y o u b i k e l o n d o n; Fabien from Newington Green

It's back! After a somewhat extended Christmas break, everyone's favourite Friday London cyclist interview is back again.  Sorry for the delay, thanks for your patience and enjoy.  Some of you might know this week's interviewee, Fabien Beardsly from his blog On The Bummel...

Name / age?
Fabien / 29
Where do you live / ride to?
Generally I am to be seen pedalling from Newington Green down to Vauxhall during the regular commuting hours, and more or less anywhere else my fancy takes me during the rest.
What do you ride?
Somehow I seem to have just bought British (not out of jingo-ism I can assure you) and keep in my bicycle stable a Brompton a S2L and Pashley 3-speed Guv’nor (great bike despite being a bit like a kit-car of the cycling world!) I guess I have stumbled on a sort of combination between the old and new of the British cycling manufacturing scene.
How often do you ride?
I’m on one my steel steeds pretty much every day – unless they’re both out of action or the road conditions are blatantly unsafe.
What's your primary reason for cycling?
My initial reason for hopping back onto two wheels was that it is by far the cheapest way of travelling about town. I was a student here, and pretty much walked everywhere during those three years, but when I started working and needing to take public transport I was horrified by the cost and the whole experience of the rush hour gang bang – not to mention the lack of reliability – and subsequently took Tebbit’s advice and got on my bike.

Photo courtesy of Rino Pucci

What's your least favourite aspect of cycling?
I loathe the wet pants that result from cycling in the rain. Oh that and being undertaken by other cyclists – haven’t quite fathomed out why people do that yet. Hmmm…and seeing as I have already taken the liberty of misunderstanding the question to include two responses so far, I will throw a third into the mix as well – namely how lonesome it is sometimes. In many ways I enjoy the solitude of the road, but occasionally I do wish that I had a buddy to chat too along the way. The rare occasions where I have bumped into a chum as I am peddaling about are always special, and I do wish that it could happen more often!
What's your most favourite aspect of cycling?
By far and away it has to be the freedom and the social benefit it has brought to my life. I remember reading somewhere that with the popularisation of the bicycle in France, the nation’s average height increased. Apparently this was due to the extension of the gene pool beyond the borders of the average village as inhabitants were able to travel that bit further afield to spread their wild oats. Even if this theory is a load of hokum, I still rather like and want to believe it. London boasts an extensive transport system, but I do find that the bicycle is by far and away as useful as a mobile phone or social networking tool for maintaining contact with friends, for the simple ease it allows you to cross the length and breadth of town with minimal fuss.
How many locks do you carry and have you ever had a bicycle stolen?
It really depends on which bicycle I have taken out. With the Brompton I tend not to carry a lock at all, which as most riders of a foldaway will recognise is one of their great conveniences. With the Pashley I usually only lug one about, as for work we have secure parking, making me feel reasonably confident leaving it leashed with only one. If I am going further afield or out of my comfort/knowledge zone, then I will inevitably pack two different types.
I have been fortunate so far not to have lost a bicycle, but deep down there is always that terrible sense of fear of coming back to an empty bicycle stand with only the shattered remnants of a lock – or perhaps worse yet the mutilated corpse of a beloved companion. I guess with cycling in London it is very much a question of “when” not “if”, and over the many years so far I have been exceptionally fortunate.
What advice would you give an aspiring cycling thinking of riding in London for the first time?
The thing that has stood me in the greatest stead since returning from childhood rides in the West Country to London’s manic commuter jungle has been the Compulsory Basic Training I took in the days when I dallied with a motorcycle. I have heard that local councils give something similar for cyclists, and would heartily recommend doing this to pretty much everyone who has not had a chance to drive a two wheeled contraption. If that is not possible, then I suppose there are five things I would suggest:

1. Never undertake an HGV – or cyclist!
2. Always try and be aware of what is around you ie checking over your shoulders (both of them).
3. Keep a good road positioning, and don’t cycle in the gutter.
4. Obey the rules of the road – it’s always amusing and worth it, even if it is just to see a pedestrian’s shocked look when you stop at a zebra crossing and wait patiently for them to step out!
5. Try and get a high five from someone trying to wave down a bus. I have always wanted to do this…

If you were Mayor for the day what would you do to improve the lot of the London cyclist?
One day would definitely not be enough! However, just as a start, I think it would be rather amusing to pedestrianise the West End on the weekends. Only bicycles and those on their two feet should be allowed. Other European cities do it, and really it makes the whole area that bit more pleasant. I think also the West End could cope without having buses running through it, as it is small enough to walk the length of in 30 mins. That would be a pleasant start…and with the plethora of hire bikes we might see a greater take up in cycling. Ah… perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub!


Anonymous said...

As a future aspiring cycling in the crazy jungle of London, I have to thank this Fabien guy for his advice and also for describing so well the advantages of cycling...You make me want to jump on a saddle right now!..maybe a Brooks saddle? ;)

Ali said...

Awesome profile, love the French wild oats story! I wonder could we track down a source for it, but.I plan to spread it regardless :-)

Anonymous said...

If I have managed to get you that little bit closer to hopping on two wheels and taking to town, then I am supremely delighted! It's a marvellous way to get about and see the place, and it really does make you appreciate London that bit more...

@Ali, if you do manage to track down the original source for this story then please do let me know - I've been looking for a good long time now and had no joy. I really do so hope it is true!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! And I completely agree with Fabien about being baffled and confused at other cyclists overtaking me with as much huff and puff as drivers!

Don't overtake other cyclists, and if you do ring your bell and say hello!

ibikelondon said...

@Anonymous Our work here is done! No, seriously, welcome to the fold - may you have many fun, safe and wind-in-your-hair rides ahead :o)

@Ali I agree, the wild oats story rocks. I love urban legends like that, even if they're not true.

@naturallycyclingmcr I don't mind people overtaking me, especially as I'm not always that fast on account of the fact my bike weighs the same as 4 large elephants, but UNDERtaking cyclists really get my goat. Grr!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Love the French Oats story.
And I agree...it does sometimes get lonely without someone to chat along to.