Cycling in London

Who says cycling in London is for the insane?  Or that it is not fun?  I used to, but I don’t say it as much as I did, especially after two great rides on Thursday and Sunday.Thursday.  I headed out of the “Big Boy Pool” (thanks @holisticguru for that name!) and commuted to work by bike.  The sun was shining, the air fairly cool, and although we all know that London is full of lunatic drivers, pedestrians who don’t look before crossing a road, and cyclists who regularly get squashed by red buses, I must admit, it was the most pleasant start to my day.I learned to ride a bike late – I was 9 years old and my father was away for the summer in Hong Kong for work.  Santa had brought me a bike, but I had never gotten beyond the training wheels.  Frankly, it was a little embarrassing.  But mom decided that if there was one thing that would surprise dad more than anything when he returned, it would be if I could ride a bike.  She sat me on my bike, held on, and ran with me so that I could feel a sense of balance.  We did this over and over again, her shouting “Pedal!  Pedal hard!” and me thinking she was still alongside of me.  She usually was – I was never great with balance.  One time though, I remember turning my head to tell her I thought I was getting it, and she wasn’t there!  I was doing it by myself!  I learned to cycle late, but I think I made up for it that summer.  I was never off my bike, falling in love with speed and cornering.  I didn’t know it was called “road rash” then, but I certainly left a lot of skin on the corners by my house when I experimented with just how far I could lean into turns, often pushing things just a bit too much (and still have some scars to show for it!).Fast forward to Thursday.  I jumped on my bike post-swim for my commute to work.  The sun was shining, and the humidity level and temperature that morning felt just like that summer when we lived in Arden, when I learned to ride my bike.  I found myself humming Hall and Oates on a super relaxed, chilled out start to my day.Sunday was another relaxed chilled out cycling in London kind of day.  For the second time I signed up for the London Bike-a-thon with my friend Bond.  Bond was the one who got us interested in doing tris.  New Year’s Eve, 2005/6, and she extracted *the* triathlon resolution from my DH while we sang Auld Lang Syne at our local pub.  A year later with her encouragement I signed up for my first London Triathlon.  That same year, 2007, Bond also did the London Bike-a-thon with me.My first London bike-a-thon was tough.  I had a fall in June, right as my training was really ramping up and going well, and dislocated my elbow.  In early July my elbow dislocated again, signalling to me that something was clearly not right (I know, for a normal person maybe the first time would have been a sign, but I have really hypermobile joints so the first incident did not freak me out).  So when the bike-a-thon happened that year, in mid-July, it was a real test to see if my elbow could even handle cycling.  At that point in time I didn’t know the full extent of my injury, but one thing was certain: the bike-a-thon did not feel great.  In fact, it felt horrible.  I skipped doing the Bike-a-thon in 2008 as the memories of 2007 were just so bad.  But this year I decided to give it another chance, wondering if the memories were more of my injury than the event itself.  Bond arrived at my place at about 9.30 in the morning, as planned, for a pre-ride cup of coffee and banana.  The ride we planned on doing was a variation of the bike-a-thon route – we decided to join up with the riders in the City of London, follow the route to Chelsea and then to go along the Embankment until the City where we would rejoin the bike-a-thon until a natural turning point for us to head home.  So a modified route, but one that still gave us a good 20km of cycling.Sunday was cool and overcast.  We started off our ride and saw a cyclist on Queen Victoria Street, pushing his bike along.  We had checked that we had a spare tube, levers, and a CO2 cartridge between us before leaving, so we pulled alongside Quentin, who had already replaced his tube already but was short a pump.  We were all really excited to use my CO2 cartridge (for years I have had it in my little under saddle bag but this was its first use) and it worked a treat.  Quentin offered to pay for the cartridge, but in my opinion payment for assistance is silly.  Just pass along the good deed another day.  We cycled off rejoining the ride.There were loads of cyclists out.  And I must say, it is not like a triathlon where people respect distances between bikes and it is pretty safe.  The cyclists out on the bike-a-thon were not good, and in fact some were outright dangerous.  But hey, they were all out for charity and on their bikes, two things I can’t complain about.Bond and I had a nice ride.  We knew it was a fun ride so our objectives were quite simple:  practice cleats in the city, and keep a nice even cadence throughout.  We averaged I think 25kph, which really *is* a ride in the park.  We finished off the morning with a lovely brunch at Spitalfields Market.  All in all a good day out. (that’s Bond on the left, me on the right, and in the foreground the under-saddle bag whose contents saved Quentin)The best parts of Sunday?  My elbow did not ache one bit.  My negative memories of the bike-a-thon from 2007 were completely replaced with much more positive experiences.  And I may even be seeing the good side of cycling in London.  Maybe…Note:  if you are interested in supporting my Sunday ride for Leukaemia Research, please click through to Thanks for your support!

2 responses to “Cycling in London”

  1. I never biked in Central London but I loved biking out Richmond way. Your story about learning brought up painful memories (physically painful). My mom thought it would be a good idea to learn in a gravel lot. I swear I still have pieces of gravel under the skin on my knees. It took moving away from that lot before I found the love for the bike but I do indeed love it. Great post Donna. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I hope that I can improve my strength and stamina so that I can bike to Richmond, around the park, and back as a part of my training next year!  Our side of London is seriously lacking in green!And as for the scars and pieces of gravel.  Yep, I have those too!  I wear mine with pride, along with the pedal gashes and numerous bruises.  All a part of falling in love with cycling again, I suppose!

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