With the Olympic games coming up in London, the transport situation will be… actually there will be no situation, forget about transport all together, forget about getting into the tube and if you do get in you will be forgotten– and I mean it literally, forgotten with the rest of the lost souls from the under world, you will simply not get out alive.
I don’t mean to sound morbid but any London local with average common sense will tell you the same thing. Let the tourists have it their way, be kind and allow them to enjoy the lovely boxed ‘luxury’ commute while you opt for a spacious ‘economy’ commute.
When I say economy I mean it in every sense of the word- you save money, pollute less…and…keep in shape!
A good bicycle will cost you around £500 + £150 equipment= £650- a one off investment, compared to a monthly tube pass that will cost you around £120, a sunk cost. Plus you need to consider the drinks, food, newspapers you buy to entertain yourself while commuting.
Choosing a sedentary commuting style will likely affect other choices negatively: you end up consuming more junk food you buy at the kiosk and do less activity. If you watched Sky news this morning you would know that according to new research not being active has the same health risks as being a smoker.
Thanks to London’s vibrant urban culture, you can easily find a bicycle that exactly fits your needs and personality- you will by no means look like a crazed Tour de France racer or the hippie on a pink pony bike; there are just as many bicycle brands as there are car brands and you can even have a bespoke bicycle made!
Again, remember that this article is written by an absolute cycling beginner, me, and until a few days ago I barely knew the difference between a fixed bicycle and a geared bicycle. This is why I visited two of my favorite bicycle shops (I did my research beforehand :))-Tokyobike and Tokyofixed (similar name but totally different shops with a different owner) and asked about what to take in consideration when purchasing a bike.
Fixed vs. Geared bike
A fixed bike is normally lighter, has one gear bike and no brakes (you brake with your pedals) making it ideal for shorter distance commuting. On the other hand, there is the geared bike, a more common and versatile alternative to the fixed bike, equipped with multi-speed gears and hand brakes, and good for both short and long distance commutes.
When purchasing a bicycle it is important to choose one with a comfortable saddle. A bike expert at Tokyofixed recommended the spoon saddle. In any case I advice you to test different saddles in the shop before making a purchase.
Different brands make their bicycles with different materials. Lightness is a desirable feature for a bicycle so opt for lighter materials such as carbon and aluminum. Chrome and steel are also good materials; chrome is known for its quality and steel for its comfort and functionality (it responds well to bumps and works with you rather than against you)
Both Tokyobike and Tokyofixed emphasized on the importance of investing in a good lock. Bicycles get stolen in London frequently and you need to find the best way to keep yours safe. A good lock costs about £40. Other important accessories include a helmet and lights.
If you want to personalize your cycling look buy a cool messenger bag, a unique ringing bell and a pair of funky leather gloves.
Many of the non-cyclists, including myself hesitate to purchase a bike due to the concern for safety when riding in London. A lady I spoke to in Tokyobike told me that the best way to keep safe is to avoid the main roads when feeling tired or unfocused. Also, and this may seem as a no-brainer, don’t listen to music while cycling. Finally wear a protective helmet and illuminated clothing to make it easier for other traffic participants to notice you.
*Special thanks to Tokyobike and Tokyofixed for their time and contribution and to JP Hion for the great photography featured in this article.