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!
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