Hello, I’m Amy.
Having lived in Oxford for just over a year, it occurred to me that I haven’t explored my city beyond the usual realms of work, coffee shops, pubs and friends' houses. So when Agne asked me to write for cycle.land, I accepted with full enthusiasm the challenge of exploring the place I live (and beyond) by bike.
I grew up in a town in Kent where there wasn’t much going on, but we had access to Kent’s renowned countryside. Lots and lots of green fields, beautiful villages full of flowers, and carpets of bluebells in woods. I used to ride my bike to get to and from school. From Kent I went to university, studied Publishing then moved to London to intern and work. London is incredible in so many ways but it's utterly exhausting. It lacks open spaces and a greater connection to things. The people I lived with at the time had just opened a community cafe and I helped out growing food in their allotment. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but the process was enriching; the stages of a plant’s growth, the physical work and the huge admiration I developed for the seasons.
I left London on a total whim and escaped to a tiny village just outside of Oxford where I spent 6 months as a trainee working in the kitchen garden of a Michelin-starred restaurant. I learned how to grow best-tasting produce, preserving variety and diversity of flavour and worked with passionate chefs and growers with a taste for seasonality and simplicity. It was here that my love of the cycle commute began, which isn't surprising as I got to cycle through this gorgeous field of poppies.
My traineeship ended, winter came and I moved into Oxford. I now work at a speciality coffee shop called BREW, which is nestled in the wall of what has become my most favourite street, North Parade Avenue. I spend my days happily making coffee - come and say hello! There is a remarkable sense of community in the city, even though Oxford is such a place of transience. I think for this very reason, people are driven to find a space to which they feel connected. There is a significant cycling community too, harnessed by the fact that Oxford pretty much repels cars. The roads are congested, parking spaces are hard to find and getting in and out of the city during busy periods takes hours. It's fantastic to see so many cyclists around, whatever the weather. I sold my car and bought a bike from a friend, after riding around for a few months on a borrowed rusty Raleigh Shopper.
And so here I am, writing for cycle.land about my adventures by bike. I hope to explore the place I live, the surrounding areas, as well as much, much farther afield. London to Poland, anyone?
Pimp my ride
First, I needed to get my bike up to the task. To fix the broken front brake that I’ve put up with for far too long, to keep my tyres inflated and to better secure the baskets. Hoping to get a wicker one… coming soon...
For the mechanically curious and those strapped for cash, there’s a bike co-op in Oxford called Broken Spoke, located on Pembroke Street with access also from St Aldate's. Rather than handing your bike over to a more experienced mechanic, you are encouraged to learn how to fix it yourself, which is great because you get to understand how your bike functions and you can buy any parts you need pretty cheaply from the workshop. Be prepared to spend some time there, it can be a slow process if you lack any experience but it is deeply rewarding to pedal away on a bike repaired by your own handiwork.
It's hardly pimped…. but it's good to go.