Let me tell you about the commute.
The commute isn’t exactly long distance, but it paves the way for greater things, since all of those miles add up; they are all “miles in the saddle”. Any experienced long-distance cyclists that I have ever spoken to will tell you that miles in the saddle are what you need in the build up to long or ultra-distance events.
The commute runs from leafy Essex into Central London, where I have covered many miles over the past 24 years and three different jobs in the Capital.
I am lucky in that I love the cut and thrust of London miles almost as much as I love the solitude of country lanes. I seek out the B roads at the weekends, when I can, which is not always easy with the busy family life that I have.
I try to fit in about 300km a week via the commute. The good thing is that it prepares you for most weathers, you just need to be firm with yourself and don’t look at your motorbike for too long when you are setting off on the commute in horrid weather.
People say that the commute is dangerous, they say that riding in London is crazy, but that’s not really true, in my experience. Country lanes with fast bends combined with teenagers in hot hatches are far more dangerous than the congested Central London roads that I ride – that said, you do need your wits about you, and you do need to ride assertively – at least this has worked for me so far!
Cycling through London can be quite confrontational, and you need to learn to stand your ground. Don’t endanger yourself, but don’t bow down to anybody, unless you have good reason to believe that they are capable or willing of putting your life in danger. You need to claim your position on the road and you need to stand up to the bullies, for there are many.
You will get close-passed, sworn at, threatened, and if you’re not careful, worse. Hop on a bike and ride the roads through one of the busiest cities in the world and you give up your right to be treated as a human being – suddenly, you’re the enemy. But, as the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said: “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”
So, toughen up, but choose your words and actions wisely on the streets of London.
In the next entry I will discuss what made me get into long diatnce cycling.