By James T
Today is a day of firsts for me, and all to squeeze in some extra training time.
To backpedal a little, I started cycling as a student in London in 1989, on a fat-wheeled mountain bike. It lasted about 3 weeks before it came off worse in a late-night collision with an Austin Montego on the Old Kent Road. Scorched buttock eventually healed, I was back in action on a similar beast (Specialized Hard Rock Comp, if you’re taking notes) about a month later, eventually trading up to the Marin Indian Fire Trail that, over 20 years later, I still own. Although I swapped the knobbly tyres for slicks, that was as racy as my daily commute ever got when we lived in London.
When we moved out to Hampshire, we lived for a couple of years in the North Downs. The knobbly tyres went back on and – Andover station 15 minutes away by car – bike use plummeted to very occasional burns round the lanes and tracks above Vernham Dean. It was only when we moved to Winchester that I resumed cycle-commuting, on my beloved (now more than 10 years old) Brompton. It has only two gears and a very upright riding position, but it is perfect for the short stretches to and from Winchester and Waterloo stations. As it folds up and fits between seats in the SW Trains white coaches, I’ve never had to worry about cycle over-crowding on trains that allow a maximum of 12 bikes in a 10-coach train.
I’m in the throes of preparing for a hearing (so I’ll keep this short), and have been eyeing with envy the miles that others have been putting in as part of our collective training effort for the Pyrenees. In an effort at compromise I’ve finally hatched the plan I’ve been brooding on for a few weeks: take the road bike to London and cycle home from Basingstoke (after all, Basingstoke to home by train and Brompton already takes nearly half an hour, so I shouldn’t ‘lose’ that much time).
That’s why today saw me, for the first time in over a decade of taking a bicycle on a train, nervously asking fellow commuters if this ‘door’ takes bikes. And, for the first time in at least a couple of thousand crossings of Waterloo Bridge, burning across the Thames on a road bike, at speeds unthinkable on any mountain bike, let alone a Brompton. Man, that was fun! (And probably just as well that I’ve never done it before and won’t be making it a regular thing.)
All I have to do now is get on with some work (definitely today’s toughest call, with my bike sitting a few feet away in my room in Chambers) and then tonight find a train with a bike space on it to take me to Basingstoke, which I have never cycled to, from, through or in either…