The new year started out the way it so often does these days, with news that public transport costs are rising once again.
In January 2018 ticket prices increased by 3.6% –roughly 1% above inflation. These days even a short commute on the train across Cardiff is going to take a considerable bite out of your annual salary.
Season ticket prices only seem to be trending upward, rising 3.2% in 2019 and 2.7% in 2020, but what if there was another way?
As transport choices go, taking public transport instead of a car into town is better for everyone. It is better for you, particularly if you walk or cycle to the station. It is also better for the environment because it is one less car sitting in a queue.
The train should be coming down in price and we hope that it will someday, but instead it only seems to be the cost of motoring that is falling.
We’ve been looking at season ticket costs, mostly in horror. Knowing how little time these journeys take by bike it is mystifying to see how little you get for £500 on a train these days. It got us thinking…
Instead of buying a season ticket, how “much” bike can you get for your money? We’re going to focus on the Valley Lines service running through Cathays, Llandaff, Radyr, Taffs Well and stations to Pontypridd, mostly because it is shadowed by the Taff Trail. When the East-West route is built it’ll largely cover the city line and the North-South route will cover the Caerphilly line. However, these routes are still a couple of years away.
To make life easier we are going to compare road bikes, if only because they are ideal for commuting and it narrows the field a little. We’re also going to compare prices on some of our partner’s websites to narrow the field further. If you shop around you will no doubt find better deals and bikes that may suit you better.
However, the prices quoted assume you are paying cash. If your employer participates in the cycle to work scheme, you could get even more for your money.
The nearest out-of-town station appears immediately after Cathays on the line.
A 12-month season ticket will set you back £532 which puts you in range of the Pinnacle Laterite 2 in Mens or Women’s varieties for around £400. These are aluminium-framed road bikes with the Shimano Sora groupset. They’ll take mudguards and a rack, making for an ideal commuter.
At £400, you’ll have enough left over for clothing and a slap-up meal.
One stop up from Llandaff is Radyr. It’s a short ride up the trail from Llandaff and a short train journey too. Mercifully it is also the same price.
The selection of bikes would be the same here. However, if you were to get the train, given the legendary overcrowding on this service, it may be worth riding north from Llandaf to Radyr to increase your chances of being able to actually get on the train. Perhaps this explains the premium levied against stations further up.
This brings us neatly onto…
Another relatively short ride up the trail is Taffs Well. Heading through Tongwynlais, Radyr is a mere 10-15 minute ride at the very most, yet oddly the distance adds £200 onto the annual cost of a season ticket. £200!
This broadens your options substantially, but it also complicates things a little. There are more expensive bikes with inferior group sets hiding in amongst the same bikes as before but with Tiagra or 105 group sets. Knowing how great 105 is, our pick here would be the Pinnacle Laterite 3 in Mens or Women’s varieties.
It would be tempting to go for the name-brand models that appear in the list, including the Trek Domane and the Specialised Alez, but they both come with Claris (shudder!) at this price point. The Laterite 3 is is £560, giving you plenty of change left over for clothing and supplies.
Head six miles up the trail and your season ticket will set you back another £244 per year. This brings us perilously close to that magic £1000 price bracket.
Once again, taking price and specification into account, the Pinnacle comes out top with the Dolomite Ltd Edition (mens) (women’s) at £975 gives you a 105 groupset and hydraulic disc brakes.
If you don’t fancy either of those, Tredz has a selection of road bikes below £980 with a Tiagra or 105 drivetrain. However, what Tredz offer in variety, they lack in bargain-price own-brand models (Pinnacle is an Evans brand).
Oh, but the train is quicker…
The nearest station to us is Taffs Well. My average riding time is 30 minutes from here to the centre of Cardiff. Radyr Station is reached 10-15 minutes after setting off; Hailey Park 5 minutes after that and the top of the North Road car park is another 10 minutes away.
This means that your £532 season ticket could be replaced by a 10-minute ride on a bike, or from Radyr just 15 minutes.
However, time is crude way to look at the way we spend our lives. Yes, ready meals are quicker to cook than real food; instant coffee is quicker to make than good coffee, but if the choices you make are actually detrimental to your health and only serve to shorten your life, how much time are you really saving?
Riding a bike could take longer to begin with, but how many good weeks, or even years are you adding onto your life? How much later into your old age will you retain your independence?
It won’t be long before you are fitter and stronger than you used to be and knocking minutes off every trip, whilst adding many good years to your life.
This article was originally written in 2018 and therefore uses 2018 ticket prices as a baseline.
However, the links to suggested bicycles are current as of 29th December 2019.