Sinead Ryan: Join Ireland's cycling craze and cash in on the wheel-good factor
There are plenty of affordable incentives to help commuters join the country's cycling craze
If Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte ever visits Ireland, it's a given that action man Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will go for a spin on a bicycle with him, although we're still in the ha'penny place compared to the Netherlands where cycling is the primary form of transport. But we are catching up.
Initiatives like cycle lanes, greenways, city bikes and tax rebates have all contributed to the huge increase in cycling. This week I'm looking at different aspects of cycling, while the table shows some prices you can expect to pay.
If you haven't been on a bike since you were a child, begin slowly, says Cian Ginty, editor of IrishCycle.com.
"Plan your route carefully, start in a park or quiet housing estate and practise looking behind you and signalling. Don't begin in rush hour traffic."
When selecting a bike, there's a vast array depending on what you want it for. "If you race 100km at the weekend, you need a totally different bike from your 8km work commute," says Ginty. "Go to a professional bike retailer because everyone's different and you'll need to get it serviced or repaired. If it's a work bike, then an upright 'Dutch' model might be best, with a basket or panniers which avoids you carrying a heavy rucksack - better the weight on the bike than you."
Electric bikes used be considered only for older people but that's changing. "Teenagers are buying them now for school runs," says Ginty. For maximum speeds of 25km, you don't need tax, insurance or a licence - over that and it's considered a motorbike.
DublinBikes in the capital and BikeShare in Cork, Limerick and Galway have made a terrific impact on using bicycles for commuting. In Dublin, over 20 million journeys to date with 70,000 subscribers proves its success and the fact 96pc of all journeys are free short-hops makes it extremely affordable. An annual pass is around €20 but for trips under 30 minutes, it's free.
Cycle to Work scheme
This employer-sponsored tax back scheme from Revenue is available to full and part-time workers where your company purchases a bike/accessories and claims the cost back, through your salary, over 12 months. The maximum spend is €1,000 and you can avail every five years.
Barry Flanagan of Taxback.com says it's straightforward. "It is given as a deduction from gross pay for Income Tax, PAYE and PRSI. The saving is the tax that would have been paid on this income making it very worthwhile for the employee and not overly burdensome for the employer."
For those earning less than €34,550, it gives an effective saving of 28.75pc (20pc IT, 4.75pc USC and 4pc PRSI) while those earning over €34,550 will save at least 48.75pc of the cost of the bike/equipment.
It's not all about getting to work. Leisure cycling is a huge industry here with the Waterford Greenway fully open now, the Great Western along the Wild Atlantic Way is 42km long, while the stretch from Dublin's Royal Canal to Galway will ultimately cover 280km (the Dublin to Athlone section is virtually complete). See irishgreenways.com for information.
Bike theft remains a chronic problem, especially in cities. As such, there are very few dedicated bike insurers so most people insure on the ordinary household policy. But many have a 'per item' limit, which can be as low as €1,000.
If your bike is valued at more than this, you'll need to list it on All Risks, carrying an extra premium. Specialist insurance from bicycleinsurance.ie is around €1.99 a month for a bike under three years old, valued up to €250.
For a new one worth €1,000, the premium is €76.65 per year.
The best bike deals
There are hundreds of models to choose from but the first advice is to decide what your bike is for: leisure or commuting.
While many will do both, you need specialist advice if you plan to get a racing bike. There are lots of online retailers, but trying out the right bike for you in a shop is vital and you will need to build a relationship with a retailer who will be able to provide parts, servicing and repairs.
Prices vary wildly, but if you're not sure it's for you, get a second-hand model and see how you get on. Expect to pay 10pc of the bike's cost on a good lock and don't forget a helmet.
Here are some current models:
- cyclesuperstore.ie, Tallaght: Canondale Quick City bikes (€540 - €1,800).
- Bikes or Bicycles, Dublin 8: Raleigh Folding Bike €235; Raleigh Circa 2 Ladies bike €350.
- Victoria Cross Cycles, Cork: Ridgeback Cyclone electric bike €2,687; Comfort 20 €409.
- Kearney Cycles, Galway: Trek FX1 €449 - €495.
- Argos: Activ Commute Mens €239.99; Active Vermont Hybrid ladies €242.99.
- Halfords: Carrera Transit folding bike €385 - €440; Boardman MX Comp Bike €576.