I like to ride my (Boris) bicycle

We’re in the middle of a so-called-heatwave here in London. By that I mean the sun’s come out for a wee bit. The sky is blue. And the week ahead is meant to bring more of the same. On Sunday I actually felt brave enough to leave the house wearing only jeans, a t-shirt and a cardigan. Translation for the unobservant: I left my coat at home. Stop-the-clocks and hold-the-sarcasm: that IS a London heatwave.

I’ve mentioned before that when the sun hits the sky, Londoners GTFO outside en masse. This Sunday a gang of us went for a wholesome group cycle trip through the Regent’s Park, my second-favourite of London’s royal parks (Richmond wins hands down). I was wildly distracted by the actual cycling, so forgot to take many decent photos (story of my life) so you’ll have to trust me on the basis of the three sketchy photos above. IT WAS REALLY FUN, YOU GUYS. Even when we had to dodge around slow-walking pedestrians. And navigate the canal paths without falling in.

This was my second outing on Transport for London’s Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme. The first group cycle experience took place on Christmas Day and we were a sight to behold: eight Antipodeans struggling their way from Shepherd’s Bush to Buckingham Palace and back again on dwindling light and dwindling beers. It was, hands down, one of the best experiences I’ve had while living in London. A definite ‘pinch me’ travel moment.

TIPS FOR YOUNG PLAYERS: The Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme, while brilliant, can be confusing for first timers. Or if you’re rushing. Rushing is evil and I believe the source of many many life screwups. Here are my top 5 tips for getting the most out of this fantastic, convenient service:

  1. READ THE FINE PRINT: The £2-for-24 hours “bike access fee” that pings up on screen first isn’t the total charge you’ll be footing. Slow down and read the fine print. I know a few people who’ve come unstuck here by hiring a bike in a rush without reading the T’s and C’s . You’re actually paying £2 for the right to use the bike for the next 24 hours. The actual usage fees are added on top of the bike access fee.
  2. WORK THE FREEBIES: The first 30 minutes of your ride are free. So if you only wanted a short-but-furious trip, you can squeeze in a free ride as long as you return the bike within half an hour. You can do that several times in the 24-hour-access period you paid for earlier.
  3. SPEND SMART: While a 59-minute cycle will only cost you an extra £1 on top of your access fee (bargain!) the hourly price charge leaps considerably after 90 minutes so it’s economical to keep your trips short. Or just dock your bike regularly and swap it for another one. Also, if you’re gonna be one of those super-keen people that cycles all the time, it might be worth paying for weekly or annual access to the scheme.
  4. PLAN YOUR ROUTE: It’s really hard to check Google Maps while you’re cycling. Not to mention dangerous. Oh, and, pretty much impossible. Suss out your route before you start pumping those legs, baby.
  5. READ THE FINE PRINT, AGAIN*: If the docking station is full, don’t panic. Simply select ‘No docking point free’ at the terminal and follow the on-screen directions to get an extra 15 minutes free. This is great as it allows you time to find another docking station, without being charged. *This helpful tip is in the fine print. I missed it the first time round. It’s good advice and saved us some cash as we tried to return our bikes just as everyone else had the same idea.

Tell me tales of your own Boris bike adventures. Where are the best places to cycle? And/or to stop and rest a while, perhaps at a fun foodie establishment? I’m listening.