I’ll be honest, I still don’t consider commuter cycling to be proper cycling.
As someone, who began racing aged 12, I guess I’ve still got to shake off my hang-ups about commuter cyclists: they’re not proper cyclists, they don’t know how to ride and so on. Too many fixed wheels, too many people not looking when they turn right, too many not indicating, too many with their headphones in, bikes with one brake, bikes with no lights, bikes that are just, well, not meant to be ridden on a road (I’m thinking the heavy framed sit up and beg things that lots of hip young women seem to be riding).
At weekends most club cyclists will greet each other with a wave or a nod. It’s a sort of unwritten code. There’s no real community spirit among commuter cyclists. It’s like everyone is really a car driver on two wheels.
I’ve been commuting into work since last July now. It’s a 10 mile journey from Bounds Green in north London, up and over Ally Pally, through Crouch End, onto Finsbury Park and Islington before weaving through Clerkenwell. It’s a nice route up to that point and then comes the worst bit – the stretch from Farringdon to Blackfriars. Way too much traffic that’s always backed up by lights and the effects of nearby building work.
This is the bit that gets you onto the cycle super highway – the two-wheeled legacy bequeathed by former London mayor Boris Johnson.
The bit of the highway I use bypasses a notorious blackpsot at the north end of Blackfriars bridge so I’m grateful for that. But it’s too much like wacky races with cyclists charging at you from the other direction. Too many think that because they are no cars on it, they won’t get hurt if they crash.
And there’s the pedestrians in London. It’s extraordinary how many simply don’t look when they cross the road – whether that’s look to their right or left or look behind themselves. I thought everyone was taught this stuff.
Going up the inside of moving buses or lorries or vans is a no-no. You have to be constantly vigilant.
The other day I was going down a hill on the way home and a car driver didn’t like the fact I was going down quicker than him and that I was not hugging the nearest line to all the stationary cars parked down the hill. He caught me up and gave me a close pass – where a car almost buzzes you like a plane I guess – and then gave me a load of grief. I gave him grief back. Those incidents are rare, however.
I’m not really selling commuting but it keeps me fit for rides at the weekend as well as giving me decent miles ahead of longer and much harder rides when the days get longer and warmer.
The big thing I like about commuting is that you can go under you own steam – although I see a number of cyclists who are clearly trying to break Strava records; this should only be done when going uphill, not on a flat stretch through busy roads – and the schlep on the tube is for me now getting too much to bear.
Commuting in on the bike is ok – a means to an end. But I know there are better and more enjoyable rides to be had at the weekends.