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


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.

"Sacred Folding Cow?"

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?


Where are our gyrostatic monorail cars?
« 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.


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. Solution: jazz up the toilets.

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

Wondering if this beseeching business is all it’s cracked up to be

Your turn to buff 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


Re: Country roads, take me home to the city
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2017 »
Tokyo Fixed is long gone, and bike stores don't have the same pulling power with me they once did, though last week I went from one to another awkwardly trying on helmets [EEK!], 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


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.


Re: Country roads, take me home to the city
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2017 »

Help me feed the human I just ate

Hitchhiking with a hangover

Helps pay the bills between races

Animal testing can come back to bite you


Re: Country roads, take me home to the city
« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2017 »
Occasionally I don’t bring the bike. I tell myself it’s OK to be a civilian once in a while, though it’s hard not to feel envious at other cyclists. On those days I’m not tempted to grab a Boris Bike (as they will forever be known to me)

because that would be like taking a busman’s holiday. I exchanged my wellies for walking shoes and saw:

A Banksy under plexiglass to keep it safe from graffiti artists

Bob Dylan the Younger covering the late great Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

A shocking crime scene

City types at the Museum of London

Designer locker key bracelets

Man wondering if his chain is next, after watching someone get their iPhone nicked

The reason those became extinct

Probably less memory than my toaster

Why people hate London

Brief visit to a bike shop

Ergonomic handlebar extensions

You have to be able to make one of these to join the Elves Guild

The Hyde Park "Winter Wonderland"

Nobody wants to sit on the Ice Queen's lap

Whatever happens with Brexit, border control won't be asking for HIS passport

She got tired of people trying to pay with bitcoin

The Bank of England would prefer to move to a fudge-based currency to help with quantitative easing, as it adds pounds

Make a treehugger cry this Christmas

All games have been recalibrated for Generation Snowflake

Legitimate therapy


Old school
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2019 »
“Most people are a bad advert for cycling.”

I particularly enjoy coasting no-handed and no-helmeted by groups of school children, with hopes that such questionable behaviour becomes a topic of conversation with a responsible adult; preferably one employed in the health & safety industry.

Anyway, I ran across this old story. That’s terrible, I thought to myself. Only two tiny pictures, with not a single caption between them. So don’t click there. Click on the first link.