Thursday, 2 July 2015

Take my bike on the London Underground

You're not allowed to take a bike on the London Underground... right?

Well in fact you're actually allowed to take your bike on more of the underground than you might be aware of. Here's a map that tells you the different parts of the network that you can and cannot take a bike onto: (

However (unsurprisingly) the Victoria line is not one of the sections that you can take your bike on! Not unless you have one of those new fangled, slightly naff - please insert your own more up to date word to replace naff - fold up bikes.

However, sometimes life faces you with a problem, it forces your hand and you have no other choice but to be a rebel with a cause!

This my bike - Black Beauty:

This picture doesn't do her justice. She is the most beautiful bike in London, I promise!

Now I love my bike - that is not in doubt - but I have recently come to the conclusion that buying my bike was simultaneously the best and worst purchase I have ever made.

BEST because...

  • like I said, I love my bike. It is exactly the bike that I wanted. It is the adult version of the Peugeot Racer I had as a 7/8 year old child. It is the style of bike that I watched my hero - one of many - Miguel Indurain ride in Le Tour De France in the early to mid 90's. 
  • I was so excited when I saw her for sale that I just had to buy her, even if I couldn't really afford to. 
  • I "knew" that I would soon make the money back because every time I rode her I would be saving money by not using my Oyster card. 
No she may not be the most practical or comfortable bike in London - just the prettiest - but I love riding my bike to work. Especially on sunny - but not too sunny - days.
  • Riding her gives me great sense of freedom. I love to feel the wind in my hair and the sweat trickling down my back as I race to work pretending to be Miguel Indurain or Bradley Wiggins - another huge hero of mine - as I battle my way to the top of Col Du Tourmalet. 
London is really quite flat but there is one good climb on my cycle to work.

WORST because...
  • well like I said, she's not practical or particularly comfortable to ride. 
  • Riding in London is very dangerous. I stay away from big, busy roads as much as I can but still, we all see the news. 
  • She was overly expensive for what I got - a bike with a list of problems. 
and most importantly because... well let me tell you about the week I've had. (Bike issues that don't even make up 5% of the "bad luck" that I have suffered since buying this bike.)

So a few weeks ago now I got a puncture. Another in a long frustrating line of punctures. At which point I abandoned my bike at work and forgot all about cycling for a while. But then I got paid and the weather started getting better and so I decided that it was finally time that I got around to sorting it out.

So I spend a bunch of money to fix my bike and to also make it generally better, safer, more comfortable.

I buy:
  •  two inner tubes. One to fix the flat and one to carry with me as a spare.
  • new metal tyre irons after I instantly snapped the terrible plastic ones that came with the last puncture repair kit and then spent a year or more using broken ones. 
  • a new puncture repair kit after I practically wasted the whole of the last one attempting to fix a single tyre.
  • a new, much better pump after the last one was lost/stolen.
  • a new rear light after the last one was simply rubbish.

Then a few days ago I go into work early to fix the flat. So I take off the wheel, take off the tyre, take out the inner tube and then, and only then do I realise that I have bought the wrong size replacement inner tube! Which would be annoying anyway but is even more so for the fact that I purposely kept the box of the last one I bought in order to avoid doing this. So did the shop near work sell me the wrong size when I took my bike in last time I got a flat? Has that been a problem in the past because I have had an insane amount of puncture since getting my bike and although some have been easily explained; rode over broken glass etc others I have filed away in a metaphorical folder title the X-Files.

So the next day - anyone who knows me will no that's a lie. I'm definitely not that organised- I send the unused inner tubes back to the famous online cycling store and go to a shop - not the one where I originally received the wrong size tubes - on the way into work and finally get the right inner tube. Now while I'm there they offer me 3 for 2 - which turns out to be a much more important decision than it seemed at the time - but I decide against it as I have a spare coming in the post as an exchange for one of the wrong ones I bought online. I don't need to spend even more money and they're a lot cheaper online so I'll just get the one for now.

So I go to work and finally fix the flat on my dusty old bike and after work I cycle to my tutoring job which is about a 20-30 minute cycle away. And I get there ok - if a little late due to the fact that having thought I knew the way I hadn't taken into account that a lot of the roads I wanted to take we're all one way and not in my favour - I do my job and I cycle home.

Except I don't cycle home. Instead I get around half of the way home and low and behold I get yet another puncture!

And I instantly assume that I must have put the inner tube in incorrectly, except it's not the same tyre! This time it's the rear and previously it was the front wheel. What on earth is going on! It seems that any time that I go over the slightest bump on of my tyres instantly deflates.

So I stop and attempt to pump the tyre back up in the vain hope that this is all it needs. Obviously it doesn't work and so I spend the next 20-30mins attempting to patch the inner tube.

Longer than it probably would have taken me to cycle home. But luckily it's a nice enough evening:

So it takes awhile but I'm not in a big rush to get anywhere, just home to eat and so eventually I do it. I pump it up. It seems ok. And off I head, homeward bound once again. Except of course 2mins down the road and it's flat as a pancake again. That's it there is no more I can do. I could spend another 20-30mims patching another hole - or as it turns out, fixing the first bodged job - but I've run out of patience.

Luckily I'm a short walk from Finsbury Park so I can get home but I have a decision to make. There are three options.

  • Lock my bike up, get the tube home and hope that my bike is still there tomorrow when I will go back to rescue and fix it?
  • Take the bike back home with me. But how? From Finsbury Park I could take a train to Moorgate and then walk from there to Liverpool Street, where I can get another train to Walthamstow. I'm pretty sure I can take my bike on those trains but that would probably take as long as me attempting to walk my bike all the way back home. No I can't be bothered with that!
  • Or I can rebel against the system. Just say fuck it and hope for the best. 
Obviously - or not so obviously because I was definitely really quite nervous, almost as much as when I attempted shoplifting - I went for this option. I took my bike home from Finsbury Park to Walthamstow on the Victoria line. Something I knew I wasn't allowed to do, but at that point I really didn't care.

So I walk my bike down to the platform - unfortunately there are no picture or video evidence, I was too preoccupied - and even though it's off peak, I'm fully expecting to get stopped at any moment. But i don't and after "enjoying" a heart attack inducing 2min wait I finally board the train to Walthamstow. A train no one is getting me off until I reach my destination. Where I walk my bike off the train, up the escalator and through the ticket barrier like there is nothing working with what I am doing. Through the ticket hall and up the 100 or so (probably around 30) steps up into the bus station and then home. Where it now sits with it's flat tyre:

For the foreseeable future. Until I can find out what the issue is because surely at this point it goes past bad luck and bits of glass. I think - I hope not - but I think I might have to splash out on new rims!

And so that's the story of the day I took my bike on the London Underground like a rebel with a cause.

If you're a cyclist, I hope you have better luck with your bike than I do with mine


  1. Thanks for sharing the map and bike picture. You really share some awesome things about the bikes and infrastructure.

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