To be biking in London, unlike anywhere else, means to look like a professional biker racing for the Tour de France. Fun but demanding. I am sure @markbikeslondon, famous London blogger blogging and advocating for people to bike more, would agree with me.
Forget the romantic ride along the Thames, the slow paced pedalling in Hyde park and Boris cool marketing pictures, if you are biking in London you’d rather look like you are preparing to participate to the Olympics or it is likely you are going to end up hassled by a black cab. Best case scenario, you will just be mocked as an amateur.
Because Londoners are pragmatics when it comes to daily life, they have it all prepared. They are no fashion slaves like Parisians with their Bohemian ways on their Velib’. They have no romantic bucket like the students in Oxford. Their bikes, when it is not a hipster fixie, has been fixed and upgraded to handle the broken macadam of East and South London and its sharp bits of glass when comes the night, the wet weather that threatens to rust chains and frequent situations where two giant red bus get tighter together squeezing you in. Bikes shops are quite popular (and cool). Flirting when biking sometimes can happen.Though more often you will be thrilled to participate in an informal meet-you-at-the-next-red-lights race with a stranger. Exciting.
This said, there is an exception on some days. When the sun shows, a slight euphoria pushes less careful, serious and competitive Londoners onto the streets. Never a good day to rush through traffic with your bike, and often a good day to socialise with fellow bikers.
If you want to bike like a Londoner, get that flashy yellow jacket, this (ridiculous and expensive) helmet and prepare to get sweaty (lucky if you have a shower at the office). That’s the price to arrive safe, and eventually on time for your next meeting.