I’m now 4 weeks into my cycling to work project and I’m cycling in pretty much every day. I’m still loving it and reckon I’m toning up (and this is combined with a noticeable decrease in gym attendance + increase in wine-drinking & cheese plates). I’ve stopped having to prepare so much although I still need to pack the next day’s work clothes the night before, and I’ve made some improvements which have made it even nicer:
- Thanks to some fantastic comments on my first cycling to work post, I’ve ditched the sweat-inducing backpack and now have a back shelf and paniers which I FIXED ON MYSELF using plyers and screws and similar. I bought the red Ortlieb City (approx £30 for a single) which is fully waterproof and fits my handbag, work clothes and lunch, as well as on occasion (this has been tried and tested) 3 bottles of wine, a bag of Neals Yard Cheese and 2 large bags of supermarket shopping. I added my own strap so I can carry it easily. It is fab and hasn’t made me fall over yet.
- The Chef pointed out my tyres were almost sans air. He pumped them up. That made me go quicker.
- I have stopped cycling in full sports kit as that meant during the day I was wandering round Soho in fleece and rucksack rather than my normal gear. So I now wear trainers and trackie bums and a t-shirt with a normal jacket that I can wear for lunch. I’ve also cycled straight from work in a dress and knee-high boots to a restaurant which was fine and felt quite glamorous, apart from arriving with a slightly sweaty back (covered with cardigan pronto). I’d be happy to cycle to post-work drinks wearing normal clothes now – knee high boots and a dress works brilliantly, just be aware of saddle-chafing and ripped tights (sorry!).
- I can also now see sans glasses (a post on eye-lasering is coming this week) so I have escaped the irritation and indignity of steamed-up-rain-soaked glasses when cycling in crappy weather.
The only reason this photo is here is to show that I DID IT MYSELF with a tool box n everything
I feel more confident cycling on the streets now, especially when its light. If I get into a crush, I’m happy to zip around and through it and get into a space, although I’ve had a couple of close calls, mainly with lorries and buses who’ve pulled too close to the left-hand kerb. I have also realised the benefit of cycling a block or two on the pavement to get out of a traffic jam or avoid a one-way long cut. Pedestrians may get irritated but it’s better than being in danger and gets you there quicker. I am VERY aware of pedestrians and make sure I give them a wide birth. Londoners are hilariously distracted at times, especially with their head in an iPhone, but we all need to look out for one another. I have started taking different routes depending on my mood and how much time I’ve got. I love that London is so flat.
London is opening up to me more. It seems smaller, easier to get around. I know I can get from The Chef’s place to Marble Arch and the shops of Oxford Street in 30 minutes, and it’s flat all the way. I’m getting from Brixton to Tottenham Court Road in 35 minutes, down from 45 at the start. I’m learning the cobbled streets of Covent Garden and have discovered the location of several restaurants and shops that were previously hidden to me. I’m getting to know London’s bridges and the Thames better. I know where the wind blows stronger and the cars drive faster. I’m saving money on public transport costs.
I’m spending more time hanging out in these sorts of places – this is the fabulous Brixton Cycles
I am feeling London get warmer and lighter, and that makes me happy. I can’t wait to cycle in Summer. I think I’m getting a bit of a tan, or I may be wind-beaten. Either way I think not being on the tube and all this fresh air is good for my skin. Which reminds me, every time I go on the tube, I am reminded that it can be such a horrible experience – boiling hot, dusty, jam-packed, everyone stroppy and mean. I’m happy to have escaped. If you still get the tube everyday then I’m sorry and I don’t mean to make you feel bad, but cycling is a viable alternative and if a big unfit wuss like me can do it then anyone can.
Cycling is a good way to get the measure of Londeners too. I’ve been getting to know different people – cabbies shouting at me for not realising there was a bike path on Battersea Bridge Road, bus drivers who may either squish you into the side of the road or tell you there’s a bike path on Battersea Bridge, lorry drivers who are generally nice with their banter on how bad the traffic is, but who sometimes just DON’T SEEM TO SEE YOU AT ALL. I’m still a stop-at-the-red-light-cyclist unless it’s a one-lane road with no-one crossing, and think that everyone should be. It is definitely the MAJORITY of people who stop, apart from a small number of dickheads who quite rightly get shouted at by pedestrians. Its so dangerous – in fact my friend saw someone get wiped out by Tottenham Court Road by a cyclist last week. It must save you about 1 minute of time and is just so pointless, as well as unnecessarily harming the cyclist-pedestrian bond which is already strained. Sometimes pedestrians are silly – shouting if you cycle on the pavement or across a zebra crossing when its clear I would be killed if I’d stayed on the road or I’m nowhere near them. But we all need to share the love and I understand how annoying certain cyclists can be.
I’d like to see things improving for cyclists in the next few years. Personally, I’ll be hanging out more at Brixton Cycles as an accessories geek and may invest in a faster bike or *shriek* some cycling shorts. I’d like to see cycle lanes marked more clearly – otherwise you don’t know they are there. I’d like lorries and buses to be more considerate. But it is changing my life in a really nice way. It means the thing I hate most about London – transport – has gone from being my biggest pain to one of my biggest pleasures. It is making me do exercise for a purpose and not for guilt. It is becoming my mode of transport to work, a way of life. And that’s the best sort of exercise there is.
And today I worked out something that’s even better (and if this whole post is just getting way too chirpy for you now, please feel free to delete) – I’m finding my working week is going FASTER. Not that my time is going faster, but I suddenly realise it’s Wednesday and my working week has flown by . I think it’s because normally I’d spend 1 hour a day on my tube commute to work and this is pretty much work time too – it’s just getting from A to B, still a bit stressed, thinking about work. Now, the minute I leave work, its ME time – zipping away, thinking about routes, concentrating on beating that bus or overtaking that bloke, smiling. And by the time I’m home I’ve forgotten work entirely.
My biggest worry is that I’m going to give it up or stop being so enthusiastic about it – like I did dance classes, and photography, and yoga, and a million other things – but I’m hoping this won’t be the case. The tube is only likely to get worse and the weather better, and I think my new-found calf muscles are worth the effort alone. I seriously LOVED all your comments on my last post so would love to get more ideas about other things I can try. Next time I’ll try to take some photos of my actual route. And if you’re lucky, my new lycra 🙂