Le Tour de Finchley

When I was somewhat younger and fitter than I am now, I used to cycle the six miles to work each day. It was enjoyable, cheaper and quicker than using the bus except when it was tipping down with rain – then it was just cheaper and quicker. I had a secondhand Viscount Sebring with Reynolds 531 tubing which was a very capable bicycle. The journey into work took around 20 minutes – an average speed of 18mph including stopping for traffic lights and at road junctions. The return journey used to take around 45 minutes – an average of 8mph. Why the descrepancy? It was mainly uphill going home and the traffic was heavier. Whilst I was never a superfit, racing, cyclist I didn’t get passed by many other cyclists in either direction so I was probably above average. I surprised one of my workmates one lunchtime. We went out for a ride together: Him on his BMW motorcycle and me on my Viscount. He clocked me at a steady 25mph along the Finchley road on a slightly rising gradient – Not Tour de France performance but pretty good!

Times moved on – I sold the old Viscount and bought one of those new-fangled Mountain Bike thingies. I bought big as well – a frame that was too large for me. At the time it was a decision based on road conditions – sitting high above the traffic made you more visible and able to see a lot more of what was going on around you. With the increasing traffic levels it was a safety precaution rather than anything else. The bike I bought was a Marin Bear Valley and it was an imposing bit of kit and a very pleasant ride – especially after I replaced the knobbly tyres with ones designed for road/off-road use. Some evenings I would deliberately divert from the road and follow some footpaths on Hampstead Heath (against the byelaws put in by the Corporation of London).

Work moved on too – I left Lords Exchange in the late 1980’s and my next few work places were not bicycle friendly for a mixture of road and parking reasons. So the bike fell into disuse. At one time I was working south of the river and it was just so much more convenient to jump on the tube and get to where I was going.

This year was a hugely successful time for British Cycling with Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Brit to win The Tour de France. Bike shops in the UK are reporting a huge increase in cycles being bought as many new cyclists take to the road in what has been dubbed ‘The Wiggo Effect’. Now, it’s fair to say that I have been trying to get back into cycling from a fitness point of view for the last 5 years. I had the Bear serviced and suspension added to ease the ride for my old bones and I did my best to get back in the habit but it just wasn’t happening. It took me a long time to get to the bottom of the problem – confidence and age. I was no longer fit enough to leap on and off a bike that was a couple of frame sizes too big for me with any sense of confidence. I was always dreading having to put my foot down if there wasn’t a kerb available – I always felt that I was risking falling off.

So 3 weeks ago, with my son about to do a cycle training course at school, I bit the bullet and took my old Bear Valley on its last ride to my local cycle shop – Bike & Run in East Finchley. I got a very sympathetic reception and having ascertained my requirements Tony recommended a Trek 7 series FX of the correct size as a suitable replacement for someone who is trying to get fit again through cycling. I have to say that I am very pleased with my new bike. It handles very nicely and accelerates well. I’m also confident to stop without worrying about falling off! In fact the only issue is that my bum doesn’t enjoy being back on the saddle – so I’ve started wearing padded cycle undershorts for the first time 😉

Me and Trek 7.5 FX
Me in my old Deutsche Telekom shirt on my new Trek 7.5 FX bike. Photo by Alasdair Addison.

This post was prompted by Donna’s post The color of running.


    1. Thanks Kate – Not sure I want to investigate those undershorts too closely after a ride or two 😉

      PS – I understand that Platform 20 at Waterloo is due to be put in service in December to allow 10 coach trains on the Windsor run from May next year…

  1. Looking good Martin. Looks like a great bike too. No doubt you’ll soon be cruising along at 25 mph again, far ahead of me. And you’re going to love those padded undershorts on those long rides. Glad I could inspire you to get back on the bike! Thanks for the trackback.

    1. Thanks Donna – it is a nice looking bike and feels really good (if a little twitchy when doing slow speed u-turns on a narrow street). Still getting used to the sexy padded shorts 😉

  2. Wonderful! Enjoy being back in the saddle.

    When we moved to FL 3 years ago, we both started biking again. Just local, no long distance treks. But it’s great to hop on my bike, ride a mile up to the pool, do water aerobics, and cycle back home.

    1. Hi Nancy – Alasdair and I did a 3.5 mile local trip this morning. Although I was going very slow he still complained about struggling to keep up. It was really a bit of a road training run – putting what he learnt at school into practice. He’ll be better off next week though because he’ll have his new bike and will be able to peddle better as a result 🙂

    1. LoL – Fortunately they turn round at Golders Green these days. Bus drivers seem to be pretty good at giving cyclists room these days with lots of good forward vision 🙂 It’s the grab lorries you have to watch out for 😦

  3. I’ve been noticing more bicyclists in our area lately. It’s seemed that people are getting in touch with old pleasures, but also acknowledging the economy of riding rather than driving. Good for you for taking the initiative to get back in gear!

  4. Congratulations on getting back into such a healthy activity, Martin!
    It’s been years since I’ve been on a bicycle, too! I’m afraid I’ve nearly forgotten which end is the front at this point!

    1. Thanks Bob – me too… This time I think it is a long term return, especially if I can cycle with my Son 🙂 Ps – How d’ya like that 1990’s Pink! 😉 I think the shirt dates to 1994.

  5. Well done Martin for getting back into it. I sold my mountain bike about 3 years ago & got myself a 125 motorscooter for commuting as my knees were starting to hurt too much pedalling.uphill

    1. Thanks Tony. I’ll remember the tip about the knees – I think I need to make sure that the saddle is at the abosolute correct height. I also have some exercises that are designed to strengthen the muscle that holds the knee-cap in place – I’d better start doing them again 🙂

  6. Well, good for you! A new bike has to be exciting (not to mention padded undershorts, who knew!). What’s exciting also is that Alasdair took such a terrific photo. Like father, like son.
    Happy pedaling —

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