Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Ride Around London

I finally unpacked my bike today and went for a ride. It was the 3rd sunny day out of 4 days and I wanted to take advantage of it. The weather has been the best I’ve ever seen in London.

My dad lives less than a block from Hyde Park so I headed over. I made sure to stay on the left side of the road.

Once in the park I began accosting fellow cyclists for information about bike routes. One suggested I go to Richmond Park. He was the second person to suggest this so I rode back to High Street Kensington and was on my way.

The traffic, although thick, was quite respectful. There are pretty consistent bike lanes but even without the cars allowed me plenty of space.

I crossed the river and stopped off at the first bike shop I saw to put some air in my tires. I walked in and there was a rider and a mechanic talking about Cavendish. Good sign. They pumped my tires up and I rode off.

Ten minutes later, I rode into Richmond Park. I began riding around on the loop where I saw others riding.

As I looked to my left I was surprised to see a whole heard of deer. There were at least 10 of them with full antlers and everything. I knew it was a park but I didn’t realise (British English) it was that type of park.

I had been told the park contained “the steepest hill in London.” I looked for something resembling a steep hill; six laps later I still hadn’t found it.

The loop was really nice. I’m guessing it was about 6 or 7 miles but I’m not sure because I lost my computer during the road race in Fitchburg, MA. At the end I stopped and chatted with another rider. We talked about the racing scene there, his club, et cetera. He mentioned a TT being held in the park this Sunday. He said Michael Hutchinson, British national TT champion, was going to come.

Over the course of the conversation I picked up a bit of the local dialect.

He asked, “You a bit handy?”
“You know, you race a bit?”
I lied, “Yeah, some.”

Apparently “handy” means you can handle your bike, like I said, I lied. Then, he mentioned a Saturday group ride.

“Afterwards they head over to the cafĂ© for a chat and a natter.”
“Eh, what?”
“You know, a chat.”

I bid him farewell and headed back home. On the return I decided to just ride until I got familiar with the area and could navigate my way back. I rode and rode through the streets packed with tourists. I rode past Harrod’s and the Arab restaurants along the way. Ramadan is approaching so half of the Middle East has come to London to spend time with family.

Finally I checked with a cabby to make sure I was headed in the right direction. He pointed me down an alley and I rode off. When I say an alley, I mean a walkway packed with pedestrians. I had almost cleared it when I felt a tug on my brake lever, a girl’s purse. I unclipped and gave the girl back her purse strap with a smile. As I rode off I felt a bit like Lance when the little girl took him out, except I wasn’t climbing Alp d’Huez, I wasn’t wearing yellow, and as far as I knew Jan Ullrich wasn’t up ahead.

I arrived home a few minutes later and sat on the stoop for a bit. I felt refreshed and whole again.

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