Cycling - John C. Kirk
Nov. 27th, 2008
10:50 pm - Cycling
I've now had my Brompton for a month, and I'm very happy with it. The only real problem is with the lights; I have a hub dynamo, and I can turn the lights on and off via a switch at the front. If they're off, they stay off. If I turn them on, the front light (white) only shines while I'm moving (not necessarily pedalling), but the back light (red) stays on until it runs out of charge, even if I turn the switch off at the front. As far as I can tell, this is deliberate, so that I don't "turn invisible" while I'm waiting at traffic lights, i.e. cars are less likely to run me over. However, there are two main snags:
a) When I fold up my bike and bring it indoors, people keep saying "You've left your lights on!" They mean well, and I appreciate the sentiment, but it gets a bit boring to repeat this explanation several times.
b) When I was at the station recently, one of the staff asked me to turn my red light off while I was on the platform. That's a reasonable request, because apparently they use red lights to signal to train drivers, but I can't turn it off. The best I can do is just drape a glove over it.
Anyway, I need to take the bike in for its six week service soon, so I'll mention that in case the shop have any alternatives (e.g. a rear light with a separate switch).
More generally, I've been using it almost every day (Monday-Friday), so it's becoming part of my routine to replace bus journeys. The weather's obviously getting a bit colder, but I stay warm by cycling, so that's not a problem. I have to say, it is quite satisfying to overtake a long line of cars while I'm going uphill! Also, my weight has dropped below 95kg in the last couple of days (the first time since Feb 2007), so I think the exercise is doing me good.
In my regular commute, I'm only cycling for 10-15 minutes at each end (going to/from the railway station), so they're fairly short hops. Today I decided to extend that a bit, by cycling into central London after work to go to Gosh! (comic shop). I used JourneyPlanner to work out the route, and they estimated 49 minutes to cycle it (as opposed to an hour by bus/tube). Their route was 13km long (8 miles), but I simplified it a bit, e.g. sticking to main roads rather than going around loads of side roads, mainly so that I could actually remember it.
As it turned out, the journey took me 1 hour and 5 minutes; that's significant, because I arrived 5 minutes after the shop closed. Aargh! Although the sign said "Closed", there were still people inside, so I stuck my head round the door and asked whether I was too late. They recognised me, and kindly said that I could come in; in return, I just had a quick look on the shelves to see whether they had the specific TPBs that I was after, then took the monthly issues that they'd held under the counter for me, rather than having a leisurely browse. Along with my normal "pull list", they'd also put aside the first issue of "Sir Apropos of Nothing": it's written by Peter David, so they thought I might like it because I have two of his other comics on my regular list ("X-Factor" and "Fallen Angel"). This comic is actually a spin-off from a trilogy of novels that he wrote (which I've also bought), so I was quite happy with their initiative. I've said this before, but they provide excellent customer service, and that's why I still go there rather than shifting to a local shop.
After that, I cycled to Clapham Junction. According to JourneyPlanner, that's 8.5km (5 miles), which should take me 32 minutes on the bike. Again, I diverged from their route a bit, and it actually took me 45 minutes. That said, I was pretty tired by the end, so if I did that journey in isolation then it might be a bit quicker. I went past Westminster Abbey, then along Millbank (by the Thames); that's the way I used to go while I was studying at Kings (on the Strand), and it's quite a nice route.
In theory, I could have continued cycling home the rest of the way from Clapham Junction, but that's another 15km (9 miles), so I took the train and just did the usual short hop from the station back to my flat (mostly downhill). Anyway, I think that's a decent distance for the day, and I can now adjust the JourneyPlanner times with reasonable estimates of how long it will take me to get somewhere. Based on that, it wouldn't be practical for me to cycle the whole way to work (that would take me 2-3 hours each way), but I should get faster with practice.