From Commuter Cycling to Distance Cycling

Sam's bike

Now, I’d say this is fine for my daily commute – but it isn’t. It’s crap. It can be really crap. I’m constantly relieved (and surprised) when I finish my journey and my wheels are still round. But this isn’t about commuting, this about distance cycling, and how one translates to the other.

I live in London, a city of eight million people, six thousand traffic lights and around half a million bike journey’s made a day, not to even venture into the number of combustion engine bastards parked and on the road. This means that you don’t tend to get very far very fast on what tend to be very bad roads (I don’t like fellow cyclists going through red lights, but I understand it …). Every space is fought for, every traffic light raced against.

I have begun to become one of the lycra brigade, although very reluctantly but necessarily (essentially: try doing more than 10 miles with no padding), and it’s bought me a world of pleasure (downhill), and pain (uphill … “shut up, legs”). But, one of the issues is that my muscle simply aren’t trained for endurance cycling – they’re set for short bursts, I have quite big thighs nowadays. And, when I occasionally try doing anything over 30/40 miles, I really suffer – although that could be the timing of food and supplements.

It can’t be just that, though. Flap jacks can help you get up a hill, but they don’t determine your pace.

It’s more than the stop-start nature of London, though. It’s how you cycle in relation to other cyclists. I tend to go out for the really long jaunts in the Eastern sticks of England with Master Balls – a man who still considers Suffolk to be flat rather than my image of it as a Mordor-like mountain range, because in London our hill is a gentle upwards slope  anywhere else. And, so while he says he suffers over a 100 miles, I struggle – I feel like my muscle’s just aren’t built for it, and with city-cycling, it’s really very hard to get anywhere of any distance in any time whatsoever.
And if your answer is – go around Richmond Park. Yes, it’s wonderful, but it’s still full of cars, and rammed to bursting with fucktits in Sky Team replica gear (yes, you: fuck you). But anything more than a loop and a half of the Park is bloody boring – and then it’s another few miles back home through bloody traffic again, being treated like a rat (as a side note – if you ever want to feel like cycling should feel like in your un-cycle friendly city, go to/start a Critical Mass. They’re wonderfully liberating).

The other issue is the space shared with other cyclists. My mother, quite rightly told me as a kid, to never trust anyone else on the road, and regard all other road users are idiots: ie. Be fucking cautious. This is a woman who learnt to drive in London, and has extensive driving experience in Portugal and Italy (yes, they live up to the cliché’s: they’re terrible drivers, by-and-large … but apparently quite kind to cyclists, so not all bad). But, I like my distance from other cyclists – I don’t trust them (espicially the be-suited twats on boris bikes) – and so when it comes to cycling in groups, near others in endurance cycling, the struggle to get out of the untrusting mentality is a real burden.

So, in conclusion, London ruins cyclists and makes me think I’m letting my out-of-town mates down because I struggle to keep up. This is because of London’s appalling infrastructure, bastard drivers, twat cyclists, moronic pedestrians, and endless fucking traffic lights. Nothing to do with me being a fat, big-thighed bastard.