Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through London

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Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through London

Postby aspiringcyclist » Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:06 pm

Hello.

This September I'm most likely going to university in the centre of London (Bloomsbury) and would like some advice on choosing the type of bike and on deciding my path. It would be from Waltham Cross, so 13 - 15 miles depending on the route. I have cycled before to my sixth form which was about 9 miles but that primary involved being on a very poor shared path next to Great Cambridge Rd and a bit on quieter roads; I don't have too much experience with busier roads apart from perhaps crossing them.

Now I have found possible routes that largely ignore the main roads but it does go through the tow path next to River Lea for roughly 9 and then quieter roads for the remainder. However, I don't think that would be suitable when it is dark and have generally only found two alternatives: using the A1010 and A10 or navigating the complete mess of roads to the west of them where possible. The latter has to include parks and alleyways of questionable safety as there are no quieter roads connecting them.

So my dilemma is in first choosing the path and then the bike type. To that end I have a few questions. Can bikes more suited to roads handle a tow path? I have ridden on it but with a (badly maintained) mountain bike and have never had any other type of bike so I don't actually know how they would fare. Is my avoidance of busier roads justified? I thought it would be a better idea primarily for safety due to the lower traffic density and slower speed on the quiet roads but cycling through dodgy areas could negate that.

If the road bike could handle the tow path then I would be able to cycle quickly virtually unobstructed with at least have a month's training before it gets too dark and I have to travel on the road. If not then it is between choosing one that can and sticking to the quieter areas when the tow path becomes unavailable -as I would say that keeping up at a reasonable pace on a 30mph road would be more difficult - or choosing a faster bike on the busier roads and training on these during the summer.

Perhaps I've missed out another solution?

I hope that my post wasn't too incoherent. Thank you for any help! It is much appreciated.

P.S. I have some knowledge on cycling safely, just not enough experience of riding on busier roads.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby mike_dowler » Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:46 pm

My experience of tow paths in central London is that they are very busy with lots of people trying to cycle very fast, especially at rush hours.

Also, bearing in mind that others may be living closer, will you want to be cycling home that far late at night? Might you want to consider a folding bike, so that you can take it on the train occasionally?
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:53 pm

Thanks for your response. When I cycled on the towpath it was definitely quiet enough. I have considered a folding bike but again I don't know they would be suitable on a towpath. Also, I would prefer to limit my usage of trains if I can.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Slow Loris » Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:02 pm

Welcome!
I'd say 13 – 15 miles is perfectly doable with build up and preparation.
Let's start with the bike:
1) do you have a working bike?
2) if not, what's your budget?
2) what would you like to use your bike for, apart from getting you to university?

Tow paths: in inner London, proceed with caution. They may be flat, but they are also commuter hell during rush hour and I would recommend sticking to quiet roads. From my limited experience, the Lea is one of the better tow paths and I doubt you'd have a problem at the Waltham Cross end, plus the surface is good enough for any bike. If I was riding in the dark, however, I'd keep to the roads.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Fri Jul 11, 2014 8:19 pm

Slow Loris wrote:Welcome!
I'd say 13 – 15 miles is perfectly doable with build up and preparation.
Let's start with the bike:
1) do you have a working bike?
2) if not, what's your budget?
2) what would you like to use your bike for, apart from getting you to university?

Tow paths: in inner London, proceed with caution. They may be flat, but they are also commuter hell during rush hour and I would recommend sticking to quiet roads. From my limited experience, the Lea is one of the better tow paths and I doubt you'd have a problem at the Waltham Cross end, plus the surface is good enough for any bike. If I was riding in the dark, however, I'd keep to the roads.



I would need a new bike and the budget is coming from the grant I will receive which is £3300 plus some from the university itself. Obviously I wouldn't spend all of it on the bike but I think trains themselves would cost me well over £1000 per year (accounting for any student discounts and time during the breaks) so it is a flexible budget. For now at least it would just be for commuting. I wouldn't be using the inner London tow paths.

So are you confirming that I could use a road bike or folding bike on the Lea tow path? Do you think that my aversion to the main roads is justified because it seems that they are the only viable route when I can't use the tow path.

Thanks.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby ArMoRothair » Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:14 pm

I would second what has been said about tow-paths, they okay for pottering about on early Sunday morning but are horrible for commuting as they are poorly surfaced, full of barriers and invariably packed with impatient fast moving cyclists frustrated at the barriers and poor surfaces.

My girlfriend has a commute which could be done almost door to door via the canal but it took her 50 - 60 mins when she tried. On the road the same journey takes 30 mins.

As to the bike. With a limited budget, the best bike is the one you already have. If you don't have a bike that's another story. I find a folder very useful as a utility bike around London: it comes into bars and restaurants with me, it can be chucked in a car boot if I get a lift, I can mix rail and cycling easily, it will come home with me in a taxi if I drink too much.

If you will be locking your bike outside UCL remember to put aside a good part of your budget for locks. You will need two, of different types. Try not to buy any of the normal brands which are thief magnets because they can be eBay'ed easily.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby ArMoRothair » Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:17 pm

aspiringcyclist wrote: Do you think that my aversion to the main roads is justified because it seems that they are the only viable route when I can't use the tow path.


Everyone's comfort zone is different but you are young, either are now or will quickly become fit, there is no reason for you to fear the main roads.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:28 pm

ArMoRothair wrote:I would second what has been said about tow-paths, they okay for pottering about on early Sunday morning but are horrible for commuting as they are poorly surfaced, full of barriers and invariably packed with impatient fast moving cyclists frustrated at the barriers and poor surfaces.

Try not to buy any of the normal brands which are thief magnets because they can be eBay'ed easily.



As I said the tow path that I would use is pretty clear with few people and almost no barriers to speak of. I just don't know if I could use a road bike or folding bike on it.

Thanks for the tip!
Last edited by aspiringcyclist on Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Fri Jul 11, 2014 9:31 pm

ArMoRothair wrote:
aspiringcyclist wrote: Do you think that my aversion to the main roads is justified because it seems that they are the only viable route when I can't use the tow path.


Everyone's comfort zone is different but you are young, either are now or will quickly become fit, there is no reason for you to fear the main roads.


Close passes and harassment are something that would frighten me but I haven't had much of that so far on the quieter roads. Is it a rarer occurrence than I think?
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Tonyf33 » Sat Jul 12, 2014 1:20 am

Don't know if this route might suit..
Cycle along the reservoirs, exiting at warwick into Mansfield park..continue down A10 until B104, then A105 then A104 toward A1 then pick what works best for you from there.
Try routes out before you start to gain experience and hazard perception /awareness and your tolerance for traffic and everything that goes with that.

Bike wise..any good flat bar hybrid or drop bar that allows mudguards and tyres up to 28-32mm if going on non tarmac roads.
Basically don't spend a lot to start you can pick up a lot of 2nd hand bike for £250 these days.
Make sure you have a back up plan for getting in and back home..incase bike gets nicked or you have a mishap.
Ensure you have good pump and tools and always give yourself leeway time wise I reckon 1.5 hours max..aiming for nearer an hour but again that depends on traffic and conditions.
GL
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Slow Loris » Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:48 am

aspiringcyclist wrote:So are you confirming that I could use a road bike or folding bike on the Lea tow path?


Yes – any bike would be suitable. That section of the Lea is very pleasant to ride with no barriers, if I remember correctly. I would certainly use it, but would be prepared to share the path with dog walkers, joggers and other cyclists, so I would factor in extra time.

Bike type: I agree with Tonyf33 – think carefully before splashing out as second hand will get you much more bike for your money. It will also have the advantage of looking less attractive to thieves who very often target universities. If you're planning to carry anything I would definitely look for a bike that has a rack, or fittings for one, as a rucksack on your back will be uncomfortable. Mudguards are a must – tow paths throw up even more dirt than the roads.

Folding bikes are a very practical choice for commuting – as mentioned, they can be kept indoors and taken on public transport if there's ever a problem. The down side is that they are less comfortable over longer distances and more expensive, although Bromptons do hold their value when sold on. Also, I think only Bromptons are allowed on the tube now as they fold the smallest. I would try a few out before deciding whether to invest in one.

Locks: Definitely invest in two – look for gold standard and buy the best you can afford. D locks are one of the strongest. You could also consider security skewers for the wheels and seatpost. Ensure the frame is locked to an immovable object and both wheels are secured. It's also advisable to lock the saddle, or even carry the seatpost with you, to avoid a very uncomfortable ride home :shock: .

Spares & accessories: 2x sets of lights front & rear, 2x inner tubes, puncture repair kit, tyre levers, 1x track pump for home use, 1x good hand pump such as this one: http://www.topeak.com/products/Pumps/RoadMorphG

Practice changing an inner tube at home so you're already prepared if you get a puncture on the road – the odds are it will be cold, wet and dark :wink: .

aspiringcyclist wrote:Do you think that my aversion to the main roads is justified because it seems that they are the only viable route when I can't use the tow path.


It's entirely down to what you are comfortable with and you should not feel pressurised to tackle anything that appears intimidating. Confidence comes with experience so once you are used to city cycling you might find you prefer faster and more direct routes via the roads. The TFL cycle maps are free to order and are very useful in working out quieter routes into London. Try out your route on a weekend in advance so you're not under pressure on the day. Some councils offer free one to one cycle training – I did this a while ago and can recommend it. There may be others at your uni who are already commuting from your area and willing to buddy up – having someone with you is always a big help.
Most of all, have fun finding your bike and cycling. Good luck :) .
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Sat Jul 12, 2014 8:17 am

Tonyf33 wrote:Don't know if this route might suit..
Cycle along the reservoirs, exiting at warwick into Mansfield park..continue down A10 until B104, then A105 then A104 toward A1 then pick what works best for you from there.
Try routes out before you start to gain experience and hazard perception /awareness and your tolerance for traffic and everything that goes with that.

Bike wise..any good flat bar hybrid or drop bar that allows mudguards and tyres up to 28-32mm if going on non tarmac roads.
Basically don't spend a lot to start you can pick up a lot of 2nd hand bike for £250 these days.
Make sure you have a back up plan for getting in and back home..incase bike gets nicked or you have a mishap.
Ensure you have good pump and tools and always give yourself leeway time wise I reckon 1.5 hours max..aiming for nearer an hour but again that depends on traffic and conditions.
GL


I do have a route if I can cycle along the river but it is when I can't that I don't. It seems that only riding along the A1010 is an option as the side roads aren't very well organised so would be a sinuous route through alleyways and parks- not the best idea at night.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby broadway » Sat Jul 12, 2014 8:25 am

You could try posting the question about the route on lfgss.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby Tonyf33 » Sat Jul 12, 2014 9:05 am

aspiringcyclist wrote:I do have a route if I can cycle along the river but it is when I can't that I don't. It seems that only riding along the A1010 is an option as the side roads aren't very well organised so would be a sinuous route through alleyways and parks- not the best idea at night.

well the route along the reservoirs is part of National Cycle route 1 and is a designated cycle route so not sure why you can't cycle along there all year round. As for when it is dark, if you are cycling on the road you'll need lights anyway, a £17 set of lights will light up any unlit route http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/CREE-XML-XM-L ... 484bd3563c
at the end of the day, try routes out beforehand to see which is quicker and acceptable for you. if you get on with going straight down the A10 then you'll save a lot of travelling time.
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Re: Help with choosing bike type and/or commute through Lond

Postby aspiringcyclist » Sat Jul 12, 2014 9:39 am

Tonyf33 wrote:
aspiringcyclist wrote:I do have a route if I can cycle along the river but it is when I can't that I don't. It seems that only riding along the A1010 is an option as the side roads aren't very well organised so would be a sinuous route through alleyways and parks- not the best idea at night.

well the route along the reservoirs is part of National Cycle route 1 and is a designated cycle route so not sure why you can't cycle along there all year round. As for when it is dark, if you are cycling on the road you'll need lights anyway, a £17 set of lights will light up any unlit route http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/CREE-XML-XM-L ... 484bd3563c
at the end of the day, try routes out beforehand to see which is quicker and acceptable for you. if you get on with going straight down the A10 then you'll save a lot of travelling time.


The reservoir route wouldn't slow me compared to the A10 but doesn't seem suitable when it is dark or wet. I'd just like to know, how common are things like tailgating or very close passes? The A1010 is only one lane for each direction and can have parked cars. Perhaps they are less common than is my impression.
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