Sunday, 30 August 2009

On your bike

I've always said that I would never ride a bike to work. It's true that the idea of travelling by bike has always appealed, in the same way that always eating healthily, exercising properly and only having two glasses of wine sound easy enough to achieve - but somehow it never works out that way. Riding a bike in central London seems like an accident waiting to happen - literally. No matter how competent I am (and actually, I'm not competent at all - but more of that later) the fact is there's no accounting for other drivers on the road - black cabs and buses being particularly dangerous.

My vision of people riding bikes to work are sporty types, in full lycra get-up, pedalling nineteen to the dozen. I hadn't ridden a bike since I was a child until a couple of years ago, and then I tried one of these ridiculously energetic bikes that you clip your feet into - not my finest hour. I got a bit cocky and ended up falling off the bike at the side of the A3. I concluded that I was too old for a bike and would never do it again.

However, I recently rethought this decision - for a couple of reasons. First, I hate the tube and although I can get the bus to work now, we're moving at the end of the year, and so I'll be forced back on to the Northern line - even I can't handle three bus changes in a single commute. Second, a friend came to dinner wearing a dress and looking 100% normal until I noticed the cycling helmet. I asked why she was carrying that, and she replied that she always rides her bike to work - much cheaper and quicker. I can certainly believe that. So, on my subsequent bus journeys to work, I started taking a bit more notice of all the cyclists on the route. True, there are many of the hyper-keen, lycra-clad nutters, that race with the lorries as if they are on a level playing field. But there are also many commuters in 'normal' clothes travelling at a much more leisurely pace. Moreover, when I started 'racing' these bikers (me on the bus, them on their bikes) I discovered that they still won most of the time. Hmm.

Then I found out about the 'bike to work' tax scheme - where essentially, you pay for the bike out of your gross income - saving 40% of the price of the bike. Perfect! So, I began shopping around (really, any excuse...). After significant research, I've decided that I'm going to order a Pashley Princess Sovereign:
It's got a brilliant wicker basket on the front, and I'll quite happily be able to wear skirts while riding it - no lycra in sight. Which is a result not just for me, but for anyone that will see me on the bike. Tomorrow, I'm heading to Evans at London Bridge to get fitted...


  1. I just joined the Cycle to Work scheme and picked up my new bike last week! It's also a Raleigh, but not as pretty as yours. Enjoy your cycling!

  2. I am gutted! I can't have a Pashley bike - despite the original advice from Evans Cycles, it turns out that Pashley bikes don't support child seats, so that's the end of that. A Specialized with a wicker basket on the front will have to do!