The missus and I have been cycling regularly for near on five months now, so we felt comfortable enough to enter an official cycling event. We convinced a friend, who doesn’t happen to be a regular cyclist but was still up for the challenge, to join us. We chose the London Bikeathon; non-competitive (not a race), all for a good cause (Leukemia research) and close to home. Being my first -athon since the swimathon I entered when I was ten, and being accompanied by our non-regular cyclist friend, we went for the easiest option, the 13 mile city route. Actually, in total, we ended up doing about 24 miles on the day as it was a five and a half mile bike ride there and the same back. But ok, I’m making excuses, we totally wimped out on the mileage, especially since the missus and I make a daily commute of 15 and 18 miles respectively. In any case, the weather was glorious and the atmosphere was great.
There were a few minor disappointments though. The first was the lack of consideration by the motorists on the road. We were all advised in our welcome packs to follow the highway code and traffic laws, etc as none of the roads were closed for the event. At one point, quite close to the start, a large number of cyclists got bunched together at the lights. The lucky ones piled into the green bike box, where the law says they should have been, and the rest of us positioned ourselves behind them waiting for the lights to turn from red to green; also a perfectly legal position to adopt, if not just slightly more vulnerable. So far so good. Now, I commute from South West London, through The City to East London every week day and normally I keep to the left, well out of the way of the traffic behind me. Life on London roads is too cheap not to. But bear in mind that there weren’t just one or two of us at the Bikeathon – thousands of people took part in this event. Trust me, when you’re one person cycling in amongst hundreds of other people, there’s not really anywhere to go until the momentum picks up. The lights changed and after the definition of a split second had passed, motorists behind us were honking their horns for us to move out of the way. Where they expected us all to go, I have no idea. With no space to move into, inevitably we ended up riding two, sometimes three abreast just to keep going. One guy kept beeping his horn behind us in fierce irritation. When we did pick up the pace, he turned into the first left, so I think we must have added approx 0.2mins on to his journey time. I didn’t put myself in amongst hundreds of other cyclists to annoy him. My sole purpose of being there, wasn’t to inconvenience his journey or hold him or anyone else up. My purpose was plainly evident by the bright red and white “Leukemia Research” logotype strewn across the back of my (and everyone else’s) t-shirt. So sorry for any delay Sir, we’re only here to help raise money for kids with cancer!
The second irritation was the minority of inconsiderate cyclists. I have to admit these were mainly confined to the more hardcore “Challenge Route”, a 52 mile long bike ride. Our routes did cross paths however, and every now and then, a cyclist in a yellow t-shirt would whiz past, run a red light, storm over a pedestrian crossing or steam through a stream of oncoming traffic with complete disregard for any other road users. One guy decided to go the wrong way up a one way (even for cyclists) street instead of using the perfectly adequate cycle path, then had the cheek to call a driver a wanker for not stopping to let him past. I mean, c’mon this is a charity bike ride you twit, you’re not in a fucking alleycat, get a grip.
Overall though, I have to say that the whole experience was a very pleasant one and I hope this doesn’t put anyone off taking part – it certainly was breathtaking standing up at the start line looking around at all the people who were about to take part. Also, the particular route that we took was, in my opinion very well planned out, and we got to see some great sights along the way. The cheers from the volunteers on the sidelines were also very welcome, as were the free maintenance workshops provided by the LCC. There were great provisions for children as well – my nephews delighted in overtaking each other at the children’s circuit and getting their medals and goodie bags when they’d finished. So, apart from a few blips, it was a great day.