Right, let’s get one thing straight. I’m not a dad and nor am I an accountant. Hell, I’m a wannabe rouleur or grimpeur. In fact, I’m an anythingeur but not what you would describe as the average commuter.
In short I’m just a weekend warrior who still dreams of wearing the maillot jaune or maglia rosa just like fast-Eddy or breakaway-Fausto in those sepia-tinged days of yore.
It was, then, with some trepidation that I accepted the assignment of commuting to and from work every day, whatever the weather or hour of day. That part was comprehendible – even riding home at one o’clock in the morning after a late shift seemed plausible. What did throw me a bit though was this; I had to ride a hybrid bicycle.
The only Hybrid I’d ever heard of before was a Welsh progressive house act from the late 1990s. And they were rubbish. The omens were not on my side.
I’ve always had a road bike, ever since I can remember. Growing up in the 1970s and 80s I, like any boy, wanted a Chopper or later a BMX. Dad, though, was a keen club cyclist and thought his son should be too and so I was given a ‘proper’ bike as he called them back then. Swapping the Colnago Primavera for a Specialized Sirrus was, at first, a wrench.
Oh, another admission of mine is that I have, on various occasions, been described as a poseur – see, another eur – and so have never subscribed to wearing brightly coloured safety jackets. You know the ones. They’re luminous, usually yellow and, let’s face it, are to fashion what Richard Keys is to liberal thinking.
On my return from a cycling training camp in Gran Canaria what I’d agreed to do hit when I saw a huge bike box in my hallway stuffed with the new steed and a whole bunch of high-visibility commuter clothing. Reality struck and the Colnago was swiftly moved to the shed – at least until the following weekend when I could get back to doing some ‘proper’ riding.
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I was, after all, about to embark on a new experience as I became a proper commuter for the first time in my life which, despite my initial concerns, was quite exciting.
The first day my seven-ish mile ride to work felt odd. Really odd. Sitting upright looking down on the car roofs and passing roadies was, at first, massively disconcerting and I felt unsafe – particularly when cornering. Taking corners on a road bike I am usually riding the drops leaning into the bend and pushing hard on the outside pedal, however, given that my body weight was so high – and so lost the usual low sense of gravity – I was terrified.
After a few miles I soon realised that I should cool my cleats and take it easy while getting used to the matt black Sirrus which, despite not being a bike I’d usually choose to ride, actually looked pretty smart.
Given the cold weather conditions that had gripped the nation in December, and the fact that I would regularly be riding beyond the witching hour, I had made sure that a few of pieces of important kit had been procured from the Evans warehouse.
Over the next couple of months I will be writing about my experiences as I battle my way to and from work across town – in my case London – from the pot-holed east over to Victoria, and how I cope with traffic, pedestrians and fellow cyclists, be they roadies, fixies, commuters or the growing numbers of ‘Boris-bikers’. I’ll also give an honest appraisal on with the kit I have opted to wear for this assignment.