Breaking bike – of the good kind! One day I rocked up (by car) to teach my Paola’s Body Barre HIIT class and I caught one of my class goers hopping off her bike on the way into the studio. She was in a bit of a fluster locking up the bike. She said it was all a bit new to her and that she felt like a bit of a liability on her bike…”AHA” (I thought!)…”it’s not just me that thinks that”. I could ride a bike, but I was always in the mindset that riding around London was all a bit terrifying. The more I spoke to girls just like myself I found that more and more felt the same nervy feeling I did. Paola’s studio is a 15 minute bike ride from mine, pretty much the same as the car ride. So why was I turning up in my car? Simple answer..I was scared to go on my bike around the “big roundabout in Wandsworth”. Had I tried it? No, so how did I know? I didn’t. A totally unjust excuse.
Now at the end of summer ask me how many miles I clocked on my bike last week alone by simply commuting…it would be about 70 miles at least! Hours of “fit” mileage clocked without really even doing anything but bouncing around between work. Here’s my bike story in the hope that it will get others who feel like I did on the roads. For my fellow fitness enthusiasts (especially those that struggle to squeeze in their workouts)….baring in mind that you can burn anywhere between 200-400 calories in a half an hour steady bike ride – then that’s a lot of calories expended in a week my friend. Plus get a great workout. No gym. Just commuting…let that sink in.
My Cycle Story
So time to get real…I had a bike in my possession for the good part of the last 18 months or so. It was a clapped out “vintage” (read: rust bucket) of a bike. Also note NOT this BEAUT Canyon bike pictured above! My rust bucket was kindly donated to me by a PT client who was moving to another country. It was the perfect bike to start out with post move home from New York. A quaint little run around. Sweet? Yep. Safe? Sort of. Utterly un-stealable? Precisely. My style? Certainly not. If there was a car equivalent it would be a rather old over loved Fiat Uno. It still ran but questionable how well, and certainly didn’t win any sort of cool cred. Nevertheless the perfect little runaround. If only it saw the light of day even just a little bit. For the first 13 odd months it sat in a teeny dark corner of a bike closet. I’d ridden it a few times, shat myself (thankfully not literally) a few times more trying to negotiate the mad streets of London on it. And that was the end of it.
What happened to the New York keen bean cyclist?
People thought it was nuts that I would happily navigate my way cycling around the (quite frankly ape shit) streets of Manhattan but not London. I would very happily don the the infamous Citi Bikes (our Boris Bikes equivalent). Again, not the coolest get up but a darn efficient way to get around. I’d hit the west side highway and see how fast I could bike my little booty back to Greenwich Village (home) all the way from uptown. So why this (notably hardened ex New Yorker) could I not bring myself to face the streets of London? A few obvious differences; the weather hello long NY summers, buh bye rainy #always London. But also, if you’ve visited the big apple you’ll know the streets all run distinctively straight. That generous bike lanes run alongside – so no awkward bus cut ups then. The street numbers mean you can tell straight off the back if you’re heading the wrong direction – oh this is 23rd leading to 22nd street I was supposed to be heading past 25th, let’s turn around. The list continues. So London in its vast, random, rainy state never quite appealed to my bike ridey type self.
Guess what team?! Those terrifying streets of London ain’t quite as bad as one may assume! To the unseasoned cyclist who like me feels that inkling to save that bit of transport money, get that cheeky workout in, get places faster and on your time (thank gaaaawd not flippin’ TFL’s), beat the traffic, get a sweat on when you mightn’t had before I give you the “London isn’t has terrifying as it seems” low down… I might not be able to help with that pesky British rain cloud but I can help shift you from: “oh dear god I can’t possibly hold the handles any tighter” to “hey I can do this…hey I might just begin to like this”…far from the seasoned pro these are just a few ideas to give you that little extra shove to get out there and why you need to whip that little bike out (no matter how Fiat Uno-esque it is!):
1) Thank You Boris! – if that funny shaggy little (large) politicians has done one thing to contribute to London it’s the Cycle Super Highway (see signs that say “CS….”). Start watching out for the blue cyclist signs and soon enough you’ll see pretty much everywhere you look there’s a completely different world for cyclists than motorists. My main thing I was “scared of” read: used as my biggest excuse to not cycle (along with 20 odd others – rain OBVS a fantastically constant one) was the HUGE roundabout near ours. We’d driven around it enough times for me to think – my God you must be bat shit crazy to try and cycle around this (and thereafter London in general). Hey…what dya know…I don’t have to cycle in the roundabout (bit) at all, yes I go round it, it’s on my route to work but the cycle highway allows me to hop, skip and a cycle on the pavement NEXT to the mad crazy bat shit roundabout, notably not in it. So that’s that excuse out then.
The only qualm is if there isn’t a Cycle Superhighway on your route…usually there is some sort of lane and if not…I’m afraid it’s a fly by the hair of your seat type jobby…but I promise that gets less terrifying the more you do it! If you drive the rules of the road are basically the same.
2) You save time and money. It’s win win. Once you get your bearings, as will come with a couple of rounds of practice, even truer if you do the same cycle to and from work it becomes second nature and not as scary at all. Once you see the efficiency of it you’ll think “damn what took me so long”. I made this revelation into the last month of summer – I could have had a whole summer of cheap, quick travel and not a sweaty fellow commuter underground armpit insight. Quite the opposite in fact…
3) London is ridiculously beautiful. So I’m not going to lie when we made the decision to move back from New York having lived there the best part of 3 years I wasn’t particularly enthralled at the thought of getting back to dreary old London. Now living in the thick of it and seeing new parts of its beauty, heritage and nature everyday. The bike has given me a whole new gateway and insight into how cool it is to live in this wonderful city.
4) You’re probably a better cyclist than you think (enter disclaimer here: get help if good God you just need it!) Although I was accustomed to some sort of bike life I was far from confident. Now I ride most days of the week where my schedule permits. I’m increasingly finding my groove with my bike and actually enjoying the ride way more than I thought I would. I resent getting to work anyway else. Get out there. Get started. Even if it’s in the comfort of a local park. “You don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great.”
5) Work it out. Stressful week at work? No time to gym. Kaboom – I give you both the distresser, the efficient commute and the secret little workout fix you need. Just 30 mins of cycling to and from work 5 days a week adds up to a kushty 5 hours of exercise, which doesn’t really even feel like exercise when you’re cheating your tube ride home. You. Are. Welcome!
And before you ask….YES you need to wear a helmet – its your brain. Protecting you brain and your life is always cool (non-helmet wearing for picture taking purposes is my only allowance 😉 ). YES Google Maps is still mans best friend. YES if you’re serious you will need waterproofs….I am not a miracle worker, we do live London folks. Spare clothes are always a good idea. And YES you need to go out there and start today!! On ya bike! Have fun. Stay safe.
Sending health & happiness,
Wearing: Trainers: Adidas PureBoostX trainers. Adidas UltraBoost | Leggings: Adidas WOW DNA tights, |Shorts: Adidas M10 | Sports Bra: Adidas Supernova |Bike: Canyon Bikes: Commuter (which I happen to be completely besotted with!)