Author Topic: Country roads, take me home to the city

sam

Country roads, take me home to the city
« on: March 08, 2013 »
Most city cyclists I know yearn for the country, and get out here every chance they get. My affair goes in the opposite direction. Once a city boy, a decade ago my wife, my bikes and I made the big move to a sheep catchment area. While my other half has never looked back, I still long for traffic choked streets and swearing taxi drivers, heedless pedestrians and commuter challenges as both spectator and occasional participant.

The city has a buzz it's impossible to ignore; the country has buzzing bees in quiet lanes that make me snore. When I'm lucky. Actually, country roads can have more of a sting than city streets; out here where roadkill is the sleeping policeman, cyclists compete with twisty hedge coated bends as the chief traffic calming measure. I feel that the city really is safer.

Perhaps I'm the village idiot, but once a week I get on a train with my folding bike and escape to London. As we leave bucolia, pass through the commuter belt and slide into view of the Eye and the Shard, my melancholia lifts and my spirits soar. My fingers twitch in anticipation of the filtering to come; my legs ache to churn through the critical mass. A to B doesn't interest me here, as my arrival will be my terminus. I'll be my own circle line.

Boris Bikes are great, but my folder is my ticket to the sights, no docking stations necessary. Mostly I flit from museum to museum, taking full advantage of the freedom of free admission. (When visiting the British Museum I used to store it in their coat check, until they changed their rules a few years ago.) Hanging from my arm it's both heavy briefcase and conversation piece; I've had no end of chats that started with somebody eyeing it up and telling me they might be in the market for one, how do I like it? It's heavy on the arm I tell them, but I like it fine. You just have to keep those small wheels out of big potholes.



This is also my chance to go window shopping at the great bike shops, drooling over dream machines at Condor and nifty fixies at Tokyo Fixed – convenient to China town, if you're in an eastern mood – or just pick up an inner tube at the ubiquitous Evans which dot the urban landscape like Pret A Mangers.

To some extent I feel like an imposter on these daytrips, mingling with couriers and pedicabs and zipping past Look Mum No Hands (with hands firmly on handlebars, as it's bumpy down Old Street). You reached escape velocity, they seem to be saying. What are you doing back here with that hay in your hair, getting in my way like a tourist? I'm one of you, I want to answer back in this little one act mental play. I may not be carrying package or passenger, and I stop inconveniently at red lights in front of you, but I've got smoke in my bloodstream, too.

News of the mayor's plans for cycling superhighways doesn't move me, probably because such dedicated infrastructure isn't built for people with my taste for streetlife. I'm here for the mix, not to be separate but equal. I'm here because I love to slip down the red bus canyons of Oxford Street, thankfully no longer bendy. I'm here because as peaceful and lovely as it is back home, for a cyclist with the city in his blood there's no there there.

As my big adventure on my peewee bike draws to a close, my batteries recharged with the electricity I've just tapped into, I'll get back on that train with a contentment most of my weary fellow passengers can't know. They've just had a tough day at the office; not to put too fine a point on it, I've been goofing off. Same time next week?

sam

Re: Country roads, take me home to the city
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2015 »

I had a nice spin around the other day.


First stop: The Science Museum. Giant C02 cartridges for inflating the tyre at the bottom ↓ of this post.


It's 2015, where are our gyrostatic monorail cars? Louis Brennan was kind enough to invent one over a century ago.


It used to be very unsafe to fold your Brompton, which is why they used folder test dummies.


Bottom bracket surgery is still not available on the NHS.


Window shopping on Oxford Street to cleanse the palate. Here's a sentence I never thought I'd write: Are those earmuffs bluetooth?


Change of venue to the Tate on Millbank. A cocky donation by the Conservatives.


He's going to get a big surprise when he tries to walk through the 'doorway'.


See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. I think.


I'm itching to put earmuffs on him.


Last stop: Evans. You never know who's going to park next to you.

sam

Re: Country roads, take me home to the city
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2016 »

The train ride in. Problem: endless points failures and signalling problems. Fix: jazz up the toilets.


Wonders if they installed the changing rooms at work just for him

On to the museums...


The classic "Donald Duck" gambit


Selfies have been a long time coming


Looks more like Grouchos, the god of never enough sleep


Skywriting in Latin: classy


Why am I never invited to the best parties


He wasn't wearing a helmet


This one's called Your turn to change him


From the exhibit Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age. This craft was meant to launch Khrushchev's shoe into orbit over the USA, in a propaganda coup, but the shoe exploded before it could gain sufficient altitude


"Time out" seat for cranky cosmonauts


Begged to go for a walk once too often


Tuffet GPS coordinates already input


Shopping at John Lewis. Back to the... past

sam

Re: Country roads, take me home to the city
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2017 »


Tokyo Fixed is long gone, and I no longer visit bike stores very often, though last week I went from one to another awkwardly trying on helmets, a possible coming attraction to my head. My current favourite is London Bicycle Workshop, if only because it stocks the phenomenally helpful Bob, which almost certainly isn’t his name; alas I haven’t caught it over the years.

Bob knows bikes. I trust Bob, even though he talked me into buying pintastic platform pedals against my better judgment. (Returned after cooler head prevailed.) “How’s business?” I asked him before leaving. He shook his head, the conversation turning Brexity.


Smuggling curved bananas through customs

The British Museum has partially reopened Room 33! It’s always so sad seeing the notice “This gallery will be closed for a couple of years while we endeavour to throw a lot of benefactor money at it making it not quite as good as it was.”


The bouncer is responsible for the karma in the room

Lunch at Tibits, as usual. Tuesday is vegan day. That’s right, they sacrifice a vegan right there in the West End, across from the former shrine to David Bowie.


"Would you like some hay with that?"

These days if there's any hay in my hair, it's from this guy's lunch.


Can't get away from those vegans

sam

Re: Country roads, take me home to the city
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2017 »


Well that's not something you see every day.



Nor that.
Air ambulance sets down in Trafalgar Square. Pedestrian meets bus.