It can be pretty difficult to get in all the miles we want to every week on the bike when other things such as work and family life take priority but I believe that it's possible to make up the miles and benefit just as much by commuting to work during the week rather than trying to squeeze in a training session after work. Admittedly, not everyone is in a position to be able to ride to work but if you're in a position to even think about it I whole heartedly recommend trying it. My straightforward commute is a 14 mile journey in each direction and contains nearly a 1000ft of climbing so is a pretty handy training commute. Most people have much smaller commutes but it's quite easy to extend a cycle commute and make it a bit longer to reap the benefits each day; just recently I extended mine to 27 miles. So I started to think about the advantages and disadvantages of commuting to work.
The most important advantage to commuting is that you've managed to get in some free miles each day around work. You have to get to work anyway so why not do it the fun and healthy way by riding into the office? The other great thing about this is that if you have a family you've saved up the all important brownie points by not having to go out and train on an evening, and this could mean you get more time to ride on a weekend.
The other great advantage is the training benefit you'll get each day and the variety of ways to get into work. The possibilities are endless when it comes to commuter training as there is just so much choice. When you cycle to work with a rucksack or panniers the extra weight forces you to push that little bit harder so next time you're on the racing bike it'll feel a million times easier. The added weight also makes for good fun when you play "Catch the commuter" - a great training exercise where when you see a cyclist further up the road you push harder to catch them and wish them a good day. If you're lucky like me you'll find someone to regularly commute with that can push you each day and add to the fun. Admittedly, my commuting friend Simon is still to come round to the idea of backpack hill sprints to work yet...
One of the great advantages to commuting has to be the views you'll get each day. There is nothing better than riding to and from work during a sunrise or sunset and appreciating the world around you each day. It's guaranteed to make you happier as you start or end the day and is a nice little addition to the endorphins you'll already have from riding.
Of course, riding to work is all well and good, but it helps to be prepared and in order to avoid the potential disadvantages of cycling to work there are a few important things to remember.
Firstly, there is guaranteed to be a day that you decide to ride to work only for the heavens to open and you get utterly soaked so it's definitely worth wrapping your clothes and valuables in a carrier bag to make sure they're extra waterproof as well as putting everything in a rucksack with a waterproof cover. There is still always a small chance things will get wet so if you have a locker or drawers at work it's worth having some spare underwear and socks just incase. I would also find a radiator too just incase you need to dry some soggy kit - computers don't like being dressed in lycra.
Furthermore, you're pretty much guaranteed to break into a sweat so it's always a good idea to keep a towel at work and check there is somewhere to shower on a morning as there would be nothing worse than attending that all important meeting caked in mud and sweat. Of course once you've had a shower you'll want to put a crisp suit or similar that you've ironed in advance so you won't want it creasing on the way to work. I find that rolling up your clothes rather than folding them helps to keep them crease free and ready to go, and leaving my suit at work for the week makes a massive difference.
So really, commuting is a pretty positive experience on the whole if you manage to plan ahead and pick a good route to ride. Give it a go, you might enjoy it!