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,
' 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?