We love real stories of everyday bike life! So when we saw Pshem’s delightful string of tweets looking back on his first year of regular cycling for transport around Te Atatu peninsula and to work in the city, we asked if he’d be keen to share them as a guest blog with a few choice photos. Enjoy!
It’s been a year since I’ve started biking to work, and this is a summary of my thoughts and observations. I work in Newmarket and live in Te Atatu Peninsula. My one way trip is about 17.5km and it takes me about 35-40 mins. I cycle every workday.
I consider myself lucky – the majority of my route is either a shared path or a cycleway. The worst bits are Park Rd and the pseudo-cycleway at the bottom of Carlton Gore Rd. The new Ian McKinnon cycleway definitely helped, but the fact I can’t easily cross to Alex Evans Dr and Symonds St easily is annoying.
I can drop off my son at daycare and do (some) grocery shopping. I would love for our local streets to be 30km/h. Being overtaken by a roaring V8 is still an unpleasant experience even at a safe distance. (The other issue is on-street parking. Te Atatu Rd could be actually quite okay, if not for all the cars parked there.) I can easily detour to do some bakery shopping in Pt Chev. I can swing by Britomart to have a coffee with a friend (admittedly Parnell Rd is a scary experience on a bike so I tend to use Gladstone Rd). All of that at rush hour.
One limiting factor is lack of safe bike parking around the city. In many places there’s simply nothing to lock a bike to.
I have an ebike – a SmartMotion Pacer. It generally served me well so far, although not without issues. In the first 3 months I was breaking a few spokes a week, which ultimately forced me to rebuild the rear wheel completely (which helped, and in the last 6 months I only had to replace 5 spokes). The controller managed to reset itself a few times, so the exact distance travelled so far is only approximate (about 7000km). In heavy rain the battery can get wet and stop working (it’s usable after 6-8 hours inside). Occasionally the ‘assist’ stops working and the way to get it going again is to pedal backwards a few times.
I had to learn basic maintenance and get some tools too. I check the spokes and adjust the tension regularly. I learnt to replace the spokes (even in rear-hub drive it’s not that hard). After my first chain stretched so much that it wrecked the cassette I got a tool and measure chain wear regularly. I thoroughly clean the chain once a month and re-oil after heavy rain. I check the brake pads and don’t let them get too thin. On my second chainring now, 3rd chain and second cassette.
My travel times are very reliable. Even after the April storm last year, I managed to get to work in 45mins despite all the downed trees and a lot of debris. The greatest influence over my travel time is traffic lights. Hitting a few of them at the ‘wrong moment’ means a long wait every time, with St Lukes Rd crossing being probably the worst one. On the flip side – waiting at traffic lights is great for talking to friends and strangers alike. Definitely makes one feel a part of a community.
I’ve only had a few experiences with being squeezed against the curb (generally buses along Park Rd) or really close passes, but it never feels quite safe to be on the road. I ride quite defensively – and when I don’t feel it’s safe to overtake me, I take the lane. I have been shouted at a few times, but I haven’t encountered other intentionally threatening behaviours. The Carrington Rd crossing seems to be the worst for being shouted at.
I cycle rain or shine. When it rains I use a bike poncho. Since humans are generally waterproof all I need is another change of clothes at my destination. If the rain can’t get through my cycling clothes – it means it’ll be steaming hot inside them anyway with the same outcome (i.e. me being soaked) anyway. When the temperature drops below 7-8°C I do use rain pants and a proper jacket to keep me warm.
I cycle frequently before dawn or after dusk. Many other people on bikes seem to think that they don’t need any lights at all, not even a single reflective strip when cycling. That makes even a simple maneuver like taking a corner or overtaking much more dangerous when it’s dark. (The Pacer comes with built-in lights, which is useful).
And my health has improved. With no other changes in lifestyle I lost 8kg. My blood pressure is not around 140/90 anymore, but at 125/75. I feel much happier when I arrive at work (even when I’m soaking wet). And I can smile at strangers with impunity when riding 😀
— Pshem K