Boris Bikes

On The Wrong Track

What happens when an experienced cyclist, a seasoned racer, throws his leg over a Boris bike? In my case, a vanload of police pointed and laughed. “I thought I could ride a bike,” I stuttered as I wobbled past.

What happens when the wife of said rider throws her leg over a Boris bike? Well, that could bring central London to a standstill!

On The Wrong Track

We had escaped the maddening hordes of midsummer’s day in the West End. It was packed, brim-full, jammed solid. There was nowhere to breathe, so we made a run for it down the side streets and across the river until we found some space on the South Bank. And we exhaled. We booked a table for dinner and carried on wandering until we found a stand of Boris bikes, and a suggestion was made. Let’s just see what they are like. It wasn’t me, the seasoned, hardened rider who made the suggestion.

Releasing our rides took a minute or two, an easy process. Picking up the bike after finding how heavy it was took longer. Hey, I’m a cyclist – muscles on legs, skinniness above. Above the belly, anyway. We headed past the police who encouraged us with good-natured cheering, and onto the road. The weight of the bike was the stand-out feature. It affected everything – the handling, the brakes. I tried not to build up any speed as I thought I may never stop again once momentum took over. A glance over the shoulder to see how my wife was doing resulted in slow-speed wobbles down the road and a realisation that busses and lorries were bearing down on her. Thankfully, she had more sense than me, and pulled to the side of the road, calling me back because our dinner date was imminent. Even as an adult I still get called in for dinner!

The next day we bumped into another herd of Boris bikes near Harrods, and releasing a couple, headed into Hyde Park. This habitat perfectly suited the bikes. Slow speed, plenty of space, time to look around and enjoy the sights. The same probably couldn’t be said of the guy sitting on his Cervelo glaring around at the roller-bladers. Admittedly there were skaters everywhere you looked, most of whom didn’t realise how much space they needed, but I’ve a feeling that a full race bike and kit isn’t the perfect set-up among the picnicking families in Hyde Park. Maybe he’d lost his pork pies.

Enjoying a little more space, I got more accustomed to the Boris bike. The handling cannot be described – it is just awful. The bikes are top heavy and I couldn’t work out just why they are so heavy. The brakes work vaguely and bring a new meaning to the word anticipation. Nevertheless I think the bikes are a great idea. If I worked in London I’d have no hesitation in using them for short commutes across the city.

What has this got to do with cyclocross? Nothing really, other than regular, hardened cyclists take the opportunity to ride anywhere. Don’t they? And you would have been mistaken if you saw me practicing mounts and dismounts on a dirt patch near Harrods – I was merely trying to steal some sandwiches.


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