Image: Glyn Kirk / Getty Images
By Laurie Havelock
One of the happier results of lockdown has, for many people, been the disappearance of the daily commute. While the country tentatively makes its first steps out of lockdown, use of public transport is likely to be restricted for some time, or at least heavily impacted by social distancing rules.
The Government is keen that people turn to cycling or walking to work over driving, with new plans detailed by the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps intended to encourage more commuters to pick two-wheeled options. These include more funding for cycle lanes, bike parking spaces at railway stations and half-a-million £50 vouchers for repairs.
The news has already had an effect as thousands of people rescue rusty bikes from sheds or garages. In Scotland, journeys by bike have more than doubled while, in other parts of the UK, cyclist numbers are up 70 per cent since the start of the pandemic. A poll by YouGov for Cycling UK shows that more than a third of commuters are considering ditching their car in favour of walking or cycling once the Covid-19 crisis is over.
Reasons to choose two wheels
The benefits speak for themselves. Cyclists live longer, says the NHS, thanks to the cardio workout and calories burned; cycling cuts carbon emissions; it is often quicker than other modes of transport; and you’ll save a surprising amount of money.
Cyclescheme, a provider of tax-free bikes under the Government’s Cycle to Work scheme, estimates that the annual cost of paying for and maintaining a bike via their scheme was £396, based on travelling 2,500 miles per year, including insurance, maintenance and a service. This compares to £625 a year for commuting the same distance via rail (based on an estimated average cost per mile of 25p on an annual rail pass), £1,444 on the Tube (the annual cost of a Zone 1-2 Travelcard) or £3,727 by car (according to This Is Money).
For many, though, the prospect of cycling to work is still a little daunting. I joined the two-wheeled mob several years ago and realised that half the battle was having confidence. Now, while the streets are quieter, is the perfect time to get started.
My way in was through a bike hire scheme at work which saved me a large chunk of the cost of my bike. I was keen to keep costs down as my last bike was stolen in the first week I moved to London and I did not have it insured. Luckily, I discovered there are some more simple steps you can take to save money.
The perfect ride
Your first step will be choosing the right bike to buy. It’s best to start with a few basic questions: if your commute is mostly on city roads, a mountain bike will not be much use, for example. Setting a budget is also helpful, as the cost of a decent bike can range from £200 to £10,000, and that’s without a helmet, bike lock or repair tools.
A decent beginner’s road bike, such as Boardman’s entry level Boardman SLR 8.6 Alloy, will cost around £600. If you’re trying to keep costs down, second-hand bikes can be a good option. There are great online guides to help avoid stolen bikes, and to help you identify what damage is just cosmetic or what may signal further problems with the bike.
Bike funding schemes
The Cycle to Work scheme lets you buy a bike and equipment and pay off the cost over the next year in monthly instalments with the support of your employer. You are technically “hiring” the gear for the duration of the loan, after which point you can extend the scheme, the company can take it back or you can purchase it at a “fair market value” – usually up to 25 per cent of the original value.
The scheme instantly saves you money as the payments you make are taken straight from your pay and are tax exempt. Typically, it can save you up to 42 per cent of the cost of a bike depending on your tax bracket. For example, if you take out £1,000-worth of equipment as a standard-rate taxpayer, your monthly salary sacrifice would be £56.67, for a total cost of £680 – saving £320 over a year. If you wanted to buy the equipment at the end of the year, it would cost you a maximum of 25 per cent of the original price, which would still save you £70.
To get on to a scheme, your employer must be signed up for a provider – such as Cycle Scheme, Evans Cycles’ Ride to Work and Bike2Work – all accepted by different retailers. To get started, contact your HR, do some window shopping then request a certificate for what you’d like to buy.
Stuart Harwood-Hope, project technical lead at the Bike Project, adds that most casual cyclists do not need “high-end gear” that promises to be lighter or more efficient. “Unless you’re going in for competitions, this won’t make a huge difference,” he adds. “Own-name brands are often fine for most people.”
Stuart knows a thing or two about making bikes go far: he and his team fix second-hand or abandoned bikes and give them to refugees and asylum-seekers in London and Birmingham. His top tips for making sure your new ride lasts as long as possible include keeping it indoors, checking your tyres regularly and buying essential tools – Allen keys, spanner, puncture repair kit and pump.
Under lock and key
Once you have the gear you need, it’s crucial to keep your bike safe. According to research carried out by Admiral, claims data shows there has been a 46 per cent rise in bicycle theft during the UK’s lockdown. One of the best ways to dissuade thieves is to get a solid bike lock and make sure you secure both wheels and the bike frame to a solid, immovable object. The best locks can seek independent accreditation such as Sold Secure’s Gold standard.
If your bike does go missing, however, insurance is a great way to make sure you don’t stay off the road for too long. Anthony Forchione, insurance analyst at MoneySavingExpert.com, says you should check whether your home or contents insurance already covers a bike.
“Alternatively, specialist bicycle insurance comparison sites – CycleInsurance and Quotezone – can help if you do not have contents insurance, or do not want to risk losing your no-claims record on your home insurance,” he adds. It’s crucial to check the excess and to check the extra cover that could be offered.
Adding cover for your bike outside the home generally costs between £10 and £100, according to MoneySavingExpert’s league tables. To help with claims, signing up for schemes like Immobilise or the Bike Register means your bike’s details are kept on a central database that the police can access.
Original Article: iNews