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Introduction

I believe that the current use of individual cars is not sustainable much longer and that Western economies will have to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels. Consequently I do not have a car and have no intention of owning one in the future. I do most of my journeys in London either by public transport on one of my bicycles. The latter is not just ecologically sound but also very healthy. I have set up this page to share some background on cycling.

Bicycles

I have got a few bicycles that I use for different purposes. My first bike is a hybrid bike that I use as a work horse. It's a Trek 7100 and I have bought it second hand some years ago from someone who had advertised it in Loot. In fact in my experience, there is little point in having a posh new bike in London as it will get stolen instantaneously. To prevent that you want to buy a lock that costs at least as much as the bike. I have an Abus Granite X-Plus 54 and it has not yet been broken. I previously had a Kryptonite New York and much to my surprise it was jagged open once and my previous bike disappeared.

My second bike is a road bike. It's a Pinarello Opera, which has a hybrid Steel and Carbon frame. I had the bike frame made to measure by Pinarello in 1999 and have had it fitted with a Shimano Dura Ace group set throughout and with Mavic wheels. It's very light but yet sufficiently stable to carry my weight (I am quite tall and therefore not a lightweight). I use my Opera for exercise and in competition. I am currently training for the Cornwall Triathlon and have completed the Gran Fondo Barilla in Parma a few years ago. I mainly exercise outside London, in part because of traffic and in part because of the large number of pot holes.

Navigation

A while ago, I have bought the Garmin Colorado 400t as a GPS and training device for my bikes. The handle bar mounts are quite cheap (USD 9.90) and I have one on each of the above bikes. I mainly use it with the Garmin UK Topo map, which is very precise. I also bought a heart beat sensor that I use with the Colorado when I exercise.

I had a few teething problems with it at the beginning. I found out that the Colorado does not really work well with standard AA rechargable batteries, but ever since I have changed to using high end rechargables (Ansmann AA with 2850 mAh) and they last for more than 8 hours. Moreover, I have a Mac and it seems that the usual mode of use with Garmin products is to use a Windows PC and I had some trouble uploading the UK topological map. However, Garmin have recently released a suite of tools for the Macintosh and the latest version of Bobcat works great with Leopard.

I have recorded a few tracks (and will add more for the routes listed in the navigation pane on the left) and made the GPS tracks available in case anybody would like to try them out.

Safety

The most frequent response that I get when I tell people that I am routinely cycling in London is that people consider it too dangerous. In fact cycling in London can be dangerous and I have been knocked off my bike a few times. There is however a lot that one can do to make it safer.

Firstly, I make sure that I am visible. I always have front and back lights (with recharged batteries). I wear a high visibility vest and also have a high visibility wrapper for my laptop backpack (which also keeps it dry in the occasional rain).

The second thing is choosing the right route. London now has an extensive cycling network I carefully choose my routes to make use of it. There are good cycling route maps available from Transport for London if you want to check out suitable routes for you.

I did not use to wear a helmet while cycling in London. That changed when I had an encounter with the infamous white van driver. I was knocked off my bike and fell onto the road. Some witnesses insisted that an ambulance be called because I was bleeding from my head. After dressing the wound the paramedic told me that London Ambulance Service staff refer to cyclists who don't wear helmets as donors; I bought my helmet the same day.

Cycling with Children

My daughter Bianca has been with me on my bike since she was 9 months old. I used to take her on the bike to UCL, when she was attending the UCL Day Nursery. Until she was 4 years old she sat in a Hamax Sleepy seat shown to the right. Bianca has her own bike now and she is getting more confident cycling on Hampstead Heath. However, I consider it too dangerous for her to cycle with me through London on her own. I have borrowed from a friend. It attaches to the seat post of my bike and I found that half wheeler to be a good compromise. Bianca can get used to cycle with me. She enjoys it tremendeously, particularly because she is the only one at her school who arrives on such a device in the morning. She has a little pink helmet and a high visibility vest that we picked up at Ikea.

Service

Cycling is only fun (in my opinion) if it is relatively effortless. I often see fellow cyclists who struggle to make any progress. To avoid that you want to make sure that your bike is well serviced. This does not necessarily mean that you need to bring it to a cycle shop every week because you can do the bulk of the servicing yourself. You can waste an awful lot of energy if your tyres are not fully inflated. The second most significant drain can be chains that are not well lubricated. This really only takes a few minutes once a fortnight and is not a big hassle. In fact you will make good for it by the increased speed with which you cruise along.

Occasionally, you want to have your bike serviced properly though. London is quite hilly and you will find that together with the frequent stops in London your brakes will wear out quickly. I have my bike serviced once a year to make sure that it is safe. I use Simpson Cycles, a small family run business in Kentish Town. They are very dedicated, focussed and reliable and I can therefore wholeheartedly recommend them.


Last Updated: April 2008
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