Call me a wimp, but I left the bike at home today.

My goodness, I have sore muscles! And I'm not talking about my leg muscles, which are fine, but my upper arm muscles and my tummy muscles.

I'd forgotten that cycling really keeps your whole body in tip-top shape! Women of the world, take note!

The great return

So, after a five-month break from cycling, I got back on the bike this morning. My hiatus was initially due to a diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis in both hands, which is now largely under control thanks to medication (although it’s likely it will never go away and means I have to be careful about keeping my hands warm during cold weather).

To be honest, I probably could have resumed cycling about six weeks ago (thanks to a lovely corticosteroid injection which sorted out the pain for about two weeks), but I kept putting it off… and putting it off… and putting it off… Until this morning, when I woke up at 6.30am and thought it was now or never.

In many ways it felt like I’d never been away. Everything was the same… I trundled up to Hyde Park Corner and for some bizarre reason these lines ran through my head (to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence)

Hello Hyde Park Corner, my old friend
I’ve come to ride through you again

But when I got to Parliament Square — the bit I’d been dreading, because it’s such a shitty road to cycle through — things went a bit tits up. There were police everywhere and access to Westminster Bridge was closed, thanks to a demonstration by Tamils. This meant I had to find another route to cross the river.

Eventually, after a bit of a slow wander along Embankment, I managed to cross at Blackfriars but it did add an extra 20 or so minutes to my journey.

I was prepared on my route home: I cycled down the length of The Strand (otherwise known as “bus hell”) to avoid going anywhere near Westminster. In almost four years of cycle-commuting, this is the first time I’ve ever cycled this way home: it was fun, if slightly stressful.

Here’s a few of today’s observations:

  • All the roadworks that plagued my journey in October (the last time I cycled) have long gone. Hooray!
  • There’s lots of lovely new road surfaces for much of my route. These have nothing to do with the October roadworks, in case you were wondering.
  • I now get to cycle past a new statue of the Queen Mother on the Mall! Yes, very exciting… not.
  • Saw an amazing statue at Whitehall Place. I’d never cycled near this road before and the statue really caught my eye, it looked so life-like.
  • The cycle lanes at the junction of Embankment and Blackfriars Bridge are quite helpful, but there’s one bit where the roadworks force you out onto the main traffic without warning. I *hate* when that happens.
  • I got to cycle over Blackfriars Bridge with a head-on wind. My cycle computer no longer works, but I reckon I can’t have been doing much more than 5 miles per hour. Now I know why cyclists along here always have grim looks on their faces: it’s hard work!
  • The pedestrians — mainly tourists — around Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park Corner are still as stupid as ever, many of them blindly walking in front of cyclists, even those ringing their bells as a warning. I witnessed several near misses, and was involved in one myself. I’m thinking I might get one of those ultra-loud horns — could provide a summer of entertainment for me, if nothing else!