One of my personal goals this year was cycling a lot more than I have done before. I was hampered by the fact that I didn't own a bicycle until late last year, so my previous experience was at the age of 12, on an over-sized racing bike, with 12 gears. I loved that bike and I was very sorry when my parents sold it (due to its lack of use) long after I had left home at the age of 17.
I wanted to come back with a bang this year and therefore looked for the most practical and easy- to-ride bike I could find...perfect for hazardous city centre trips and hills (Caskstrength towers is near Crystal Palace, which has a monster hill standing in between it and central London.
So I purchased a Penny Farthing. Well... a miniature version of one.
Many of you will probably point out at this juncture that the Penny Farthing does little to fall in line with my previous goals of cycle ownership. They are frightfully difficult to ride, weave uncontrollably in traffic and lack any kind of breaking mechanism. One benefit is that they considerably easier to ride up hill than down hill. One can simply jump off and saunter up any gradient, taking in the surroundings by foot. Down hill they can become deadly- (more of this later)
My first outing (which you can read about here) didn't really go to plan, but I vowed to get to grips with the runaway beast, by any means necessary. After a couple of local runs around the park I felt like I was getting somewhere, but only in the same way that a child feels temporary satisfaction from climbing to the first branch of a really tall tree. In the grand scheme of things I was still a pathetic rider, lacking in courage and seeking the gratification of the high branches.
Then an opportunity presented itself. I was mistakenly entered into an event called The Tweed Run- A 14-mile ride through central London on a Saturday afternoon, in the name of the Bikes4Africa charity with 400 other crazy, tweed clad, fixed-wheel cyclists.
"Sounds great" I said to my local chums, who had seen me swerving around the park. "I'll ace this in a couple of hours."
Then it hit me. Speed/traffic/pedestrians/OAPs/other riders/potholes/irrate taxi drivers and no doubt, twattish and poorly dressed cityboy Porsche owners would all be out to get me. Not to mention the stamina needed to carry me 14 miles.
Undeterred, last Saturday I took part in the Tweed Run. And completed it.
Aided by some healthy medicinal doses of Kings Ginger Liqueur and a wonderful Berry Bros Glen Grant from 1972, my apprehension lifted and I was spurred on by my fellow riders (notably my friends Jon, Fleur and Will)
Jon and I... enjoying a pre-race
Kings Ginger Liqueur
My little bike and I negotiated the ride with only one hair-raising moment around Piccadilly Circus, when my feet came off the pedals and I careered down Haymarket out of control.
The sturdy brogues I was wearing came to the rescue and I furiously dragged my right foot, thankfully managing to slow the bike down before I illegally gatecrashed the doors of the New Zealand High Commission, situated at the bottom.
Me with severe 'Penny Envy'
My very first ride in central London had been a success and has now given me the confidence to take my little bike on more exotic trips. Apparently, there is a 24 hour endurance ride in Tazmania later this year, specifically for Penny Farthings. Maybe?? How about 'Never Say Never'!!
Well done to everyone who supported the event and took part. More pictures can be seen here.