What It's Really Like to Cycle in London with B'Twin

This post is in collaboration with Decathlon.

It’s been two months since Doris came rollin’ into my life. Two months of navigating London on two wheels. Two months of learning how to be a cyclist in London. Cycling in London gets a lot of bad press, and concerns over cycling safety are one of the greatest barriers to people cycling in the city according the the Mayor’s office, but I thought I’d share how I’ve really found it.

What It's Really Like to Cycle in London - A Pretty Place To Play

The idea of heading out on busy urban roads is scary. There are lots of vehicles. Buses, trucks, moped, cars, other cyclists. Lots of street furniture. Lots of pedestrians. There’s a lot going on. Lots of potential to get spooked out. Lots of things that could happen. I remember the first time I cycled in London over 10 years ago, I was so spooked out I didn’t even contemplate cycling in the city for years afterwards. When I did start cycling again I made sure I was well prepared to deal with these challenges. I went to a workshop at a local cycling shop that focused on skills for cycling confidently in the city. I learnt how to cycle assertively, refreshed my understanding of my rights and responsibilities as a road user and brushed up on my road safety skills. It was an invaluable experience and really boosted my confidence, I came away feeling like maybe I could do this thing!

What it's really like to cycle in London - A Pretty Place to Play

The first time I dipped my toe into city cycling the infrastructure in London was not what it is now. While the city has a long way to go, but compared to a decade ago provision for cyclists is so much better. My favourite discovery so far has been quietway routes. Quietways enable cyclists to travel through safe, less busy streets across the city. I LOVE THEM. I love how they wind their way through back streets, helping you explore your neighbourhood and get to know parts of the city you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. While the cycle superhighway is great, it can also be crowded and a bit intimidating at rush hour (I see you people in lycra with focus in your eyes!), and the Quietways offer a very pleasant alternative. Seriously, nothing beats pootling along a tree lined street of sweet terraced houses. Finally I love how the Quietways connect parts of the city that the cycle superhighway doesn’t necessarily reach. London is big, not everyone lives right by a main road, Quietways help connect the dots. It t

I’ve raved about it before, but CityMapper has been a game changer for me when it comes to cycling in London. Planning safe routes to get you from A to B is an overwhelming prospect when you’re finding your feet as a cyclist and CityMapper takes the stress out of it, especially when you can set it to show you only the quietest route to your destination. It’s a real confidence boost.

What It's Really Like to Cycle in London - A Pretty Place To Play

There’s a theme here, confidence. That’s the thing I’ve learnt about cycling in London, it takes confidence. It takes confidence to share space with vehicles bigger than you. Confidence to take up space when there are vehicles bigger than you. Confidence is hearing the stories and knowing the risks but doing what you can to manage them. That’s what city cycling comes down to, risk management. Bad things do happen. There are accidents. There are other road users who aren’t going to think about you. But there are things you can do to manage the situation. Making sure people can see you - that means getting decked out in hi-viz, having good lights, learning how to anticipate and indicate. Protecting your head with a good quality helmet. Taking time to plan routes. Sticking to cycle lanes. Stopping for traffic lights. Know the highway code and follow it. No, not everyone around you will do the same, but you are putting yourself in the best possible position you can to stay safe and enjoy cycling in the city.

Finally, the tip that has stayed with me the most - there’s no shame in getting off your bike and walking if things look hairy. Got my Mum to thank for that one.

*Doris was kindly gifted to me by Decathlon, but all opinions are my own.

Cycling Essentials with B'Twin

Cycling Essentials with B'Twin - A Pretty Place To Play

A month in to being a cyclist in London and I have to say I AM LOVING IT! Seriously, Doris has changed my life. I love wizzing around London on my little red bike. The freedom is amazing, and I love the boost that being out in the fresh air gives me. It’s so much fun! Doris has definitely been a life changer!

Doris is pretty perfect all by herself, but there are a few other essentials that I reckon complement her perfectly, and I wanted to share them with you!

Cycling Essentials with B'Twin - A Pretty Place To Play

B’Twin 500 Cycling Bowl Helmet

Wearing a helmet when I cycle is super important to me. When we were kids my brother was knocked off his bike by a car, he broke his leg but was generally fine, but things could’ve been quite different if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet. I know lots of people have lots of different opinions when it comes to lids, but for me it’s a non-negotiable. I ride on the road in central London, I don’t know who is driving, who isn’t looking when they cross the road or what other cyclists are doing, so I’m taking no risks. Also, how cool is this helmet?! When your bike is a little frumpy (in the best possible way) a sleek racing helmet just isn’t the one, and I love how this one fits around my head and is easy to adjust with a simple dial at the back.

Cycling Essentials with B'Twin - A Pretty Place To Play

B’Twin 500 Women’s Waterproof Urban Cycling Jacket

I live in London. It rains here. This jacket is cool, both in looks and because it has pit zips, and practical because it’ll keep me dry and won’t ride up as I move. I do kind of wish it came in a colour that coordinated better with Doris, but it is bright and that’s important on grey days when you might not be so obvious to drivers (don’t worry, Doris came kitted out with lights too!). It also packs away into the rear pocket so I can stash it in my backpack when I’m not wearing it.

Cycling Essentials with B'Twin - A Pretty Place To Play

B’Twin 900 Mini Bike D-Lock

Having a foldie is awesome, Doris can go pretty much anywhere with me and tucks into most corners, but from time to time she needs to hangout at the bike rack and because she’s so damn pretty a decent D-Lock is crucial. D-Locks can be crazy cumbersome, but this one is nice and neat, so I can shove it in my backpack just in case there’s nowhere for Doris to hangout while I have a meeting.

Cycling Essentials with B'Twin - A Pretty Place To Play

CityMapper App

One of the things that I’d been most concerned I was most concerned about when I started cycling was finding safe routes around the city. CityMapper really came to my rescue, it’s got a setting that shows you the quietest route to your destination. This app has helped me workout where all the Quietways near me are and plan a route to university that’s 80% on segregated cycle paths! Finding routes that work for me have really boosted my confidence, and that makes a massive difference when you’re cycling in the city.

What are your cycling essentials? Let me know in the comments! You can also follow Doris’s adventures using the hashtag #AdventuresWithDoris!

* Doris was kindly gifted to me by Decathlon, along with her accessories, but as always all opinions are my own.

Cycling in the City with B'Twin

Cycling in the City with B'Twin - A Pretty Place to Play

I've flirted with the idea of a bike for as long as I've lived in London. When I first moved here I had an ancient hand-me-down set of wheels and got spooked by a bus the one time I hit the road. Many years later I acquired another ancient hand-me-down which I pootled around town on but knew was not exactly roadworthy (it was very not roadworthy), and knowing your bike isn't totally safe doesn't make the idea of riding it particularly attractive. So there've been a few false starts on the bike front, but the idea of zipping around town still holds major appeal. And I think Doris might be the ride to get me into the habit. 

Doris is a beautiful little red folding bike (a B'Twin Tilt 120 to be specific). She is just as comfortable wizzing along the cycle superhighway as she is nestled in a corner of the tube. She's a bit of a head turner, but I don't have to worry about her staying out all night because she fits so neatly into that space by the table in the living room. She is perfect. 

Cycling in the City with B'Twin - A Pretty Place to Play

I chose Doris after a lot of thought about how I live my life and what I want from my wheels. In the past I've had full size town bikes which I've found bulky and cumbersome. They had to live in bike stores and I'd have to haul them through corridors and doors to get them out to the street. Then if I needed to stop my bike had to be locked up, usually outside, with a complex array of locks. It just always felt like a mega faff, which isn't really what you think of when you think about the freedom of cycling! No, this time I wanted something that worked with my life. A bike I could keep in my flat, take with me into the office, take on the tube if needed. A foldie ticks all those boxes. 

I won't lie, the idea of cycling in London can be scary, it definitely was the first time I tried. But these days I'm older and wiser, a few years ago I went on a course all about how to cycle safely in the city (I can't for the life of me remember who it was with!) and it really helped my confidence. I picked up so many tips and generally felt much more prepared to head out on the roads, it's definitely something I'd recommend all cyclists do! Cycle infrastructure in London has also come a really long way - the cycle superhighway is life changing (and life saving) and CityMapper is ace for finding safer routes around the city. I've uncovered so many quiet routes I never knew existed using that app, it's awesome! It's changes like this that have encouraged me to cycle, and help me feel more confident doing it.  

I can't wait to start exploring London with Doris, we've already discovered so many cool routes and it's only been a couple of weeks! Follow our adventures over the next few months using the hashtag #AdventuresWithDoris and let me know your tips for city cycling! 

* Doris was kindly gifted to me by Decathlon, but as always all opinions are my own.