It only took me five-and-a-bit months, but I finally clambered back on the bike today and trundled off to work under my own steam. Boy, it was hard work. My legs felt very strong and powerful, but my heart and lungs are a little out of condition, and I really huffed and puffed as I struggled up the Broad Walk this morning!
I don't think it helped that I had over-dressed. It might be late November but the temperatures are rather mild at the moment and the heavy fleece I was wearing under my windproof jacket was just too warm for the conditions. Tomorrow I'll swap it for a long-sleeved t-shirt, I think.
Of course, no one ever forgets how to ride a bike, even after such a long absence, but I did find my reactions a little rusty. I just wasn't reading the traffic far enough ahead, so got caught out at a couple of tricky junctions. Instead of sailing into the flow of traffic with ease and confidence, I'd stop and wait for a proper break before I braved the mêlée. I assume this will get better in line with my fitness.
If it wasn't enough that I had to grapple with the whole shebang of being back on the bike, I also found myself becoming increasingly distracted by changes along my route. London's a big city in constant flux, but you don't realise how quickly things change unless you've had a period of absence. Some of the things I noticed this morning included:
Buildings that have been shrouded in scaffolding for months and months, are now free from their shackles and standing newly exposed. There's even a couple of new buildings I've never seen before, including some massive round-looking thing on the southern exit of Westminster Bridge.
There are new traffic islands on Parliament Square, which means you can no longer sneakily slip into the lane heading towards Westminster Bridge, you have to "take" the whole lane or risk breaking a pedal (and an ankle or a foot?) on the concrete "blocks".
There's a lovely wide strip of tarmac (that looks a bit like a three-lane highway — it's massive) that goes through Wellington Arch, for cyclists to use, which helps to alleviate the conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists in this area (now, if they'll only sort out the traffic lights at both ends!).
The horrendous roadworks behind Festival Hall have now gone (hooray!!) only to move further down the line, near the London Aquarium.
I'm sure there's loads of other stuff I took in, I just can't recall it now.
I suspect I will sleep well tonight, from exhaustion, and wake up tomorrow with sore legs and tummy muscles. But despite that, it will have been worth it, because it's so much more interesting when you cycle to work by bike!