Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Get on your bike and RIDE!

No more excuses. It's healthy, cheaper than driving or public transport, the day is long, and although the heavens are prone to open on July evenings, its warm enough. Today I spent my two commuting hours of the day hugely enjoying my bicycle. BICYCLE BICYCLE I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE I WANT TO RIDE MY BIKE - and the difference between a cheapo supermarket bike and something decent, is that the something decent wants to be ridden. When you mount it, that bike just urges you on, makes you want to spin those pedals and accelerate. Having that thing parked outside the office creates a huge temptation to abandon work and pedal off into to wild green yonder.

My current mountain bike, a 2007 Cannondale Caffeine F1, replaced my 1997 Klein Matra (which Moni had appropriated for herself). The Caffeine is much lighter, being front-suspension only, while the Mantra was lavishly appointed with front and rear suspension. Riding the Klein at speed over the pot-holed and largely untarmacked roads of Pyry in the late '90s was like driving a Citroen DS23 over a ploughed field - comfortable, yet... not a performance ride.

The Caffeine is stiffer, much lighter, but a bit skittier. It comes into its own on the forest trails through the Las Kabacki, which wonderful as it is to ride through, forms only 2.2km of my 18km journey to work. Much of the rest is along cycle paths.

Right: The Las Kabacki, shortly after 8am. Turning off ul. Jagielska, snarled up with a queue of traffic waiting to turn right onto ul. Puławska, I escape from the noise and pollution into a world of sunlight, bird song, peace and near-solitude (there are other cyclists in the forest, and joggers and Nordic walkers). I wonder whether there is any city around the world that has wedges of forest protruding into the very centre, so suburbanites can cycle or walk right into the heart of the city without having asphalt and concrete all around.

But if that's impossible, let there at least be civilised cycle paths, like the one that runs down Al. KEN (below), Ursynów's backbone. Notice how a fenced lawn separates the pavement from the cyclepath, and how shrubberies separate it from the kerb and roadway. This, dear reader, is decent urban planning.

While the sun shone on the way out, the homeward leg was threatened by that daily July meteorological phenomenon, the July storm. All day long, clouds build up, small white ones at first, then getting increasingly large, conjoining, darkening, brooding... As I left the office I could see the horizon threatening. Would I make it home dry?

Well, this evening I was lucky. Apart from a few drops which caught me just before I entered the Las Kabacki, I would get home unsoaked. Rain on a warm summer's evening is not a great deterrent to cycle commuting, unless it's a complete downpour. Consumer electronics (camera, phone) do not like drenchings.

UPDATE: 10 July 2009 - my ride to work this morning took only 53 minutes - beating my 2007 best time of 55 mins.


gls said...

It was during my seven years in Poland that I fell in love with cycling. I ended up spending several months' salary on a good road bike there and spending my summers (I was teaching, of course) exploring southern Poland and northern Slovakia. Slovakia was a better ride, though: newer, smoother roads.

yellerbelly said...

I take my hat off to you! I work in the centre and live in Mokotów, a cycle of approximately 25 mins. I spent quite a lot of money on an Author bike when I came to Warsaw and it's a pleasure to ride. Unfortunately, riding through the city quickly makes a mess of your light-coloured business suit and excess perspiration soon causes colleagues to keep their distance!

I think it's only fair on everyone else that I leave the bike at home and save the pleasure for weekends.

You should perhaps purchase an oversized waterproof poncho to protect you and the bike against the rainstorms. Worth every groszy.