It’s cooler by bike

According to the advertising slogans, it's quicker by bike. What they forget to tell you is that it's cooler by bike, too. I'm talking cooler in the literal sense, because even though we're supposedly in the grips of a heatwave, I'd much rather ride my bike to work than get cooked in a tube carriage.

This morning was a slow start for me, mainly because I didn't get much sleep last night, so I headed out much later than normal. It was 8.15am before I was on the road — and boy, were there a lot of cyclists out there, particularly the first half of my journey. I seemed to lose a lot of cyclists as I trundled up The Strand, which was relatively quiet, although I still had to fight for road space with taxis, buses and HGVs.

A pleasant breeze meant I didn't feel too hot during my cycle and it was pretty much the same on this evening's journey. In fact, this evening's ride was an enjoyable one. I think the heat must have scared a lot of pedestrians and tourists away, because the usual free-for-all at Hyde Park Corner was non-existent. Or maybe it was the rain?

Did you see the early evening downpour? Because I didn't. And yet when I got home I noticed there were puddles by my front door. Turns out there'd been a shower an hour earlier but I seemed to have missed the entire thing. I'm pretty sure it hadn't rained in South London when I left the office, so maybe it only happened in West London.

Either way, rain, hail or shine, it's still cooler by bike. 

Reasons why I don’t miss the tube

It’s been a week since my last post, but I’ve cycled to work three times since: last Friday (June 19); yesterday (June 24); and today (June 25).

Foolishly, I caught the tube on Monday and Tuesday, because I’d had two poor nights’ sleep and was feeling too fatigued to cycle. Getting back on public transport after a two-week break was HORRIBLE. I did not miss:

  • My short walk to the tube station which involves fighting my way through HOARDS of RUDE students heading to the local college
  • Hanging around the tube station WAITING for what seems like FOREVER for my transportation to arrive
  • Spending the entire 25-minute journey squished up against complete strangers in a HOT and OVERCROWDED carriage
  • Fending off those pesky free paper vendors (en route to the tube station in the evening) who won’t take NO for an answer
  • Finding out that there’s been an incident further up the line so all trains are stopping at Earl’s Court, so you’ll have to make your way home using alternative means of transport!!!
  • Eventually getting home feeling HOT, BOTHERED, SWEATY and PISSED OFF!!

Cycling these past two days has felt like a real treat. For some reason, the roads seem quieter than normal (is it half-term?? Even after 10 years, I never understand how the English school holidays work) and there seems to be fewer cycles on the road.

My journeys, in both directions, have been pretty quick and incident free. And tonight I notched up a first: the traffic light on the pedestrian crossing near Buckingham Palace was green when I approached it. I’m pretty sure every single time I cycle along here, which is literally HUNDREDS of times, it is red and I have to stop. Sometimes you gotta count the small victories where you can!

Happy summer cycling everyone.

If I was to buy a new bike, I would choose this one


I'm not a fan of fold-up bikes, but I quite like the look of this one. It's a Dahon Cadenza 2009 model.

I noticed this particular model parked next to my bike at work, so I was able to take a good look at it. The disc brakes caught my eye first, but I love the Dahon handlebars; they look particularly ergonomic. And the detailing is lovely; minimalist but functional.

It's got a £742 price-tag, so I won't be rushing out to buy one. But it's nice to have something to aspire to… and drool over.

Tall cyclists

When I got my driver's license (in Australia way back in 1988) I was taught to not sit behind vehicles that block your view. If it was safe to pass, then you should overtake them, or if it wasn't, you should drop right back so that your ability to read the traffic ahead was not obscured.

I adopt pretty much the same approach when I am cycling. Usually, the vehicles blocking my view are London buses, but in recent days it has been tall cyclists.

Now, I don't know whether you've made the same observation, but there seems to be a lot of tall cyclists out there. I never used to notice them, so I'm not sure where they have all come from.

But then I'm not quite sure whether they are tall people or whether it's simply that they are sitting on high-mounted seats. But most of them look slightly awkward because they seem so far off the ground.

The worst bit is that if you are trundling along behind them they block your sight lines so it's impossible to see what's going on ahead — are there traffic lights coming up, tricky junctions to negotiate, pedestrians you need to be watchful of, etc etc. And if they are wearing a bulky backpack, good luck in being able to take a sneak peek around them.

So, if you get stuck behind a tall cyclist, my advice is to treat them with the same respect as you would for a bus or a truck: overtake them if safe, or drop back so you can see the view ahead instead of getting an eye-full of some tall chap's sweaty back for the whole of your commute.

Bike Week

In case you missed it, this week is Bike Week, the biggest nationwide cycling event in the UK. It runs between Monday June 13 and Sunday June 21.

Unfortunately the website doesn’t make it very easy to search for local events, but I did see free bike safety checks being offered at Hyde Park Corner the other night so I had a look on the Royal Parks website to see if they had organised anything. Lo and behold, they are hosting an event in Hyde Park (Rotten Row) tomorrow from 4.30pm to 7.30pm, where you can “find out about cycle training, commuter challenges and group rides around local cycling routes”.
Meanwhile, to coincide with Bike Week The Guardian has (finally!) launched a bike blog. And next week they will go one step further and launch a monthly bike podcast on Wednesday June 24. You can listen to a preview of the podcast here.

In a press release* emailed to me this afternoon, Peter Walker, who is editing the blog, said: “The new Bike Blog is part of the Guardian’s popular Ethical Living blog, and is for every cyclist -– commuters, beginners, families -– not just the Lycra brigade. As well as the new podcast, the blog will include a wide range of cycling features, analysis of cycling initiatives and -– as with all of our blogs -– loads of input and participation from our readers.”

I can imagine the comments are going to make quite interesting reading, because god knows the anti-cyclist brigade need an outlet to vent their fury.

* In the interests of full disclosure, the Guardian has offered the first 25 bloggers who write a post about the podcast and new blog an Evans’ branded multi-tool. I won’t be taking up the offer.

Cycling for energy

One of the best things about cycle-commuting is the way it energizes you at the start of the day, and gives you "breathing space" between work and home at the end of the day.

When I cycle to work in the morning I arrive at the office feeling like I can take on the world. It seems silly to think that expending all that energy getting to work under my own steam actually makes me feel more energetic, but it's true.

When I commute to work I feel brighter, less sluggish and more motivated to tackle the day's challenges.

And when it comes to cycling home, that time spent on the back of the bike means I'm no longer thinking about work. Instead, all my energy, all my mind-power is focused on the task ahead: which is to get home safely as quickly as I can.

I find that when I park the bike at the end of the day, I literally bounce in my front door and feel incredibly chirpy and upbeat. This is, I hasten to add, not my normal state of being, which tends towards the grumpy and introverted. Perhaps it's the adrenalin high kicking in. Whatever the case, cycling makes me a nicer person to be around. I feel happier and less inclined to shut myself off from the world.

I sleep better too. And, for someone who is definitely NOT a morning person, I tend to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to do it all over again.

For those reasons I am so glad to be back cycling on a more regular basis. Today marks my sixth work day commuting in a row — my best effort since last October. Long may it continue.

Caught in a rainstorm


How's this for a sky? I took this about ten minutes after I had been caught in the most horrendous rain storm as I cycled home this evening. Typically, when I set off from work at about 5.15pm the sky did not look anything like this. Fortunately, I had a sneaking suspicion it might rain later, so I had my cycling jacket on. Just as well.

By the time I got to Kensington High Street, about a mile-and-a-half from home, I felt my first drops. Then the wind picked up, and I struggled to do up my zip before the heavens opened right up, dumping so much rain I could only laugh at the absurdity of cycling through it.

A half-mile from home and the rain was so heavy I could barely see the traffic right in front of me.

When I finally got home I was wet right through. And then, no sooner had I put my bike away, than it stopped raining and the sun came out! Ahhh, the trials and tribulations of being a cyclist, right?