Monday, 31 December 2012

HAPPY NEW BICYCLE YEAR

Why look at us, another year has passed with more bicycle miles underneath our belts! I do hope you had a swell Christmas break. I spent mine in Berlin, a place where Milka (the god of all Euro snacks) is only €0.79 a bar and where the beer is plentiful and Radfahren its immer willkommen! 
Snaps from Berlin, soviet style
2012 was a pedaltastic year,  I have cycled the most amount of miles I ever have in my life and my thighs are now the widest they have ever been in my life. Oh how my muscles will gleam through a pair of cigarette jeans I plan to buy in January!

Looking to 2013 I aim to get those chunky bike thighs over to Holland because I heard a few little bike people mention that it's rad for cycling? Yes? And I also hope to pump up my tyres at least once a fortnight because in 2012 I got a puncture in my PUNCTURE RESISTANT TYRES! All because I didn't keep them pumped up. So as a result, 2012 will see me learning to love the bicycle pump.

I will also keep blogging to you fellow bicycle scenesters about my trusty bicycle commute to work and all my other two-wheeled gallivanting I do. Oh and talking about bicycle scenesters, I have found the  original BICYCLE HIPSTER. This dude was rocking the bicycle chic look before most of us were even born. Man, are they even headphones around his neck?


And with that, I wish you a HAPPY NEW BICYCLE YEAR! Make sure to keep drinking and keep cycling for a Merry ol' time. This chap knows how to do it.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

My Cycle Training Moves Two Months On

That's not my house




































Back in October, I wrote a post about the cycle training session I had with David Dansky from Cycle Training UK. David is a connoisseur of the roads and I was lucky enough to get some tuition on how I really should be cycling instead of how I think I should be cycling. He gave me plenty of tips to make me the official Safety Queen I've always wanted to be.

It's taken a while to get used to, yes, and sometimes I slip back into my old lazy habits but I am certainly much more aware of my own conduct on the roads than I was before. There are three nifty moves which I have implementing on my rides:

Looking back, over my shoulder 


Doubling the amount of times I look over my shoulder has made a MAJOR impact in the way I cycle. For example, a private driver in a blacked out friggin monster BMW was way too keen to plough passed me on a single filter lane the other day. I took the primary position and whipped my head over my shoulder to give him the 'don't even try it' look. Yeah, I had to repeat the move 5 times because he seemed to be getting trigger happy with the revving but in the end he finally got the hint and backed off. Before my training, I think I would have only looked behind maybe once in this situation which isn't enough communication for a driver who is pushy and intimidating.  It's not all bad though, I also have a good 'Well hello there,  I'm just here!' gaze in my repertoire. I save that for the good guys!


                   Primary love


If you're not with the cycling lingo then don't worry, riding in primary pretty much means get yourself in the centre of the lane and stick to your guns. Great for narrow roads where it would be dangerous to let a driver over take you because of lack of space and it's particularly useful to avoid being flawed by someone opening a car door on you.

I've been rocking the primary move on many of the back roads on my commute. This move is perfect partnered with the 'don't even try it' or 'I'm just here' stare as explained above.





Don't go braking my heart


I get a C+ for this move because I keep catching myself not doing it! Resting your hands on your brakes is important in case you need to emergency stop because a dustbin or a dead rat is lying in your path (just normal street furniture of the roads of Islington). Unfortunately I get too carried away with the thrill of gliding down the road hanging back like I'm a bicycle gangster.

Like my Physics school report once said 'room for improvement'. Getting better at resting my hands on my brakes is going on my New Years resolution list.




With all these moves combined, I now feel confident in cycling around any of London's crazy roads, even through the City of London which has always been scary and off putting for me. Oh and before I go! I forgot to mention one more manoeuvre which I have found valuable on my commute and that is filtering to the front of traffic via the right hand side. With the boost of confidence I got from my training session,  I now ignore the inadequate cycle paths which encourage cyclists to travel on the left and I fearlessly pedal on the right of traffic at junctions. I've even learned how super fast it makes your journey and it's so much more safer than sliding down the left where drivers may not see you and you are at risk of vehicles turning left.


I'd like to once again thank David for offering the training for me, he really has shown me a better, safer way of pedalling around the city. If you are interested in Cycle Training then visit the Cycle Training UK website. Also, some local authorities may offer the training free, I know the Borough of Islington does.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

King of the Road

This year has been like winning the Oscars for me, first I win my work Bake Off competition with my devilishly gooey chocolate brownies and then I win the Levi Commuter #weride competition and land myself a lean, mean bicycle machine! Actually he's really quite the Gentleman bicycle. I just can't help calling these suave two wheels KING OF THE ROAD.

When Levi's contacted me about winning, I had no idea what type bike I was going to get except I knew it was made by the brand Charge. As soon as I heard it was ready I dashed straight to Regent's Street, gawped at those Marmite Christmas lights (what are they about?) and dashed into the Levi's shop. A kind assistant wheeled out of the stock room this beautiful and extra long bicycle before my eyes.

After a little chuckle of delight and surprise, I became the proud owner of the King of the Road!

But wait! How on earth was I going to fit this giant through my flat? I told you a few weeks back all about my manoeuver tactics to store my bike. Now I was going to have to pull out the big guns and rely on my Tetris tesselating skills. My first obstacle was the lift.....will it fit?


Oh yes it does! But only just!

My second obstacle was my narrow front door...
Oh yes it fits! But only just!

And my last obstacle was the balcony, where it proudly takes up the whole space like the chief bicycle it really is.
I have been riding the Charge Steamer everyday ever since.  I am the KING OF THE ROAD!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Goodbye My Dear Bicycle


Last Sunday was a sad, sad day. It was time to say goodbye to my Raleigh Caprice forever. It's nothing personal, my balcony has just run out of space. It's not her, it's me.

To be honest, she has been having a few long term health issues and has been victim of neglect this past year. As a result she has become malnourished with pretty much no air in her tyres, her skin has turned all rusty and there is something not quite right with her pedals. Call the Social Bicycle Services please!

 I decided that a new home with a new owner will do her some good. So last Sunday I plonked her outside the front of my block with a friendly sign.


When I left 20 minutes later she was gone. I wish her good luck and I hope she gets the make over she deserves. SHE DESERVED BETTER THAN ME. Godspeed my Raleigh Caprice, I will never forget you!x

Friday, 23 November 2012

Toasty Winter Cycling

My new hot, hot gloves for cold, cold rides

Golly gosh, have you been caught out by the cold weather yet out on the bicycle? I caught quite a winter chill when I went on the Sustrans Autumn Wheels bike ride. Ok, so wearing a thin pair of tights might not have been the most sensible item to wear, but sheer tights are in Vogue YEAH? Even Madonna is wearing them.


Sheer tights on the Sustrans bike ride...brrrrrrrrrrr
Cycling in the cold isn't always jolly so I'm calling for ACTION! It's time to bring out the big guns and I'm talking about those granny knits which have been tucked away for 9 months. Remember my ‘Jacket Potato- esque’ look last winter? Well this chunky jumper is making a comeback and will be reunited with my bicycle at long last.

But I can't just rely on my jumper to keep me warm, I need increase my layers so I'm looking to add a few sneaky warm additions to my bicycle wardrobe, keeping it pure cycle chic of course!

I’m ditching my wool gloves in favour of vintage sheepskin gloves I bought last weekend (see photo above). These old timers are mighty thick and I'm a little concerned that they might immobilise the use of my fingers, but hey, as long as can still ring my burger bell then that's all that matters!

I have recently discovered the delights of VeloVixen, a company offering beautiful women's cycle clothing or in other words not shrill pink, ugly, monstrosities you see all to often in cycle retail! I'm swooning over their clothing range almost as much as I'm swooning over their super sweet romantic story about how they came up with the idea of VeloVixen #gush.

So taking inspiration from their website, I think a pair of Ana Nichoola arm warmers would be ideal to make me feel snug. I have also got my eye on this Icebreaker Merino Oasis Crewe as a base layer to sneak under my big fat wool jumper.


Comfy Arm Warmers

Base Layer


So when the air is brisk and London looks like this...

Beautiful Battersea Power Station
I should be the toastiest cyclist that has ever hit the streets of London!...Now just got to add them to my Christmas list! How are you planning to keep warm on the bicycle this winter?


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Storing my bicycle

Lack of space for storing a bicycle can be an issue if you live in a city. When I lived in Brighton, I didn’t have any bicycle storage. I had to watch my bicycle rust away all alone outside in the sea air. Now  living in London I am delighted that I have a flat with a little bicycle sized balcony offering protection from those pesky bike stealers and the worst of the British weather.

The only problem is that it is a bit of a mission to get my bicycle to the fourth floor of my block and through my flat to the balcony. I have to squash it in the lift (which I am VERY thankful for having!) and dodge the walls, furniture and the hallway through my flat.

Myself and the walls of my flat are always victim to scrapes and bruises from the sharp pedals on my bike. At least my arms get a workout each day with the heavy lifting!

To show you a little part of my journey to get my bicycle into my flat, I have made a GIF animation below. This is from arriving at my front door onwards.


When it rains this operation is most unpleasant, no one likes to carry a dripping wet bicycle through their lounge!!

How do you store your bike? And do you have any tricky manoeuvres you have to do?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Championing Active Travel

Active travels my name and Champions my game, oh yeaaah I am an Active Travel Champion! That's right, I will now be championing the wonders of cycling and walking to all those nearest and dearest and the wider community around the radius of where I live. It's a voluntary position I have taken with the charity Sustrans. To quote from their website, 'Active Travel Champions are volunteers who help people be more active through walking or cycling for more of their everyday journeys.'

That's me!

And check out my super cool T-shirt and badge #sheriffstyle

It's all well being given a T-shirt but I need to make sure I have champion related occasions to wear it! I have a few projects I am planning to do and the first is speaking to my work colleagues in my next team meeting about cycling and walking and my new volunteering position. I also would like to plan a haunted themed bicycle ride and invite colleagues/ friends/ community people who wouldn't normally take to two wheels.

Bicycle art at the Sustrans London Office
It's not in my nature to be aggressive in my approach to promoting cycling and walking, I prefer to just offer a little encouragement to those who would like to try it but don't know where to start. I am super excited to have another bicycle related thing in my life in addition to this blog because you can never have enough bicycle related things hey!

Oh and by the way, do you fancy going on a pretty Autumn bicycle ride or walk in London? Sustrans have arranged an 'Autumn Wheels and Wandering day' on 10th November from Buckingham Palace to Richmond Park. You are invited! It will be a jolly ride/ walk led by Sustrans volunteers, which means I will be there, oh yeah! Donning my Sheriffs badge and red T-shirt.

If you would like to come along, make sure to register by e-mailing kate.meakin@sustrans.org.uk. Friends, family, everyone is welcome.

Over and out.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Teaching New Cyclists

Keep it in your pannier!


Can you remember when you first learned how ride a bicycle? My first experience seems to have been erased from my memory. I can only assume that I must have been born with the knowledge of how to pedal from the day I was born! Unfortunately not everyone has my luck and there are many people who have never had the opportunity to learn to ride, or did so when they were young and have now forgotton.

If you know anyone who wants to cycle but they don't know how to or where to start then do not fear because Cycle Training UK is here! Oh yes, of course you remember when I first introduced you to this friendly organisation earlier this month. They gave me a much needed cycle training session to brush up on my bicycle moves.

Continuing my 'cycle training theme' which is emerging of late (I am a safety queen don't you know), it is only right to introduce you to a handy little guide called 'Teaching New Cyclists'. This guide offers a helping hand (or push!) for those who want to show they friends/ colleagues / loved ones / children how to start travelling on two wheels without hitting the ground (much).

One thing I love about this guide is that it is for everyone of all ages. Learning to ride a bicycle when you are an adult is nothing to be embaressed about so don't be afraid to get up to speed!

The pages are scattered with pictures of both children and adults learning to cycle. I have also discovered that someone who learned to ride when they were young but have now forgotten is called  a 'false beginner'. This is because,
'...you never forget to ride a bicycle. According to neuroscientists, once you have learnt to balance the technique is forever encoded in your brain!'




Each section of the guide covers the different stages of teaching someone to cycle, from pushing the bike to balancing and making the bike go. It even contains the Bikeability Riding Syllabus so you can guide the person you are helping to become a fully fledged confident cyclist (just don't show them the Lycra section in Evans Cycles - you don't want to put them off!)

Now that the nation is going crazy for cycling, it is your duty as a cyclist to keep an eye out for those who are mere chicks to the world of two wheels and who may want to learn how to ride a bike for the first time! Who knows...a new learner may one day they may become just like Victoria Pendleton or Bradley Wiggens, but not Lance Armstrong please.

Have you ever tried teaching someone how to ride?


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

My Autumn Cycling Wish list

Weekend Autumn bicycle trips are the best. I love the chilly, crisp air and the golden leaves fluttering from the trees. I love dodging the conkers and chestnuts on the ground and seeing the imprints of pretty leaves on the road. 

Everyone keeps going on about this Merino wool stuff, which I'm sure is wonderful, but does it look as cool as tartan trousers, a chiffon blouse and the most stylish rucksack in the whole ride world? This is my Autumn cycling wish list. Unfortunately my dentist bill will mean that I might just have to longingly gaze at these items instead of 'cat-cycling' them around town.....Maybe next Autumn hey...

Autumn Cycling

Thursday, 11 October 2012

My cycle training session

I aced my training!


When it comes to cycle safety, I have always resorted to the trusty knowledge I gained from the cycling proficiency course I took circa 1994. Being about 10 years old, I was more interested in my new flowery socks my Mum had bought from M&S rather than  flapping my arm up and down to signal slowing down (do people even do that?). The course took place on a quiet cul-de-sac in a quiet town, so it wasn't surprising that I didn't learn any lifelong bicycle techniques such as filtering to the front of traffic and tackling multiple lane roundabouts.

Navigating around a busy city has taken practice and experience and I now like to think that I have the gift of the gab when it comes to cycle safety. Yes, I may not have the fluorescent jacket or a helmet to match, but I like to think I have good road awareness and patience at traffic lights. I bask in the ability to speed around London's congested streets leaving a flutter of flower petals as I pass. What more could I possibly learn?...

David Dansky from Cycle Training UK kindly offered me a cycle training session which turned out to be one of the most interesting and fun cycle experiences I have ever had. Can you teach an experienced cyclist new tricks? Indeed my friend, you can!

Firstly, David showed me some basic bicycle maintenance checks. Within five minutes I had learnt more about my bicycle than I ever have my whole life. Who would have known that the recommended tyre pressure is written on my wheels? Now THAT explains why there is a gauge on my pump!
Signalling clearly with an open palm

Then we practiced making turns to avoid things such as potholes, a very useful maneuver considering some of the craters I have to frequently dodge! He showed me how to emergency stop, a move which involves pushing my bottom off the saddle backwards to prevent flinging over the handle bars. I think I need a little more practice!

It was raining during the training session, but I was so engrossed in what I was learning that I didn't really notice or care. We peddaled our way around Islington taking it turns to take the lead. David showed me the importance of  looking behind me frequently and the ability to control the traffic around me using the power of clear signalling and eye contact.  What a difference this seems to make!

Busy roundabouts have always been quite scary and I am never sure which lane I should be in. We tackled Highbury corner three times in rush hour and now I am the roundabout queen!

I am more confident in approaching traffic on the right hand side and I learnt to take the primary position on most of the roads I travel down. Many roads are narrow so it is safer to take the primary position and you won't really be holding up the drivers because they can't go fast down backstreets anyway.

David was a very calm, friendly instructor and made me feel at ease the whole time. Whether you are a beginner or a confident cyclist, I highly recommend this cycle training, it has given me a whole new refreshing take on the way I cycle!

At the end of the two hours, David and I sat in a cafe and chatted about all things cycling. Now that I have my eye on the drivers a lot more, I'll be able to cast them under a spell, a spell which says ' keep back dude!' or ' take over me with lots of space, cowboy!'.

It was a wonderful evening and I am looking forward to testing my new bicycle wizard safety knowledge on the roads in the coming months. I'll let you know how it goes!

You can pop over to the Cycle Training UK website to find out more about their training.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Cycling London to Brighton



Turning a year older means another birthday to celebrate. This year I decided I wanted one to remember, so I went to Waterstones and bought the finest road map I could find and planned a bicycle ride to Brighton. The planning ended up being slightly rushed being at midnight on the eve of my birthday, but I didn't want to pass up my dinner at OTTELENGHIS, the most wizard restaurant in all of Islington.

The Planning

After consulting with the TwitterSphere, you fine folk suggested that the best way to navigate a long ride is by using a good, old fashioned hard copy map. Something I was pleased about because I didn't fancy dipping my toe in the MAMIL pond and buying bike GPS or fancy phone etc. However in retrospect, perhaps GPS would have been more sensible because my route planning ended up being quite complex. Like a birthday trifle, it was made up of three parts:

Part One - Crouch End to Tooting

Using my trusty (and very battered) TFL cycle map, I planned the route to take me into the city, over Blackfriars Bridge and onto the CS7 all the way to Tooting.

Part Two - Tooting to Copthorne

This is where I used my creative skills. The road map I bought doesn't show the quiet country lanes, so for this part of the journey I took photos of a detailed map I found online using my phone. Tricky, but it worked!

Part Three - Copthorne to Brighton

Time to whip out the road map where I marked the route to follow the B2028 and B 2112 to Brighton.

The Ride


After opening my lovely presents and finally getting that handbag hugger which I first saw on Velo-City-Girl, we set off at 8am for the big birthday ride. Cycling through and out of London at rush hour was the one of the most challenging parts of the ride. It made me realise how easy and simple my cycle route through Islington to work is compared with navigating the quirks of the CS7, oh and trying to cross the river without getting squashed!

Once out of London, I felt free and easy, pedalling through beautiful, autumnal country lanes without a car in sight. What a delight! We even managed to stumble across this scenic spot for much needed refuelling.


Looks perfect doesn't it? Well, the ride wasn't all roses. It's something of a cliche now and I'm afraid to say it again, but my chain came off at least a dozen times! I think it's fair to say that this blog has cast spell over me and every bicycle I ride. I ended up having oily hands for the whole journey.


































Oh, and try eating Japanese rice crackers after putting your chain on a gazillion times. And before you say it, no I didn't bring latex gloves or hand wash! I wouldn't want to risk squashing my packed lunch burrito with all that bicycle paraphernalia!


After lunch, we set back onto the road and found ourselves on the never ever ever ever ending B2028. It was something straight out of Groundhog day. To top it off, I had to experience the delights of Turner's Hill. Man oh man, it was quite a mission to get up that beast with just a couple of gears and no pavement to seek safety on. Once at the top, I knew I would be rewarded with downhill roads for a while until the big......Ditchling Beacon.

Once in Ditchling territory, the Beacon loomed in the distance like a big fat spot which won't go away. My supplies were getting low and I learnt a valuable lesson that 1 litre of water and a couple of orange juices do not cut the mustard for a day of cycling. Thankfully I stopped at a corner shop for an emergency purchase of water which made me feel better for the remaining miles. Unfortunately, Ditchling Beacon still hadn't gone away.

With just a few gears on my 80's mean machine, there was no way I was going to tackle such a hill and succeed. I have cycled London to Brighton before so knew what I was in for. I hopped off my bike and made the long walk up the hill. Once at the top, we were treated to views of Brighton and the South Downs. Cruising down the beacon into Brighton was a relief and deserved a refreshing birthday pint in the pub as a reward.

Thought the ride was over? I still had to get home! We caught the train back to Victoria and faced the 8 mile ride home to Crouch End. Getting through one way streets after a mammoth bicycle ride was an absolute killer!

And then I was home. With 80 miles and around 4000 calories under my belt, I zonked out and slept the aches away. It was a birthday I will never forget!

Have you cycled London to Brighton before? What route did you take?

Thursday, 20 September 2012

When a right turn becomes a wrong turn




There are times in my life when I have taken the wrong turn. Putting Thai green curry paste in my pasta and buying a £30 hula hoop are just a couple of mistakes I have made.

Now I find myself a lot wiser (oh yes I do indeed!), my diet no longer contains Thai green curry paste pasta and I sold the hula hoop for half the price. However, I still seem to be taking a BIG FAT wrong turn every day.

This turn disguises itself under the guise of a 'right turn', but frankly, there is nothing 'right' about this turn apart from the direction.

Located where Hanley Road meets Hornsey Rise, this part of the road is nothing but a big fat gremlin. Please see picture below:

I find myself entering one of the following three scenarios:

Scenario one:

I look over my shoulder and make eye contact with driver who seems to be at a good distance away. My arm is flailing out indicating my intention to turn right. Car is unexpectedly approaching at high speed, ignoring my intentions to turn and starts to overtake, even though I am moving to the centre of the road. I am left cut up, hovering in the lane and just about missing the junction I want to turn into. #FAIL

Scenario two:

Car is at the junction I want to turn into and indicating right to turn onto the road I am travelling on. I have the right of way and confidently move into the ‘centre right turn space’, I am just about to make the turn when the driver decides to pull out regardless that I am nearly travelling in front of their car. I am close to crashing onto their bonnet and have to screech the brakes on.

Maybe if I was in a car instead of a bicycle, the situation would be different. #FAIL

Scenario three:

I stick out my right turn to indicate (after checking over my shoulder and making sure it is safe), I move into the centre of the road because the car driver behind has slowed down and make the right turn at ease #HURRAH!

 I have noted a couple of points of interest drawn from my experiences of this junction:

  • If I was driving a car making the right turn, I would not experience these troubles because a car HOGS THE ENTIRE LANE
  • The car drivers drive way to fast on Hornsey Rise!

So there we have it, my latest gremlin on my ride home from work, where a right turn becomes a wrong turn. I might just have to stick to my Thai Green Curry pasta and Hula Hooping.

 Do you have any right turns on your bicycle rides you dread?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Cyclorama

Right folks, are you a bicycle-fevered-geek-cyclist? Are you one of those smug kids who knows everything about cycling? Well my friend, I think it’s time to meet your match and it takes the form of Jim McGurn and Mick Allan, authors of Cyclorama. It's clear that these two chaps know their stuff BIGTIME and they have kindly shared their knowledge amongst the pages of Cyclorama, capturing all things beautiful and quirky about the bicycle. From the basic definition of what a road bike is to case studies about riding in different countries, this book covers ground you have not cycled yet.
Since swatting up on my bicycle knowledge courtesy of Cyclorama, I now consider myself quite the bicycle expert. I know what a conference bike is, I know the important role a bicycle plays in North Korea, I know that there is a Tour de Rwanda and I also know that I never want to take part in the Tour de Rwanda.

There are some interesting musings to be found on the pages, for instance I particularly like this summary describing how cycling is polemic:
Cycling is a sort of polemic. It is fun, but it provokes. It is easy, yet requires exertion. It is banal and trivial, yet it's an artistic expression of motion. It is a step backwards and a step to progress.
These paradoxes extend to cyclists too. They're often both more cranky yet somehow more human than many of their car-loving contemporaries. When they cycle they are being sensible and yet are imaginatively comical. On the streets they are victim  and culprit in one.*
I would say that if you are a bicycle fanatic and dream about cycling at least once a week than this is the book for you. In fact, if you are reading this blog than that puts you in the bicycle fanatic category instantly. Congratulations!


They also have a pretty cool website.

On another note, have you been wandering where I have been the last two weeks? Well, I have found my favourite hangout to cycle to. I've been taking a back seat and scoffing myself with these bad boys from MEAT market (thank goodness for the calorie burning bicycle ride home).
MEAT Market, oh how do you do it?
I had to share this with you because I didn't want you to be concerned that I had some bicycle accident or something. Over and out.

*Quote from edited extract from 'It's those cyclists again! - A short psychology of cycling' by Michael Degen