On the 130th anniversary, I recreated part of the journey of the first person to cycle around the world on a bicycle. Taking it one day at a time. View the archive.

Cycling in two world cities in one day

By Stuart Lowe on

This morning I was in London at my friend Tracey's flat. I removed a few things from my luggage to save a kilogram of weight as I was convinced I was close to my limit. Also, my bike had started creaking the day before as I cycled from King's Cross to Surbiton so I was worried that it was overloaded. I was waved off by Tracey at 8.20 am and cycled along the Thames, past Bushy Park, and on to Heathrow. The traffic was what I might expect from British roads at rush hour and people weren't bothered about leaving much room for a bike.

Once into the grounds of Heathrow the road seems to go on for miles to reach Terminal 3 but I got there. I felt strangely thrilled that I'd arrived at an airport entirely by my own steam. I packed up my bike in my CTC bike bag (basically a huge, heavy duty, clear plastic bag) and then took my bags over to weigh them in. Still fearing that I'd have to leave something behind I got a bit of a shock to find that they came in a little over 10kg. I told the Virgin Atlantic greeter that the scales must be wrong as I was expecting 23kg. She jumped on the scales and declared that they were working fine. It seems I'd been read the pounds part of the scale earlier thinking it was kilos!

After security I bumped into another person clutching a bicycle helmet. That isn't usual in an airport so I had a quick chat to him. It turns out he was going to cycle down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles; 500 miles or thereabouts.

On the plane I talked to a lovely Irish couple - Noel and Peggy - from north of Dublin. They were off to visit their son and attend their grandson's confirmation. I had great conversations with Peggy and she told me about Dervla Murphy who as travelled all over on a bike. At SFO I reclaimed my bike after getting excited telling the story of Thomas Stevens to the immigration official. I rebuilt my bike - pedals, front wheel, tyres - and filled up my water bottles. I was ready to set out into America.

Bike in the CTC bike bag

I rode off up the road from outside Arrivals which then merged with another road and turned a corner. At that point it became apparent that I was at second floor (third floor in American) level and was heading towards a massive Californian freeway with no exit. LA may be a "great big freeway" but it seemed San Francisco was one too. I wasn't going forward. This was my first road in America. My first time cycling on the right-hand-side and I was pretty sure the freeway would be illegal on a bike. I got off my bike and pushed it back along the hard shoulder to the terminal building shaking. Outside Departures I found some airport workers on a smoking break who pointed me to the ground level where they said there was a normal road. When I got there I found a bike lane and escaped SFO safely.

US roads can have many lanes and I was paranoid about being thrown onto the busy freeway again. I headed north and at points my Garmin routing took me over some steep hills entirely needlessly but the effort was rewarded by some nice views in the fading light.

San Francisco from the top of a hill I needn't have cycled up

I briefly chatted to another cyclist at a stop light who also had a yellow Ortleib classic pannier. She told me the motorists in San Francisco were terrible. I said that in the couple of hours I'd been here they were far more polite and courteous than the drivers in London that morning.

I arrived at the hostel after sunset with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I checked in and had dinner in their little cafe. I was in bed by 10pm as it had been a very long day cycling on two continents.

View from the Youth Hostel at Fisherman's Wharf