Rachel Davies, 29, an NGO Communications Officer from London writes, "London was not built for cars. It’s a well know fact that driving your clunker through the city is the slowest and most expensive way to get around.
The fastest – and incidentally cheapest – way to travel is on two wheels. It was with this in mind that I decided to brave the rough roads of London and embark on that momentous expedition: my first cycle to work.
Previously I had only been able to gawp in envy at the fit elite – all honed arms, and sculpted thighs – as I trudged from the tube station, chocolate bar in hand. They revelled in the free beauty of the rising sun over Hyde Park, while I paid a hundred quid a month to be crushed up against a banker’s armpit*. Now I would be one of the noble few. I could see myself whizzing past commuters as they watched my bum disappear into the distance.
Being a cheapskate, I had acquired my little sister’s bike in exchange for paying our dad 40 quid to cover a window she broke. (I’m not the only one in my family with the ‘oops!’ gene.) However, my sister had originally bought the bike when she was 14 years old and into pink. Fluorescent pink.
I was, however, undeterred. Armed with my little girl’s bike and an oversized helmet my local bike dealer had duped me into buying, I set off into the unknown. I was certainly prepared. I had packed some spare underwear to ride home in, just in case I sweated more than usual. Knowing that this was a distinct possibility (due to the fact I hadn’t exercised in about a year) I had packed the oldest, grimiest, most granny-like pants and bra I owned. What a pro.
Things were going well. The sun shone as I headed towards Paddington, a vision of enviable cool. As I turned the corner into Spring Street, a rather attractive bearded gentleman shot me a grin. ‘Amazing.’ I thought to myself ‘Even dressed up like a demented 12 year old, I’ve still got it.’
It took me about six seconds and a hundred yards to realise what was really going on: my backpack had come undone. My tights were wrapped around my back wheel.
My underwear was strewn back down the middle of the road.
Spring Street is littered with cafes and restaurants – basically involving quite a lot of people sitting outside, people watching. Right now they were watching me. Me, and my skanky underwear.
"It took me about six seconds and a hundred yards to realise what was really going on: my tights were wrapped around my back wheel."
In a mad panic I threw my bike to the ground and ran back down the street, my oversized helmet bobbing from side to side as I picked up my abandoned items.
For one tumultuous moment I considered bursting into floods of tears, but then remembered that Mr Attractive and Bearded was probably still watching, along with about 50 other lucky people. With this in mind I made the brave decision to put on my best ‘I’m still cool’ walk as I strode back to my hot pink bike, pants in hand.
With every ounce of dignity I had left (er… not much, for those of you who were wondering) I jumped back on my two wheels and rode away. Quickly.
It’s been three long and difficult years since ‘the incident’. After therapy, prayer and a lot of strong liquor, I finally feel that I am ready to move on. So, at the end of this month I’m going to face my fear: buy a bike and re-try the cycle to work.
I’ll be packing good underwear.
* Please note, I have nothing against bankers – I’m just not a huge fan of the armpit-in-the-face experience. Walking into the office with a massive sweat patch on your forehead is not a good look.
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Main picture credit: Rex Features