I’ve tended to be quite lazy about cycling since I moved to London; at best I’ve cycled two or three times a week (just between home and work), and there have been periods when I’ve gone weeks without cycling (which does, admittedly, give me an opportunity to read more, which I don’t otherwise find time for very often).
In an attempt to remedy this, I’ve been challenging myself to cycle to work every day. After a couple of months in which I’d only been cycling once a week, if at all, last week I managed three days again — one of the days I missed due to going go-karting after work, and the other because I was so sore after the go-karting. I want to keep it up all winter, because I know if I stop it could easily be spring before I start again.
A big problem has been oversleeping: if I don’t have time to wake up properly before I leave the house, I don’t feel safe cycling in traffic, so I take the train — and end up being even later, as cycling is significantly faster than public transport. Another reason to try to fix my sleeping pattern, I suppose.
I’ve also been trying, from time to time, to go out for longer rides at weekends.
Last weekend I went out with Tower Hamlets Wheelers: from Hackney Wick, down the Greenway to Beckton and Woolwich, across the ferry then back along the river to Greenwich. After a break in a pub, I cycled back, got slightly lost trying to find the Greenwich Foot Tunnel (it’s surrounded by construction work, it seems), and ended up getting the East London Line back across the river to cycle home from Shadwell. I got an odd look from people who saw me at the bottom of the lift with my bike and then again at the top as they came out — I couldn’t be bothered waiting until there was space, so just carried it up the stairs.
The Greenway is an okay ride (unless you’re riding into the wind, in which case it’s terrible), but the Greenwich side was disappointing — there was quite a lot of walking along the side of dual carriageways in order to get to cycleable paths.
- Last month, I went out on the Tour du Danger, which was a 15-mile ride around a good chunk of central London, with a 5-mile ride between home and the start/finish lines. The ride was in protest at the failure of the Mayor and Transport for London to provide safe cycling facilities around various major junctions; on the day, there were at least two hundred of us and several people commented that it was the safest that they’d ever felt while cycling in London. I can’t say much for the scenery (Elephant and Castle is not exactly a tourist destination), but it was a fun ride all the same; so far that’s the longest I’ve ridden in one day, and it made me realise the importance of keeping a sensible pace on longer rides — when I’m riding to or from work, I normally go flat-out, which works fine for a five-mile commute but not much more. We also had musical accompaniment (at least on the beginning and end sections, not the main ride) from someone with an amp strapped to their bike.
Back at the end of August I decided to try to cycle past the M25. Up the canal path past Hackney Marsh then on up to Walthamstow, where I hid in a bus shelter out of the rain for a while, then back west to Tottenham Hale and Seven Sisters (horrible one-way system), then following the main road north. Not hugely recommended, there are some shitty junctions and roundabouts around Edmonton and the North Circular, and I realised later that there’s a cycle path going pretty much the same way, up the Lea Valley. Got to Theobalds Grove (one of the first stations north of the M25) and took a train back to Hackney, then raced a bus home from there (no contest, I left it behind after the second stop).
The week before that, I took the North London Line to Hampstead Heath after a recommendation from a coworker. Unfortunately, I encountered two problems: firstly, a lot of the paths are pedestrian-only, and secondly, it’s really steep. I ended up staying on the road and cycling around the western end to Golders Green and then back through the middle (slightly unpleasant road that seemed like a country road but with drivers still treating it like central London) and then turning north to Highgate before coming home. Highgate Hill was an experience; even going quite slowly it felt like I was going to go over the handlebars. Sometime I’ll try it again and see if I can actually find a path through the park itself.
Sooner or later I’ll get around to cycling up to Epping through the forest. It’ll be about 15 miles, and then I can either get the train back or cycle back. I’ve been too lazy so far, though. (Although, I also need to visit Epping station for Chromaroma.)