Travel: World: Simon Calder column

GRIDLOCK. A burst water main on London's North Circular Road caused traffic chaos in the capital on Monday this week. Any fool in the absurd position of being in White City at 9am, with a flight to catch from Heathrow at 9.45am for a meeting in Manchester at 11am, was clearly never going to make it.

Unless Adrian got involved. This ex-Military Policeman is one of a dozen riders who provide the "taxy bike" service in and around London; the correct spelling of "taxi" is not used, to avoid inflaming the cabbies who are left trailing in the wake of a 1,100cc, V4 Honda motorcycle. You also have to book in advance, by phone (to Addison Lee, 0171-387 8888), rather than hailing a bike whizzing around town.

Unlike some minicabs I have used, Adrian appeared ahead of time (having already left a message suggesting we set off a little earlier than planned). He provides a helmet, jacket, gloves - and a briefing about how to be a good passenger. A summary: sit back, stay still and enjoy the ride.

At 9.03am we joined the rush-hour traffic on Wood Lane. It wasn't rushing anywhere much, but within seconds the advantage of a bike was obvious: you can be at the front of each set of traffic lights. And on roads full of frustrated motorists all late for work, you can accelerate out of trouble rather than braking into it.

Roadworks meant we spent the first five minutes heading directly away from Heathrow. Anyone unversed in the ways of big, powerful motorbikes will get an instant lesson in their fiery characteristics when looping around the Shepherd's Bush roundabout; "sit back, stay still" is not an easy mantra to chant when you feel that the laws of physics are being seriously challenged by the collective angular velocity of you, Adrian and three-quarters of a ton of Honda.

The last time I tried this sort of thing was when no other transport was available from Phnom Penh airport. The trip into the Cambodian capital on a Honda 70, a bike both over-populated and under- powered, was one painfully long wobble. Not this time; I was quite clearly in the safest of hands.

The nervous passenger can express any concerns easily, thanks to a two- way talk-back link built into the helmet. The system provides for more articulate conversation than can be achieved by yelling through the glass separating a taxi-driver from the passenger.

Chiswick came and went with a well-judged swerve or two; it was a treat to be a passenger on a machine driven by someone in the manner normally reserved for cycling, yet at many times the speed.

Conversation ceased once Adrian got into his stride on the M4, straddling both the middle of the fast lane and the speed limit.

This gives you the chance to notice two things: first, the amazing field of vision that a motorcycle trip permits you, much broader than you get from a car or a train; second, the way that car drivers seem blind to bikers, pulling out with never a first glance nor a second thought.

We pulled up outside Terminal One at 9.25am, where I discovered that I seemed to be wearing the most terrible smirk. The taxy bike experience is similar to a first-rate theme-park ride that also happens to get you to the airport impossibly quickly.

"That's pounds 30," said Adrian. The same price as a cab, but twice as fast; 10 times the cost of the Tube, but a million times more fun. I tipped him a fiver, and five minutes later was sitting on board a Boeing. W12 to BA 1388 at T1 in 30 minutes; on a day when the North Circular isn't submerged, it would be even faster.

Then reality set in; the most mundane of delays (caused by a hold-up loading the meals for the inbound flight) made the plane 10 minutes late. The taxy bike service has yet to reach Manchester airport, and the most ambitious cab driver can't reach the city centre in under the quarter- hour. I was five minutes late for the meeting, but still smiling.

Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

    £47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker