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Get on your bike

July 16, 2011

For the past two weeks I’ve been cycling into work. It’s quicker than the tube, less crowded, only marginally less comfortable and could well save me £125 a month. So, it’s no wonder that Londoners often take to their bikes when getting about the capital.

However, back in Oxford – a city almost as famous for its bicycles as its dreaming spires – I was in a country beer garden on a summer’s evening with some friends. (If you’ve lived in London for a long time, a country beer garden is like an orchard with trees, flowers, grass and plentiful seating. It’s the countryside equivalent of that square metre of pavement you cram yourselves into with your pint in one hand and your fag in the other, shouting your conversation over the constant grinding of traffic.)

Oxford bikes

Bikes in Oxford – pentiful. Image via Wikipedia

We were talking about the benefits of cycling over various other forms of transport when Dom made a very good  point. People often start cycling for two reasons:

  1. To save themselves money
  2. To get fit

And yet, often the first step in taking up cycling is to spend a fortune on the flashest bike you can afford in order to reduce any level of resistance to an absolute minimum. Surely if you really wanted to save yourself money and get fitter you’d take my approach to cycling – have a rock of a secondhand bike, leave it unsheltered in the garden over the winter, half-arsedly pump up the tyres and constantly keep in it a high gear because the moment you switch down to the second or third tier of gears the chain comes off. (It also acts as a natural theft deterrent since there’s always a higher-value bike locked up near mine that’s a more promising steal.)

Which is all an elaborate way of saying that when I come to cycle the Way of the Roses with Jon and Dave in August and we’re making the arduous climb up to the 1200ft summit 50 miles into the trip I’m going to need a really good reason not to keep lamenting my rust-pile of a bike…

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