Sunday, 25 September 2011

RBKC Bikeminded Coffee and Cake Cycling Cruise

I don’t know about you, but I tend to stick to the same areas on the weekend for cycling because once you know a route, it’s easy to do it time and time again. Well this weekend I ventured away from the norm and had a chance to cycle round the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) courtesy of the lovely organisers at RBKC Bikeminded and what a treat it was!

Bikeminded is a three year cycling campaign encouraging residents and workers of Kensington and Chelsea to cycle more. I think that anything to get people out of their monster cars and fancy Porsches is welcome in my book and Bikeminded sure give people a good reason to hop onto the saddle. I was delighted when I received an invitation from Jools (Vélo-City-Girl), and Kathryn and Emma from RBKC Bikeminded to join them and other bloggers on a Coffee and Cake Cruise for the day. An invitation I couldn't refuse!

In celebration of the cake theme, I made sure to scoff some cake for breakfast to give me plenty of peddling energy (ok, I had no milk, cereal, eggs nor bread).  I set off from my flat super early to make sure I had time to get lost on the way, because of course I WILL get lost on the way. I cycled merrily for much of the way and in true Helpmychaincameoff fashion, my chain came off......what did you expect? Chain back on and a trip to Tesco express to buy some babywipes to clean my scruffy oily self up and I was back on the road. NB. Tip: Always carry babywipes on a long bike ride!

I graced the inclines of Hampstead and Primrose Hill and after an hour and half I got to the meeting location on Talbot Road, Notting Hill.
Once everyone had arrived, we set off to go to our first cake location. Cruising along, I met Tilly from Tilly & Coco who has the same super cool bike pannier as me from Bobbin Bicycles, Tilly’s looking suitable better placed on her Pashley than mine on my disco pink Falcon bike machine!
Tilly from Tilly & Coco looking chic with our matching straw pannier
So let the eating commence! We scoffed mini cupcakes from Buttercup in Kensington, award winning Macaroons from Pierre Hermé, Knightsbridge and tasty cake from the artisan bakery Cocomaya. And to fill the last available space in my belly, we finished up the tour having high tea in Chelsea. I know what you are thinking and fear not my friends, these cakes have not made me fat because the cycling in between the cake stops burnt off all the cake calories. Phew!

Tasty Macaroons at Pierre Herme

My olive oil macaroon - if only they made them giant sized

Bike parking for the start and end of our ride

Highlights of the day include:
  • Eating my olive oil macaroon from Pierre Hermé
  • Meeting Jools from Vélo-City-Girl
  • Getting the chance to cycle round lovely areas I didn’t know about
  • Having the support of road safety cyclists who stopped the traffic for us all to cross the roads
  • Getting a free RBKC Bikeminded Tote bag!
All in all, a great day. You can book a place on their website for the next cruise on 8th October. Keep an eye out for their Cycle Ghost Tour taking place on Halloween too!

Thank you to Kathryn, Emma, Jools and the organisers of Bikeminded RBKC. Any chance of coming to the Borough of Islington please?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Have you ever had cycle rage?

Source: Pinkerest
Have you ever had cycle rage? I’m not talking about car drivers against cyclists, nor cyclists against car drivers, but instead cyclists against cyclists. You see, I am ashamed to admit it but every now and then I get the rage. Of course I don’t act on it, but when it happens I stew inside often for the duration of my bike ride. Let’s take Friday night as a recent example:
Tired and exasperated by working late on a FRIDAY night (puh-lease!), I set off on my usual route cycling home. Thinking that I had missed the evening rush hour I had high expectations of a pleasant, smooth ride in the golden autumn light. These expectations were thwarted when I headed northwards up the hill on Amwell Street, Angel. It was unusually congested and cars were stationary in traffic right up to where Great Percy Street meets Amwell Street. I ploughed up the hill using the cycle lane and started to approach another cyclist who had overtaken me previously. He was cycling at a slow speed because he was stuck behind another cyclist who was cruising at what I would call walking pace. Sandwiched between the stationary traffic and the pavement, I found myself on the SLOW TRAIN to FRIDAY NIGHT DISAPPEARING. And this was a train I did not want to be on.
Now the issue is this, I know the exact time it takes for the lights at the junction to Pentonville Road to go green and usually it changes when I am approaching from about 20 metres away. But because I was on the SLOW BIKE TRAIN I watched the lights go green and then back to red before my eyes. Cue the anger pangs in my belly. The rest of my cycle ride was then tarnished. Every pedestrian decided to cross at a zebra crossing, every traffic light turned red and to top it all off, a car cut me up when I tried to turn right.
Now, I have preached before that us cyclists should stick together (see post), after all, we are a traffic minority with a collective consciousness, sharing the belief that cycling is a better way to get around. We have consciously made the decision to cycle and that is what we have in common. But when the rage kicks in, these ideals go out the window and I join the taxi drivers and the van drivers in their permanent traffic fury.
My cycle rage did not manifest into aggressive behaviour, nor even rude body language, this is not my style. It did however make me frustrated and miserable, when really I should be patient and pleased that there is another cyclist on the streets on London. Indeed, I feel this now, but not then. So please don’t get me wrong, this is a rarity and I love seeing other cyclists out and about. It’s more like the feeling of when you have picked the wrong queue at the supermarket. I am frustrated because cycling connotes freedom and mobility (apart from the traffic lights!) and being able to skip the traffic. Nothing can stop you, but when it does on a Friday night when I am tired and have worked late it is hard to shake.
So, am I alone in this cycle fury? I googled ‘bike rage’ and just had the typical incidents of car drivers attacking cyclists, like this one. There really isn’t much press about cyclists getting angry with other cyclists. Maybe I’m alone with this one. Have you ever had cycle rage?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Mayor of London Skyride


AFTER (waterlogged camera makes
for a waterlogged picture)
It’s been 6 days and I can pretty much say that I am no longer a soggy, squelched mess. So who else got wet at the Skyride last Sunday?

But, the rain didn't stop the people from enjoying a traffic free cycle tour of London's most famous landmarks and in my opinion it was a great day.

Feeling like I was in an episode of Quantum leap, I can safely say that the best part of my ride was cycling through the Upper Thames Street tunnel. Ok, it’s just a tunnel but there were NO POTHOLES and the tarmac was as smooth as my own Bisto gravy. If only every road in London had the luxury of being tarmaced more recently than the release of the Amiga 500 computer (remember them?). I even got to see Kelly Brook and Chris Hoy, enough said.

Ah, how I love those grey skies

And what a perfect rainy day for me to try on one of those womens jackets from Water Off a Duck's Back at the Skyride rest area. I have been eyeing up these beauties for months, did I mention that it is my BIRTHDAY tomorrow? 
So what's the score for the days event on Jemma's Cyclometre?

No cars + C-list celebrities + rain + free Gatorade = *** Steady Trevor

All in all, a fun day out. Maybe next time they could close off the whole of zone 1? I like to dream...

The Cyclometre
*Pass me the stabilisers please
** Stuck on a toe path behind pedestrians
*** Steady Trevor
**** Peddle Power!
***** Lance Armstrong

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

No Pain, No Gain - The Perils of Cycling when Ill

I did something silly today. I over exerted myself leaping out of my office chair and landed awkwardly on my right ankle, resulting in an unwelcome mild sprain. Ahhhh the perils of being Jemma.
At the end of the day, I hobbled my poor self to my bicycle (whilst thanking the planet that for once it wasn’t raining) and hopped onto my bike.... Or at least hopped is what I wish I could have done. My fresh, new injury has meant that my cycle home tonight was overshadowed by a recurrent shooting pain. Every time I saw a red light I cringed because I knew what was coming. What was coming was the amber light and then green light and we all know what green means.... Yes, I know, it’s such a lovely colour in the eyes of a cyclist/motorist but today it was the colour of torture and anguish because GREEN MEANS GO. And go means pushing all my weight on my aching right ankle to get my wheels in motion. Closing my eyes didn’t help, the shooting pain was like someone was tearing nails through the veins of my leg. On top of that, I always like to whizz away fast at the lights, tricking my fellow cyclists that I might be faster than they think I am (inevitably they always catch me up) and keeping up this appearance was really gruelling. Oh my, now I know how Eddy Merckx aka The Cannibal felt when he was famously was injured in 1969, tough times for us both...!
So now I have a quandary, do I endure this relentless pain and cycle into work tomorrow, just so I can save my pennies and time by not going on the tube? And what really happens if you fall ill at work and have to be sent home? Do you ditch the bike and catch a bus, or just plough on?  For me this is a difficult situation because I don’t trust leaving my bike outside my work overnight as there is a high possibility it won't be there the next day.
Well, after a little thought I am planning on cycling into work tomorrow and I’m going to grin and bear the pain again. I really think that with the cold and flu season on its way, every cyclist commuter needs to have a plan. Have you ever been in this situation? And what is your plan?

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Look Mum No Hands!

If you love cycling in London then you probably have visited the bicycle cafe, Look Mum No Hands! for a well deserved pit stop. Whether you have been there or not, I think it deserves a little space on this blog. Let’s get straight to business.
The style
Attracting bicycle traffic from Old Street and the City, this cafe is a welcoming sight on such a busy artery through London. The style and decor leans towards urban chic rather than bicycle hippy, picking up trade from east London scenesters, cycle chic women and let’s not forget MAMILs (Middle Aged Men in Lycra).  The inside space is full of vintage tables, chairs and bike themed furnishings. The raw concrete wall and industrial style tables make the outside space encompass an East Berlin-esque, urban charm.

The Food
There is a range of seasonal food on offer to refuel the hungry urban cyclist, from vegetable pies and salads to homemade cakes and cookies. You can’t go wrong, however I’d advise getting food before 7pm, by the time I got there in the evening there wasn’t much choice left.
The Drink
I am not a coffee fan (I blame my youthful taste buds), but this place has a selection of coffee by the local company square mile, which I have heard is very tasty. Apart from a wide selection of fresh juices and soft drinks, Look Mum No Hands! also serves alcohol. I give their Belgium beer a big thumbs up.
Cycle workshop

Nice bicycles decorate the interior and exterior of this cafe. There are a couple of people on hand to offer bike maintenance, however this doesn’t look too extensive. I’d say this place is better for food than for fixing bikes, however without trying the bike service myself I can’t be too sure! There is also a decent selection of bicycle accessories on offer to buy.
Any extras?
Yes! This wonderful cafe frequently hosts a range of cycle related events and exhibitions. For example, they showed the Tour de France on a big screen, hosted a cycle poster exhibition (ARTCRANK) and even offer a monthly jumble sale. It's these continuous bike related events which places Look Mum No Hands! well and truly in the heart of the London cycling community.
The verdict
I present to you on Jemma’s amazing cyclometre that Look Mum No Hands! scored.....
**** 4 stars = PEDDLE POWER!

The cyclometre
*Pass me the stabilisers please
** Stuck on a toe path behind pedestrians
*** Steady Trevor
**** Peddle Power!
***** Lance Armstrong