My boyfriend works in London and, as with so many other people who work in London, he takes the train. He’s been watching me riding into work though and, considering he is traditionally more active and fit than I am (he’s always been slim and active whereas I spent many years as a sedentary size 18/20), he’s been thinking that if I can do it, he can, indeed he should. His journey is longer than mine; 15 miles to my 5 miles, but this is still a doable distance, at least once or twice a week, particularly if he rides in one day and home the next. As I did with my commute though, he wanted to see what the route was like before tackling it first thing in the morning.
We found ourselves with a bank holiday Monday to ourselves and decided to go for a bike ride. It’s not something we get to do by ourselves very often and going for a nice long road ride with children is practically impossible. So, where to go? Then he had a lightbulb moment: why don’t we try cycling into his work? He can scout out his route, park his bike in the office bike rack ready to ride home later in the week, then we can have an ice cream and take the train home. Plan!
[I am bad at finding my way. Really bad. This is why it takes so much preparation for me to start riding a route. I get lost really easily.]
So we set off in the opposite direction from my commute, along cycle paths across a local park and out onto a main road. My boyfriend insisted I go ahead (ignoring the paragraph above, which he should know by now) probably concerned about leaving me behind, maybe just enjoying the view. More than likely both. Picking my way along the roads I hear from behind me, “is this the speed you normally go when you ride in?”
“No it isn’t; I’m not sure where I’m going so I’m not going very fast.” Now I’m worried that I’m holding him back.
Five minutes later I hear “Is this your normal commute speed?” I must be going really slowly.
“No, because I’m still not sure where I’m going. Do you want to take the lead?”
“No, it’s fine. Turn right here then we follow that road straight into London for miles.”
OK, let’s speed up to commuting speed then. So turn right; keep up with the traffic; when the traffic slows down, stake my place in the road; look around the bus: plenty of space. Overtake; tuck in; filter; wait for the pushy car; gogogo! Stop at the level crossing and look behind: no boyfriend. So I picked a good spot a hundred yards down the road and waited for him. “This is my normal commute speed.”
“Ah, right. Could you take it a little easier please? I’m not as accustomed to filtering and overtaking on a bike as you are.”
“OK. Would you like to go ahead for a bit?” We swapped over a few times on the way in; riding abreast and chatting a little when we got to the wider bike lanes of the cycle super highway, then my boyfriend took the lead as we got closer to his office and the route started twisting and turning again.
Considering the roles I had mentally assigned us of fit boyfriend/unfit girlfriend, I was extremely chuffed with myself for coming out at the end of the 15 mile ride flying high, happy and bouncy compared to my gorgeous, fit boyfriend who was puffing and in need of a little sit down.
This is what commuting by bike does for you! : D
We parked up his bike in the office rack; he stowed his helmet and gloves in his locker; we went for ice cream and ate it on the way to Waterloo. On the way home we chatted about the ride in. My boyfriend was very impressed and pleased with my fitness levels, although less chuffed about his own.
Since then he has cycled in a number of times. Not as often as he would like – for him it involves getting up earlier. Each time he rides I get an update on how well he did. His stories have evolved from the number of people who pass him to the number of people he passes to the quality of the riders he passed; from how tired he felt when he got into work to how bright he was feeling when he got in.
This very much mirrors my own experiences with riding in to work. When I first started it took around half an hour to get in and I would fall into the shower, running the water cool to help bring down my temperature, later that day there would be a frantic 25 minute dash back to my boys’ school to pick them up, after which I would collapse on the settee and be good for nothing for half an hour. After just a few weeks of commuting I spent ages trying to work out why I couldn’t get my morning commute below 25 minutes when my evening one was more like 20 (turns out work is at a higher elevation than home – who knew?) but my recovery time at each end was coming down. These days it takes a fairly reliable 21 minutes to get in and more like 18 to get home and at each end I’m ready to take on the world.
My boyfriend is wonderful. Knowing I was writing a post about his commute in, he emailed me some thoughts he’d had on his bike that morning about why he enjoys riding in London. With the increase in the number of cyclists on the road the drivers he feels the traffic is becoming more aware of the cyclists and that everyone is more tolerant than they used to be, pulling together to all get in to work on time rather than battling against each other (face it, when has causing an accident ever sped up your journey?) and rolling eyes at anyone not sharing this mentality.
There’s also the competitive aspect. With such a range of abilities out there on the road, all heading in the same direction, it’s easy for him to measure his progress: one week keeping up with someone who had overtaken him the previous week; the next week overtaking him. This isn’t just pure competitiveness though, this is constructive, a motivating factor and it’s one of the ways he measures his progress. I have ways to measure my progress (or lack thereof) but it strikes me that could be a whole other post!