London's chicest cyclist is greeted by hordes of lovestruck admirers wherever her wheels take her. She wouldn't be seen dead in bobbly Lycra. And she doesn't actually know how to ride a bicycle. Meet Sigrid, the deaf white cat who's exploring the city by bike, powered by her doting housemate/servant Travis Nelson.
As Nelson explains, Sigrid's adventures started as an experiment. 'I got made redundant during lockdown so I started riding my bike around the city' he says. 'And one day I thought it would be fun to take Sigrid with me, so I put her in my bike basket. She loved it, so we've been doing it ever since.'
Sigrid wears a leash during her rides, which Nelson films using a GoPro, racking up thousands of viewers on YouTube and Instagram. Domestic moggies are famous for performing Houdini-like acts of contortion to escape their collars, or scratching your hands to ribbons if you attempt to get them in a cat basket. Not Sigrid. The camera reveals her contentedly riding along as the wind ruffles her lustrous white fur, or shows her stopping to greet her legions of fans. Sometimes she permits a pat, sometimes she unleashes a formidable hiss: like all divas, she loves a good strop.
'My favourite encounter was with Jeremy Clarkson,' says Nelson. 'He's notorious for making negative comments about cyclists: when he saw us cycle by he just gave us this dumbfounded look'.
Sigrid is a true Londoner with a taste for the bougier things in life. 'She loves the shops in Covent Garden,' says Nelson. 'We tend to go to Aesop and a few other stores. Whenever she sees an open doorway, she wants to go in - she's very nosy.' When she's not sniffing pricy geranium leaf hand wash, Sigrid can be found in her favourite cafe, Chamomile's Cafe on England's Lane: 'they even keep treats behind the counter for her', says Nelson.
Still, Sigrid hasn't entirely lost her fearsome killer instincts. 'Recently she's been really obsessed with squirrels', says Nelson. 'There's a spot in Regent's Park where we almost always see some. As soon as we get nearby, she starts excitedly looking around ready to chase them.'
Sigrid is a Norwegian Forest cat, a breed that's larger than your average puss, with tufted ears and a love of interacting with humans. That could explain why she's a bit bolder than most cats. As Nelson explains, 'She's just completely fearless. She's not afraid of anything. She'll meet a giant dog when we're walking down the pavement and she won't even change her pace: she'll just hiss but she'll stay calm'.
So can any ordinary rescue moggy be transformed into a cycling aficionado? Leash-training cats is surging in popularity, thanks to high-profile adventure pusses like Instagram influencer Suki. But as Nelson explains, it takes dedicated training, and the secret is to start 'em young. 'I've trained Sigrid right from when she was a kitten. Even when I first got her I'd take her down to the corner shop with me to grab a few sodas'.
Travis is dedicated to both cat training and cycle safety, and although he acknowledges that London's bike lanes are much safer than the 'Wild West' situation in North America where he grew up, he reckons that there's still work to do. Sigrid and Travis recently hit the news after they drew attention to an ice cream van-related traffic hazard on Westminster Bridge: 'their customers are standing in the cycle lanes waiting to get their ice cream, which has essentially made that cycle lane useless. It's kind of a bad situation.' And already, their cat-related activism is getting results. 'Just yesterday, I got a message directly from the police asking for my email so they can keep me updated on their efforts. I guess we've made a bit of a change there.'
But although he's passionate about improving conditions for London cyclists, Nelson's real motivation is just the simple impulse to spread a bit of joy. As he says, 'almost everyone's happy to see us. We get lots of smiles and laughter and open mouthed expressions when we ride by.' So next time you catch a faint whiff of tuna breath on the wind, look out and you might spot this dynamic duo. And if you're lucky, you'll be blessed with a stroke of the softest, most glamorous member of this city's cycling community.
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