Cycling in London and Lent

When I lived in Oxford, I cycled everywhere. I was known to cycle from my house to the little Sainsbury's on St Giles, a journey of 0.1 miles according to Google Maps. I moved to London and was promptly terrified. I had left my lovely purple bike with a basket on the front in Oxford and was now bike-less and courage-less. Fast forward two years and I am determined to (a) save money by cycling when I can (b) save time by combining my gym time and my commute. 

Having gone through a succession of bikes acquired for £40 and promptly stolen from what I thought was a relatively secure spot locked to some part of my building's fire escape, and then another £50 bike (bestowed with a name this time – Gwendoline) which fell apart within a few rides, I have splashed out on a lovely new bike and accepted that it must live inside the flat. She's called Cecily and looks like this:


(photo credit)

Anyway, having found out that my current client, situated just off Berkeley Square, is not only the poshest client I could ever hope for (Molton Brown handwash?) but has showers, I have resolved that when practical* I will cycle to work, starting this week. 

So I thought I'd go for a practice run on Saturday, and my goodness am I glad that I did. Things I learnt:

– potholes are bad in a car. They're genuinely awful and terror-inducing on a bike (when a driver doesn't give you space to go around them and forces you through them)

– taxi drivers and garbage truck drivers shout at each other, loudly, with a very high expletive to sentence ratio.

– Whitechapel is pretty easy to cycle through because all the parked cars reduce the bus lane to a parking lane plus space for a bike. Less easy when a parent is attempting to control two small children and pulls one of them straight into your path.

– cars will turn left directly across you, despite having shown that they're aware of your existence, and force you to come to a tyre-skidding halt.

– so will pedestrians in Soho.

That's all the negatives (oh, I forgot – men in red vans will yell at you incoherently, apparently just for fun). The positives:

– Cecily and I had a magnificent time racing buses – and winning.

– Soho is really cool when navigated by bike because you actually notice all the little coffee shops and bars.

– It took me an hour door to door to my client. Which is about 5 minutes longer than I have to allow for the commute if I go by Tube on the Central line, and certainly no longer than when commuting by Jubilee line.

– I still have a huge amount of cycling fitness, given that I cycled for 2 hours on Saturday and didn't feel particularly sore afterwards! Woop for all those hours cycling in Oxford.

– I got home and stuffed myself with tuna pasta bake and macaroons with a clear conscience.

Therefore, as this week is the start of Lent, I resolve not only to give up junk food (including cake, which may put an end to my baking escapades – see tomorrow's post for the latest baking) but to take up cycling. Wherever practical (asterisk above) means:

– when not pouring with rain. Drizzle doesn't count.

– when I don't have plans to go to an event in the evening that I can't turn up to in Lycra.

– when I only have one place of work that day (i.e. not like last Monday, when I started in Canary Wharf, hitched a taxi-ride to King's Cross, had a meeting, then got the Tube to Berkeley Square… and back home to East London!).

Will I manage it? Will I survive the morning crush on the Mile End Road/High Holborn/Shaftesbury Ave? Will I keep it up for all of Lent? Will I write a blog post with even more bullet points?


2 thoughts on “Cycling in London and Lent”

  1. What a great challenge. I cycle all of 1.3 miles to work in Oxford, but when we move house later in the year I am going to attempt cycling in from Kidlington – 4.3 miles according to Google maps. Good luck with it!

  2. Well my current cycle is 7.6 miles each way and I’m coping, so hopefully you won’t find 4.3 too taxing. Good luck! I miss cycling in Oxford. Particularly zipping around South Parks Road and Holywell St…

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