I love cycling in London. Apparently that makes me some sort of weirdo. Or at least that’s the impression I get when I tell people that I choose to cycle there. I’m told, admittedly mostly by people who don’t cycle, that the roads in London are really dangerous. I hope I’m not tempting fate, but they certainly don’t seem that way to me.
London is a miserable, dirty, dark city. It’s full of rude, rushing commuters, buskers and tourists. At least, that’s the impression that most visitors take away with them. But that’s because they spend most of their time in London underground, battling with the tube system.
It’s a very good tube system. In a way, that’s the city’s undoing. If you want to go anywhere in central London, you can get to within a few hundred yards of it on the tube. Why wouldn’t you want to use it?
But if you can find a reason not to use the tube, above ground London is completely different. Beautiful buildings in the most unexpected places. Parks. Open spaces. Quirky shops.
The bicycle is the passport to this other London, the secret to travelling above ground. For me specifically, it is my folding bike, a Brompton, that has transformed my journeys from a chore to a pleasure.
It’s not my quickest bike. It’s not the most comfortable or the lightest. It’s actually a pretty dull ride, and in the looks department, well, it looks about as cool as a folding bike ever can. Which is to say, not cool at all. It’s not about the bike, it’s about where the bike can take me.
Weaving through the taxis on the busy streets, getting lost in the architecture of the side streets. Most of all, discovering how close everything is all of a sudden. All those tube stations spread out on the map that could take 30 minutes or more to travel between are now just a quick spin away. It as though the bike has folded up London and brought it all together.