My brother-in-law Mark and I have been able to commute together for nearly a year (albeit largely only once a week). At this time of year it becomes a bit more tricky and there are noticeably fewer bikes around as we ride in to Reigate.
Normally we’re on road bikes but occasionally we do the route on MTB, in the summer up on the North Downs Way.
With frosty mornings, dark evenings and a lot of traffic, it has been harder to pick a day when the weather conditions are benign enough to ride in to work. I’m not a fan of riding road bikes on freezing back roads which are often untreated and icy, and I’m not a fan of riding road bikes when rain and dark can make it hard to see cyclists in all the glare. Maybe it’s because around this time last year I had my second collarbone break whilst riding home in heavy rain. MTB-wise, it’s not ideal either (it’s not called B*&tard Glue Mud for nothing!).
So, we’ve started to mix and match things a bit. Taking an MTB instead of the road bike means no worries about clattering through potholes in the dark and lets us string together sections of tarmac and trail as conditions dictate. We’re not shredding the gnarr, just trying to make forward progress with as few vehicles around as possible.
Last week we detoured on the way home over Ranmore, returning via Dearly Beloved and the Polesden estate, other times we’ve taken the classic North Downs Way to Reigate (though it gets pretty boggy in deep winter). Today, we tarmac’ed it along the A24 to Dorking (the roads were good but there was ice on the side roads in the morning), then nipped off-road round Betchworth Park to pick up the Coach Road across the golf course to Brockham. From there we stayed south of the A25 (and off-road) all the way to Betchworh village and then tarmac to Reigate Heath.
It’s a reasonable workout because MTBs don’t really work on tarmac, but on the flipside you have all sorts of route options open to you depending on the road conditions. I quite enjoy it as well and on sunny mornings like today it’s a blessing not to be anywhere near cars.
The obvious thing for this sort of riding is an adventure bike. I would like one, which I think would see a lot of use year-round as a very versatile commuter. It might even become my go-to road bike to be honest. I worry that while it would suit the sort of mix and match riding we’ve been doing very well, as soon as you want to get a bit more involved (say by detouring via Vietcong for example) it would quickly be out of its depth.
All that is for another day though. Come this evening, Mark was delayed by work commitments, leaving me to ride home alone!