Adventures in cycling part 2

This is my bike and I'm a little bit in love with it.

I am feeling very proud of myself this week as I have finally taken the plunge and started cycling to work. I think it’s about a 12 mile round trip. As I was very nervous I had a little practice run at the weekend. Luckily my boyfriend was happy to come with me and show me the route (he’s very nice like that). I am a bit rubbish at remembering routes and the only way I seem to learn how to get somewhere is to do it. I’d really built myself up to it and in my head it was going to be an epic trek  but in reality it was fine and I got there and back without feeling too knackered. Yay!

My first day of cycling started ominously with heavy rain. I was determined not to wimp out so I dug out my all waterproof (which hasn’t seen the light of day for about 5 years) and got on my bike. Luckily for me I was leaving at the same time as my boyfriend (who works in the same place) so not only was I able to follow him to avoid getting lost but he also carried my stuff for me. I thought that the rain would be awful but actually it wasn’t too bad, knowing that I had a dry change of clothes and shoes took all the stress away.

On the way back I was on my own and I was very nervous. Could I take on the central London traffic? It turned out that I could! Well……sort of…. I walked across a good few frightening crossings, was a bit over cautious and went a bit slowly but the important thing is that I made it!

My second day was slightly more challenging. I needed to cycle there and back (and not get lost!) on my own. I also needed to take a pannier as my boyfriend wasn’t around to carrying it for me. Despite my worries the rain held off and I only got a little bit lost. My main concern about the panniers was that it would make it difficult to cycle but I was surprised to find that the biggest problem was worrying about the pannier getting nicked when I was at the lights!

I am far from being a proper cyclist commuter but I am learning. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

  • Cycling in glasses is a bad idea. As soon as it rains I can’t see. Contact lenses are the only option.
  • Taxis and motorbikes are very keen to kill you so they have more space in the bus lane.
  • If in doubt follow someone in lots of cycling gear they tend to know what they are doing.
  • You can’t have enough locks.
  • It is possible to cycle with a satchel handbag.
  • Cycle lanes are only put on very quiet roads and never on busy ones where they would actually be useful.
  • Pretending you are a car and hogging the whole lane at a junction (when cars won’t let you to the cycle bit at the front) means that you feel much safer
  • There is no shame in walking your bike across a massive scary junction. Even the pro cyclists do it sometimes.
  • Cycling makes you extra hungry.
I’m really enjoying my daily bike ride. It’s boosting my mood and my energy levels as well as allowing me to eat more cake!

Adventures in cycling

For quite some time I’ve been going on about getting a bike and then doing nothing about it. My boyfriend has recently starting cycling into work and the extra spring that’s put in his step has inspired me to finally do something about it. I’ve been saving up the money that I would normally have spent on my travel card every month while I’ve been off work so that’s given me the cash to pay for it  (I am trying not to think about the fact that I would spend the equivalent of a new bike every two months on getting to work….).

I am very excited about my bike. I’m pleased that I’ve managed to find one that is pretty enough that I like it but no so pretty that it is a thief magnet. I would loooooove to have a pretty Pashley but a) I can’t even nearly afford it and b) it would get nicked in about 5 minutes.

I haven’t really cycled since I was a teenager so I am very rusty. I needed to cycle the bike back from the shop in Stoke Newington which I was very scared about to be honest. My boyfriend kindly humored me while I checked I could actually still ride a bike and I figured out a quietish route to get me home unscathed.

I learnt a few things on my first tentative ride:

a) I am frightened of right turns
b) cars hate cyclists
c) I don’t like going very fast
d) there are about a million one way streets near my house none of which I’ve ever noticed before
e) not being able to drive means that I don’t really know the rules of the road. Although I’m sure it’s somewhere in the back of my brain from when I passed my theory test when I was 17….

however on the plus side

a) I didn’t look as stupid in a cycle helmet as I thought I would
b) I’m not as unfit as I thought
c)It is possible to cycle with my handbag
d) it’s fun

Clearly I need to put quite a bit of work in before I start zipping around central London. So, in the mean time I’m going to practice on quite roads in north london (and hope that I don’t chance upon any riots while I’m doing it….) TFL is rubbish in many ways (tube closures every five minutes, daylight robbery for a travel card…etc) but one thing they do very well is cycle maps.  They are very handily marker with quite roads, cycle paths and bits where you can’t cycle.

Armed with my map, and thinking I’d memorised the way I set off today for a little trip down to Stokey to buy some dye. My first problem came when I realised that the road I was planning to turn left onto out of my road is actually a one way street in the wrong direction, oops. Walking my bike down to the road before I could actually start cycling wasn’t the greatest start but I didn’t let it put me off. Once I got going my terrible sense of direction reared its ugly head and of course I had no idea where I was going next. However, despite lots of stops to check my map, one crossing that was too frightening to attempt and sneaky walk of the bike over the crossing I made it and I was rather proud.

The next challenge was to lock it up properly. Given that almost everyone I know who cycles in London has had a bike nicked at some point or another (one had hers nicked the day after she bought it and before she put it on her insurance….very upsetting…it was a fancy expensive triathlon bike with cleats and everything) I am naturally anxious. However I’ve got it insured and brought a massive heavy lock. For once in my life I actually read the instructions and figured out the best place to lock it. In spite of this I was surprised and relieved to find that it was still there when I got out of the shop!

I’m very excited about my cycling adventures to come and hope that I get better and more confident quickly so that I can take my bike out a little further afield.