Cycling to work – week 4

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 🙂

33 responses to “Cycling to work – week 4

  1. Ah lovely lady – well I, for one, loved the chirpy-ness of this post – maybe it is the fact that there is sort-of-but-not-quite-that-feeling-of-spring-in-the-air-and-birds-a-singing that is making you so chipper. And might I add that I am SO IMPRESSED with the fact that you’re obviously cycling ALL OVER LONDON and not just a fixed and familiar set route to work – hats off laydee.

    I’m afraid I still haven’t conquered my fear of the white van, but I tell you what, you conquer your fear of swimming/cold water (the dip in June is coming, I promise) and I will somehow drag my bike back from my parents as my first one in London got stolen within about 1.5 weeks of being in the city, and I will give it a shot. Oh my goodness, was that just an online declaration that I would cycle in London? Oh dear, I believe it was.

    I shall duly report back – you just promise to keep us updated/encouraged with your biking escapades.

    PS I am particularly enjoying your choice of highlighted words – there was something amusing about emboldening the fact that Chef PUMPED up your tires!

    PPS have you figured out a way of dealing with cycling hair yet, or are you lucky enough not to suffer from it?

  2. This. Exactly this. I’ve been cycling (after a 6 month break when I was made redundant) for 2 months now and I am LOVING it. I’ve long since given up on cycling in bike-specific gear – it’s jeans and an old t-shirt which I change out of when I get to work.

    That said, I even braved a Boris Bike in full dinner-date attire last night. Not advisable. The outfit was fine; however, my temper was somewhat frayed by the ugly, unwieldy mode of transport.

  3. “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” – easily one of my favourite realisations! Happy to see all has come along really well! Don’t worry about quitting on it – you’ll miss it the moment you stop!

  4. Please please please watch out for lorries. THEY REALLY DON’T SEE YOU! Never go down the left hand side of one as that’s where you have the potential to get squashed and is how many cyclists (even experienced ones) get killed.

    As for pedestrians, the majority of them look with their ears, not their eyes when it comes to crossing the road. As I found out to my detriment when one ran out in front of me on vauxhall bridge! Never be afraid to use that bell.

    On a more positive note… Glad to have another enthusiastic cyclist on the roads. It definitely makes you a happier person than when commuting by tube.

  5. This is brilliant news. It make me so happy so hear about someone else who has been bitten by the cycling bug!
    If you enjoy it so much, then I doubt you will give it up any time soon…so just stick at it and keep enjoying.

    A word of warning about pavements though…
    A few weeks ago…I mounted the pavement on Great Titchfied Street to go lock my bike up and was still hovering over the top of my bike…though not cycling on the pavement.
    Police officer and community support officer came up to me, told me to get off and warned me that there was a £30 fine for that!
    So make sure PC Plod is nowhere in sight when you mount a pavement…otherwise a very happy day can turn sour in an instant!

    Ahh…almost forgot to say…it’s totally possible to cycle in normal clothes. I always have and have had no problems…even with slightly longer commutes.
    You get used to layering and stripping off as you go along.


  6. Enjoyed reading this post. My wife is on the cusp of becoming a 2-wheeler & I shall pass this on to her for inspiration. Your pleasure gained from riding is what others need to understand, & your realisation that a bike is a fabulous & utterly valid MODE OF TRANSPORT is just the sort of thing I love to hear.

    You, however, chastise red light jumpers but then go on to casually dismiss your own pavement riding as acceptable. Your arguments for it are no different to those espoused by other cyclists for their misdemeanours or drivers for theirs. I would urge you to reconsider this double standard.

    Other than this, keep up the very good work!

    • Thank you and I KNEW someone would pull me up on the pavement thing. I do know its wrong, honestly, but it shaves about 5 minutes off my journey time and its only two ickle blocks, and I do it super slowly and SMILE at all the pedestrians. Is this OK? No, I realise its not still. I do get your point and I don’t do it often, will have a think how I can still cut the time off on the road.

      Tell your wife to go for it!! x

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  9. Gods above, you’re brave. I think this is just one thing I could never find the courage to do. The idea terrifies me.

  10. I always thought I would get bored of my bike within a couple of months as well, but more than two years on I am still cycling! This may have something to do with the fact I moved houses about 3 times during those 2 years, and enjoyed seeking out new, faster, quieter routes and discovering new parts of London. I have been in my current place for a year now and I’ve got the traffic light timings down to such a fine art I rarely need to put my foot on the ground. I have to admit there are some days now that it is a bit of a struggle to face the journey, but as soon as I think about my alternative in a carriage bursting with bodies and bacteria, the bike seems so much more appealing. Today is positively spring-like and has got me excited about the lovely warm months of riding to come! Here’s to a leisurely Greenwich cycle on the weekend.

  11. A fellow cycling Scot

    A the joy of cycling!

    The thing about cycling to and from work is that it doesn’t feel like a commute – as you’ve noticed. Your working day only starts when you get to the office and ends when you leave the office doors and get on your bike… Unlike catching train/tube/bus when you don’t feel like you’re day is over until you’ve gotten off at the other end.

    On another note, I have to say NO DON’T GET LYCRA!! You don’t need it. You’re cycling for transport, not sport! Get into just wearing your normal clothes – it’ll save you time! And note, cycling in heels is easier than walking in heels!

  12. Good on yer Sascha! I’m all for sharing tips, there’s so much to learn, so here’s a few:

    – Lidl occasionally have amazingly good value cycling gear. Sign up for their newsletter to find out when it comes in.
    – If you can fit your own rack, you can mend your own punctures. The black cab option is TRAGIC! I live in Brixton and can teach you if you like. You can get tons of lessons on the web but there are some pitfalls and it’s so much easier if someone helps you
    – The Manta saddle supposedly negates the need for cycling shorts. It’s new and nobody’s got one yet. The tests and reviews are encouraging.
    – the harder your tyres are, the less likely you are to get a puncture. Find out the max pressure (it should be marked on the tyre wall), get an easy to use pump with a pressure gauge and keep your tyres at the max by topping up twice a week. There are a few cleverly designed pumps out there which are light enough to carry all the time but also make it easy to get to max pressure. (I can do you a shortlist if you like.) Some people go for YEARS without a puncture!
    – if you leave your bike locked up in public places you can buy locking skewers. They make life much easier. You can also get locking saddle bolts.
    – a mirror can increase your safety a lot. The only really good one is the Mirrycle. Some say a mirror is more important than a helmet. It definitely helps if you’re trying to claim some road space but are nervous about traffic behind you. Have a read of this article. You’ll love the bit about cycling on the pavement!
    – if you’re about to be crushed by a lorry the driver probably won’t hear you scream but he might hear an air horn like the AirZound

  13. Please don’t buy lycra shorts, it is so unneccesary, just cycle relaxed, take it easy and look great. Cruising around taking the world in letting everyone overtake you is the way forward.

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  15. Goodness! Finding your blog is like a gift from heaven! You seem to be interested exactly in the same kind of things that have been going on in my own little head lately, PLUS you tell all kinds of things about London! I fell in love in that city three years ago when I visited it with my daughter. How we loved everything there! Next summer we’re coming back for a week. I couldn’t have found a better blog to find valuable information, and you list of blogs seem to have some very good links, too. Incredible! Thank you for existing!

  16. Can’t wait for the snow to go away in Chicago because I am soooo very ready to ride my bike to work!

  17. It’s official – cycling to work has been proven to inflate happiness! “Cycle-commuting the secret to a happy life says New Economic Foundation report”

  18. Getting a bike in London is actually life changing, right??

    Don’t worry, you won’t give up. One day on the tube and you’ll be desperate to go back again.

    I cycle in merino gear (tops and leggings) so I can get changed at work and wear whatever I want, without feeling restricted on my bike. I also have this jacket which is expensive *but* completely windproof, kind of waterproof and doesn’t look like a cycling jacket. BRILLIANT. Saving for the lighter summer version now.

    My other tip is to cycle like no one can see you at all and trust no one. How lovely. But after breaking my wrist into 8 pieces when a white van knocked me off my bike, I’m very very very careful now. Also: if you want a new bike, get one. Loving your bike is so important : )

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