Style | Diary of a Somebody

Ben Elliot

The founder of Quintessentially sounds off on Boris’ bike scheme

Ben Elliot

September 14 2010
Ben Elliot

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I have been caught up completely in the whole cycling phenomenon that prevails in London today. I’m always keen to think of myself as an early adopter and as such I am, broadly, a fan of Boris Johnson’s bicycle scheme. It got me out of a jam last week during the Tube strike and I think of myself as a cyclist through and through. In July, Lycra-ed, with Armstrong-esque pretensions, I led a merry team of 40 from London to Land’s End. We climbed 21,000 feet, cycled 322 miles in four days and raised £130,000 for the Quintessentially Foundation.

This morning, however – and I put it down to teething problems and late rising from the Soho creative community – I cursed it to anyone and everyone in W1. I try to be punctual for meetings – I worked in New York for seven years where being late is unforgivable – but I could not find a space in Soho to “dock”, making me 15 minutes late as I traversed to the other side of Regent Street.

Maybe I have become too addicted to cycling – in fact, I realised that I have been looking at everything since early summer while perched on a very uncomfortable razor-thin racing seat and forcing myself every 45 minutes to consume a revolting energy drink. Ridiculous when you think about it.

So on Sunday I broke the habit and had the most magnificent walk in North Dorset; across the Iron Age fort of Hod Hill (you are not allowed a bicycle anywhere near this National Trust treasure) and along the River Stour where my father (a man who has never cycled except as a child) proudly told me, ironically, that he had acquired a new bicycle to accompany his recently mobile grandson.

He was also keen to show me the work of North Dorset District Council, which was rebuilding a bridge that had been broken down in the 1950s, when the railways were deemed old-fashioned, in order to create a new cycle-way from Blandford Forum to Sturminster Newton. It must have cost a small fortune, and it seems increasingly that this is a recession we’ll have to cycle hard to get through.

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