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When I started this blog, I was just about to leave a job in the city (about 6km from home) to move to a better job out in the ‘burbs. That meant I had to give up my four-times-a-week commute by bike and everything that went with it – the refreshed feeling I had when I got to my desk, the slightly more toned thighs, the smugness created by not polluting the atmosphere with petrol fumes and the right to talk to men in tight lycra about panniers and head winds.

Or so I thought.

It turns out my new commute, while considerably longer, can be done on two wheels.

Heartened by surviving – even enjoying – a couple of longish leisure cycles round the city, I decided to try riding to my office one Sunday, just to see if it would kill me or not. The plan was to train it back, but Transperth’s rules and regulations on where you can take a bike and where you can’t were just too complicated. So my husband and I set off on the trip, not at all sure if I’d manage to ride the whole way there and back.

We pootled from our apartment to the cycle path, had lunch on the green outside my office, and pootled back. I’ll not pretend it was the fastest trip ever, but I DIDN’T DIE. Although I did almost keel over when I discovered afterwards, thanks to the wonder of Google Maps, that a journey I thought was around 14km each way was actually 20. I’d just done 40km and DIDN’T DIE.

The following week I carted clothes into work, cleared out a drawer to use as a locker, got the security code for the bike storage cage, bought some sexy padded shorts and – here’s the clever bit – told everyone I was going to start cycling in. I’ve never been one to back out of something if there’s the slightest chance that I’ll be ridiculed for doing so, so I had no choice. I was getting on my bike.

Still not entirely convinced that the fact I DIDN’T DIE on the Sunday try-out was a fluke, I’ve started gently. Evening engagements meant I needed the car or to get back home quickly for most of the first three weeks, which was probably a good thing. So I have been riding in one day, leaving my bike at work overnight, training it back and in the next morning, and cycling back on day two.

On the days I ride in, I do feel more awake. My thighs are benefiting and the smug feeling is definitely back. The opportunity to chat to the lycra brigade hasn’t arisen yet but I have had a couple of cheery ‘good mornings’ from fellow riders, which is more than I ever get driving down the freeway in a country where it’s rare to even raise a hand to thank a fellow driver for letting you merge. The benefits are obvious.

A pleasant spin-off has been that even this paltry effort by most cyclists’ standards has resulted in a weird admiration among colleagues. While they might snigger at my padded shorts, they seem genuinely impressed that I’m doing it (although there is a chance that they’re just surprised I haven’t died yet). One is even talking about cleaning up his own rusting racer and giving the cycle commute a go.

But two one-way trips a week isn’t enough. So from next week, I’ll be stepping it up to four one-way trips. After that, I might even manage to do a return trip in the same day. I don’t think I’ll ever lose the feeling that I’ve accidentally meandered onto the Tour de France route as I pootle along while ‘proper’ cyclists whizz past at twice the speed, but I can cope with that.

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My bike with panniers

This blog is supposed to be about new beginnings but already something is coming to an end.

For the last few months I have been cycling to and from work at least two or three days a week. Monday I bussed so I could carry clothes for the week ahead; Friday I bussed so I could avoid sharing a road with the pay day drinkers who forgot they had to drive home while downing a slab of beer at lunchtime.

Perth has more cycle routes than any other Australian city and we are lucky enough to live near one of the best. It takes you across the Causeway over Heirisson Island (where there are allegedly kangaroos living wild; I’ve never seen one) and along Riverside Drive, which skims the Swan River foreshore.

Western Australia is a state that wakes up early so even on leaving the house at 6:40am the cycle path is often busy with not just cyclists, but joggers, rollerbladers and those just out for a stroll. It’s not uncommon to see kayakers or waterskiers on the river at that time, splashing past the cormorants and ducks that sun themselves by the water’s edge.

My commute to the office is only 5.5km, and takes 15-20 minutes, but it has become the most precious part of my day. I arrive at a job I have mostly disliked feeling refreshed (despite having to use the basement car park showers, with their permanent whiff of eau de diesel) and ready to go. I find myself part of a cycling community in a building where any kind of social interaction is rare. Men in tight white lycra ask me about headwinds and compliment me on my choice of pannier. I pretend not to mind when they then overtake me on the route home as I pootle along, enjoying the view.

But Tuesday will be my last day working in the CBD. From April 12 I will be working out in the ‘burbs, in a job that requires me to provide a car at least some of the time. No flexitime will mean an early start may not be realistic – I don’t think they will take kindly to me leaving halfway through the afternoon – so I’ll be sitting in the peak hour traffic with everyone else, listening to people swear on the radio and wishing I was on my bike.

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