Cycle To Work Scheme – twenty years on

Twenty years, that’s a long time. A life time for some, well, those who were born in 1999 anyway, what were you doing in ’99? Me? I was not even ten, probably causing havoc in my mum and dads back garden, being told about the Millennium Bug and dreaming of a Subaru Impreza P1.

The Cycle to Work Scheme was started as a way to encourage the nations workforce to a healthier life and ease road congestion. As an incentive, companies enlisted in the scheme are able to save money when reimbursed through the scheme, while employees are entitled to an affordable way to purchase a new bike, tax-free. Yes, a tax free bike, you just need to work for a business which is signed up to the scheme and you’re only allowed £1,000 towards your bike and equipment.

Bikes can be used for your weekend ride as well as commuting to work, and at the end of the loan term – which is essentially a hire period for your equipment – employees can purchase the gear by paying any outstanding fees; otherwise, it will belong to the employer.

As an incentive, it’s very enticing but did it work? Well, people are travelling further on bikes, on average, in 2002 987 miles were covered per year rising to 1144 in 2017 however, the number of cyclists has largely stayed about the same.

The Scheme falls down in trying to convince non-cyclists to become cyclists and ditch the car for the bike, no surprise that the main reason for this was road safety and having the confidence to ride the bikes on the road. There are other moans and groans to of it taking too long to travel by bike, a car being more convenient and (surprisingly for me) there’s too much traffic. You’d think with more traffic people might see the advantage of going by bike?

With 57% of the people who are involved in the scheme already cyclists, it’s seen as a fantastic way to upgrade your bike and kit which is affordable and still indulge in your passion for pedal pushing.

And for those who make a long term commitment to swapping their car for their bike, they can enjoy incredible health and financial benefits as detailed in this infographic from Merlin: What would happen to your body if you swapped your car for a bike? The results showed that once the year is up, you’ll have stronger muscles, prolonged mental health benefits and have saved a small fortune.

I feel like I’m preaching to the choir here as many of you reading this are probably already cyclists and already own a bike but, n+1, right? My point remains though, when living in East London, commuting by bike was easier and better than travelling by tube, certainly in the summer when the tube was just so hot and busy. Conversely, travelling by bike, the smog was just so much that it actually had an effect on my lungs. However I felt better about myself when I did cycle in. If things are made in to a routine they become easier.

I think what really needs to change is employers mindset. An area to store bikes which is safe and simple maintenance equipment is a huge benefit, as is a shower. However, it seems that installing an electric charge point for cars is a better incentive for employers as the cost of installation is cheaper than that of a decent shower for cyclists. The government can do all they can in building a better infrastructure but, to me, it means nothing unless employers will build the bike shed and showers. So more than tax breaks, help your workforce to a healthier life and it might become a benefit for employees.

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My love for ZWIFT

Over the past few weeks I’ve seen a lot of people in social media really hating on ZWIFT.

In my view, ZWIFT is probably the best thing to happen to bike racing since racing a bike. In a world where literally anything is possible in the technical age, why would you not get excited by the fact you could be a professional cyclist?

I see a lot of people saying ‘get out and ride your bike’ and ‘why would you sit staring at a screen pedalling when you can get out doors?’ Or ‘back when I was younger’ I’ve even seen a few old pros saying ‘when I started out racing…’ well, we’re not back when you were younger or even when you started out racing, we’re in the modern world with news, videos, the other side of the world and even unwanted opinions are at your fingertips.

The concept of eRacing and sports simulators are nothing new, tennis for two was created back in 1958 and was an incredibly simple game played on an oscilloscope. The first football game was in 1967 with Crown Soccer Special, followed by Grand Prix in 1969. The first cycling computer game was Cycling Manager released in 2001, today it’s called Pro Cycling Manager where you can pretend to be a manager of a cycling team, would you believe.

My point is, sports simulators have been about for a very long time. The biggest today would be FIFA or even Gran Tourismo, both of which you can still do in real life, if you were that way inclined. You can still go up the park or in the back garden and kick a ball around, I take my two year old to football classes each week. If you have a car you can go to a race track and drive it around for sport or leisure. Are you going to? Or is it simpler and easier to do it on a games console? Probably cheaper too if you bin your car in the gravel trap!

I saw a lot of people giving the World’s first professional eRacing team a lot of gyp, for what I could only understand was because they were not racing their bikes out on the road. I don’t get it? Why is that an issue? There’s so many eSports in which the winners are handed millions of pounds for just sitting and playing a simulator and you’re getting angry at someone for pushing their body to the limits on a bike and they’re not doing it properly because it’s not on the road? If these trailblazers inspire people to get on a bike and ride, indoors, outdoors, in a spin class, at the gym or just about anywhere they can, how is that a bad thing?

I wouldn’t want to go bike racing in real life because I would be nervous of not being accepted. Cycling can be so insular, so cliquey, so snobby that if you’re not dripping in Rapha or Cafe Du Cyclist on a bike you’ve had to remortgage your home in order to buy on finance then you might as well as not turn up. Then add to that the pressure of being dropped… No one wants to be dropped.

What ZWIFT offers me and many others is a chance to ride a bike an escape in a time and environment which suits me, does that mean I’m not a proper cyclist? Or am I just a person who likes to ride a bike as a form of fitness? I’m a dad of two who has a family life, I can’t commit each week to going out and doing century rides or even two hour rides in the saddle on the roads because sometimes, family life just doesn’t allow for that. What I can do though is get myself on the bike for however long in the garage and keep my fitness levels up, it offers escape without the need for leaving the house. I can put my kids in bed, have their monitors with me and still exercise knowing they are safe. It wouldn’t be the most practical to get out and ride for two hours after the kids are down. What I get from 45 minutes on ZWIFT, for me, feels like doing two hours on the road. Fair enough, I’ve probably not done the same distance, but I’ve not stopped pedalling, not stopped pushing and I’ve also not stopped for coffee and cake at any point.

Bradley Wiggins documented it in his book about his shed, heated the temperature of France in the Summer time pushing out 400 watts for 45 minutes was what Tim Kerrison believed Sir Brad needed to win the Tour, after months of training in his shed Wiggo achieved that goal and went on to be an Olympic Gold Medalist, again, this time on the road in the Time Trial. Fair enough, he did it on rollers but many professional cyclists can be seen on ZWIFT, Mark Cavendish is a user, Contador, Adam Yates, Alex Dowsett, Hannah Barnes, Danielle King and Leah Thorvilson who actually came through the ZWIFT academy, of course. All professional cyclists who use the platform. Tell them to go out and get on the road…

As I’ve mentioned the ZWIFT Academy, I might as well go on to explain for those who don’t know. Essentially, a competition in which the winner is handed a contract with a professional team. Which cyclist out there wouldn’t want to experience a professional team, even if it were just for one season? If I was told I was good enough just by riding my bike from my garage, what an experience that would be.

I’ve never known a computer based platform which offers someone so much freedom. Yes, you are confined to predetermined routes and can only go as fast as your legs will take you but what ZWIFT has done over its years is fantastic. I don’t know any other sport in the world which will allow you to get so close to being a professional. You can ride World Championship routes, with the pros or even, now, ride the prologue stage of the Giro d’Italia. The very stage which the professionals will be riding. You don’t even have to go to Italy for it, how amazing is that? How much of a fantastic opportunity is it?

If that doesn’t excite you and make you want to get on your bike and try ZWIFT out for yourself, then maybe cycling just isn’t for you.

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Wahoo Releases the ELEMNT ROAM GPS Cycling Computer

Quickly following the release of the limited edition ELEMNT BOLT, Wahoo have now released their ROAM GPS Cycling Computer.

It seems there is a new trend in cycling, in the form of adventure cycling, with clothing and bike manufacturers pump out glorious looking photos in hot landscapes with stunning scenery and sunsets, Wahoo have followed with this new GPS.

The ROAM, it seems, is here to help cyclists navigate around if they want to go off an explore a road or trail which they’ve not before. It has some cool New Smart Navigation features which will enable cyclists to do so, by guiding back to your original route, which has been pre-planned in to the ROAM, you can also create a new route on the fly, or help you find the fastest way home.

Other new features found on ROAM include an ambient light sensor that automatically turns the screen backlight on or off and adjusts the brightness of the screen and Quick Look LEDs through changing light conditions, indoors or out; and an integrated out-front mount (patent pending) that gives ROAM a clean, sleek look. ROAM’s interface includes several new Smart Navigation features accessible directly on the computer, including:

  • Get Me Started — Navigates cyclists to the start of their route
  • Back On Track — Navigates cyclists back to their route if they take a wrong turn
  • Take Me To — Allows cyclists to select a location on their ROAM using new pan and zoom functionality, and get directions to that location
  • Saved Locations — Easily route to locations saved on ROAM 
  • Route To Start — Find the shortest route back to the start of your rideRetrace Route — Reverse your route to navigate back to the start along the original route

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“As more cyclists are using their bikes to explore lesser-trafficked areas, or navigating while riding new roads or trails, we are so excited to offer ROAM — a computer purposefully designed to meet the challenges of cyclists around the world, especially navigating while riding,” said Chip Hawkins, Wahoo CEO and Founder. “With ROAM, we’ve taken our proven, intuitive, and easy-to-use ELEMNT platform — loved by all kinds of riders — and added features to create a powerful new tool that cyclists can use to guide them on every kind of ride.”

More than just being able to point you in the right direction when you get lost the ROAM also features a 2.7” colour display and 17+ hour battery life, for those days you feel like riding from the moment you wake up until you go to bed. Other new features found on ROAM include an ambient light sensor that automatically turns the screen backlight on or off and adjusts the brightness of the screen and Quick Look LEDs through changing light conditions, indoors or out; and an integrated out-front mount.

ROAM is available today at WahooFitness.com and will put you back £299.99.

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