Five things you’ll hear as soon as you tell someone you cycle to work

London Cyclists

Photo via Alexander Baxevanis

“Oh, you cycled here?”

I always feel time slowing down as soon as I tell someone that I reached them by bike. I wonder what statement will come next.

Isn’t it dangerous?

This is by far the most common response I hear. I’ve answered it for friends, for readers and for family. If this is the first thing people think when you tell them you cycled somewhere in the city, then it’s easy to see why there are not more cyclists.

Before you jump on a bike and try cycling in London for yourself, it does look rather dangerous. Fast moving traffic, without much space on the roads and hardly any protection. From the outside, you can see danger everywhere.

The reports of accidents and stories of near misses further that perception.

When I get asked “is cycling dangerous?” I tell people that I feel safe on my bike and that I’ve taken a private cycle training course that made a real difference to how I cycle.

I could never do that!

Isn’t it funny how quick we are to dismiss something as beyond us?

I’m guilty of the same. I see a roller-coaster and I think, I’d never ride that!

Yet, when I push myself to try it out, it’s not so bad after all, in fact, it’s rather good fun.

Cycling in London is the same. Unless people try it, they’ll not know what they are missing out on.

But where’s your bike?

I’m never entirely sure why I get asked this question. Should I be carrying my bike with me at all times? Do people think I just magic it away somewhere out of sight? Are people worried it will be stolen the moment I leave it out of my sight?

I normally just shrug, point in a general direction and say “I’ve locked her up”. I enjoy throwing in the “her” as it makes me feel like my bike is a fine ship.

How long does it take?

This is a good question! I always think when someone asks me this it’s a good time to surprise them with how fast it is to cycle in London. “I can be on Oxford Street in 15 minutes!” I proudly boast.

In an experiment I did a while back I raced my bike against the London underground. The bike always won!

You can typically see the cogs ticking over in someone’s head as they work out how much extra time in bed that would mean for their commute.

That’s awesome! Me too!

This is my favourite response! I’m hearing it more often these days. I’ve always got a ton of things to talk about when someone tells me they cycle to work too. Oh really? What bike do you ride? Have you ever been down to Richmond Park? Have you heard about that cycle cafe in Soho? It’s an instant new friend!

What response do you get when you tell someone you cycled somewhere? Leave a comment below!

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36 Responses to Five things you’ll hear as soon as you tell someone you cycle to work

  1. Jon Hawkins 06/06/2013 at 9:05 am #

    do you not get the are you not all sweaty? That’s one thing I hear a lot

    • Andreas 06/06/2013 at 5:38 pm #

      Definitely hear that one too :)

      • SR 07/06/2013 at 11:22 am #

        I get that all the time! People usually prefix it with an “Eurgh” and turn their nose up when they say it for added effect.

  2. Marta 06/06/2013 at 11:12 am #

    I agree it’s a great conversation starter when you discover the other person cycles too! I remember being slightly jealous of my smoker friends because they always had the opportunity to bond with other people when they went for a smoke together but now I feel like cycling is the new smoking! :)

  3. lovelobicycles 06/06/2013 at 12:32 pm #

    In the winter it’s always, ‘Isn’t it too cold to cycle?’ To which the response is ‘Then, why am I the one who’s sweating?’

    • Raymond 07/06/2013 at 2:15 pm #

      Hi, that’s a good one. It’s a question my colleges ask me too. Funny though, like you say, they’re freezing and I’m sweating.

  4. Ashleigh 06/06/2013 at 5:47 pm #

    I get people saying “Gosh you’re good aren’t you?” to which I reply “not really – it saves me tonnes of time and money on the tube and gym.”

  5. Mike 06/06/2013 at 7:18 pm #

    I get all of the above, but the most common is “Really!?”. Sometimes I wonder what my commute would be like by car, but I enjoy cycling too much to change

  6. Sam J 06/06/2013 at 7:58 pm #

    I tend to talk about riding with others who ride, which means the only reasonable question I get is, “On that?”

  7. Terry Hylton 06/06/2013 at 8:12 pm #

    I’m always asked “aren’t you scared of the other drivers?”
    I answer that “I am more scared of pedestrians who step into my path”.
    Then they agree with me and tell me of how they nearly got knocked into when stepping in the road and not looking but just listening for engine noise and not realising a bike was coming.
    So if we had silent cars there would be more alert pedestrians looking instead of listening. Just saying.

  8. Rob McIvor 07/06/2013 at 10:14 am #

    “Gosh. You must be really fit” is quite a common one – to which I reply that I am quite fit now but certainly wasn’t before I started cycling to work. I also tell them that I was two suit sizes larger, which occasionally resonates.

  9. Paul 07/06/2013 at 10:15 am #

    ‘You poor thing’ this is often expressed when I walk into the office after commuting on either a rainy or a cold morning. Its also associated with the fact that my colleagues think I am poor enough not to be able to buy a car, and when I tell them I don’t have a car BUT could buy a brand new one anytime I wish, their confusion is complete and they often walk off or turn their backs feeling they have missed a large part of the conversation or that somehow I am mocking them. Love it! They then assume my wife has a car and has to ferry me around. When I tell them that my wife owns two bikes making our family compliment of two wheeled beauties a grand total of twelve and that she doesn’t drive and we do the shopping using a trailer on the bike, they really are lost for words.

  10. Goonz 07/06/2013 at 11:05 am #

    I hear most of those but the most I get are the quizzing looks as I stroll about the office in my lycra.

    I do hear ‘you look just like a pro’ quite a bit

    • coney 07/06/2013 at 5:43 pm #

      might be time to change your kit then…?

  11. Goonz 07/06/2013 at 11:07 am #

    I have also been labelled the ‘fittest man in B&C’ by my team.

    I also get asked when its raining ‘did you cycle in that?’

  12. Kat 07/06/2013 at 12:33 pm #

    At 4 1/2 months pregnant, I am just beginning to encounter a whole new world of disbelief at my continued cycling. Thankfully my boss also agrees that cycling helps his sanity, and my husband/family are being surprisingly laid back about it (for now?)… That said, I have thought about it and adapted my route to avoid hammering down CS7, and taking the wisteria/magnolia-lined quiet route 3 through Oval instead.

  13. James 07/06/2013 at 1:19 pm #

    People who don’t know that I ride to work (and sometime people who do) when the weather is bit changeable usually say-

    “You haven’t cycled in this weather, have you…?”

    “Yes.” Is usually the answer, with a nod towards my bike parked in corner of the room! I wonder sometimes that my bike might resemble some sort of elephant shape to them…

  14. Chiara Milano 07/06/2013 at 2:27 pm #

    I cycle to work in Milano (‘course not from London, eheheh!), 16 kilometers per day and I mostly get insults from car drivers :). Milano’s not for cyclists :(

    • Giuliano 07/06/2013 at 11:16 pm #

      That’s not true. Milano is just a big wheel waiting to be cycled… they might insult you, but in London and in the South East of England in general, they try to run over you. I cycle and work in Milano but lived in England for many years and cycle there every so often.

      • Vincent 08/06/2013 at 9:56 pm #

        With the depression + rising gas costs, it won’t take long before more and more people leave their car at home and ride a bike to work.

        • Paul 10/06/2013 at 10:24 am #

          Don’t believe it! I know of people who will sell their souls to ensure they can pay for fuel for their SUVs

  15. Jude 07/06/2013 at 2:57 pm #

    With all the rain, wind and cold we’ve had over the past few months, the question I get asked most often is probably, “What? You cycled in this weather?”

    When I confirm that yes, I have, and I’m not just wearing my helmet for the fun of it, the next question is usually, “Are you crazy??”

    • Goonz 07/06/2013 at 3:07 pm #

      What????? No helmet???? Rebel! ;)

  16. Tim 07/06/2013 at 3:14 pm #

    ‘ don’t you get smelly?’
    ‘Yes but that is not the cycling that’s just poor personal hygiene .’

    • Vincent 08/06/2013 at 9:57 pm #

      Good one :-D

  17. London heart mate 07/06/2013 at 4:09 pm #

    I normally get ” I got here on four wheels engine included ” Is what I normally get . I live out here in Cape Town SA , Its quite funny , some people feel sorry for us in a way , thinking we poor and that , Truth is I know some really wealthy cyclists myself included . Oh how healthy it is to cycle.

  18. Colette 07/06/2013 at 4:26 pm #

    I normally get “your brave”.

    • Ria 07/06/2013 at 7:33 pm #

      Me too! A bit depressing but I try not to let it put me off. Also, I get concerned looks and ‘have a safe journey’ wishes when I leave the building in the evening.

  19. C 07/06/2013 at 5:57 pm #

    15 minutes to Oxford St? Someone lives rather centrally. Or only travels at night.

  20. Dave 08/06/2013 at 6:25 am #

    Since I changed my commute to riding on my recumbent, I get ” is it hard to balance on that?” To which I say”only when I stop!”or is that as comfortable as it look sand I say”No, its actually more”

  21. Rachel 08/06/2013 at 10:49 am #

    Really, in this weather? But it’s *hot, cold, windy, raining, cloudy, insert any other possible weather type here and a surprised face*.

  22. Vincent 08/06/2013 at 9:58 pm #

    > In an experiment I did a while back I raced my bike against the London underground. The bike always won!

    You should show them ride logs (Strava, etc.)

    Incidently, and provided it hasn’t already been covered in LC, that could be the subject for an article: Tip and tricks about riding to work in the rain.

  23. Ros Gasson 09/06/2013 at 10:50 am #

    It rarely creates a reaction for me…but then I realise that many of the folk i spend time around also cycle. I play in a folk band, and have only just noticed that 7 out of 8 of us use bikes!

  24. Christine Jones 09/06/2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Yep, it’s the only way to commute from the burbs to the centre in 40mins. Anyone who gets to cycle over Waterloo Bridge or any of the bridges at sunset, London is a beautiful place on a bike.
    I live in the sticks now and I am stranded by uncycleable 60mph roads full of artics so the furthest I can cycle for transport – as in go anywhere, is a couple of miles.

  25. barton 11/06/2013 at 4:04 pm #

    Sadly, I when people find out I commute by bike, the first thing out of their mouth is a litany of vitriol re: cyclists (they don’t stop at lights, they block traffic, blah, blah blah).

    Though, recently as I came in from parking my bike (lycra shorts, rain jacket, helmet in hand) and got on the elevator/lift, a man in a very nice 3-piece suit said, “Did you bike in today?” I wanted to reply, “No, this is business attire this season – latest thing from Paris!” I just said, “yes, yes I did, and it was a great morning!”

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