There are more than 30,000 cyclists on London’s streets every day. Which kind of pedaller are you? Euan Ferguson spins the story. Illustrations David Ziggy Greene.
The tweed demon
It’s as if Lycra, aluminium frames, comfy saddles and fluorescent tabards were never invented. These most dapper ladies and gentlemen prefer their velocipedes to be heavy, sturdily British and older than your nan. Motto: ‘Keep calm and pedal on.’ Uniform: waxen capes, mutton-sleeved shirts, jerkins, trouser-leg straps and supershiny brogues. Style icons: Sherlock Holmes and Mary Poppins. Would rather be on a penny farthing, but Evans doesn’t sell them.
The on-the-clock courier
The true outlaws of the London road, couriers treat all other cyclists with absolute disdain as they weave between buses with arrogant ease. Riding 80 miles a day rewards this lot with superhuman fitness that no amount of spinning classes could replicate, and while ‘serious’ cyclists spend fortunes on electrolyte sports drinks and high-calorie gel shots, couriers fuel up on double espressos and strong Polish lager. We doff our helmets to them.
The peloton pretender
In his mind, he’s sweeping through picturesque countryside at 30mph with his Tour de France teammates; he flashes an insouciant wink at the motorcycle-mounted camera as the supporters lining the route shout his name and rattle cowbells. In reality, he’s chugging gracelessly through rush-hour Old Street traffic behind a suit on a Boris bike. That head-to-toe expensive clobber and five-grand bicycle is fooling no one, mate – you’re not a rouleur, you’re a commuteur.
The basket case
The convoys of HGVs, speedway motorbikers and taxi drivers who treat London’s roads like autobahns have no effect on this gracefully oblivious lass – she never breaks sweat, never gets a puncture and can pedal in heels. There will be a basket on her powder-blue Dutch city bike, and it will hold a baguette, some rolls of ribbon, a bunch of flowers or a whippet. She and her ride will have been featured on at least one street-style blog.
The frantic folder
As the 7.48 from Woking approaches Waterloo, they take up pole position in the vestibule with their collapsible bike. The doors open and they’re off – Platform 3 to Fenchurch Street in ten minutes, tie flapping over shoulder, face a picture of grim determination. For them, cycling is not a matter of status, enjoyment or fitness, it’s just a way to avoid the congestion charge and get into work from the suburbs before their colleagues.
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