I was recently in London for work, which was a great opportunity to catch up with a friend and go for a ride.
We worked out 100kms (c.70 miles) as a decent target and he suggested this route, from London to Oxford.
I didn’t bring my bike with me (lugging a bike bag to meetings and on the Tube just isn’t workable), but luckily his bike was exactly my frame size and he would use his backup – a fixed gear bike for 100kms of rolling countryside, brave man!
I brought my shoes, pedals, helmet and clothes, switched out his pedals, adjusted the bike fit and off we went.
The first thing I noticed was that the brakes were switched from how mine are set up. They were front/right, rear/left, which caused some confusion until I got used to it. Apparently this is to keep your strongest hand on the strongest brake while signalling left? Though this doesn’t make sense to me as signalling right (across UK traffic) seems more important than signalling left. But maybe I’m missing something.
We cycled from east London to Liverpool St, put the bikes on the Metropolitain line and headed towards the western edge of London, to Ruislip.
It was quite strange riding in traffic, crossing junctions and roundabouts (rotaries) on the “wrong ” side of the road, though once upon a time it was completely normal for me (memories of delivering newspapers on Sunday mornings in northern England…)!
We met up with some other friends on arrival and started the ride.
How lovely the British countryside is (in good weather)! I had a good dose of nostalgia riding along country lanes, between sheep fields, past classic British cars, over narrow bridges, past wandering pheasants, through quaint villages and past (seemingly infinite) country pubs.
We passed through the grounds of Waddesdon Manor, a beautiful stately home, with a curated estate. The best road surface we saw all day!
My friend planned for lunch at a cyclist-friendly country pub in a village called Quainton (yes really) where we enjoyed a pint of ale, some pub grub, chatted with some other cyclists and enjoyed the warm spring sunshine.
We chatted about Brexit, the (then) upcoming triggering of article 50, the atmosphere in the UK around that, briefly about the terrorist incident at the Houses of Parliament. There’s a lot going on in current affairs and seemingly some anxiety about the short term future. But we also talked about coffee, bikes, food, family, friends and all that good stuff.
In the restroom I spotted a vending machine selling this.
For cyclists or something else 😂?
We continued the ride, fuelled by cake, espresso, beer, and pub lunch, and arrived in the beautiful university town of Oxford by late afternoon. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos as I was distracted looking for the train station.
Caught the train back to London, stopping at a shopping outlet centre where hundreds of Chinese, Indian, Arabic and African tourists boarded the train clutching bags with designer labels. Apparently the second most visited tourist destination in the UK after Buckingham Palace 😳. Who’d have guessed?
Quite a bizarre combination – sweaty, tired cyclists and luxury goods-bearing tourists 😄.
Back in London, night had fallen and evening rush hour had arrived. My friend took is on a quiet route that snaked through little side streets to east London, all but avoiding the congestion. We earned the next days’s full English breakfast.
Everyone had slightly different bikes (titanium fixie, steel tourer, aluminium sportive, steel canti-brake flat bar tourer) and varying experience levels but we rode at a pace that suited all, had no technical difficulties.
There was no talk of KOM/QOM, no FTP, no HIIT, no BS.
Just friends, the road, the ride.