Thursday, 25 September 2008

Back in the saddle

“Two bikes!” shouted Littleboy 1 excitedly when he came home from nursery the other day. He was right – my own is now in the hallway leaning up next to The Doctor’s. It is a momentous occasion in the household: the bike, virtually unridden since Littleboy 1 was born, has been resurrected from the cellar and Mummy is cycling to work.

The Littleboys are used to seeing their father donning his yellow jacket and helmet and going off to work on his bike. (In fact, although I have tried to explain to Littleboy 1 recently that Daddy works in a hospital, I have a sneaking suspicion that he thinks The Doctor just rides around on his bike all day….)

But now Mummy has rejoined the cycling fraternity, this time with oh-so-sexy nylon leggings and fluorescent gilet that makes her look like a cycle courier. A few Nappy Valley mothers have looked at me askance when I mentioned that I was cycling up to London Bridge twice a week – is this a responsible thing for a thirtysomething mother of two to be doing?

Well, these are my reasons. Two days a week I work in an office, and this involves a commute up the dreaded Northern Line. Our local Underground station must be one of the worst in London at this time of day. There are many stations before it, and no interchange to another line till the station after it. The train is therefore so rammed by the time it gets there that, especially if you leave after the witching hour of 8am, you may have to wait for several packed trains to go by before you can even squeeze yourself in under somebody’s sweaty armpit. (All the smug people from further down the line meanwhile carry on reading their papers with arms outstretched; well, I guess they're thinking that living in Tooting or Morden must have some compensations).

The second reason is fitness. A year ago, the Doctor and I chucked in our gym memberships. With two children, we hardly ever went, so were effectively paying £70 a month for about one hour’s swim. In the past, I’ve been lucky and never had to worry too much about my weight, but two pregnancies and lack of exercise has meant that recently I’ve been feeling less than svelte, and I refuse to resign myself to chucking away an entire wardrobe full of size 10 clothes. I hate running, and my weekly yoga classes, while relaxing, are not exactly a calorie burner. In contrast, The Doctor’s long cycle rides were keeping him trim.

So cycling is good for both the sanity and the waistline, not to mention the environment. Plus, I don’t get sucked into reading the trashy free evening papers on the Tube coming home. (This is a good thing; at one point, I felt I could have entered Mastermind on the specialist subject of the antics of Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen). But what about the danger? I am a nervous cyclist at the best of times, so The Doctor has ingeniously worked out a route for me that involves few main roads and avoids the horrors of the Elephant & Castle roundabout-from-hell. I have managed to customise this route further by including a couple of pedestrian crossings that I can use, which means I never have to turn right off a main road, or negotiate a major junction.

So I am no gung-ho London cyclist, and I'm sure I don't get to my destination as quickly as I could if I simply ploughed up the A3 pedalling like Chris Hoy. However, the twists and turns of my little journey mean I get to see glorious little London parks and squares all at their sleepy, early morning best. But best of all, when I arrive at my office (where there is helpfully a nice hot shower), I can tuck into my pain au chocolat and steaming latte with guilt-free gusto.

15 comments:

Mud in the City said...

I am jealous. I work in Canary Wharf and would be hard pressed to find my way here overland (too much water you see) - but am thoroughly impressed by your cycling. How great is it to have got all your exercise over and done with - just via your commute!

Just remember to pack your work kit - I ahve had several amusing workings sitting opposite a middle aged man in lycra at the office becasue he's forgotten his suit....

Nota Bene said...

...and do you stop at red traffic lights?

Iota said...

Good for you!

Expat mum said...

I love the fact that you're wimpishly cycling about 20 miles out of your way to avoid turning right etc. Hilarious, and a sight braver than me who would never get on a bike in London, even if it meant the Northern Line.

The Dotterel said...

Whenever I'm on the tube I wonder why more people don't get on their bike. Then I see the roads, and I realise; I think you're very brave!

Nunhead Mum of One said...

you're so brave! I watched the other day as a cyclist (without helmet) squeezed in between a bus and a lorry and didn't wobble once. I'd need full body armour before I got on a bike. But then probably wouldn't be able to ride it......

Potty Mummy said...

Good for you VG! I went through a short time of cycling to work - but then found out I was pregnant with Boy #2. Since my route involved the Strand and Trafalgar Sq it was back on the tube for me... (And unfortunately there was no hot shower waiting for me at work, so well done on that one too!)

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Good for you! Your outfit sounds, er, delightful. The northern line does suck. Especially when you have watched the third train go by and not managed to squeeze under someones sweaty armpit or a fat blokes stale booze breath. I also like your little detour so you don't get scared. Makes perfect sense to me!

that girl ? said...

Well done you! I tried to cycle to work many (MANY) years ago and never again! Apart from being safe, the detour means you get time to think and do the scenic route thing! Scenic route is a big thing in our house - I even had Nap Routes when Small Child was a Small Baby, aka, places that look calming to drive around in a desperate bid to get you baby to sleep!

valley girl said...

Mud, that will be me. I have a cunning plan to keep various items of clothing at work, but can quite see that one day I will forget something vital, like a top, and have to work in a bra and cardigan!

NB, I do - except when they go on for ages and there are no cars or people in sight....

Thanks Iota! It's nice to have someone cheering me on...

Hi Expat Mum, ha yes it is rather wimpish I admit, but better a wimp than under the wheels of a Brixton bus driver!

Hi Dottorel - if they were to improve cycle lanes I think many more people would do it. It was interesting that after the 2005 tube bombings lots of people suddenly bought bikes, although I am not sure how many have carried on.

Nunhead mum, that person would not be me. I'd be lingering behind the bus at 1 mile an hour!

PM, the shower is a big bonus. When I previously cycled to a different job a few years ago, there was only 1 in the whole building and that was for the directors! As for cycling while pregnant, you were v sensible. I used to cycle round Clapham until up to seven months pregnant with Littleboy 1 - only now when I look back on it do I realise how stupid it was....

CTTF, the outfit is particularly foxy. But, as you say, better than fighting the hungover 20 something sales boys on the northern line!

That girl, nap routes sound like a great idea. I certainly remember stringing out walks by going round and round the block to get Littleboy 1 to sleep as a baby. But whenever we entered the house without fail his little eyes would pop open!

Mom/Mum said...

Oh well done you! That's great you're getting on your bike. I was always too nervous to do it in London (except in students days when it was only a short cycle through Putney to campus).
You should post a pic of the foxy outfit!

Wife in Hong Kong said...

I'm fascinated by what you wrote about growing up in HK. We appear to have swapped lives. I was a Phil & Ted's mum of four and a neighbour of mine once described me as the Pied Piper of Putney Common. Now my eldest is just about to go off on a school camp at Cheung Chau!

Millennium Housewife said...

Showers at work? Now I really really miss London. I used to send Husband to work in his boxers so he could do his morning SSS there, saved the paintwork in the en suite.

valley girl said...

Dear Mom/Mum - I think I'll leave the outfit to your imagination; for the purposes of anonymity, of course.

Hello Wife in HK - it's true, we have swapped lives... will be fascinating to hear how you get on....

MH, that really cracks me up - so was your London shower only for special occasions then?

Expat mum said...

Just seen your comment on Potty Mummy's blog - hilarious.