Not funny at all. Riding through Shoreditch en route to the Bike Shed to catch up with buddies, when – puffff! my rear tyre suddenly just deflates. I only just creep the bike the last 50 meters into Bike Shed so I can inspect the damage.
At first, it looked like a big chunk of metal in the tyre, but when I pry it out with pliers, it’s a fucking NOS canister dumped by some kids after a cheap high! Grrrr… I managed to plug the hole with a whole bunch of sticky strands and some help from Bike Shed staff to get it reinflated. As a seasoned London commuter, I’m regrettable quite experienced in plugging punctures.
Riding in and around London can be a bit hairy at the best of times and downright stressful at the worst. The traffic, the endless traffic cameras, inconsistent bus lanes rules, varying speed limits, which lanes should you be in, one way systems, navigation nightmares and then finally you need to find somewhere to park. There are many London motorcycle parking, most of which are free too! But knowing where they all are is another matter. Especially with so many being lost to cycle highways, wide ‘Covid safe’ pavements and the constant tweaking and shrinking of road space.
In the past, we used to rely on the old ParkingForBikes.com website, but sadly this is now defunct. Two newcomers to the scene are mobiles apps Byke Parking and London Bike Bays. I gave both a test run and below is my verdict.
Like many of you, recent the Covid19 lockdown has completely changed my usual way of life and biking. Thankfully, I’ve still maintained my main job as a software engineer, albeit now all working remote from home. I haven’t commuted into central London since the middle of March and only recently had chance to enjoy time on my bike on a few recent weekends when the weather has been reasonable.
Yep, I seemed to have become a weekend fair weather rider…
I used to be one to ride all the time, an all weather biker, commuting to into London rain or shine, but now I’m desk bound at home Monday-Friday. If anything, I’m putting in more hours now than I used to as I work the time I would have previously spent commuting. Weekends are now my only chance to get out on the bike, where I’m choosing to ride for enjoyment and thus I want to ride out into the sunny countryside. A weekend blast in the rain just ain’t quite as much fun.
It’s anybody’s guess when we’ll all return to normality and start commuting back into the office. Somehow, I don’t think normality will be quite what it used to be though. Like many forward thinking tech companies, my employer always had options for flexible and remote working. However, like many companies they are now planning for many of its staff to work remote far more, using shared ‘hot’ desks and reducing office space in central London. After the success of remote working these last few months, there’s no argument for not continuing to offer such an option.
So what does this mean for biking? With less emphasis on commuting, I’m seriously questioning my current choice of Yamaha FZ6 as a pure commuter hack. Why am I putting my priorities into a basic commuter bike? Why don’t I get a fun weekend bike than can commute upon occasion? Longer term, I also can’t help but question even living in the London suburbs. If I can work remote, why not live remote?! Once the advantage of a short commute is eroded, what else does the East London suburbia have to offer? Why not live rural, escape the crowds, find nicer roads, beautiful scenery and cheaper motorcycle insurance?
These last few months have definitely been a time of questioning, challenging prior assumptions, re-evaluating life choices and priorities. We maybe getting closer to normality, but it’s clear it won’t be the normal we’ve been used to in years past.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
We’ve had many biking adventures over the past year, trail riding, track day, trips to Australia, California and the French Ardennes; plenty to takes one’s mind off the current political climate… One of the years last jolly’s was the annual Ace Cafe Toy Run, a charity event to deliver toys and gifts to sick children in London hospitals. A fun day with dressed up and decked out bikes.
I hope your 2019 has been filled with adventure and fun riding. What has been your biking highlights this year?
Well you’ve got to love the Great British Summer… Insane, heatwave for weeks, then the weekend you’re scheduled to spend on the bike, it pours down something chronic!
Last weekend I volunteered to help our with the Prudential Ride London cycle endurance race, scheduled to have around 40k Lycra warriors tackling a 100, 46 or 19 mile route. My job was to carrier a cycle mechanic pillion with a tonne of tools and supplies and sweep up those stopped with bike or medical trouble. I feared I’d be dealing with loads of heat exhaustion and dehydration cases, but no, we were dealing with countless punctures and freezing wet cyclists instead. I lost count of how many inner tubes we got through, with many cyclists hit by repeated punctures.
If you live or commute into London, you will undoubtedly have heard about a raft of emission charges, toxicity charges or Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charges being bandied about to tackle pollution. With so many charges, consultations and plans afoot it’s tough to get a grip of what the hell is actually coming into effect and how it’ll affect you and your bike.
Pollution is pretty bad in London, but motorcycles should definitely be considered as part of the solution. Bikes rarely, if ever sit still in traffic jams and have much shorter journey times and thus pollute less. Recent TFL consultations even concluded bikes contribute less than 1% of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. So read on to learn how to avoid the charges and keep biking.
Most of the time when on a motorcycle in London you are immune to commuting delays, as you can filter past pretty much anything. However, on this day, my commute was delayed by a cruise ship. Bummer.
Here we are at Tower Bridge, waiting for this large Cruise ship to undock from HMS Belfast and make its way down the Thames. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t quite filter past this one. Still, it was a nice day to take stock of the fact I ride past some great icons of British architecture every day.
What iconic landmarks do you commute past on your way to/from work?
The other night The London Bikers organised a night to remember, a midnight ride ride across the city hooning past all the sights. What made it special was the immense turnout (over 50 bikers), the gorgeous warm evening and amazing atmosphere from fellow bikers and the crowds spectating and cheering us all on. With Miss Plum getting everyone organised and leading the ride, we all had a top night we’ll always remember.
Our ride started at Oval Motorcycle Centre, then on out across Battersea Bridge into Chelsea and Knightbridge, before whizzing past Wellington Arch, Buckingham Palace before a quick pit stop on the Mall overlook St James Park. Then on past Trafalgar Square and looping up round into Soho via Frith Street, before heading down past Downing Street, the Cenotaph, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey and across the river for a second stop by Waterloo and the London Eye. Back in the saddle we went North of the river again, zoomed past Aldwych and Royal Courts or Justice, down Fleet Street and our third stop outside St. Pauls cathedral, for a perfect photo opportunity. Off again, hanging a right by the Bank of England and South over London Bridge, past Southwalk cathedral, Borough Market, the Shard and then crossing the river again over Tower Bridge, lit up beautifully.
… a stop at the wonderful 24 hour Beigel shops for some much needed sustenance and a mix with Shoreditch hipsters leaving their night clubs and bars.
We continued North weaving through the streets and up to Brick Lane and a stop at the wonderful 24 hour Beigel shops for some much needed sustenance and a mix with Shoreditch hipsters leaving their night clubs and bars. To finish off, we continued East onto the Isle of Dogs and took a tour through the ghostly skyscrapers of Canary Wharf all lit up and towering overhead. The original plan was to continue on to Greenwich, but alas the Blackwall tunnel was shut for maintenance.
All in all, it was a wicked night, it was great to get out with Mary pillion (sorely missing a bike of her own) and great to see all of London’s landmarks lit up. Everything went swimmingly, even if group of us sometimes got separated momentarily.
Not really motorcycle related, but definitely London related; here’s some snaps from a recent mini adventure I had up to the top of the London Shard to check out the view across London.
Thankfully, the weather was top notch and the view stunning. Could pinpoint landmarks for miles around. Tickets aren’t cheap at £25 a pop, but you won’t get a view like this anywhere else. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in town.
Another Wednesday night, another London Biker meet up at Borough Market. Traditionally home to some of the best food produce, organic fruit, veggies, quality meat, game, hand-cooked meals and deserts. So, of course not to be outdone, Thamer arrives with a home-baked apple crumble strapped to the back of his Street Triple. And why not?!
A little quiet on attendance (bah! you other fair-weather bikers!), but we all had a good chin wag and tucked into some tasty pudding. But what culinary delights can others bring next week?