Saturday, 27 August 2011

Is cycling really cheaper than using public transport in London?

My poor, punctured tyre
It’s been a troublesome week for help my chain came off, and this time my bike chain is not to blame. Firstly, I was the victim of a puncture caused by a drawing pin (is there a cyclist terrorist out there?). Secondly, after a wonky ride home in the rain the other day, I discovered that 7 spokes had broken on my back wheel. These are bad times for me....I mean,  how on earth do wheel spokes break? Is it that my immense, toned, all-over body muscle is just too much for my bicycle? Or am I just a heffalump? Whatever the reason, thank goodness that I still have my tiresome, heavy, single speed bike lurking around which meant I could resume my usual commute, if a little more tired and sad.
The hindrance of having mechanical problems with my bicycle have indeed made my purse a little lighter. It made me start to think whether the claims that cycling is cheaper than travelling by public transport in London may not be entirely valid. Let me explain. I have ‘broken down’ my bike and travel costs which I have incurred since commuting by bike for the last 3 months:



New bike chain and fit

New inner tube and fit

New wheel and fit


Waterproof Jacket

Tube travel when not commuting
(approx £14 per week x 12 weeks)

So that's a total of £535 in the last few months! This equates to 4.5 months worth of oyster travel card and could have saved my colleagues from witnessing my dodgy helmet hair.
Ok, ok, so I know there are many other factors to account for also. The fact that I don’t pay £50 per month on a gym membership and the fact that the more and more I cycle, the more this cost will reduce. And maybe if I was smart enough, I could probably maintain my bike myself and not have to keep traipsing into Two Wheels Good and giving them my entire pay each month (ok, maybe I’m just exaggerating now).....Oh, and also paying £110 for a helmet really isn’t entirely necessary.
BUT, one can’t deny that if you are a new cycle commuter, the first 6 months are a pay cheque squeezer and I’m done with the squeezing. It was no surprise to me when I heard the news that cycling generates £3 billion a year to the UK economy. Good news for the cycling industry, bad news for my bank account.
Peddle on kids!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cycling has never been sexier

The Joy of Cycling
I have been seduced by this poster, the Joy of Cycling, designed by Jamie Wieck for a pitch to TFL.

And what a shame TFL didn't take it on! It would have been the cycling equivalent of the wonderbra ad in the nineties.  It certainly would have entertained the bored tube passengers on the way to their mundane jobs. I also think that it would have been successful in getting more people to ride their bikes, afterall, why not jump on a bike with the promise of joy and pleasure?...especially if you are a bearded, lumberjack style man......Who wouldn't?

I certainly would.

Cycling has never been sexier.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The do’s and dont’s of cycling and camping in the New Forest

I be going to the countryside for frolics and a good ol’cycle ride

There is nothing like a great British summer holiday, and what better way to spend one than camping and cycling in one of England’s finest forests.
I spent three days and three nights amongst nature. West-country dialects were rife, cider was plentiful, skies were grey, nights were cold and there wasn’t a riot in sight. Like I said, there is nothing like a Great British summer holiday.  
On reflection of my trip, I have compiled the following list of do’s and don’ts which I think you will find useful if you are ever contemplating a cycle holiday in the New forest. So here we go:
  • Do remember to pack a sleeping bag/jumper/waterproof jacket/shower gel (eh hem... things my boyfriend forgot to pack).
  • Don’t try to use a bike pump to hammer the tent pegs into the ground, this doesn’t work.
  • Do make sure you have lights if you are cycling at night. The new forest is dark...really, really dark.
  • Don’t attempt to cycle through Brockenhurst/Lyndhurst/treehurst/foresthurst/Jemmahurst. There is too much traffic to contemplate, not even the most agile of cyclists can weave through these grid locks.
  • Do mind the ponies. They are the ultimate traffic stoppers with complete disregard to cars and cyclists. They make for a refreshing rest bite to a long bike ride.
  • Don’t ride with your mouth open. A fly for dinner is just not clever Trevor.
  • Don’t use a bike without suspension. Road bikes just don’t cut the mustard on forest terrain.
  • Do make sure that the mountain bike you borrow has an adjustable seat so it doesn’t look like you are riding a BMX for the whole holiday.
With lessons learned, my trip ended today. I left a very soggy campsite to return to an almost as soggy London. Next summer, I would do it all over again.....this time factoring in some of the do’s and don'ts above!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Help! My chain (really did) come off

Bike Chain hanging off my bike. RIP.
In my thirst for cycle knowledge and to override my Wednesday night riot news overdose, I popped my nosey head into the Guardian Bike Blog.

This time I read a debate about whether cyclists ever stop to offer assistance to fellow cyclists broken down on the road side. Everyone on the forum seemed to agree that helpful cyclists are around every corner, town or city. Well, sadly I don’t quite agree and reason being is this.

One sunny day in early July, I was breezing down Westbourne Road, Islington when I felt a crunch and my right leg and foot flung off my pedal smacking my shin against the middle of the bike frame.  I looked down to see my chain broken, hanging off my bike, dragging along the road. ‘Help! my chain came off.’ I cried, but no one was around to help, only cars.

I made my way to the curb and picked my sad, overstretched chain up. Apart from contemplating how I was going to get home, I pondered the thought that I must have been cycling SO fast at SUPER speed that I had outsmarted my own bicycle. Yes! I had outsmarted, outmanoeuvered, outFOXED a tough machine of 1980’s steel. Pass me the yellow jersey please!

 So whilst consumed with these thoughts, I stupidly got my chain caught in my front tyre between the spokes which took me no less than 15 minutes to untangle, whilst trying not to get oil on my brand new French Connection skirt. This isn’t the part of cycling I signed up for!

The culprit
I needed help badly. It was the evening rush hour on a busy cycle route and not one cyclist stopped to see if I was alright.

I had to resort to my smart phone to seek aid and find out where the nearest bike shop was. I then made my way to the shop, whilst covered in grease and was fitted with a brand new chain. (Holloway cycles, check them out, they are ace!)

I felt sad that in a city full of cyclists during rush hour, not one person stopped to ask if I was alright. I know that there are a lot of helpful people out there and that this experience may not be the norm; however I still feel that we cyclists need to stick together a little bit and help each other in tough times.

P.S. Incidentally, I made up the title of this blog a week before my chain actually came off (It was a curse!).

P.P.S. Incidentally it wasn’t my super strength which broke my chain, but was just an old chain... Pah, keep your yellow jersey Cadel Evans, I have French connection anyway.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Skip a red light? Safety queen is here!

Sometimes I think my morning commute replicates the Tortoise and the Hare story. Me being the tortoise, and the impatient cyclist being the Hare. I’m talking about cyclists who jump red lights. This morning I found myself playing a game of catch up with someone who clearly interpreted a red light as green. Obviously he was desperate to get to the office quickly, god only knows why! Anyhow, it turned out that this sneaky manoeuvre made no difference, I still managed to catch up with him a couple of junctions later, a little more smug than normal. The scene looked a little like this:

 It made me wonder whether it was worth being a ‘red jumper’. My boyfriend doesn't condemn this cunning cycle tactic and I'm sure when I'm not in his company he shoots through those red lights frequently. I can see why cyclists do it, especially if they are familiar with the traffic light sequence. However, is it worth taking the risk? The consequence of a misjudgement can be fatal.

A 'Red Jumper' contemplating a time to nip across the busy junction

So let's outline the positives. The positives are that you get to speed ahead of the traffic and not be left behind amongst the hot cars with choking exhausts. You also don't get caught up amongst the HGV's and white vans revving up as soon as the light hits green.

This still isn't enough for me to skip the red light. In my book (Jemma's amazing cycle book of knowledge), I prefer to abide by the rules of the Highway code and patiently wait for the green light. After all, I don't want car drivers to shun me and add my actions down to the long list of #whytheyhatecyclists.

So there we have it. I have now exposed inner sensible self and can confess that  I am 'by the book', a square, law-abiding..... Some have called me in the past 'SAFETY QUEEN'
In the name of safety queen, I promise to never skip a red-light, even if I am the only person on the road or the entire planet because SAFETY comes first.

Seriously though and safety aside, is this something cyclists should be allowed to do?...

Friday, 5 August 2011

Help my Helmet Hair!

So as you know, it's been like a sauna these past few days. 'Wooo' I hear everyone cry, 'our few days of british summer has arrived'. But this time around, I'm not the one doing the cheering. This is because I am dealing with a further style crisis as a result of cycling.

At first I felt joy about cycling in the warm sunshine, no breeze to fight against, no rain to make me feel sad. Indeed it seems that everyone is happier and travels better when the sun is out and that was just my experience....

Until  I arrived at work that is. As usual I removed my helmet, but this time I revealed a sweaty mass of hair in the shape of the exact imprint of my helmet. To my horror, I had to dash to the womens toilets to rescue my dishevelled damp locks. Tilting my sweaty fringe into the Dyson dryer is not what I was planning to do on Monday morning.

So this leaves me the question, how can you get rid of helmet hair? Google tells me that there are two options:

1. Not wear a helmet
2. Shave your hair off

I think you can agree that both of these options are just not suitable for me. So what I am going to do???

To show you what I mean, I thought you would like to see a before and after shot of my helmet hair crisis. Please see below:

Look how happy I look with my pre-helmet hair and my pose.
Even Bob Dylan in the background likes it.

Hmmmm...this looks like a police mugshot. Great.

Ok, so I have plumped my hair up a bit in the aftershot to make myself look less like a slug, but you get the gist, there is SWEAT on that hair.

I hate to say it, but bring on Autumn!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Cycle the 70's way

I have been cycling the roads of London daily for two months now and I'm starting to worry that my cycle style is being well and truly run over by Mr. PRACTICALITY. I found myself wishing that instead of wearing the short denim shorts on my bike today, which were feeling hot, heavy and were chafing my pale legs (sorry you have to know that), that instead I was wearing something smooth, something which absorbs sweat and something which doesn't chaf....and that's when the thought popped into my head...

...perhaps Lycra shorts?! 

I nearly crashed.

I want women to know that they can cycle in style and not give into the forces of ugly cycle gear which smothers the skin to show every roll of fat you have to offer. So to shun these intrusive thoughts away, I decided to rage a war.  Every pedal I'm going to take from now on I'm going to cling onto my shallow ideals and not be governed by the need to feel comfortable, be dry, and to not be windswept and cool when cycling. No, I'm going to put fashion and style first because that's where it belongs!

To soothe my style meltdown, a fashion internet 'window' shop was in order. So, I present you with my 70's inspired cycling summer wishlist.

By the way, it's my birthday next month, anyone fancy buying me the Burberry rain poncho, only £935?