Pendleton or Poppins
My first tentative pedal pushes came back in January 2013. I’ve learnt from that experience that if you get the wrong bike, one that doesn’t quite fit, then as a new cyclist you will learn to loathe your bike and it’ll be left to gather dust or rust. Like that toasted sandwich maker.
Since collecting that first bike a nineteen months ago my determination to cycle around London has dwindled. When I moved house and I wasn’t sure the bike would fit in the removal van I mumbled that I could leave it behind if needed, it was the drivers determination that saw it come along to Haggerston from Willesden Green. I’ve picked up the odd Boris bike to cycle small distances. I took the plunge to buy a new bike a couple of weeks back and I now resent walking anywhere. Here’s what I’ve found over the past fortnight.
Having a bike frame that fits obviously makes all the difference. Having a local bike shop near me is even better. Though Better Health Bikes aren’t open yet I had the pleasure of meeting Colin when I had problems adjusting my seat. And as it turns out setting the handlebars correctly, fitting my helmet … it goes on. Keep your eye out for their grand opening by following them on Twitter. The bike shop is also a social enterprise so you’ll get your bike looked at and support a social enterprise supporting mental ill-health. And if you’re feeling particularly Parisian and have a basket on your bike you can pop next door to their bakery for la baguette.
It was Colin who stated that “you either go for Victoria Pendleton or Mary Poppins when choosing a bike. You’ve gone for Poppins.” He is spot on. Perhaps this time next year I’ll be Pendleton, but for now Colin is right (I opted for an upright style bike).
Then there was the fantastic team behind Pru Ride London. The confidence I gained cycling around London on my own, not only on the car free route but the journey I made to get to the start line and back was invaluable. From the steady realisation that actually I am not learning to cycle, that I do. To the giddy excitement I felt riding through Blackfriars underpass with a group of strangers who cheered as I shouted “I’m in the peloton.” Nothing could wipe the smile from my face that day, not even as I lay in the bath with the sorest of bums through forgetting my padded shorts as I dashed out that morning.
And finally, the London roads. That great fear I’ve had, my own personal imaginings of that final scene from One Day (the film version being set just down the road). I am aware I could be blogging in a weeks time completely retracting what I’m just about to type but I’m setting it down as it is now. Aside from one Royal Mail van who decided to drive so far up my padded bum (I remember every day now) that letters were spewing out of my mouth, I have found white van drivers, flash convertibles, our double-decker buses, rattly old motors courteous and conscientious. As long as I’ve been cycling sensibly and showing awareness they have as well. It’s sad to say fellow cyclists, especially around Shoreditch, running red lights have caused me a degree of stress on the roads. But even more than that it’s pedestrians running out into the road suddenly to cross, on the green light at crossings or scattered up and down roads. Even people with prams who appear dashing across from behind parked vans, or buses waiting at stops, that really have caused me the most anger, frustration and worry since I’ve been cycling pretty much daily. I truly don’t believe people would take these risks if it was a car so close to them and I’ve tried to reason with why they do so with bikes. The only thing I can think of is in a car you don’t necessarily see the person behind the wheel, you know you’re not harder than cars. On a bike perhaps you appear more human as you’re seen clearly, a lot of people even make direct eye contact as they jump out suddenly, their facial expression saying “sorry, but you’ll stop or swerve suddenly right?”. I know my blog isn’t going to change much about that, but if you read this and are guilty of this behaviour stop and think for your own sake, and if selfish motivation doesn’t help you see reason think of others.