If I said there was a way you could save serious money and get fitter/lose weight, you would probably think I'm an hypnotist plugging my latest book. Well I'm not and I don't need you to keep your eyes on a pendant I'm swinging in front of your face.
If you own a bike, go and have a look at it (not now you can wait until you've read this blog and finished your coffee.) I would bet it's got two flat tyres and a layer of dust a Pharaoh's tomb would be proud of, that is if you can get to it in the shed/garage, as it's behind a lawnmower, various large children's toys and boxes you haven't yet sorted from when you moved in years ago.
Dig it out, blow up the tyres, put your helmet on (that's up in the loft wedged between the water tank and the Christmas tree) and take it out for a ride this afternoon.
That wasn't hard was it. No but it didn't save me any cash either I hear you shout. That's the next bit.
Ride it to work tomorrow. No really, do it. If you live within ten miles of work with no busy dual carriage ways it should be easy enough.
A few years ago when I changed jobs from one twenty-five miles away to one ten miles away. I informed my wife that I intended to save even more cash by cycling to work, when she had stopped laughing, I purchased a drop bar road bike (I still called them racers until I started looking at buying one) stocked up on ibuprofen for the inevitable bad back and the next day with no prior training or build up, I cycled to work. When I got to work I was exhausted but elated because for the first time in twenty years, I had got to work without paying a penny to the government in fuel duty or added to the petrol companies' massive profits.
The type of bike you use isn't overly important any adult bike will do, although certain sorts will make it harder, I disposed of a heavy full suspension mountain bike because my outward commute was uphill and I felt if I tried it on that, it might put me off altogether. Neither is a drop bar bike essential either, I bought one because they look cool, a hybrid would be the best bet, thinner tyres than a mountain bike so less rolling resistance, but strong enough for canal paths and parks at the weekends with the children.
If you decide to cycle tomorrow take a change of clothes with you (rolled not folded, it keeps the creases out better) in a rucksack) and wear something comfortable and take a drink and a cereal bar. Lycra is not compulsory but I was converted after my first pair of cycling shorts. I will confess I am now (much to wife's derision) a fully fledged 'Mamil' (middle aged man in lycra).
You will within a few weeks notice your wallet or purse has got more cash in it, a two way ten mile commute in an average car during peak times will take about a three to four quids worth of fuel a day, that's around seventy to eighty pounds a month, not looking so silly now is it? Add to that wear and tear on the car, a declaration of lower annual mileage on your insurance renewal and no parking fees, the savings are even more.
You will also feel fitter and if overweight, the pounds will drop off, I tried on a thirty inch waist pair of jeans recently, (okay they didn't fit, but they NEARLY did) not bad considering I was a thirty-eight waist a few years ago and I am nearly three stone lighter than I was, when I left school thirty years ago. I bet not many of my social media school friends can say that.
If you can't cycle to work for any reason then use your bike for any short trips that would normally be done by car, visiting relatives or going to town to pay a bill for example, the savings won't be as big but they will soon mount up.
Finally a few tips,
Wear bright clothing, better still a hi-viz tabard.
Buy some decent lights, I don't mean those super bright things with a battery pack the size of a small nuclear reactor, just a good quality set of L.E.D ones, surely your life is worth more than a bike light from a pound shop?
If the bike looks a bit a poorly, get it serviced before you start, a broken chain or dodgy brakes could be dangerous and put you off before you really get in to it, a decent bike shop normally charges about twenty to thirty pounds plus parts for a service, remember you could save that amount in less than a month.
Carry a pump, bike spanner, tyre levers and inner-tube with you (not a puncture repair kit, who wants to fix a puncture with a patch by the roadside? fix it at home as a spare.)
Don't go dieting excessively at the same time, you will need the energy for the commute, but also use the bike for the trip to the shop to get for the forgotten ingredient for dinner or for the wine you deserve for riding your bike to work.
A word of warning though, in six months the bike you have now won't be good enough and you will try to convince yourself that you need a new sleeker, lighter model. Remember I told you it would save you money and it has, it's not my fault you're spending it on a new bike.
Simon Elson is a Sales Advisor and freelance writer from Burton on Trent who cycles to work
Simon's blog - Simon's says.... Can be found at www.simonelson.blogspot.co.uk