It was a ritual that I don’t know if I fully appreciated at the time. My alarm would go off and I would roll out of bed. The light would be creeping around the curtains, which would be tentatively drawn back to let the day in. On the drying rack in my bedroom there was always a selection of cycling clothing. I lived in a suburb of London, and I commuted through 10 miles each way of London traffic by bike pretty much every day.
This was my training. Of course, I would ride at the weekends too, but this, this hellish ride, this car, people, bus, motorbikes, glass and dog shit dodging ride was my daily escape. I would ride in pretty much whatever weather. In the rain things were a little more nasty, but then again there weren’t as many other (read slower) cyclists around. The alternative was a stuffy, and stuffed full damp tube train. Standing and rocking back and forth with the hundreds of other people, breathing dank and spent air.
I used different bikes. The winter was a mountain bike with slicks, and the summer was a road bike. I wore a dust mask, full cycling gear and I carried my work clothes with me.
I would ride straight down Oxford Street. I would ride via Shepherds Bush and up Holland Avenue. I would get horns blown at me, drivers shout at me. I would get cut up, knocked off, wet and filthy, I would vary the route. Ride through Hyde Park. Ride the Regents canal tow path. I would ride through the winter, in the pitch darkness, with only a cheap halogen bike light to pick out the muddy path from the water in front of me.
There would be damp and dripping bikes at the end of the evening in the hallway. There would constantly be a floor to clean, shoes to dry and lights to charge. In the summer, it was paradise, but it was almost too easy. Temps in London around 25 degrees at 8 in the morning. Thoughts of the previous day’s Tour coverage in my head. Spinning, and time trailing against only myself and the traffic lights.
Looking back it was great. Having to ride, actually having to, rather than opting to, is a great thing.