In his song Hassliebe (Love-Hate), the German rapper Curse asks: "Is it possible to have a love-hate relationship?" The answer is a resounding YES! And one example of just such a relationship is that which the FOCUS team have with commuting to work on their bikes. Particularly in winter! Oscillating between pleasure and frustration, they peddle their way to and fro between home and our new headquarters in Filderstadt. This is a (very personal) tribute to that daily trip to work.
Shrill, loud and jarring – the alarm clock does its utmost to tear us away from our bike-filled dreams. Success! Wide awake! So how come it's now so hard to get into gear and jump on the object of our dreams? Because it's cold outside. Because it's nice and cosy under the bed covers. Because it will always be a challenge, no matter how much of a fan you are. What are we on about? The daily commute of course. Our old friend, the Strava app, even lets you log and record such trips. Whilst this may mean that breaking out the bike is now a rather modern activity, ultimately, we are still talking about cycling to work. Whether by racing bike or mountain bike, the choice is yours. But we're talking the real thing here – not just a quick hop-on-hop-off ride in your office clothes. We're talking the full package, with proper cycling gear. And of course it's only worth doing that upwards of a certain distance.
And therein lies the quandary: you're torn between aversion and desire. You feel no joyful anticipation, but you know the great subsequent satisfaction will make up for this. For the FOCUS team, the route is generally from Stuttgart to Filderstadt. The shortest route is roughly 15 kilometres, which can be easily stretched to 25 kilometres or more, depending on inclination and weather. However, potential bike commuters should bear in mind the logistical costs of having to maintain two households – the need to keep clothes and wash kit both at work and at home. Once that's sorted, you're all set to go and it's just a question of routine – or is it?
"What keeps me wanting more is the thrill of discovering new routes", said Thomas Trapp, chief engineer at FOCUS, before launching into an endless stream of possible detours and roundabout routes, each with it's own potential new experiences, and each with a scattering of sensational forest names that would be at home in any comic book. And yet his enthusiasm is somehow infectious. So let's go...
Chocolate croissant and coffee
You've washed the sleep out of your eyes and pulled on your bike gear. Hesitation, second thoughts – maybe you should take the train after all? No, you stay strong. The first shiver runs down your spine as you step outside. It's that first step that revs you up, when you suddenly notice that you're actually not as tired as you thought you were a minute ago. Quick stop-off at the bakery for a chocolate croissant and coffee. What better start to the day?
The alternative shouldn't even enter your thinking: you're sitting at your desk, because you didn't cycle in today. A muffled up Patrick Schmidt (design engineer) walks through the door and pulls down his buff. You see red cheeks, lightly streaming eyes and clothes covered with mud spatters and instantly feel pangs of jealousy and regret – but why these strange feelings? Why doesn't the sight of this ride-battered bike commuter put you off? Why does it make you regret taking the train?
"It's in the job description", says design engineer, Mario Poess, who probably has the greatest number of test kilometres under his belt with the new JAM². "The climb to the top of the Birkenkopf hill is practically a rite of passage nowadays". Beautiful sunrise over Stuttgart thrown in for free – a vista we never tire of and yet another reward of the cycle commute that we simply can't get enough of.
The ride always delivers
It's a self-fulfilling prophecy – the ride always delivers. No ride comes without a highlight: the red sunset, which isn't actually red at all, rather a sort of orange glow that we can't help but take a picture of every time, even though we already have so many; the tumble you narrowly manage to avoid; the perfectly timed overtaking of a stronger fellow commuter; the time you arrive too late at the meeting point and then go all-out to catch up with the group and fall into its slipstream; small, successful detours to avoid cars that provide an amazing feel-good factor; and that all-consuming small patch of lamp-lit ground ahead of you – the only thing important to you right now. You will never feel more heroic than during your daily commute.
Each season offers its own unique backdrop: trees shrouded in fog; artistic silhouettes projected through the roof of leaves onto the forest floor; the passing woods dipped in a kaleidoscope of colours; the bowing heads of the sunflower guard of honour; the monotonous drip-drip of post-shower raindrops; the horizon flooded a deep pink by the sun; stark black-and-white landscapes; meadows groaning under the weight of the snow; a pointillist painting made up of hundreds of petals; air heavy with the pungent aroma of wild garlic; half-frozen, iced-over beards; the crunching of your tyres on gravel; the chirping of the early birds that caught the worm. As you cycle towards the glowing horizon, you feel as if you're in a film – like Lucky Luke, we ride into the sunset. Every ride has its own unique story to tell – your story.
So have you ever regretted a commute on the bike? Never! It is what it is – challenging and rewarding in equal measure.