By the time we’ve wrestled our bikes from the carriage and re-mounted our baggage, the platform has deserted and begun to refill with passengers boarding the next departure. Wheeling our vessels against the flow of the crowd feels like the perfect metaphor for a return to the city. Clothes still a little grubby, eyes still a little wild.
The air is warmer here and the streets are lit – not like the hill we hurtled down at 50kph the night before in a darkness enhanced by oncoming headlights. Cyclists abound too but none carry such loads as ours. We push them along the pavement, over the pedestrian crossing and re-mount along a Bloomsbury sidestreet. Emerging onto Gower Street we maintain a two-abreast formation, carried away in conversation – are we trying to pretend we’re still on holiday? Fighting the return to real life? Or is it just a carry over effect, a pleasant souvenir brought back to London?
Traffic lights work in our favour and the quiet roads of a Tuesday evening are friendly to the cyclist. We cut round Covent Garden and straight through to Waterloo Bridge where my head spins left to right like the crowd at Wimbledon. This is a view I’ve seen a hundred times but tonight it feels fresh, a blend of historic architecture and bright lights for my eyes only. A bus trundles behind me in the single lane restriction of road works.
Moving down the off-ramp the wheels of my bike spin faster and a clear run to my right sees me hurtle past the IMAX. A lone cyclist flies into the roundabout from my left, cutting in front of me. I wave an arm of indication across his bow in anticipation of having to cut back in front of him and, instead of anger at the trespass, a warmth spreads up from my legs and out through my arms. I am home and I carry in my panniers the secret of another adventure that lifts me to a world of my own, high above petty road rage.
The cyclist flies right as I fly left and the guitar riff from Blur’s ‘London Loves’ plays over in my mind as momentum carries me homeward.