Cedar Lewisohn is an artist currently in residency at Beacon in Lincolnshire. He has exhibited all around the world and published art books and fiction. This is one of his short stories.
Vauxhall Bridge Road. 19.24. Slight drizzle in the air. I breathe in the night. The dual-carriageway is busy as usual: cars, trucks, lights. And of course, a slipstream of cyclists. I grip hard on the leather-like tape wrapped around my ZipContour SL carbon handlebars. The airfoil top is not only fast, but it fits my hand perfectly and elegantly hides my brake and shifter cables. Within what feels like seconds I’ve crossed the Thames and I’m at the intersection of Vauxhall Junction. The Terry Ferrell designed M16 building to my left. Epinephrine, victims and carbohydrates flow through my body like electricity. My heart rate around 135bpm. I’m 100 per cent in the zone.
At Oval station and Kennington Road I notice a Shand skinnymilinky. Its sublime hand-built Reynolds 853 steel frame, with peppermint blue finish, sparkles like a diamond in the twilight. Elegance and functionality on Stans Iron Cross wheels. The bike is a modern miracle, surrounded by a sea of mediocrity on the London roads. I see this bike most evenings around this time on my commute home, and it always gives me a warm feeling of joy. I spend a split second admiring the elegance of the tube welding. Then for some reason, I don’t know why, I take a look at the rider. She’s wearing black and white leggings with reflective stripes. They cling to her legs as she leans forward on the drop handlebars, waiting for the light to turn green.
The light changes and her Lycra clad derriere eases nicely onto the brown B17 Titanium and leather Brookes saddle. The seat has clearly moulded over time to suit her anatomy. I imagine running my hand over those chromed springs and copper rivets. The Shand speeds off down Camberwell New Road. In an instant I’m reminded of the grainy black and white images from Hans Bellmer’s Study for George Bataille’s Histoire de l’oeil. Black stockings. Women’s bare legs, bent revealingly over peddle bikes.
I snap back to reality and reach the junction of Camberwell Green and Walworth Road. On my left, behind Heras fencing, I see about half an acre’s worth of rubble, where Jono’s Pool Hall used to be. The Shand is in front of me, about ten bikes down. I weave past two no.36 double decker buses, a black Mercedes-Benz, a White Volkswagen Transporter and Red Rover 200. I edge to the lights, past the other cyclists. Most of them are on off-the-shelf road bikes. There is a guy dressed in black on a Norco Valence and a woman, also dressed in black on a Specialized. I notice a dude on a racing green Brompton with lights on his helmet, rucksack and back chassi. He reminds me of a Christmas tree.
19.36. The traffic lights are red. The Shand and I make eye contact. I attempt an awkward smile. But its dark and I don’t think she sees me. The traffic light turns yellow. Then, to my surprise she leans over and whispers softly in my ear.
“I’m not your fucking bike porn fantasy…”
Her accent is neutral, English, but with no sense of a regional tone. She’s either from London, or has been here a while. The traffic lights turn green. I cross over Camberwell Green onto Church Street. Within minutes I pass Lucas Gardens and Camberwell College of Arts. I stop at the zebra crossing, just before Southampton Way. The Shand is already there. A couple of student types cross the road, one pushing a vintage Claude Butler fixie by his side. The drizzle in the air has gone now, leaving a cold but refreshing autumn breeze. The road is still wet. It reflects the city from the ground upward, as if a dirty film of crude oil had been thinly spread over it. My Gatorskin Continental tires provide the perfect, subtle, yet durable response to this extra moisture. The Shand leans over to me again.
She sprints off along Peckham Road. As I cycle behind her I notice how toned and firm her hips are from behind. That Gluteus Maximus is clearly being given a good daily workout. Her knee joints are also supple and responsive. Through the Lycra I can see the contours of some impressive calf tissue; I imagine her Tibial bones are strong yet slender. Her Calcaneal tendon must be a perfect specimen.
We traverse onto Bellenden Road.
I’ve always had a strong love, some might say infatuation, with the reassuringly repetitive metallic clicking sound of a well-oiled chain smoothly rotating. These days I prefer a compact crank set, which means 36 teeth on the small chain ring and 50 on the larger. The sound is just as sweet.
A quick spin down Elm Grove and we are on Rye Lane. Past the cinema and into the ground floor of a multi-storey car park. “Where the fuck is she taking me”. I think to myself. It’s 19.45. The car park is a temple to concrete. A brutalist non-space. We could be anywhere on earth right now. As we reach the 5th floor the setting becomes more and more deserted. I notice the painted yellow lines on the floor and square pillars. I also notice the CCTV cameras. There is something charged about being in this huge, enclosed space on our own. The rough texture of the dark grey concrete and the muted strip lighting. It’s perfect somehow. The young woman on the Shand bike beckons me to toward her.
“Look” She says. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
I look out at the view, across the London skyline at night. All the big hitters are there, illuminated and resplendent. I look back into the car park. “Yes it is,” I think to myself.
20.10. Heart rate 137bpm.
No. of Cyclists Killed in London by year
No. of Cyclists seriously injured in London by year
- Watch a video of Cedar talking about his book of drawings here.