I managed to get hold of the latest issue of Cycling Active magazine. Even though I have been contributing articles to this and to Cycling Weekly for a few years I still get quite excited about seeing the finished product on the shelf of WH Smith or the newsagent section in Tescos or Sainsburys. There is something very satisfying about seeing the planning, logistics and creativity of a seedling that you had in a brain come into fruition in the shape of a product that appears on the shelf of high street shops.
That is the case this month, with my article on cycle commuting which is in the current edition of Cycling Active. We looked at two options for commuting around a town on two wheels - riding your own commuter bike or hiring a bike. So we compared the riding experience and practicality of using a Raleigh Cameo versus a Boris Bike. The specifications, costs, the riding etc are examined in more detail in the article. In a nutshell, the conclusion was that the Raleigh is the more comfortable and more attractive-looking of the two bikes and is a bike that you can take wherever, and ride for as along as you like. The Boris Bike is a robust, reliable two-wheeler which does the job, but does not feel as comfortable as the Raleigh when being ridden for more than an hour. However, it is maintenance-free, hassle-free, and once you've paid your nominal membership fee (for a year or for a day) the first 30 minutes of riding it cost nothing.
I am glad that we finally got this story into a magazine as the shoot for it was tricky - mainly on account of the location. We wanted to be in a central London location, so we went to Belgrave Square. There was a bit of pressure to get the right shot, in the right light, and without any cars in the background. As this area has lots of embassies, there is a high (though discreet) armed police presence so we wanted to get everything done quickly and hopefully without any incident kicking off while we were there!
I had always considered this square to be quiet at weekends, but in fact quite a lot happens. With a private park and tennis courts in the middle of the square a lot of the well-healed Belgravia and Chelsea set go there for a quick game, or take their offspring there for lessons. It is a cut-through route for getting to Hyde Park Corner and Knightsbridge. In addition, there's a parking lot that becomes very popular thanks to Westminster Council's relaxed parking restrictions at weekends.
Sometimes doing photo shoots involve unexpected interventions from members of the public. In central London, especially in this area, there are usually a few tourists who interupt the shoot to ask for directions to Buckingham Palace or the nearest tube station. Others may ask the photographer if he could take a photo of them for their holiday snaps! While we were doing our shoot a small film crew turned up, looking for a spot. I think they had wanted to take the site where we were, but I guess it comes down to the old saying about the early bird. Also, because we were using Boris Bikes which we would leave on its stand in between shots, we had to be mindful of other people around who had also left their Boris Bikes to stand nearby. It was very easy to pick up the wrong Boris Bike and end up with someone else's bill! At least we didn't have the experience that I had a few years ago when doing a shoot in a run-down part of East London, before the Olympic stadium was built. I and the photographer were out, and a guy who looked a bit high on something took a real interest in what we were doing and wanted to be in the shoot!
I had been anxious that my 18 year-old nephew might get tired of being asked to ride up and down the same short stretch of road umpteen times while being photographed. In fact he was as good as gold and seemed happy to be involved. I was the one who started to huff and puff, wanting to finish up soon and get on with other things. (Posing for photo shoots is not my strong point!) Afterwards we moved on to the Royal Albert Hall where Higg took the rest of the bike shots, ably assisted by my nephew, and I sunbathed in the park. We then went home happy with our clutch of pictures.
The full review of the bikes is in the current issue of Cycling Active.