Commuting. The death knell for pleasure wailed by all of us who’d like our life back. Get up at 6 a.m., get home exhausted 12 hours later, ground down by public transport and stained by the grime of the city. Lose a week to gain the money to pay for all the stuff you’d do yourself if you weren’t fighting for a seat on the 5:27 -late again -grinding out of London. Grim eh?
As a self confessed victim of the time poverty, it’s become increasingly clear that with weekdays lost to the commute, precious weekends must be frantically split between the wife, kids, sleep, beer and -oh yes- riding mountain bikes. My wife tells me I’m not doing that well.
So if you can’t buy time, then you must spend it more wisely. The road trip to the client is a perfectly commutable 22 miles separated by the Chiltern Railways people sandwich. Simple in concept: take the bike to the station, take the same bike on the train and then ride to the office saving both the planet and the potential for extreme violence on the hot, sweaty tube. Better still, I’m reclaiming money on parking and public transport except of course Chiltern Railways really want their £8.50 a day. So whilst welcoming cycles on trains as “part of our commitment to the environment”, this welcome is only extended outside of the hours it would actually be of any use. I struggle to see the value of a policy which allows bikes to travel between 10am and 3pm. Hey – don’t get me wrong -sounds like a perfect working day but I don’t think the client would agree.
Not beaten yet, I turn my browser to bizarre creations of a twisted mind -of course I speak of the folding cycle. The choice is frankly staggering yet they all share the same attributes of kids wheels, spindly frames and the whiff of a vegan who knits their own cheese. Regardless of the manufacturer, all sub specious of the genus folder are clearly the bastard love child of a blind welder and a scaffold pole. And that welder only had a blowtorch
Still, many erstwhile owners of these unholy unions of a bmx and a shopping trolley talk of their sprightliness, fine handling and ease of assembly. But these are the same people who enjoy -and more to the point can assemble -complex tentage, and embrace other such dreadful pointless pastimes. A folder in my hands would be reduced to swarf inside a month unless the assembly instructions included “throw roughly to the ground and give a good kicking”
Anyway, I’m pretty sure that unless you’re a card carrying member of the green party and own a half share in a broccoli commune, ownership would be denied on suitability grounds.
So that’s a no then.
Option 2 is an uncomfortable composite of cycling and running. While I am totally sold on the benefits of cross training, the prospect of oxygenating exhaust fumes from a thousand London taxis at a high metabolic rate is clearly only slightly less idiotic than the aforementioned folder.
Option 3 is to accept a terminus of the cycle journey at the local station. But therein lies the horror of riding the tube rather than a bike during the summer months. Let’s be honest here, the venerable 100+ year old transport system packed way beyond capacity and devoid of a maintenance programme makes a sauna feel beautifully air conditioned. And that’s before some arsehole makes a late break for the platform, blissfully unaware of the significant collateral damage inflicted by his flesh piercing laptop.
No again. Bugger
But a bit of lateral thinking and the solution is obvious; logically it’s three journeys and I can ride two of them by simply adding one bike to the London end. Except with it being London, it’s not a bike I need, it’s a urban assault vehicle. Horror stories abound of bikes being stolen at knife point, thieves tooled up with bolt cutters hunting in packs, and taxi drivers hell bent on cycling regicide.
It’s clear I need a bike built for the mean concrete streets of this urban jungle. Inside its’ battered frame should beat the heart of a full on street bike. It’ll project an aura of the un-stealable bike waiting to rip off the offending limb of any chancer who steps into range. And woe betide the dead man walking who actually attempts to ride it -such a foolhardy endeavour will result in a chain reaction of mechanical failures ending with a bearclaw pedal painfully inserted in a fleshy body part.
This is no longer just a bike -it’s a virus with an attitude vector. Configured to fool, built for fun; Unloved parts sacrificed on the altar of shonk bring forth the beast that is Rattus Mountainbikus.
Now those who know me and my esoteric collection of all things two wheeled would assume that there is sufficient slack in the spares bin to create the monster described above. Yet, those who know me rather better see it as a thinly veiled excuse for a new one.
Well old actually and not really as shonky as envisaged. And amusingly exactly the same colour as the station platform so ideally camouflaged when I’m hunting for it at 7:50 in the morning. I’m pretty sure there’s some twisted railway guy moving it every night, either that or I have the memory of a special needs goldfish.
It’s a Trek frame of indeterminate vintage built out from the parts bin last raided in the mid nineties . It’s a bit too small and a lot too clean but so far no one has managed to nick it. A few taxis have tried to grind it into the curb, a couple of roller skaters have nearly been disembowelled on the aforementioned sharpened bar ends and the odd Japanese tourist has received a tyre slick Chinese burn as they adjust the focal length on their cameras by backing into the cycle lane. But much more of this next time.
I have two bikes, one route and half a plan. Now it’s time to execute it violently on the mean streets of London. Wish me luck.