There was no nervous poo beforehand. There was no pissing down rain. And there was no heavy traffic.
But this morning’s journey didn’t bode well when I took my fluoro cycling jacket from the hallway peg, where it’s been hanging for three lonely months, and discovered both arms were covered in horrible, smelly black mould. We’ve been battling a condensation problem in this flat ever since we got double-glazing in October, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by the state of my jacket. But it was bloody annoying. I had to rummage around for my purple rain jacket and, paranoid about visibility, donned by hi-viz waistcoat over the top. I looked like a freakin’ clown but at least the motorists could see me coming — from 10 miles away probably!
Hitting the road again was wonderful! In many ways it felt like I’d never been away. Surprisingly, without having done a shred of excercise in months, I had not lost any fitness, though I rather suspect my leg muscles might be a bit sore tomorrow.
The roads were unusually quiet. Very few cars and fewer cyclists. There was no jostling for position at the major intersections and, if truth be told, it felt a bit lonely cycling up Hammersmith Road and Kensington High Street without any two-wheeled traffic for company.
Careering down Rotten Row, in Hyde Park, was as brilliant as I remembered it. I love cycling along this path in the morning, not just because it’s downhill all the way (apart from the slight incline towards the end, which catches a lot of people out) but because I can see the arc of the London Eye in the distance framed between trees, the dark inky sky turning lighter as dawn arrives.
At Hyde Park Corner, one of the busiest (and craziest) intersections in town, I was joined by a few more cyclists and, bunched together, we swept under Wellington Arch. To my left I spied the New Zealand war memorial, unveiled for the first time on November 11, which comprises rolling terrain studded with 16 cross-shaped black vertical standards that, to my mind at least, look like grave markers. There was something definitely eerie about it, perhaps because dawn hadn’t fully broken yet, and a little shiver went down my spine. (Mind you, on my return journey tonight in the pitch black I thought the memorial looked even more creepy, particularly as the top of the standards are painted white, so it looks like a series of white crosses floating in the air.)
Down Constitution Hill I alternated between freewheeling and pedalling as fast as I could. I often play this game, seeing what top speed I can achieve. Today, it was 20.8mph; often it’s much higher!
Up the Mall, then around Horse Guards Parade (where an idiot in a Porshe decided to drive a little too close to me despite the fact this road is one of the widest in London and there’s very rarely any traffic coming the other way). There was no tailback waiting to go around Parliament Square, so I cycled through relatively easily, and then it was over Westminster Bridge and into work before I knew it.
I’d ridden 6.13 miles in 34.20 minutes with an average speed of 11.37mph. And I felt as happy as a pig in poo!
The return journey, after a day eating, eating, eating (I’d forgotten that cycling does that to me!), was just as enjoyable, although the winds, gusting up to 43mph (according to Metcheck.com), threatened to topple me off a few times and the darkness was, well, dark.
Here’s hoping tomorrow’s commute is similarly fun.