rendering him grumpy and irritable, until by late afternoon he is rendered uncooperative and incomprehensible by his drug like need for vigorous aerobic exercise.
Once released from the constrictions of a day at work he is back on the bike and emitting the calm demeanour of a Zen Buddhist, busily righting the imbalance brought on by a desk job in a stuffy office, and a dozen colleagues who think that a reduction in the price of a litre of petrol is the solution to the stress of the morning commute.
The super-commuter knows differently.