Acquiring a bicycle in the UK

As one of my posts from last year that got the most feedback from people in the US was my tale of buying a bike in Uganda, I thought I owed it to you, dear readers to relate my attempt at the same feat here in London.

First, a word on cycling in London. It’s often made out to be somewhat dangerous, but I think this is only by dint of comparison to outrageously cycle-friendly cities in the neighbourhood — Amsterdam, say, or more locally, Cambridge. But London is certainly a lot more bicycle-friendly than Kampala, or for that matter, many American cities.

There are bike lanes and markings on the streets here, but therein lies the problem: there are so many different kinds of markings on the road, that even many Londoners I’ve asked don’t know what they all mean. One imagines the motorists don’t either…

Now, as for my purchase of a bike. The process was a bit of an ordeal, but involved far less subterfuge than my acquisition in Uganda. I simply browsed around Gumtree for a few days (sort of like Craigslist) contacted a few sellers, and finally found a bike in Brixton that tickled my fancy for only 40 quid. I took the bus down there, tested out the bike in the chap’s car park, paid the appropriate sum and rode off.

The steed in which I warily place my trust

Unfortunately, there was one parallel with my Ugandan experience: On the way back, my chain slipped.

Of course, this is much less troubling than having a pedal fall off, but was nevertheless not immediately remediable. The crank has one of those rather annoying chain guards, making it difficult to access the chain, especially in the low light of that late hour. Small matter, though. I walked the bike the rest of the way home (less than a mile at that point), and the next morning (i.e. today) walked it over to a nearby bike shop where they leant me their tools (if not their skill) to pry the chain unstuck and get it back on the ring.

Onward ho!


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