Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Impressions of a novice cyclist in London

Out of my friends there are only three people I know who cycle regularly, the rest are fully fledged pedestrians. In my crusade to encourage those around me to cycle led to my good ol' friend Chris who was next on the list to be converted. Coming to London for the weekend and staying at my flat meant he had no excuses, especially as I have a girly, pink spare bike rusting away on my balcony waiting for a ride.

With the bicycle route set (a ride down Regents canal to Stratford, stopping along the way and coming back through East London), I thought it would be interesting to capture the thoughts and feelings Chris has about cycling  before and after the ride.

So I hereby give you, my profile on Chris!


Chris mentally preparing for the ride ahead

NAME: Chris

AGE: 26

TOWN: Brighton


HOBBIES: Plays in the band The Hundredth Anniversary, Arsenal fan, likes comic books and enjoys watching box sets on Sundays.

ALTER EGO: Tony Rutherford, Sales Extraordinaire


Last time I rode a bike it was a BMX when I was a child. I live in Brighton so don’t have the need to ride to work. Brighton is small and is easy to walk around. I never go on bike rides for pleasure. I have thought about cycling for fun but not many of my friends have bikes so it would be weird just going on my own for a bike ride. Safety isn’t a factor as to why I don’t cycle. If all my friends cycled, I would too.

How are you feeling about getting back on the bike and cycling today after so many years?

Nervous, because I don’t know the roads well. I am confident that there will be cycle lanes because cycling is a big thing in London. I am hoping that there will be good facilities to help us get to our destination safely.

You’ll be cycling on the Superhighway (CS2) today, what are your expectations?

I’ve never heard of it before, it sounds like it should be in a sci-fi film. I expect just bikes and no road for cars. I expect it to be made up of segregated lanes for slow, medium and fast paced cyclists….and flying bikes.

Stopping off for a tea on Regents canal and watching the cyclists and the joggers pass
So with high expectations of the Superhighway, four of us hit the road and started the 28 mile round trip. One of my friends was sporting a Boris Bike for the ride, he soon discovered that the rental bike 'had the turning circle of a fridge'.

Stopping at Broadway market for a tasty snack, we parked our bikes sandwich style with the Boris bike on top. Try getting your lock around that lot why don't ya!
Bicycle sandwich!

Chris not amused by the Superhighway

And then we hit Bow roundabout and joined the Cycle Superhighway to take us towards Spitalfields market. It seems that Chris wasn’t bowled over by the charms of the CS2 when he shouted to me:

                                    ‘Why are there cars in the Superhighway?’

Indeed Chris, why are there cars in the superhighway??

So with 28 miles under his belt and a mysterious hole in the crotch area of his jeans, I caught up with Chris to find out his final thoughts on cycling in London, novice style.

Did you enjoy the ride?

I really enjoyed it. You get to see parts of London you wouldn’t see when stuck on the tube. Cycling is a much better way to see London than on foot. It’s not as dangerous as I thought, I guess once you know the roads you grow in confidence.

What did you think of the Superhighway?

I thought it’s quite funny it’s called a Superhighway. It’s a bit ridiculous that cars park in it and that the lane disappears to the middle of the road for the bus stops. You are always pushed out into the road one way or another. It’s silly it’s called a Superhighway because there’s nothing super about it.

Cycling on the London roads, was it as you expected?

I had to really focus at junctions because the buses and cars are quite scary. You feel so vulnerable on the roads. There are a lot of potholes and glass on the roads which is dangerous because it pushes you out into the road to dodge them which is dangerous. This isn’t fair, especially with the Olympics coming when there will be an increase in cycling.

Would you cycle to work if you lived in London?

Definitely, it’s cheaper and you get lots of exercise.

Would you consider going for a bike ride as a day out again?

100% yes.

We finished up the day having a drink in a pub which had this beautiful 'Tour of Britain' wallpaper on the walls. Maybe it's a sign that Chris is onto bigger, better bike rides to come!  Better get those jeans fixed then Chris!


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Help! A mouse ate my bike helmet!

Leaving my bicycle helmet under my desk for 4 weeks was not a clever idea as it seems our city furry friends got a bit toothy. This is not the act of a cute pet mouse, I'm talking about the hard metropolitan mice who are squatting in my office block. A helmet is 'supposed' to protect you from damaging your brain in a bicycle accident but it sure won't protect you from a hungry mouse! The discovery was made the other day when I wanted to wear my helmet to keep my hair dry from the rain. Those mice had quite the feast on the straps! See evidence below:

Now what am I going to wear to keep my luscious locks dry when it rains?

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Help! My chain came off vs. Evans Cycles - ROUND TWO

Hanging out by my local Evans, yeaah
Do you remember about a month ago I wrote an open letter to Evans Cycles? It’s the one where I made a dig about their RideIT! Catalogue for showing too many macho, male crazy cyclists and not enough women on bicycles. Well, to bring you up to speed, Evans Cycles were quick to respond to the letter apologising for their apparent under representation of the female cyclist in their marketing literature and swiftly invited me to visit Evans HQ (yes, that’s Evans HEADQUARTERS), home of the high-street cycling powerhouse. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse!

On top of that I was treated to a tipple of Evans RideIT! trivia:  I was told that members of the Evans office team are actually the models in the RideIT! Magazine.  Can you believe it? I was also going to meet the real life models of the catalogue..SWOON! Oh those macho men!
A suffragette looks better on the cover don't ya think?
So, a couple of weeks ago I ventured on the train to Gatwick, home to the airport and Evans Cycles – There seems to be a transport theme going down in that town. There I met the lovely James who introduced me to the Evans team including the department who produced the RideIT! Magazine.

Straight to business and I gave my feedback about how I feel they can improve their catalogue to appeal more to the female cyclist. Like my inability to fix my own bicycle, I am far from an expert in the field of consumer research, but I am a woman, I ride a bike and I am a customer of Evans which to me is enough to warrant a voice.

Spoke the suffragettes in the picture!
Despite being at the brunt of my criticism, the Evans team were welcoming and listened to my feedback gracefully. We discussed the points I raised in my letter and dissected the catalogue in detail. For example I suggested changing the typography and the red and black themed colours so that it screams a little less I-am-a-dangerous-hunter-on-my-bicycle to something a bit more accessible for both genders. We also discussed ways in which to feature female cyclists without being patronising, meaning NO PINK please!

After that, James gave me a tour of the Evans on-site shop which is the ULTIMATE bicycle shop. This is because it is connected to the stock warehouse for Evans's online retail website and therefore customers can have access to the entire Evans stock – a MAMIL's dream!

And then we went to the warehouse which is home to walls and walls of boxed bicycles, all waiting for their new owners. It's like going to Wickes but instead of plywood and nails and the dread of a Sunday DIY chore, it's a room full of brand new shiny bicycles waiting to be ridden with the promise of endless pedal fun.

All in all, it was a very fun and productive day. Ultimately, it is a tricky job to produce a catalogue which represents the differing perspectives of both male and female customers, let alone the many different types of cyclists there are out there – but hopefully my feedback will at least mean that more than 8% of the pictures of the cyclists in the next magazine will be women! To convey my point, I have replaced the mens heads in my copy of the catalogue with the heads of some suffragettes - that looks way better don't you think!?