Contrary to popular belief, cyclists in London seldom look like Bradley Wiggins (and thus seldom use flimsy European labor laws to break out of contracts). They don't look like members of The Jam either. Instead, British cyclists look like Mr Bean, they favor day-glow attire and often ride Brompton folding bikes.
As some of you may know, I was recently in England. To be perfectly honest with you, I had never wanted to visit England too badly. This is not to say that I had anything against it, but given the chance, I had always opted to see other parts of the world. Like the the recipes and articles about nutrition in Bicycling Magazine, I knew England was there...but I largely chose to ignore it. In retrospect, I now realize that this was my mistake. I had a fantastic time while in England...which leads me to believe I may one day read one of those recipes in Bicycling Magazine. I'm kidding. I mean, England was fun...but those recipes still look as horrible as an ebola-infested monkey that is hurling poo your way.
So let me briefly tell you about my trip. I don't have the time, and I'm not smart enough to write a long dissertation about the value of British culture. Like all the places I've been to in my life (minus Toledo, Ohio and Bakersfield, California), there are lots of great things in England. Yes, there are some minor differences between England and the U.S., but those differences are rather small in the grand scheme of things. It's a bit like the Star Trek episode where there is a good Captain Kirk, and a bad one...and the only difference between the two is the lighting.
As far as which of the two countries is the "evil" one, I really don't care. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip, and had a fantastic time in London and its surrounding areas. So with that out of the way, let me share some images with you that I captured during my extended stay in England. I will try my hardest to stay away from the generic tourist fascination ("oh my god, they drive on the wrong side of the road"), and try to reach deeper into British culture. But you see, some small differences are worth mentioning.
In the food front, I should tell you that my gigantic appetite proved to be too much for two different all-you-can-eat buffets in London. I guess my idea of "all you can eat" was different from theirs. Consequently, I got cut off at both restaurants. In the realm of cycling, I'd like to report that "Campagnolo", for example, is referred to as "campag" not "campy" in England. Similarly, I found out that "helmets" are called "crash helmets" there. It's a small difference to be sure, but a crucial one. Personally, I choose to disregard and forget the very reason why I wear a helmet. It's for the same reason that most people don't call "condoms" something like "ongoing and painful gonorrhea condoms", or "unintended, life shattering pregnancy condoms". Similarly, I should also point out that some of these differences can be amusing. For example, should I not bring up the fact that in England they sell a product called "Spotted Dick"? I mean, I'm trying to be cultured here...but this is asking way too much of me. I'm an educated and well-traveled man...but I'm not made of stone. If I cut myself, do I not bleed? If I hurt, do I not cry? If I see a product called "spotted dick", do I not photograph it and laugh uncontrollably?
I've often heard that some in England feel the same way about "fanny packs"...so you get my point. But let's put all this dick and fanny business aside for a second so I can tell you about my trip.
First, I should tell you about riding within London. Since I'm a well-traveled man, and a citizen of the world, I believe I did generally well while riding through the streets of London. Yes, I had a few scary moments where I looked back over my shoulder only to see that the car behind me was moving, and yet was not being driven by anyone. I quickly remembered that the passenger was the driver, and all was well. I did have some trouble with roudabouts, which I had not encountered before while riding a bike in other parts of the world. At one point, I was unable to get out of one such roundabout, and thus felt like Chevy Chase in National Lampoons European Vacation.
The roundabout incident aside, riding in London was fun. Since I had my bike with me, I decided that I should partake in the local cycling customs...and I don't just mean growing a huge mullet and a nose and thus looking like a mix between Geddy Lee and Robert Millar.
Look, I know that Millar is/was from Scotland, and Geddy Lee is Canadian....but the majority of the people who read this blog are Americans, and they'll never know the difference. Shhhhhhh.
My first stop was Richmond Park, where I rode around in a big circle with everyone else. Days later, I had the opportunity of meeting one of the blog's many readers (all six of you). Chris was his name, and he decided to take me for a fantastic ride through the English countryside. It was there that Chris and his friend Matt found out that I am merely a human being (a very slow human being) regardless of my uncanny abilities to write insightful prose. This is my way of saying that I slowed down the ride, and thus performed my duties as a human anchor very, very well. So while some of you only manage to ride your bike slowly in one country, I do so in many countries. I actually travel the world getting my ass properly kicked by people of different nationalities. Such is the life of an jet-setting blogger.
But rides such as those aside, what else did I see in England? Funny you should ask...because I have some fantastic images to share with you. Enjoy.
While in London I uncovered one of the greatest cover-ups ever perpetrated by the pharmaceutical industry. All the medicines they sell to cure things like depression are a lie. Seriously. Next time you're feeling down, just go to a park in London and look for a middle aged guy who is dressed like a toddler, and is dancing on his roller skates to a Pussycat Dolls song. I dare you not to feel better about yourself.
Shhhhh. We won't tell anyone that your frame is a Colnago, the eight rolls of tape that you spent covering some of the logos tell me that you want to keep it a secret. Having said that, can you please tell me where you found a fork with a steerer tube that is longer than the actual fork? Could you also tell me if you have a headset spacer vending machine in your house?
A rare spy shot of the new superlight Catlike helmet being tested in the streets of London. Billed as a successor to the Catlike Whisper, the Catlike Litterbox uses thin cardboard walls that are stiffened by cat urine to provide surprisingly average head protection.
As Rock & Republic has filed for bankruptcy, head douche Michael Ball has decided to take his show on the road in order to earn some supplemental income. During his one-man-show, Ball will pretend to hire members of the audience to his cycling team, not pay them, and then fire them. I'm so there.
I don't know about you...but when I think about driving responsibly, and about the legal necessity of having insurance for my car, I instantly think of only one person: Iggy Pop.
Next time a New Yorker (or person who has lived there for two years and claims to be one) tells me about how "international" that city is, I will produce a large printout of this picture as proof that London is miles ahead of them. How many times in New York have you seen a woman in a full burqa looking at and then buying massive amounts of Rapha and Assos clothing? How many times has the guy who rang up the purchases been wearing a turban? Seriously New York, you better get with it. London is kicking your sorry ass.
Sorry, I don't have much of an insightful comment or joke to make here...it just struck me as interesting since I've never seen such a thing in any of the places where I've lived in the world. Perhaps it was insensitive of me to take a picture...but my readers mean the world to me...and as such I'll do anything for you. Remember that one part of the Poison video for "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" where the bass player collapses due to having rocked out so hard for his beloved fans? That's exactly what it's like to be me.
Penny farthing with a bike computer? Modern day jeans and no tweed? Fans of olde-time transportation who travel to London to see how it's done will be as broken-hearted by seeing this guy, as I was when I first went to Manhattan and noticed that not everyone in a one mile radius of St. Marks Place had a mohawk. I was devastated.
The last time I rode in New York City, I was amazed by the amount of garbage and cars that were all over the bike lanes. London, being a more sophisticated city, instead opts for having the Queen's horses take massive dumps all over the bike lanes. It's very classy. In the end, it's similar to how Are You Being Served is considered highbrow in the States, merely because of the British accents.
If you're as cool as I am, you probably stayed up in the late 80s and early 90s to watch Headbanger's Ball, with your Betamax machine ready to tape the very, very few good videos they managed to play in between all the Skid Row and Trixter drek. If you did this, you probably remember the band King's X, who were often hailed as the "new Beatles"...and were thus cursed to fail miserably, just like any Belgian cyclist who has ever been deemed to be "the next Merckx" So if you ever wondered where the band is these days, wonder no more. They opened up a third rate coffee shop in London. Good for them.
London is full of adults using modes of transportation that are intended for toddlers...and no, I'm not talking about bikes. I'm talking about weird contraptions like this one, which is basically like the Subaru Baja of man-powered vehicles.
Boy, there certainly appear to be some differences in cultural sensitivity between England and the US.
While riding in London's parks can be a relaxing endeavor, you do have small matters to keep in mind...like the pesky gun salutes. As though double-decker buses and horse feces weren't enough, the Queen has now added a new element to riding in London. Gee, thanks.