One extra hour in bed. One measly little extra hour in bed. That’s hardly adequate compensation for six months of having to cycle home in the dark, is it? If it’d been an extra hour in bed every day things might be different. But it’s not, so they’re not.
I pride myself in not being a fair weather cyclist – I cycle to work day in, day out, all year round, in almost all weathers. Yet it’s always around this time of year – when the clocks have gone back and winter is just around the corner – that the temptation to abandon my trusty steed in favour of the Overground is at its strongest.
As if the thought of the long dark ride home weren’t enough to put me off, there’s also the small matter of tomorrow’s predicted storm to contend with.
My resolve could do with all the help it can get right now.
So this seems like an opportune moment to remind myself of what I’d be missing out on if I swapped bike for train. So, dear readers – as much for my benefit as for your delectation – I present the top five highlights of my commute.
Who needs the gym?
However much I may grumble about my commute, it does have one indisputable benefit – it’s bloody good exercise. Home to work is about nine miles door-to-door, which takes somewhere around 45 to 50 minutes to cycle.
That’s around an hour and a half of exercise per day, five days a week, which puts me at about five hours over – or three times – the Government’s recommended exercise levels.
OK, a fitness trainer might argue I need to mix things up a bit, throw in some strength or resistance training, but that doesn’t bother me. As long as I can keep doing what I’m doing, I’m happy. I’m already doing more exercise than the vast majority of the population, and I’m saving on gym fees.
(One advantage to all this exercise is that I rarely have to worry about what I eat. I’ve never actually counted how many calories I burn off cycling to and from work, but I reckon it’s enough to justify the odd biscuit…or three.)
The street cleaner on Tufnell Park Road
London is not known for being a friendly place. Everyone is usually so intent on getting on with their daily business in this big, crowded city of ours; we keep our heads down, avoid making eye contact and we certainly never, ever speak to strangers.
So you can imagine my reaction when one of the street cleaners on Tufnell Park Road starting waving and saying hello to me as I passed him in the morning.
What did he want? Was he mistaking me for someone else? Should I wave back?
After agonising over this for far longer than was probably necessary, I concluded that he was probably just being friendly, and the best thing to do would be to accept his greetings in the spirit in which they were almost certainly intended.
These days his random acts of friendliness are one of the things I look forward to on my morning commute. If a street cleaner can make a point of greeting a passing cyclist on her way into work every day, then perhaps London isn’t the cold cruel city I sometimes think it is.
Neither here nor there – both half way to work and half way home – the M&S at the bottom of Pond Street is a tempting little oasis in a commute that’s otherwise devoid of places to stop for food. There’s even a handy bike rack right outside.
Just how tempting is something I’m only just coming to fully understand. I’ve recently started keeping a record of everything I spend, so I know where my money goes each month. I was somewhat alarmed to discover that, in less than a week, I managed to blow over fifty quid in this M&S. I’d stop off on my way home to pick up, say, some bread and milk, then I’d remember something else I needed, and something else…and before I knew it I had a basket full of goodies. No wonder I’m always counting down the days until payday.
In an attempt to stave off bankruptcy, I’m trying to wean myself off my little M&S habit. It’s proving very difficult, though – particularly as I can still hear its siren call every day as I go past, luring me onto the rocks of penury.
The picture on the wall of Natuzzi furniture store
When you cycle to work – particularly on a route like mine – the possibilities for eye candy are somewhat limited. It’s not like, say, catching a train where you see the same people day in, day out, and you have the entire length of the journey to eye up your fellow commuters. I might spot a fit looking bloke at one set of lights, but by the next junction he’s gone, never to cross my path again.
In other words, I have to take my eye candy opportunities where and when I can get them – even if that happens to be an image on the wall of a furniture store on Finchley Road.
So thank you, Natuzzi guy, for being my eye candy. Over the past four years you’ve been doing a sterling job of brightening up my morning commute, and for that I salute you.
The best thing about my commute is that I don’t have to do it if I don’t want to.
If, at the end of a long day, I decide I’m too tired or it’s too wet or cold for me to face cycling home, I can just hop on the Overground with my trusty steed. The only catch is that I have to wait until after 7pm before I’m allowed to take him on the train – which is just the perfect excuse to nip to the pub for a couple of post-work drinks.