Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole ValleyMuddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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Commuter – it’s a different kind of cycling altogether

Posted by Matt | July 1, 2009 | 11 comments so far

I don’t commute very often; or rather, I don’t commute by bike very often really, about once a week and then only recently. It’s something I’m intending to keep at though even if it’s needed a bit of a readjustment of my riding.

My route takes me from Bookham, down the Lower Road to Leatherhead and from there on the cycle path to Pixham Lane where I pick up the A25 to Reigate and Redhill. All tarmac based which was why I was so keen to get my freak bike built up. On the whole, that bike is pretty well suited to the job although the stem is a bit over-long and I could do with flat bars too. Just for the look.

Having done it a few times now I’ve started to notice a few things. First, starting out putting miles in on busy roads took quite a bit of getting used to. The A25 really is no place for the faint-hearted, in fact come darker evenings I’ll probably switch to off-roading along the North Downs Way.

Yesterday I counted 86 vehicles passed me between Pixham Lane and the roundabout at Betchworth. That’s 86 vehicles going in my direction over about 12 minutes or so at 7:20 in the morning which if you think about it is a pretty big number. Especially as they were travelling much faster than me. Cue musings on how nice things would be if they were all on push-bikes.

What I noticed wasn’t just the number of vehicles on the road but the noise that came with them. My bike was humming quietly along but the cacophony from the cars and trucks was something else. Not a pleasant experience but not one I’d be keen to drown out with iPod sounds either. You really start to use your ears much more, listening out for oncoming vehicles and trying to build a kind of sixth-sense of awareness around you.

It’s not just the traffic you notice though. With the flat-iron heat of the last few days the feeling of being out early on a summer morning with just the lightest of cycling clothing is worth the effort of getting up early all on its own. What a feeling of freedom! Coming back in the evening the heat was another matter, especially coming up off the tarmac – it was terrific! I could literally feel the burn for a change with the roiling heat rising up to meet me and by the time I got home after a good effort of a ride my face was properly glowing. And drenched in sweat.

Another thing I’ve noticed is my pedalling action on the road. Normally I don’t give it much thought but with the steady cadence it becomes more apparant what’s going on. Rather than mash the pedals I’ve tried much more to smooth out my pedal action, pulling back much harder than I would normally. Over a 14 mile ride of constant pedalling (I try to avoid free-wheeling on the road) I think it really helps improve your leg strength, or so I hope.

I’ve noticed too that my left foot turns out slightly, a legacy from years of school commuting where the non-driveside crank on my bike had a distinct bend in it after—ahem—a collision with an immovable object. I never got it fixed but the results seem to have stuck with me it seems. I might adjust my cleats to see if this helps.

What I haven’t been able to fathom so far though is the number of riders I see along the A24 between Leatherhead and Dorking who seem to ignore the excellent cycle paths provided for them. On many occasions driving I’ve seen riders putting themselves at some risk by actually riding in the road itself – one rider I see even does this in the depths of winter.

It’s not that cyclists are barred from using A-roads but this seems daft. It’s a fast dual carriageway where people tend not to expect cyclists to be and I’ve seen many occasions when drivers have pulled out expectedly to avoid riders. Personally I think the riders are mad as in this instance (as opposed to my recent run-in) there’s excellent cycle path facilities a safe distance from the busy traffic.

For the same reason I refuse to ride up Young Street, preferring instead to ride into Leatherhead and through the town centre, yet I do occasionally see riders creeping up the hill to Bookham while traffic flashes past at 70mph. Having the right to ride something doesn’t always make it sensible to do so if you ask me. It’s like people who say that if a car pulls out from a side road into oncoming traffic it’s the person joining the traffic who’s at fault. True, but it doesn’t help if you’re dead does it?

So there you go, just a few thoughts on commuting. It’s always good to break habits and getting out of the car and onto the bike occasionally is quite refreshing.

Matt

About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years he's now running a YT Industries Jeffsy 29er and a Bird AM Zero Boost.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 11 comments on ‘Commuter – it’s a different kind of cycling altogether’

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  1. KC says:

    I too have just started to ride to work and most, but not all involves battling against the London motorist.

    Noise is an issue but without tuning into the movement of others you are asking for it.

    Equally important is route selection as you say. I would rather travel a couple of miles extra and ride through Richmond Park than try a main artery into London. Another example is the route back wihich involves approaching the M25 Junc 9 roundabout from Chessington. Choices are; stick left and head down the dual carriageway and face 70mph + traffic; make a brave attempt to turn right and head towards Cobham before turning left at the ironworks to Leatherhead.

    I am fast thinking that a 3rd option is best; get off bike walk across road before roundabout and then cross road again to pick up the Cobham road. The risk of trying to use the r/b just seems to get bigger each week for me.

    One thing I have learned is that you need to be very positive in your actions in using both hand signs (all variations are possible) and road positioning and I always try to use high vis tops.

    All in all though the benefits outway the perils.

  2. Matt says:

    Keith, I agree with you about the roundabout. It’s about taking sensible risks, not pursuing a route because you’re entitled to.

    We’re all drivers and we know what drivers expect. Cyclists in the middle of busy roundabouts—particularly when the traffic is expecting to pick up speed for the dual carriageway and M-way—are not on the list of expected hazards.

    A short walk is the option I’d be choosing.

  3. Lee says:

    The one thing that makes me just want to scream at people I see commuting to work by Bike is wear a helmet (where they aren’t obviously!) Why would anyone choose to cycle down the A24 on the road without one. They are just mental. I could wear a nice helmet that will stand a chance of saving my life or I’ll just wear a little cap, Tommy Simpson style. Idiots.

    Keith – just as a tip, when you get to the big Roundabout if your on the ‘cycle’ path on the left, follow this round and go across the footbridge that brings you out at the top of the road that B&Q is situated in. Alternatively (and I don’t know where you live and what bike you are using to commute) you can turn left at the Star Pub and go across Ashtead common which is a lovely little ride, if not possibly out your way. Hope this helps.

  4. Andy C says:

    You can also pick-up Ashtead Common at the Fair Oak Lane (?) traffic lights just south of Chessington WoA, by branching left on a bridlepath, or even use Horton Country Park to link with the common, depending on your start point.

    I also have your slime tube for you on Sunday if you’re out. I will be on another loan bike from Cycleopedia, an aged, V-braked Stumpjumper that the guys there have recently rebuilt. They say I can keep it until the (mythical) Whyte makes an appearance, which is v decent of them.

  5. Dave says:

    Hey Andy, I think they might be trying to tell you something with that sort of loaner!

    Actually I’m sure it’ll be fine for a few months……;o)

  6. Andy C says:

    You’re dead right, Dave. “Try breaking that” was the parting comment from Paul the Manager. It’s a fairly hefty build, with double-walled bars, heavy duty rims etc. Clearly it’s my new jump bike, all I’ve got to do now is learn to jump!

  7. KC says:

    Thanks for the suggestions on routes. I have a road bike and I pass through Leatherhead to Fetcham / Bookham.

    I assume the cycle path and footbridge are a bit rough for a road bike but I notice there maybe a route though Leatherhead Golf Club.

    I might take a wander through there tonight.

    Knocked 3 minutes off my pb this morning on the route to work. Just 1 minute 33 seconds to go to get it done in the hour albeit nearly every traffic light was kind to me today.

    Hope to see you Sunday

  8. Gordo says:

    I commute 2 or 3 days pw on a road bike (Spec. allez) from Bookham to Chessington. The route is fab and fairly well away from busy traffic.

    The clever bits (emailed to me by rdjames [at] gotadsl.co.uk of the Kingston Cycling Campaign) are

    1. go to Leatherhead station and use the shared cycle path towards Kingston Road
    2. the cycle path from B&Q over the M25 and under the M25 roundabout.

    Its all on made up roads and no worries (apart from people pedalling in the opposite direction).

    I’ve been doing this for about 6 months and generally feel luckier than the fools sitting in the traffic on M25 – except yesterday I was getting soaked, whilst they were looking smug..

  9. Matt says:

    Gordon, very good tips – I’d forgotten about the M25 bridge and underpass near B&Q.

    Keith, if you head this way, here’s the link to Google maps showing what Gordon mentions. This will save your skin on that roundabout!!

  10. Gordo says:

    The fine chap at Kingston Cycling Campaign also gave me the following route – but I’ll need to nick my wife’s MTB to do it a my road bike would most probably fall apart.

    http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/270397

    The more straightforward route can be found at

    http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/270226

  11. Lee Caller says:

    I’ve started to cycle to work over the past two weeks (20k a day) and i have to say arriving at work or at home dripping in sweat is a strangely satisfying feeling.

    Like Matt i think the thing i’ve noticed the most is my riding style and while i DO freewheel when i need to I’m now already looking at a better bike, this biking thing is infectious 🙂

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