Thursday, 28 June 2012

Are more women cycling this summer?

I feel like I’m constantly being told and made aware of the gender gap in cycling in the UK, but it makes me question actually how much of a gender gap is there really on the streets of London? Well, do not fret my friend, for a have done a little research. Apparently 64% of cyclists in the capital are men, yes MEN! (according to data gathered by the London Travel Demand Survey 2012/11 via the Cycling Intelligence Blog)

This statistic doesn't add up to me, because lately I have noticed lots and lots of women cycling through the capital, they are around every corner, in between every car stuck in a jam and cruising down every bus lane. To me, it doesn’t look like there is a gap at all!

This called for one thing only - going undercover for some COVERT SURVEILLANCE in the name of finding out the real facts!

Yes, fellow cyclist, I put on my fluorescent attire and my cycling bib tights to fit in with the neon bicycle gangs I see powering to work every day (just kidding!). Actually, I put on my fake moustache and spectacles to pass off as city gent answering only to the name of INSPECTOR PASHLEY POIROT and went under cover to snap some of the sassy female cyclists who are appearing on the London roads daily.

I now present to you some of my findings. Proof that women are taking to the saddle in full force this summer!

She knows it

And she knows it

Bonus points for woman AND kids
Thankfully, I managed to hold my guise for the duration of my oh-so-reliable investigation. I think you will find that these pictures show significant findings that this summer women are taking to the streets on two-wheels....Surely the gender gap has narrowed somewhat since those statistics came out?


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Celebrating one year commuting by bike

Fellow cyclists out there, I announce that this week marks the one year anniversary of me cycling to work! Yes, one fine year ago, back in the days before you were entertained by Bikeyface and when the weather in England was....well, ok, I took to my saddle and started my adventure of cycling to work everyday.

And I want to celebrate my triumph with you all. Over the year, I have battled wind, I have conquered the rain, I have slid around in the snow, I have rang my burger bell at lawless cars and lorries,  I have swiped just one wing mirror and I have stayed upright for all my journeys! I have survived a bee flying into my top, tree rubbish going into my eyes and hail battering my face.

I have watched cyclists nearly run over pedestrians, cars nearly run over cyclists and vans nearly crashing into cars! I have had the pleasure of smelling garden flowers, fresh rain, tasty dinners cooking and the rubbish lorry every Thursday driving in front of me.  My list can go on and on because the sights and experiences are endless.

So, to celebrate this anniversary, I thought I'd share with you some statistics I found out by using the cycle to work calculator. If you are flailing in you commitment to cycle, then fear not because this calculator will have you hopping on your bike faster than you can top up your Oyster card! It summarises the benefits of your personal bicycle commute. For example, here is what I learnt from my calculation of cycling over the last year:
I have cycled 2600 miles and that's not including evening and weekend leisure cycling!
I have saved a total of 5 days of my life compared to the time spent taking public transport to work.
I have burnt a mega 93,500 calories, that's 374 slices of cake!

And finally, I come to one of the main reasons why I like cycle which is to save my pennies of course! No one wants to spend their hard earned salary on overpriced bus and underground fares. So including the cost of the bicycle and maintenance for all those punctures compared to the cost of getting the tube each day, I have saved a grand total of £1116.00. That's nearly 2 months worth of my rent!
All was once rosy on my pink 80's pink machine
BUT, things aren't as rosy as it seems. It appears that my 'trusty' bicycle has marked the year anniversary of commuting with a celebration of it's own... it's throwing in the towel and has asked for redundancy. With every turn of the pedal, there is a squeak and a buckle of the chain. The rides are now double the effort and sometimes I wonder if I will make it to the end of my journey. Oh yes, it's tough times at Help! My Chain Came Off headquarters. At the moment my bicycle is resting in Two Wheels Good bike shop receiving some urgent treatment for what I can only call sprocketitis. My thoughts are with it at this pressing time.
Now suffering a bout of sprocketitis
Now that I have made it to a year cycling everyday, I'd like to double that, and then double that again, and again and again until I can't walk. Thank you to my followers, on the blog and twitter who have given me much needed tips and advice to keep me cycling smoothly over the past year! (yes, I finally bought those puncture resistant tyres and I haven't had a puncture since!)

How many miles do you think you have clocked up since you started cycling regularly? And how much money do you think you have saved?

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Gold by Chris Cleave

 Help! My Chain Came Off headquarters has been a little quiet over the past few weeks and the reason for this silence is I have been busy reading! Ok, that’s not all I have been doing, I have been on many cycling adventures in between eating jubilee cake, and crocheting a never ending blanket...

So what is this book you have been reading? I hear you ask, And why are you mentioning it here for goodness sake?! Why, it's a novel all about our shared passion, CYCLING! What more can you want?

Gold is the third novel by Chris Cleave following his international bestseller The Other Hand. You may say this is my contribution to the Olympic furore sweeping the UK right now because as it happens, Gold is the story of the entwined lives of three Olympic sprint cyclists preparing for the 2012 London games.  I’m not one to read stories about sport (yawn), but this book has taught me to not make assumptions that sporting stories are just action and testosterone – although you’ll never catch me reading a sporting biography!

No, this story is more than that! Set in the present day Gold documents three days of the athlete's lives. Through the athletes memories the reader pieces together each individuals past, from finding out why they decided to start track cycling, to competing in Beijing and Athens. It is the story of winning in life, on and off the track.

Gold is rich in twists and turns following the characters, Kate and Jack who are juggling their olympic dream whilst looking after their terminally ill child, Sophie. Then there is Zoe, Kate's best friend and arch rival on the track. Zoe is a cold, hard, headstrong character who's only purpose in life seems to be to cycle and win. Zoe and Kate wouldn't be friends if it wasn't for Kate's ability to wash over and forgive Zoe's constant attempts to sabotage Kate's life whilst they compete with each other for more than just a gold medal.  And then there is the trusty coach, Tom who binds Zoe and Kate together. Tom is a rock to Kate and Zoe and on the verge of retirement, he seems to have more regrets in life than you have had punctures.
Cleave has successfully mastered the ability to convey in the narrative the pressure and adrenaline you feel as an Olympic cyclist during a race, emphasising the importance of every millisecond when you want Gold. The story reflects a race in itself, with the momentum building in every turn of the page, the characters come up against both physical and emotional challenges which test them to the limit.

The most anguishing ordeal is experienced by nine year old Sophie fighting the ultimate battle of them all, Leukaemia. Here we are transported into Sophie's mind as she drowns out the reality of her life by living in an imaginary Star Wars world.  It sounds dark and depressing, but somehow Cleave makes these scenes seem endearing and innocent.

Gold comes to a climax when we see Zoe and Kate line up to ride the race of their life. Cleave leaves you hanging onto every word as he describes the intensity of the sprint in minute detail projecting the drama and the grace of the novel into one single event. This is where Cleave's writing is gold in itself. An example:
'As they came to the last curve, sparks were detonating in her retinas from the effort. She flashed out of the curve into the last straight, sensing the disruption in the airflow and hearing the roar of the wheels as Zoe came out of her shadow and pulled up alongside her.'
 (Hmmmmm...sounds like a normal ride home up Crouch Hill to me!)

This book leaves you yearning for each race. It has the power to move you as it explores the heights of human ability, both emotionally and physically. From training your body and mind for gold, to dealing with a terminal illness, the characters realise the biggest race of their life is off the track as they try to contend with what really is important. Chris Cleave writes beautifully capturing in words the rich array of human emotions.

Some people may say that a novel about the Olympians being published a month before the London Olympics 2012 may seem a bit contrived, but there was something special about finishing the book and thinking about the lives of our own British sprint cyclists preparing for the upcoming games. If this story does one thing, it makes you realise that Olympians have to deal with the same problems as the rest of us.

So with that in mind, no pressure now, but COME ON HOY AND PENDLETON, REACH FOR GOLD!

Can you recommend any good cycling novels?