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Into the Arena

Words & Photos by Julian Birch

There are at least a hundred reasons to commute by bike and there’s no need for me to preach to the converted by exploring them all here. There are common reasons that we can all relate to but everyone has their own personal motivation too.

I’ve been commuting from the boundaries of East London into the City itself for a couple of years now, although I’ve been working in ‘The Smoke’ for longer than that and riding a bike for much longer still. It makes a lot of sense to commute by bike but (and it’s embarrassing to admit) I’d talked myself out of it for a long time. There was always a raft of excuses but when it boiled right down to it I was just scared.

However, the arrival of our first child made me sit up and reconsider a few things I thought I knew. It also had the happy effect of recalibrating my fear and anxiety settings. Besides it would’ve been irresponsible to keep wasting £1,200 a year on the dubious pleasure of travelling by London Underground in conditions illegal for transporting livestock. Which was scarier: Mixing it up with all those predatory black cabs, red buses and white vans with abstract interpretations of the rules of the road or being faced with that first meconium filled nappy staring back at me like living black tar? There was no contest; a tonne of red metal paled into insignificance beside a few ounces of baby’s first pooh.

So the clarion call was getting louder and louder. However, jumping on the bike and riding to work seemed far too simple. A little preparation was needed first. For starters skinny tyres were required; part of the logic being new kit always helps get me on my bike – no, motivational Guru I am not. Then I had to research, choose and memorize a likely route before doing a dry run and putting all the theory into practice.