Our first commuting run from Barnet to Soho – Wednesday 13th, 2012

At last, the day arrived where I felt I’d got sufficient practice, competence and confidence on Bob to do my first commute in. Inevitably there was the little voice in the back of my head suggesting I give it a bit longer, but I knew that was just the usual nerves about attempting something I’d not done before. I made it easier for myself by getting everything ready the night before – all the cycling gear out and ready for me to put on in the morning – work clothes ready to pack away and go, and phone fully charged so I could record the ride using the “Map My Ride” app.

Come the day itself I got up and just got the cycling gear on straight away.  Just getting in the right clothes felt like more than half the battle was over and I was pretty well committed. After the rain of recent days I had a pleasant surprise this morning – blue skies and sunshine – a real welcome to commuting for Bob.

Eventually, at 7.15 am, we got out – Bob fully loaded with my work clothes, breakfast and heavy duty locks, not to mention one only mildly anxious rider.  I wanted to leave early to both take any time pressure of me – no need to rush anywhere – but also to avoid the worst of the traffic.  What I’d completely failed to take account of is how long it takes people to drive into central London.  Barnet wasn’t too bad, but by the time I got down towards East Finchley and, even worse, Highgate Hill, the roads were absolutely jam packed!   Coming up the High Road from East Finchley station is a section of road where, although it’s a wide road, there is often not quite enough room for a bike to get through easily between the line of parked cars on the left and the largely stationery queue of traffic next to it.  Given that I didn’t like trying to get through here on my upright bike after donkeys years of experience, I certainly wasn’t going to try and squeeze my way through on Bob. Instead I took the obvious option of going up on the pavement to get past the jam and rejoin the road where the bus lane started.

Cycling on pavements – now there’s a topic for discussion and debate.  Yes it’s illegal – and there are times when it’s just plain common sense.  This particular section of pavement has very few pedestrians on it (often none when I’m cycling along it) and my own attitude is that as long as I cycle carefully and give pedestrians priority, why should there be a problem?  I do have a problem with those who, on whatever mode of transport, hurtle along pavements (or indeed roads!!!!) and expect everybody else to be alert and scream at them to get out of their way.  That’s not just inconsiderate and bad manners, it’s plain dangerous. Mini-rant over…

Highgate Hill has become a lot easier to manage since the bike lane was put in, it’s just a little unfortunate that it doesn’t go all the way to the top.  Nonetheless we made it up there without any problem, over the top and down at some speed towards Hornsey Road Bridge and the road down to Archway.  It’s the view from under Hornsey Road Bridge that’s one of the highlights of the journey in – at least it is on a sunny day like this.  From having been making our way slowly through heavy traffic up to and just past Highgate Station, everything speeds up as you come down towards the bridge, and when you reach it?  From having been in a tunnel of buildings on either side of the road suddenly the view opens up and the City is laid out before you with all the buildings lit up from the east – St Pauls, the Gherkin, the Post Office Tower, the Natwest Tower, the skyscrapers of Docklands and now, dominating them all, the Shard at London Bridge.  It’s a spectacular view which is quickly followed by a spectacular descent in the bus lane that leads all the way to the bottom of the hill.  However heavy the traffic in the two lanes to your right, if you’re on a bike you can just sail by it all, and although there are plenty of buses that go down there I’m rarely impeded by any of them.  Luckily I don’t know what my top speed is going down there – but I will add that anybody doing so needs a good set of brakes, especially near the traffic lights at the bottom!!!

It’s from the junction by Archway Station that I feel the ride is almost over, even though it’s not by a long chalk. What is over is the serious effort of climbing any hills as from here it’s mainly fairly flat with just a slight downward tilt to most roads which makes cruising along at a respectable speed quite easy.  That’s not to say that the world and his wife don’t seem to pass me by on most days.  There seem to be a lot of guys on lightweight looking machines pedalling away with very intense looks. Clearly speed is important to some. I just want to get to work in one piece and in sufficiently good condition to be able to do a decent day’s work.

The rest of the journey went pretty smoothly bar for one minor mistake where I lost concentration and blocked another cyclist turning right.

“That was a silly thing to do” he commented.  I didn’t see the look on his face when I replied “I’m sorry, you’re absolutely right”, but my guess is that surprise may have been involved.

The journey on the cycle paths through central London from Islington was the usual slow, stop start affair, and this is where the hours spent on the Greenacre Rally at the weekend really came into their own. With all the slow riding and stop/starting there I had no problems on this run.

Finally we made our way into H2 Bike Run.  Had it been quicker than on my upright bike?  Had it been slower?  At 1 hr 12 mins it was pretty much bang on the same sort of time that I’d been doing before I got Bob, with a few minutes leeway either side depending on traffic. So not spectacular, but by no means a disgrace.  And after all, the main point was getting there in good condition… which we did.


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