On the road again.

Jimmy considers the lot of the two-wheeled commuter.

Posted by Jimmy Wilson

"I have conditioned myself to notice the headwind less than the tailwind"

Jimmy Seven

Tried and tested orange oversocks are still in use (new pair obviously!).

Jimmy commutes 29km each way three days a week.

After a four and a half year hiatus, I'm back at Cyclefit and back to a 29km journey by bike from Walton-on-Thames. Still early days with just eight commutes completed so far, but the sensations are good.

So, what's changed and what's the same? Is my commuting heart just fond through absence? Will repetition amplify the cons to drown out the pros?

Tailwind in, headwind home.

Climate change has yet to affect the prevailing wind direction, so the bitter-sweet combination still bookends the day. An easterly is occasional enough to warrant a mention when it happens. The tailwind assisted journey is usually 3-5km per hour faster. I appreciate the help first thing in the morning and I've always found the return journey a nice buffer between work and home. I think I have conditioned myself to notice the headwind less than the tailwind; psychologically the best way round at least.

Cleaner air?

ULEZ has been in operation since April 2019. City Hall estimates that this has been responsible for a 29% reduction in levels of roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels. My first impression is that the air seems less polluted. On a macro level, this has to improve things for commuters in general by making London a healthier place to spend time; London's toxic air is linked to premature death, and increases the risk of cancer, dementia and asthma. Air quality has obviously improved as a result of their being 13,500 fewer polluting cars being driven in to the capital every day. This must mean less traffic, right?

Fewer cars?

With more people working from home post-pandemic and more pertinently this week, industrial action affecting trains, there is certainly less traffic than before. This dramatically improves my commute. I have to stop less often because there a fewer cars queuing at traffic lights and at the level crossing at Mortlake. Richmond Park has also changed for the better. Sheen Gate (which I use) is now closed to through traffic so there is less congestion on Sheen Lane. The closure of Hammersmith Bridge has a similar effect on Lonsdale Road (although, I'll reserve judgement here until the schools are back).


Drivers of electric cars obviously don't pay the ULEZ charge. It is very noticeable that their numbers have increased. I notice more EVs outside London too. They are a bit harder to cope with in some ways because they are almost silent. I wonder if in some areas their popularity might encourage people to make shorter "guilt free" journeys by car rather than by other means. This could make congestion worse as electric cars are no smaller than those with a combustion engine and as such take up the same amount of road space.

E-bikes and E-scooters are everywhere once I get past Olympia. The provision of partitioned cycle lanes for much of this part of the journey means that I can switch to the main carriageway to avoid them when necessary. E-bikes make a lot of sense for this stop-start section. I use a lot of energy accelerating away from traffic lights. Something to consider in the future perhaps.

The right balance.

My full commute week will amount to about 175km. When I was last here, I was riding in 5 days a week and really needed to take one weekend day off the bike. I'm hoping that commuting less will leave me more energy for training and racing whilst serving to maintain a good level of fitness. Time will tell but it feels pretty good so far.

Jimmy Commute Route

My route. Honed over time.

Jimmy Seven Axiom side

Seven Axiom SL. Home again.

Jimmy Seven Axiom

Winter essentials; good lights and a long (mudguard) flap.

About the author

Jimmy Wilson, Bike-Fitter / Writer

One of the most experienced bike-fitters in Europe. Loves titanium bikes, border-terriers and cyclo-cross. Amongst many other things

View other posts by Jimmy Wilson


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