30 Days of Biking in the South Pennines

Joining in the fun with #30daysofbiking

Neil’s Days 21 to 24

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So this week presented a challenge, my work was taking me first to Norwich and then on to London so how do I incorporate cycling into this?! Ah simples I here you say, just take the bike on the train. Not so simples though to commute into London with a bike and then there would be problems about safely storing it whilst I worked. “I’ve got the perfect thing” says fellow #30daysofbiking comrade Chris, “it’s a full size fold up mtb!”. Problem solved then, we exchanged my road bike for his mtb and off I set to try out this commuting by bike thing.

First off to Norwich, arriving late on Sunday night to a 4* hotel with my gear for the next 3 days stuffed into a large rucksack on my back. The bike had already stirred up trouble with the train company, “have you got that booked on?”, “no, but it’s a fold-up” … ensue looks of sheer disbelieve as the staff watched me fold it up. Got to say I felt a tad smug! Now to ruffle some feathers in the hotel, I forgot to bring a lock, and with nowhere safe to store it I proposed storing the bike in my room. A withering look from the receptionist suggested she wasn’t too pleased with this idea so again I had to demonstrate the bike’s party piece! Success …

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The next two days would involve short commutes across the centre of Norwich which I found to be a very popular place for cyclists to commute to / from. I guess it’s the lack of steep hills that makes it more accessible. Determined to do more than just commute I discovered Route 1 of the National Cycle Network came through town, so off I went to see what the local riding was like and to try the bike out offroad. Now I’d had a long and stressful day at work so my head wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I set off. The first few miles consisted of an internal dialogue with myself bemoaning the handling of the bike, the uncomforableness of the saddle, the lack of feel through the cabled brakes etc etc … then something interesting happened. I realised I was out in the countryside on a lovely dry evening with the hustle and bustle of city / work life behind me. Guess what? I started to enjoy myself, I even found some woods on the way back to have a play in so my spirits were lifted even higher. I arrived back in Norwich feeling fresh and revived and ready to tuck into all you can eat Japanese!

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The next evening filled me with trepidation … riding across central London! It was surprisingly stress free, the roads were much quieter than I imagined which I guess is as a result of the congestion charge. We (yes by this stage me and the bike had bonded!) did a bit of sightseeing then hooked up with a friend at a trendy bar in Soho. Now I arrived in bike gear with a bike and expected trouble from the fashonista and more withering looks. Not so to my surprise, the bartender spotted my #CityCross t-shirt and instantly started telling me about his cycling exploits and asking my advice for where to ride in Scotland, next the waitress clearing the table spotted the bike and started asking all about it, then when leaving I was surrounded by folk looking on in disbelief as I unfolded her (the bike!) and set off back to the hotel.

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A little bit more commuting round London was involved before finally heading back up north on Wednesday evening in a tired but reflective mood. This bike, a Dahon is a rebel amongst the biking ranks, yes it has it’s faults and will never be a thoroughbred XC mtb, but it isn’t supposed to be is it? What it is is a really fun commuter bike which enabled me to ride on and offroad whilst working away. I’m very grateful to Chris for lending me this bike which has reminded me that cycling is about more then Strava segments and races!!!

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