Month: January 2015

The 2015 Edinburgh bike experiment – January edition

I am a self-confessed data geek. With this mild obsession in mind, I decided to embark on a wee 2015 project. I want to record my bike movements so I can see how much physical activity I do, how many miles I cover and the spondoolacks I have potentially saved in comparison to running a car or using public transport full time.

Maybe this little project will encourage more people to cycle. It could help to show the bike as a perfectly viable alternative to cars for getting around Edinburgh for folk with similar lifestyles to me. Hopefully it will be interesting. Who knows?

I am sure plenty of people have done things like this, but they are not me ūüėČ I am an adequately fit, young-ish woman (but by no means above average fitness-wise), with a very Edinburgh-centric lifestyle. I work, go to lots of places and do lots of things in the city. My average cycle speed is about 10-12 mph. It‚Äôs all very relaxed and accessible. So let‚Äôs see how we get on!

How it’s going to work

The cycling bit

Recording my activity on the bike is straightforward. I use Strava. You can follow me on it if you like. It is a geolocation service that tracks my miles, elevation, estimated calories and various other bits and pieces. Every time I use the bike, I just turn Strava on and it does all the work for me.

Comparing and contrasting for public transport

Because I record all my cycling activity, I can easily tell by the route if I would have used the bus instead. At the end of the month I tot up how many cycle journeys substituted a bus fare. Easy. If this is higher than the cost of a Lothian Buses Ridacard, I will substitute the Ridacard costs instead of individual fares.

  • A four-weekly Ridacard costs ¬£51. It’s how I used to buy my Ridacard, rather than DD or annual pass. So that’s what I’ll be comparing.

Comparing and contrasting for the car

This is a wee bit more tricky. I‚Äôve averaged out the cost of running a small car for VED, MOT and insurance. I’ve gone for a 2008 1.2l Ford Fiesta – it’s the kind of car I’d have if I decided to buy one. I‚Äôve then used a petrol price checking website to figure out an estimation of the petrol I would have used instead of the cycling miles.

Broom broom, I'm in my imaginary car

Broom broom, I’m in my imaginary car

With my imaginary 2008¬†Ford Fiesta 1.25 Zetec Blue 3d¬†car, I’ve come up with this monthly breakdown:

  • MOT – ¬£4.58, based on an annual cost of ¬£55
  • VED – ¬£12.08, based on an annual cost of ¬£145
  • Insurance – ¬£22.50 based on an annual cost of ¬£270

That’s a monthly running cost of of ¬£39.16. Petrol goes on top.

For the sake of simplicity, my car will run perfectly for the entire year.

I’ve not factored in the initial ¬£5,000 cost of the car – let’s just say I’ve owned my imaginary motor¬†for a while. As I’ve paid off my ¬£350 bike I will give the car and the bike an even playing field.¬†Just for info, if I was paying the car off with a loan over three years it would be an additional ¬£150 a month. My mind boggles when I think that I’d be paying ¬£189.19 per month before starting the ignition.

All that fitness stuff

I use the bike to keep fit. Sans cycling, I’d have a monthly gym membership at Edinburgh Leisure. So let’s factor that cost into the equation also. A monthly card for classes only comes in at ¬£30.50.

What about expenditure?

I will record any outgoing costs over the month that relate to the bike and any other public transport journeys if cycling is not an option (usually due to extreme weather).

Holes in the argument

I appreciate that this is not scientific. It’s more just for my own curiosity. Some of this will be estimation, but it should give a flavour of what happens when you ride a bike as transport for an entire year. I’m excited! So, let’s get the ball rolling for January…

The January Numbers

I would like to point out that January 2015 has had some really crappy weather. I still did 204 miles on the bike and burnt an estimated 7,300 kcal, the equivalent of 3 1/2 days’ eating or 5 MacSween haggis’ (haggi?).

I cycled away five of these bad boys this month. Via Zoonabar.

I cycled away five of these bad boys this month. Via Zoonabar.

Here is the month’s numbers crunched and presented:

Bike expenditure 

  • ¬£6 – Brake pads
  • ¬£15.50 – Bus fares, due to horrific weather affecting my commute
  • Total = ¬£21.50

Public transport equivalent

  • Bus journeys substituted – 42 (this is the equivalent ticket cost of ¬£63, so the Ridacard is more economical)
  • Ridacard cost = ¬£51

Car equivalent

  • Monthly car running cost – ¬£39.16
  • Petrol cost for 204 miles – ¬£18.20. Now, the journeys I’ve been doing are in the city, so I’m going to round it up to ¬£20 to account for congestion.
  • Total running cost = ¬£59.16

Gym equivalent

  • Total cost – ¬£30.50

Grand totals!

  • Public transport (¬£51) + gym (¬£30.50) – expenditure (¬£21.50) = ¬£60 savings
  • Car (¬£59.16) + gym (¬£30.50) – expenditure (¬£21.50) = ¬£68.16 savings

So January, the crappest month of the year has come out with a ¬£60 margin. That’s¬†better than a slap in the face.

Oh, there is one other thing…

I just bought a road bike. That cost doesn’t factor into this project. I didn’t need to buy it. It was an extravagance. I am only looking at the like for like expenditure¬†of my trusty hybrid, which is the bike I do all my Edinburgh utility and commute riding on ūüôā

Stay tuned for February

In which I promise the post will be a much shorter (and hopefully clearer) now that the ground rules have been laid!

If you spot any inconsistencies or I’ve missed anything out, forgotten or otherwise ballsed anything up, PLEASE let me know in the comments.¬†

Why my bike fit was money well spent

Kitt, the new road bike, is an exciting and terrifying mystery to me, as noted in this previous blog post. To that end I’ve been devising a couple of different strategies for us to become friends. First and foremost on the list was (obviously) get out on a ride.

So last week astride my new steed I did the work commute, taking in hardcore downhills, tram lines, multiple traffic lights, cobbles, lots of taxis and buses, the odd HGV, right turns, potholes, kamikaze dogs and paths. I figured if I could manage a three mile cocktail of city centre riding whilst doubled over a waif-like breath of fresh air then things would be all right.

I managed it in one piece, albeit very slowly. It wasn’t even close to a comfy ride.

Here’s where the bike fit comes in. There’s a fantastic little bike shop close to my work called Bike Craft.¬†The guys in there are great and whenever I’ve had any bike-related mishaps or questions they’ve been beyond helpful. They also fit you to your bike. I have realised that this is the best idea ever.

Bike Craft Edinburgh

My road bike fit was comprehensive. I did about two and a bit hours of three and have credit left on the fit to redeem once I get the confidence to go clipless. Already a massive thumbs up on the customer service front.

Chris, the owner and fitter, answered all my beginner questions in plain English. He showed me different kinds of cycling shoes – road shoes with carbon fibre soles, triathlon, MTB, leisure shoes and all the assorted pedal and cleat bumf¬†that goes along with it. He demystified the trim function on my front derailleur. He gave me a 101 on turbo trainers (you need a different kind of tyre for them due to friction – who knew?!). He explained bike frame geometry. Importantly, he didn’t make me feel like an idiot.

And that’s not even the fit itself. My feet were examined. My knees were scrutinised. My inseam was measured. My hip, hamstring and back flexion was assessed and I discovered I have the hips of an eighty year old but the back of a sprightly imp. There was this massive protractor thing that checked angles. I got asked loads of questions that gave me the excuse to talk about cycling and all my creaky body parts.

Then I¬†was put on the bike and there was lots of faffage (that’s my technical term). The stem was reversed to bring my position a bit more upright. The brakes were tweaked so I could actually pull them. The seat post was moved several times and the saddle adjusted. The saddle is now the correct height and I can leave it the hell alone; a small but significant change, as the saddle quandary was giving me nervous indigestion because I was convinced my over-zealous screw turning was crushing the carbon seat post.

So all in all, it was well worth doing. I have come away from my fit slightly less terrified and a whole lot happier with my space-age bike. It’s a lot comfier too.


Now all that remains is for me to practice and get out on longer rides.¬†My beady eyes have been keeping an eye on the weather in the hopes that an ideal winter road cycling day will appear soon…


The road bike has arrived

Due to a bad Sunday night habit of sitting on the couch, tablet in hand and online bike retailers saved as bookmarks, I now have a road bike. The January sale prices were so good that on the spur of the moment I decided to take the plunge and join the ranks of the skinny tyred amongst us.

It wasn’t a very well considered decision; I have four bikes already in various locations across Edinburgh so the n+1 equation has some logistical challenges. Still, in my head the mantra “start the year as you mean to go on” kept repeating itself over and over like the world’s worst and most expensive ear worm.

So two weeks later I am yet another bike heavier (but only marginally, mind you – I feel like the bike and I will just blow over in the wind). And beautiful it is, too, in a kind of sporty, carbon-fibery sort of way. But at the moment, I can’t actually cycle the bloody thing.

specialized ruby

The jump has been quite considerable. Goodbye flat bar, hello drops. The brakes are completely different to use and maintain. The gear shifters are a mystery and there’s some weird front derailleur stuff going on with a trim function thing that mystifies me. I’ve lost the step-thru easy leg swing. My granny ring has gone as the bike sports a compact chainset. It is completely impractical for anything except riding fast and long. I haven’t even attempted clipless pedals – that feels so far down the line as to be unthinkable right now.

But I can tell that it’s going to be good. Better than good. Once I get over the fear, make friends with it and get used to the new position I think it’s going to be pretty exciting.


I’ve called the bike Kitt, after the car with an attitude in Knight Rider. I am channelling my inner Hoff, so watch this space and hopefully soon I will be at one with the new bike and we’ll be besties!

2014 was a good year in cycling

I have some diverse bike things in the pipeline for 2015, with a weekend residential for Belles on Bikes in March, Pedal on Parliament in April, an 11 day cycle tour around the Outer Hebrides booked for the summer, various CTC Scotland bits and bobs, and the ongoing irritation of trying to strengthen my offending right knee. I am also in the market for a road bike and nervously look forward to clipping in for the first time in 2015. So many exciting things!

Saying that, 2014 was far from a write off from a two-wheeled perspective. So, as I cycle away from 2014 and welcome all these new events and challenges, now is an excellent time to recap my last year in cycling.

Highlights of 2014 include my two-day visit to Arran in May with the Lothian Cyclists, my first ever cycle touring experience. I think I caught the touring bug on this stunning island…

Mountains at the peak of the hill after Lochranza

Mountains at the peak of the hill after Lochranza

Triumphant at the summit of the hill after Lochranza

Triumphantly knackered at the summit of the hill after Lochranza

I had a brilliant 2014 with Belles on Bikes Edinburgh, helping to get the women’s cycling group off the ground with some other dedicated¬†women in the city. We now have over 160 members and the group continues to grow, showing a real need for relaxed cycling opportunities for women.

I was trained up as a Belles ride leader, learned first aid, achieved a Velotech Bronze mechanics qualification and made new friends and connections through all the female participants and other ride leaders across Scotland. Plus, we got to cycle around Edinburgh and its local environs and take to the roads on a two-day residential in Perthshire. What’s not to love?

The tourer in Pitlochry

The tourer in Pitlochry on the Belles on Bikes weekend

Amazing routes in Perthshire

Amazing low traffic routes in Perthshire

As well as Perthshire and Arran, the bike took me to a wide range of spectacular locations throughout the year…

Cycling in Skye

Cycling the quiet B roads of Skye in an enormous helmet!

Cycling in the Pentlands

Two-wheeled Pentlands visit during winter.

Mount Tiede National Park

Jumping on the bike at the top of Mount Tiede National Park in Tenerife – what a view!

Cycling in Tenerife - Mount Tiede National Park

Big smiles in the desert landscapes of Mount Tiede National Park in Tenerife, just before cycling 22 miles downhill

Winter views across Threipmuir Reservoir

Winter views across Threipmuir Reservoir in the Pentlands

On top of exploring and touring, I managed to rack up around 2,000 miles of utility cycling coupled with my daily commute. Miles that accumulated without even trying; trips to the bloke’s flat, visiting friends, going to the shops, getting from A to B. All that otherwise dead time filled with (for the most part) enjoyable bike trips along the city’s extensive path network and a bit of on-road riding.

All in all, I’d say 2014 was an excellent foundation upon which to build my year of cycling in 2015. I don’t have too much in the way of resolutions, other than get my knee sorted and get fitter and faster. To help with both of these aims, I’ve started hill training around Arthur’s Seat and it almost feels like a pleasure rather than a challenge with these views.

View from Arthur's Seat route

View from Arthur’s Seat 5.5km circular route

Do you have any objectives or plans for 2015? Maybe you want to clock up some serious miles, get a particular route under your belt, try a different type of cycling or get on your bike for the first time in a while? I’d love to hear any of your resolutions! ūüôā

So here’s to a happy 2015, filled with plenty bikey goodness, wonderful adventures, good company and excellent Scottish weather (well, we can always hope…).