Cycling to work – Week 1

No-one can accuse the HPL of being all mouth and no trousers and thus my NY resolution to start cycling to work started in earnest this week. I knew next to nothing about cycle commuting so I’m imparting my new-found wisdom for other beginners who are tempted to give it a shot. I still have a LOT to learn, mind. I prepared the way I prepare for any new hobby – I bought lots of new shiny things that I may or may not need. What I bought and/or already had is below :

  1. A bike. A trek allant with nice whicker basket. Old-fasioned ladies bike that makes me sit up tall and take in the view. Looks best with floral skirt and non-helmet-head flowing locks. With baguette. Hopelessly impractical for commuting as it’s heavy and the basket makes it unwieldy for narrow-space-car-passing. (Total cost about £399 I think – sadly bought before Ride To Work scheme introduced. Am going to buy proper light road bike through RTW soon.)
  2. A lock – one of the solid ones. Plus a key to open it.
  3. Bike lights. They should be set to flashy-flashy as this saves batteries and removed when you park it up otherwise they get nicked.
  4. A repair kit (ha! Like I will EVER use this).
  5. A high-vis vest.
  6. A helmet.
  7. A bike pump to fit on the bike. It falls off constantly and is currently in a drawer somewhere. (All the “extras” cost about £50).
  8. A rucksack to carry work clothes in while I cycle.

The most important thing is to get your route nailed – avoiding busy roads, learning where the cycle paths are and what lanes you need to be in. The Chef and I did a dry run on Sunday where we got a bit lost but worked out the rough route, and on Monday morning I cycled in with my work mate. There are tons of cycle route planners that you can use.

I’ve now cycled to work and back twice this week and I love it already. The cycle to work is wonderful – it’s light and airy and I cycle along the Thames, past the Houses of Parliament, along Pall Mall, round Trafalgar Square and through Covent Garden. A lovely route for people-watching and admiring London’s great views. And I imagine I’ll see the seasons changing the trees and colours and water far more than before. AND while it’s winter I’m not sweaty enough to merit a shower at the other end so I just need to pop on work clothes and I’m office-ready.

Any stresses are replaced by thinking about whether to cycle slow or fast, what lane I need to be in, enjoying the ride, and humming (this week = Scotland The Brave). Also I’ve been absolutely exhausted both days when I’ve got home and the muscles in my legs feel stronger so I know I’m going to get fit and it means I don’t stress so much about going to the gym. By the time I’ve got to my desk at 9am I’ve done 40 minutes of cardio and this makes me happy.

I’m certainly not cycle-fit yet which explains why every man and his dog has overtaken me, which I’ve blamed on my heavy bike (bad. workman. tools), although I have noticed I’m pedalling about half the speed of the people whizzing by. My newbie tip is to use a couple of flat stretches to cycle walking-pace, checking out the view, and then use your energy to cycle like hell in the really busy bits, especially when squished between a bus and a lorry, or overtaking a bus as it starts to pull out.

The ride home? Hmmm, I’ll be honest – when it’s dark and cold and a bit rainy, its a bit miserable. My hands feel cold even through gloves, and both cyclists and drivers seem really stroppy and go really fast to get home as quickly as possible (totally understandable but I’m a sensitive soul, especially on my first week). There’s no view and it’s a bit scary as you feel less visible.

I haven’t had any major disasters yet – I’ve been in the wrong lane a couple of times, but a few wobbly indications and I’ve got myself in the right place. I’ve also been beeped at twice by taxi drivers when I was a little hesitant about where I was going (I think newbies should really have “learner” signs). There are two horrible bits of my route – Vauxhall roundabout and Trafalgar Square – which I’ve been OK on but often found myself unhappily squished between large vehicles and found that I needed to (i) squeeze my way through them into a bit of space; or (ii) indicate wildly and wobble into the middle of a lane. The good thing is that at rush hour there are tons of other cyclists that you can snuggle up behind and follow. Just sniff out the high-vis. If it all gets a bit scary, I’d suggest just stepping off and pushing your bike to the pavement, crossing the road and then jumping back on when it gets better. Also if you are squished, I’ve found making yourself known to the drivers by giving them a “if you move an inch your wing mirror will smash into my crotch” kind of look then you’ll feel more comfortable. The best thing would be to find a route that avoids these roads but sometimes it’s just not possible.

One moan I have is that I’m a stop-at-the-red-light cyclist and I have almost been knocked over about three times by other cyclists – all lycra or army-combats clad men – who have almost hit my bike as they zoom past. I get that some people don’t feel they need to stop at the lights (which I don’t really agree with ever since I saw an old lady getting knocked over by a cyclist doing exactly that at Liverpool Street) but no reason to go so fast or so close to me.

And anyway, can’t we spread some cyclist love? I know I’m a newbie and thus a bit wobbly and unsure and not privy to THE CODE, but NO-ONE has ever smiled at me, or said “after you” or done anything nice. Is cycling a non-contact commute like the tube?  Maybe we should be like Mini drivers or Harley bikers and honk each other (erm or just smile) when we congregate in that square at the front of traffic lights? I know we’re busy and stuff but it would make everyone’s commute a bit nicer.

So, I’m going to continue my cycling to work project, hopefully twice or three times a week, and if you see a blonde with a whicker basket who’s inevitably in the wrong lane and/or in the middle of the road, smiling or indeed honking, you’ll know it’s me.

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46 responses to “Cycling to work – Week 1

  1. You have a very scenic route to work. Lucky. 🙂
    I’m also impressed that for a new commuter to work, you tackle some very busy roads!

    Remember, happiness is not about speed…although I do have to confess to ‘racing’ other cyclists at times (*cough…cough* today *cough* and I won I think)!
    But yes…safety does come first and going at a pace which you feel comfortable at is key.

    Hope you really get the bug and keep at it. So much better than cars or public transport. 🙂

    • Thanks Angi! I think I have the bug already! And ha ha I did feel insanely proud when I overtook this girl at Kennington on Wednesday night. And then she overtook me a bit later when I got tired and then I overtook her again, it became some game of pride. So childish but FUN really 🙂 x

  2. Oh I am impressed and jealous of your cycling determination. If only I wasn’t quite so UTTERLY TERRIFIED of creating an unfortunate combination of face+tarmac+London bus=crushed skull. Your tale of success is encouraging me a little so maybe I will bring my bike down from Manchester when I visit in a few weeks…just in case.

    Saying that I actually cycled a tiny bit myself this week too. Literally a tiny bit, from Brick Lane to Barbican, on a Boris Bike, at 12am, after 5 pints. It wasn’t my idea, and I protested that I was far too drunk to cycle given I haven’t cycled in about 10 years and would probably struggle if I was full sober. I’m too easily convinced though, and they let me cycle on the pavement most of the way because I was too scared/weaving to be safe on the road, although it being midnight there thankfully weren’t that many cars/buses/lorries of death around.

    I did still fall off once into some bins, had to get off and push a couple of times for fear of traffic lights, and demanded to stop a Barbican because there was some scaffolding over the pavement and it was more than my tiny pickled brain could handle. Despite all that though, it was pretty fun and I did feel somewhat exhilarated afterwards. Time to give the cycle planner a go at least maybe.

    Also, if you find you’re surrounded by wankers I can recommend checking out http://www.101wankers.com a blog from someone I went to uni with about people who are wankers to cyclists. Feel a bit weird recommending her blog as she is my boyfriend’s ex, and it didn’t end well at all, so really I should hate her by default, but the site is still a cool idea.

    Happy future cycling! xx

  3. And that was a much longer comment than I realised…erm..oops.

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  5. A lovely post. I never learnt to ride a bike as a child and I’m far too self-conscious to try now, so I’m full of admiration for anyone who a) can cycle and b) is brave enough to cycle through London traffic.

    • Thanks Sharon. I’m not really brave – I’m actually a gigantic wuss – so if I can do it anyone can. Next time you go for a weekend away why don’t you hire some bikes and just have a go? It’s super fun and there’s something about going fast with the wind through your hair that’s just brilliant. Oh listen to me – actually I spend much of my time puffing and groaning up hills 🙂 xx

  6. it *does* get better! and cyclist solidarity is out there, i promise – i’ve had nice natters while waiting at the traffic lights (even coming over vauxhall bridge – same route!) about the weather, the traffic, the news, and even once, helpfully, when some lycra-clad perv pointed out that he could see my knickers through my skirt. one thing to be really super careful about, though, which i wish someone had told me, is people getting out of their cars without looking, both driver- and passenger-side. i got knocked off last october by someone getting out kerbside right in front of me. not fun (for either of us, i imagine!)…
    i’ve been very lazy in the past few freezing months but you’ve inspired me to get back in the saddle. thanks, and happy pedalling!

    • Thanks Clara! Yes taxi drivers and car doors definitely a pesky risk, but certainly worth it (well I am saying that until I have an accident at least…). Glad to hear people are nice and cycle solidarity – I’d like to think if I fell off or had a problem people would help out. Honk if you see me on Vauxhall bridge yes?! x

  7. Hi Sasha – couldn’t resist commenting in detail on this, as I have been cycling in London for 10+ years and love it more and more… My top tips would be:
    – don’t worry about speed, going at a slower pace is safer, more fun, you don’t sweat, and you still get there quicker than any other form of transport in London
    – forget the toolkit – if you get a puncture that’s what black cabs are for.
    – looking good is important!! My excuse is that I’m “normalising” cycling ie showing that it’s for normal stylish people not just nerdy lycra lovers. I would never dream of cycling in anything other than the clothes I am going to be wearing at my destination. So: mini skirts (with woolly tights), silk one shouldered cocktail frock (last Friday – with warm hoody over the top), smart boots, heels (NOT mules though – they come off at red lights), are all fine. I have a pair of Terry de Havilland shoe-boots so high I can in fact only wear them when cycling as I can’t really walk in them…. I wear an expensive but beautiful Bern helmet, and use a brilliant New Look pannier that converts to a smart shoulder bag.
    – good warm weather kit means cycling throughout the cold & snowy period was actually a pleasure (& I am by no means rugged): thinsulate gloves, special woolen lining for my Bern helmet with ear flaps, two coats, cashmere socks. I can cycle through freezing wind and snow and arrive at my destinations snug and smug.
    – Iphone Maps has transformed my cycling in London – it has shown me how surprisingly close a lot of places are, that previously I would have ruled out as too far to cycle. (though I’m a bit cross with Maps at the mo – it took me cross country across Hyde Park on Weds evening and I got locked into Kensington Gardens, was rescued eventually by a police van, the shame…)
    – final, controversial tip, maybe only for highly confident cyclists: I find that listening to my Ipod makes my cycle rides a lot more enjoyable. Riding home along the Albert Embankment at night listening to my fave tunes has got to be amongst the most life affirming moments in my week. I DO keep the volume down, and have found that it doesn’t affect my hearing of traffic, it does slightly affect my hearing of people’s voices, not necessarily a bad thing…..
    I suspect there’s a strong correlation between Londoners who cycle and levels of happiness. And I look at all the people I know who are still fit, healthy, engaged and enjoying life in their 60s and 70s – what they have in common is that they all cycle. What an inspiration!
    Happy cycling!

    • I think I love you. Seriously. You cycle in designer shoe boots and a skirt, listen to your iPod and don’t go too fast. Seriously. We should start a cycling club – fabulous ladies with fabulous shoes xxxx

      • Cathy can you get it touch please? Just checked out your good vibrations organisation website and I’m really intrigued and a bit inspired by it. And you look lovely too! I wondered whether you might do an interview for the blog? Do email me if you can x

    • oooh I love these tips!
      I’m in Australia but will try apply here.
      PS: I’ve spot of cyclechic workwear that I photographed on the streets of melbourne up on my blog at the moment – please click on my handle to check it! Xx

  8. You’ve still got a bike at home so no excuse except it hasn’t been ridden for years. You could cycle up Arthur’s Seat-( for non Edinburgers that’s a hill in the middle of the city, 10 minutes from where I live!)

  9. Sasha,

    Well done on taking the plunge. Two wheels are the only way to travel around London.

    One thing perhaps worth mentioning is the government’s Bike 2 Work scheme which is a great way to pick up a new bike at around 50% off the list price. If your company is a member it’s well worth considering: http://www.bike2workscheme.co.uk

    Alex

    • Thank you Alex and yes in the summer when the tube is 40 degrees I’ll be loving my decision (and hopefully v slim and gorgeous by then as a result, NOT that I am shallow and vain).

      My company does B2W so that’s how I reckon I’ll get a light street bike – apparently you can get accessories with it too so really good value x

  10. Excellent piece. Actually it’s not Harley owners who wave at each other, it seems to be all motorcyclists (I am one) EXCEPT Harley owners – perhaps raising their hand increases the Harleys wind resistance and slows them down.

    As a cyclist as well, I do also nod occasionally to other cyclists. We should do this more.

  11. you have the exact same bike as me! i love it. i started cycling about 6 months ago and feel hard done by if i miss a day now. the cardio boost in the morning gets me well and truly pumped for the day ahead and makes me feel perky no matter now little sleep i’m running on. i got mine through cycle to work – spent about £550 on bike and kit and don’t regret it for one moment. never thought i’d be a cyclist either!

  12. Welcome to cycling in London! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it so much. I’ve cycled here daily in the 2 years since I moved to London, and yes, it’s easily one of the most satisfying things I do. Regarding unfriendliness: I’ve found that if you smile at people, they smile back at you. I’d suggest the lack of smiling is the same stony reticence all London transport users (and perhaps all Londoners?) exhibit, just transferred to bicycles. I’m even tempted to say it’s all Brits, but I’m not British and I haven’t spent a huge amount of time outside of London. There are some people trying to change this though, http://www.dingday.org/ for instance.
    Also, I wonder if the Borisbikes’ ‘all of us are potential cyclists’ effect might lead to more civility.

  13. Welcome to the cyclists club!

    I have been commuting to work in London for a couple of years now. I’m quite jealous of your route. It sounds so pretty! Like a lot of cycle commuters I see tarmac and busses for my entire journey. That doesn’t make me adore it any less though, I would not trade my bicycle in for any kind of season ticket.

    I hope people take inspiration from you and cycle to work. It’s a scary step to take and I would always recommend testing routes at quieter times (I always find Sunday’s the be the least scary) to make sure you get lane position sorted and make the most of cycle paths/superhighways and contraflow systems.

    As for car drivers who are honkers, shouters and/or use hand gestures, they will always do that even if you are doing nothing wrong at all. Some drivers just hate cyclists.

    Also, just a little note on your basket, be very careful not to put anything in it unless you secure it down with bungees or something. A friend of mine (also a newbie cyclist) made the mistake of putting her bag in the basket without securing it only to have a scooter rider go past and steal it. Very bad times.

    I would also say, if you find yourself needing new tubes/tyres/brake pads etc, don’t skimp on them. I know it’s tempting to not invest being a newbie cyclist but I rue the day I bought a cheap tyre. I forced myself to get 3 months use out of it before upgrading but it made me hate every single ride on my bicycle the whole time it was on my wheel. Invest in quality, peer reviewed components, they will only enhance your bicycling experiences.

    Very best of luck! I hope you grow to love it more and more, I know I do.

  14. Welcome to the cycling club. When I started cycling to work about 4 years ago I couldn’t think about anything else – I was totally obsessed with how brilliant it was. Just a couple of tips from me: 1) Ditch the rucksack – the feeling of freedom (and lack of horrid hot back) when I invested in a rack on which I could put another basket or panniers revolutionised my cycling; 2) I always go the long way on tiny roads and back routes rather than the more direct main road way. It feels counter intuitive to add an extra mile onto a 5 mile journey but I find it totally worth it to avoid buses, trucks and exhaust fumes. Plus there’s a real joy getting to know previously unexplored roads. I can heartily recommend http://camden.cyclestreets.net/journey/ which also has the added bonus of showing hills thereby making it easier to avoid them!

    • Thanks Natalie – yes I think I may invest in a panier, totally get what you mean about sweaty rucksack back. Will also check out link – a couple of times I’ve ended up cycling along the Strand when it’s thick with traffic and it’s been miserable – choking fumes and 3 lane pile ups that I could barely squeeze past. Will take a look x

  15. Sasha

    Well done on your first week. What an absolutely brilliantly honest post! It is wobbly and horrifying scary but that’s why cycling in London is such an adrenalin rush. Lorries, buses (bendy and otherwise) cars, motorcycles, pedestrians and other cyclists all combine to produce the most heart-in-stomach moments ever. For me, it’s what keeps me on the road. I love the excitement of it.

    There is cameraderie out there. All you have to do is smile at whomever you make eye contact with. Lorry drivers, bus drivers, other cyclists…everybody. The joy that they feel at being smiled at will carry them along for a while and they feel good. They might return the smile but you can bet that they’ll remember the feeling and maybe try it themselves, on another unsuspecting road user….who in turn will do the same. And before you know it, we’ll all be stopping for coffee.

    Try it…create your own feel-good atmosphere and know that you’re spreading the cycling love. It does wonders for your own mood and makes it all worthwhile.

    As for those who speed past you. It’s an illusion. You’ll find them stuck behind something at the next set of lights or wedged between obstacles somewhere along the way.

    There’s a whole load of cycling karma out there. Harness it for good and don’t get caught into the trap of feeling like you have to behave like loads of others do. Cycling is fun. It’s a great way to get rid of the cobwebs and arrive at your destination fresh and happy. I hope you continue with it.

  16. What a nice post, and some great comments.

    I second the advice to get a rack and pannier bags. Yeah it’s yet more money but not wearing the rucksack will make you feel so much freer and more relaxed it’s well worth it!

    Also don’t worry about going fast. Nor about going for a lighter bike (doesn’t make that much difference anyway – it’s more about your legs!). Just cruise and enjoy. And keep on stopping for those red lights too. If enough of us do it then maybe one day it’ll actually be seen as WRONG to run them.

  17. Sasha, LOVE this post! You know one of my goals in moving back to Chicago is to ride my bike to work more often, like I used to do when I last lived here.

    Tonight after work, I ran a couple of errands and as I was walking home, Critical Mass passed me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass

    What had me laughing and smiling more than anything was the number of people on bikes who wished me a “Happy Friday” and “Hope your weekend is off to a good start!” Very infectious. That being said, there was a lot of lycra.

    My London Bike scheme membership runs through August so I’m excited to be back in April for a few days and to take some trips! Can’t wait!

    P.S. Two biking blogs I’m really enjoying that you should check out:
    http://bikefancy.blogspot.com/ The author takes fashion shots of female bikers. Love it!
    http://letsgorideabike.com/ Two authors, although the Chicago gal writes more. Covers riding to work a lot and is especially focusing on winter riding at the moment. Plus, she totally scored a free bike from the Dutch bike shop in Chicago in return for ads on her blog!!

  18. Totally relate to your post. I started cycling late last year and stopped when it started snowing and now starting off again.

  19. Hi Sasha

    Nice article! We posted it on our FB page http://www.facebook.com/goinggoingbike as thought it was a great insight into starting cycling. It will get easier I promise!

    Perhaps you’d like to write a guest post on our site about your experiences and encouraging people to “spread the cycling love”

    Cheers
    James

  20. Hi Sasha

    Congratulations on getting on your bike! I lived in London for 2 years and everyone thought I was bonkers for riding everywhere but it was one of my favourite things to do in the city. The freedom, the speed, the sights – and avoiding the stinking, slow Tube and Overground was such a blessing.

    I used to cycle to work from Paddington to Gunnersbury and very often I would cycle after work to Convent Garden or Waterloo to see a play or go to the ballet. So I never carried a rucksack (sweaty back, can cause back pain if it’s too heavy and so ugly) and only cycled in normal clothes so that I could leave home, get to work, go out after, all without a huge rigmarole. Like CathyE, skirts and tights were my cycling uniform and I very often cycled in killer heels that I would struggle to walk in 🙂

    Also I highly recommend a back rack and panniers, as they enable you to carry a lot more stuff easily – useful for grocery shopping or laptops/books for work. I am now 39 weeks pregnant and still use my bike (with panniers) to run errands because it’s so uncomfortable to walk places and carry things home.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Joyce

  21. Really nice post and I can relate to alot of what you wrote especially the parts about being fearful. I think there are alot more positives to cycling than negatives. The biggest negative is the fact the drivers in big vehicles don’t seem to care about the left hand lane of a road, sometimes occupying the cycle lane but I’m patient and wise and never, ever over/undertake bendy/double decker buses or lorries/trucks… just not worth it. I have seen some horrific accidents in the past involving both truck & cyclist impatience.

    One of the best cycle rides I do on a bi-weekly basis is cycling from Camberwell to Richmond and then around Richmond on my bike and I always bring my SLR to take some pictures… the worst kind of cycling is in the cold wet weather, slush is the worst! But I lap it up… bring it on haha the worst part of wet cycling is having to clean up the bike and wearing all the ‘wet’ clothes to keep you dry.

    Recently I crashed at Vauxhall (Nov 2010) on my way home from work in Battersea, on the Vauxhall roundabout, this was caused by a banana skin in a puddle I never saw (go on LAUGH), my back wheel caught it and skidded out and I got flung of my bike when I lost control and tore my left rotator cuff in 3 places (the bits in your shoulder that control the orbital movement and lifting and lost some strength too). My cycling jacket (then new, £90) got torn up on my left arm (now a “battle scar” on my jacket and reminds me of the accident), Luckily this happened on the cycle path and not in the road, if it had I am sure I would have been hurt more, maybe brown bread! Crazy person that I am, I got back on my bike after the accident instead of going to A&E and carried on cycling for the next 3 days before going to hospital as the pain became worse.

    I was told by the hospital I could lose the use of my left arm (dead shoulder) if I did not keep it moving and build up the strength against the pain… I am left handed and always been able to draw but had not drawn for 8 years prior to this accident and this accident kick started my drawing again which was fueled by the need to get my arm better. Shortly after this accident I had a loss in my family which fueled my drawing even more… what became a need to make my arm better and stronger became a full time hobby again and helped me cope with the bad stuff that was happening. Thankfully all this negative stuff at the end of 2010 had a positive effect, my arm is healing now and I am loving drawing again 🙂

    I still love cycling and prefer it to public transport. Summer is coming soon and I cannot wait to have some rides on my bike in the heat 🙂

    Word of warning, if/when you REALLY get in to bikes, you buy a nice road bike you will be subjected to ‘Bike Porn’, this basically means each time you visit a bike shop (and you will) you will ALWAYS look at bikes, see what is new and desire at least one bike. I never thought it would happen to me or any of my friends but it did… we all do it… go out cycling, visit a shop, drool over new bikes, look at the prices, gasp then leave the shop feeling slightly gutted but inspired and get on your current ‘horse’ 🙂

    Really nice blog, I will definately keep checking back 🙂

  22. BTW I ride a single speed bike, no gears, hard work 😛 and like you I never go thru red lights… it’s stupid and I have seen some cyclist almost meet their end doing it!

  23. Sasha,

    Have a look at this week’s London Cyclist post on our new cycling meet-up. All welcome.

  24. Pingback: Cycling to work – week 4 | The Happiness Project London

  25. Sasha, just wanted to stop by and say your cycling post made me smile, smile, smile – a really fantastic roundup of your first week and also your first month. As many of the others have already said, you’ve summed up what is so great about cycling, particularly in London. I’ve now been cycling for about 7 years in London and before that would ride to Brighton station, pop my bike (a 2nd hand Trek I bought for £150) on the train and then ride to work from Victoria. With the right kit you can ride all year round with the exception of the icy conditions we had before Christmas…

    Living in a city it is easy to not notice the seasons changing as rapidly as they do, and riding is one of the best ways to rectify this (and growing your own vege – difficult in Winter mind). When I started a new job I tubed for about a month and the delays, stuffiness and general unpleasantness of the underground was enough to get me back on my bike just before Christmas (although my reading did suffer) – it was zero degrees that day and I was so happy to be back on the bike, I was humming (current favourite song – Mark Ronson: The Bike Song) all the way into the office. I also love going into Brixton Cycles and try to get my bike serviced there a couple of times a year between the changing seasons. Another quick tip about changing tyres – just keep a spare inner tube in your pannier along with your bike pump that is currently in your drawer 😉 and also get some proper wheel jacks (not their proper name I’m sure) to jimmy your tyres off the rims easily. But the thing that has revolutionised my cycling experience in London are armoured tyres (Armadillos from Brixton Cycles). I used to get at least a couple of punctures every few months and it is such a hassle to change them, out and about, that it would really put me in a bad mood. The Armadillos are £25 each (£50 for tyres I hear you say) – but the saved inconvenience is well worth it, and as I would most times just not change my tyres until the weekend – the saved tube fares add up as well (£27 for a weekly travel card for zones 1&2 means I’ve paid for my armoured wheels after just 2 weeks riding). Remember what you invest now (bike servicing aside) you should only have to pay for once and then you can use again and again.

    The other thing I would recommend is LCC (London Cycling Campaign) membership. I took out membership out of complete self interest after being hit by a car (free third party insurance and legal advice from a team of cyclist-friendly solicitors), but the bi-monthly magazine is really excellent too and it’s a great cause. I usually take ages to crack it open, but am then completely hooked once I do – plus Lambeth Borough always has a flyer telling you what’s coming up over the next month or two and you get up to 15% discount in over 120 cycling shops in London. This alone is worth the £32 annual membership. Check it out.

    Finally, I think once you’ve got the bug, it’s a bit like travelling – you’ll never lose it. Take your camera along and take photos of your favourite parts of London – they change all the time! Dusk coming over Waterloo Bridge and free-wheeling down the other side is magical; and many times I’ve stopped around Christmas time to take photos of the lights and decorations along the different streets – you’ll get loads out of it and will really miss it when you’re forced to tube. Ok I think I’ve enthused enough – happy riding!

    • Oh thank you so much – really useful stuff here! I heard about armoured tyres already – not had a puncture yet (altho bought the puncture kit – as if I’d know what to do!) but once I do I’ll think about them. And my sis told me about LCC, will definitely have a look into it. Funnily enough cycled over Waterloo Bridge at dusk very shortly after I got this comment and agree it was magical! Hows your blog going? x

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