29 July 2011

The Road to leafy Islington

007 by cocosolis
007, a photo by cocosolis on Flickr.
After a month commuting to London from Rugby, cycling to the train station at the Rugby end on my Father-in-Law’s 1970’s compact bike, and trying to use the Boris bike in London, I am now enjoying a month in leafy Islington, a mere 2 miles from my workplace, thanks to the generosity of some friends.  To put the icing on the cake, the flat comes complete with a Ridgeback Attaché fold-up bike.

Setting it up took me longer than I’d expected – it’s not that it was difficult, but it has to be done in the right order and instructions aren’t always as crystal-clear as the manufacturers tell you. And I don’t read instructions anyway. It’s all about where you put the things that perhaps are not meant to fit nicely – the pedals, the handlebars, the saddle.

My friend explained they hadn’t used the bike for years – bought it, then a couple of accidents they heard about put them off the idea – and the tyres were totally flat. I pumped them up, then left it for 24 hours, the idea being to make sure the flat tyres were just lack of use and not a puncture of some sort. Meanwhile, I would walk to work and plan my route a bit – I’ve come to the conclussion that in London you should cycle on quiet roads whenever possible. My route seemed pleasant yet very effective – it took 25’ on foot, crossing a canal over a pedestrian/cycling bridge. No major roads were involved.

The next day I got up early and set off to work on my bike. Needless to say, I didn’t manage to replicate the route I’d taken while on foot. A wrong turn somewhere and presto! I was lost. Eventually I got to work but via Hoxton Square – I had gone a bit too far north.

Getting back was, however, even worse. This time I got lost from the start, and compounded the mistake so that, after 25’ of cycling (by then I could have done it on foot faster) I realised I was going in the wrong direction altogether – literally, back to work. A check of the map enabled me to retrace my steps and eventually get home – an hour after setting off.

Now, a word of caution about cycling in London: you can cycle on quiet roads, but have to do a lot of navigation; or you can stick to main roads, brave the traffic but make navigation much easier. In my view, you can’t do both – not unless you have the brain of a homing-pigeon, but bigger. Like a London cabbie.

No comments: