If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness…


It’s been quite a while since my last cycling update but lighter mornings mean I’m back in the saddle again.  I’m in London for a week long course and after a couple of pints of Cobra all alone on Brick Lane last night, I toyed with the idea of hiring a Boris bike for a bit of a laugh.  However sense took hold and I waited until early this morning to take one out for a spin.

I’d ridden a Parisian Velib a few years ago, which is their equivalent scheme of hire bikes.  A detailed report of this particular adventure is elsewhere on this blog but being a weekday I though that rather than spend an hour sightseeing I would ‘road test’ the bike in an ironic, more silly than actually helpful Top Gear manner by belting along the A13 in a tribute to one of my heros, Billy Bragg.  His A13 trunk road to the sea is his Essex boy answer to getting your kicks on Route 66.

I was heading east at about 6am so was looking forward to enjoying seeing the sun rise but that event turned out to be just as dull as the bike was.  Hire bikes are not designed for my kind of high tempo man-on-a-mission thrashing about.  It was geared similarly to the Velib with 1st gear being a complete waste of time for me on the flat roads of London.  I only dropped down to 2nd gear when going up hill but the bike is so heavy with its large, thick and wide tyres offering massive rolling resistance so that the slightest incline was very noticeable.

The ride back was a bit more interesting as I tailed a cheap but spritely Brompton for a couple of miles along the Cycle Superhighway CS3.  He showed his superior agility around the crossings and junctions whilst I caught him on the straights.  Even in top gear my legs were spinning far quicker than his.  Some plonker on a Carrera MTB objected to me overtaking him and foolishly tried in vain to chase me down for a while and then there was a nobber drifting along whilst cleated into a Giant road bike.  He was doing 3-4 mph less than me so I had to overtake but then he also chose to drift through every set of lights as well.  As we approached the city he speeded up significantly but I still pushed past him and ‘won’ before turning off at Aldgate.

It’s not about the bike anyway.  There are plenty of cyclists around London but the hire system doesn’t seem seems as popular as the French one was 4 years ago.  Unlike my experience there I found every bike I inspected in London to be in working order and had availability at my closest station rather spending 30 minutes wandering the streets of Paris before riding.  I averaged about 13mph over a 45 minute ride and my quickest km was 2:13 which is a respectable 17mph.  Endomondo also claims I hit 23 mph at one point, which was nice, if not particularly memorable.


About holmesinho

Happily married father of 2 living in Prestwich 5 miles north of Manchester, England. I cycle most days though mostly commuting and also enjoy running and triathlon.
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5 Responses to If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness…

  1. velorichard says:

    I know what you mean about the gearing, but they’ve revolutionised my commute for the good. As for popular you should go to King Cross around 8am. They have to ferry bikes in from elsewhere to keep up with demand!

    Like you found, my main problem is people see you on a Boris Bike and expect you to be slow. It’s great fun disabusing them!

  2. Pingback: Learning the hard way « Happy Talk

  3. One thing to watch out for with London’s hire bikes is sticky brakes – not all bikes are equal! This might have caused extra slowness.

    If you lift the bike by the seat and give the pedal a push (before hiring one) then you’ll find that some wheels spin freely but some grind to a halt within seconds, so it’s worth trying a few to find one that won’t fight against you. I’d estimate that somewhere between 30% to 50% of the bikes have this problem.

  4. Pingback: Villo! | Cycling and other adventures

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