Cycling in London may seem reserved for Lycra-loving enthusiasts, Boris-biking tourists and hardcore commuters. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here, I take advantage of Mr & Mrs Smith’s collaboration with Tokyobike – the Japanese brand that crafts super-sleek cycles – and borrow a bike free of charge (hurry, you have one weekend left to do the same) for a laid-back pedal session in East London, complete with cinnamon-bun breaks.
If you’d like to have a more lasting romance with your own fashionable ride, take a chance at winning a limited-edition Tokyobike. Just enter here by 30 April.
Now, follow along in my tyre tracks…
Before I can even think about putting boot to pedal, I grab my morning caffeine fix from Counter Albion on Redchurch Street. Nearby, I spot some graffiti by Thierry Noir, the famed Berlin Wall artist whose work has now become a fixture in East London. His paintings are a welcome bonus on my pre-bicycling brew run. If you need coffee options, you could also stop by the very rock ’n’ roll Shoreditch Grind on the Old Street roundabout. From there, it’s only a three-minute walk to Tokyobike’s Tabernacle Street location.
Picking my wheels
I knew Tokyobike would serve up style, but heading in, I’m completely bowled over by the minimalist-chic storefront and oh-so-pretty bicycles waiting inside. I go for a ladylike Bisou model, but also admire its slightly sportier, straight-handlebarred siblings. Then there’s colour – so many options, only one bike ride today. I bypass silver, wine-red, and mint-green frames in favour of a mustard-yellow number.
Feeling the wind in my (helmet) hair
Now that I’ve got my wheels, I head northeast toward Regent’s Canal, the wonderfully cycle-friendly waterway that slices across North London from Paddington to Limehouse. Instantly, I’m smitten with my seven-speed’s cool aesthetics, feather-light weight, butter-smooth peddaling and ease at taking on every bump in the road. I know I’ve barely just begun, but it already feels appropriate to take a carb-loading break, so I swing by Fabrique bakery behind the Geffrye Museum. Nordic-style buns of the cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom varieties are there just begging to be squirrelled away into a takeaway bag to keep mid-cycle hunger pangs at bay.
Next, I make my way east along the canal to Victoria Park for wide, cycle-ready paths and refreshing, un-Londony leafiness. I take a beat at a lakeside bench and break into that pastry. Okay, to be fair, I’m breaking into what’s left of it because I already consumed half before even leaving the bakery premises (clearly I lack self control).
The unfamiliar buzz of cycling adrenaline (actually, this could be a sugar rush… I’m more familiar with those) is coursing through my veins, so I pedal on just a bit further east and make a loop around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Now feeling like a seasoned cyclist, I perfect my Tour de France game face and even pull an occasional ‘look ma, no hands!’ as I enjoy the fresh breeze on my face and glide around on my borrowed velocipede.
Finally, after working up an appetite in such a stylish way (no Lycra necessary, and only a few hairs out of place), I head back toward Shoreditch to end my adventure at Town Hall Hotel for a well-deserved meal at the Corner Room. The only thing left on my agenda is devising a way to get my hands on a Tokyobike for keeps. (Pro tip: don’t name your rented steed. I’ll miss you, Lady Karashi.)