Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Introducing....Mr Frog cyclist


Riding the same journey at the same time at the same speed everyday means it's inevitable that I come across the same cyclists. I see them as nuggets of gold on my commute, each displaying a quirk unique to their own.

I can distinguish each of my regular, fellow commuter cyclists by putting them into different categories. Gold membership is for those who I see more than twice a week, Silver members are those I see once a week and bronze are the casual members who pop up every so often and are a rarity to spot (for this reason I always get double points for spotting a bronze member). You might call it an exclusive commuters club in the North London/ City area.

So I thought I'd share with you, over the coming weeks some of the Help! My Chain Came Off regulars starting off with the Mr Frog cyclist.

Sometimes I am lucky to spot this chap a couple of times a week. On a few occasions I have spotted him twice in one day, once on the way to work and then also on the way home - that's platinum membership status! You can generally find Mr Frog cyclist lurking on Penton St. and Barnsbury Road and he is always wearing casual clothing.

The reason for his name is that he displays a very unusual characteristic when cycling which makes him distinct from the usual hustle of lycra/ neon yellow cyclists. The truth is, Mr Frog cyclist rides like a Frog and he isn't the only one to adopt this unusual method of cycling, there seems to be other 'frog cyclists' who I only assume are also members of the Mr Frog bicycle family.

This is what I mean. Non-frog cyclists generally ride like this...


But Mr. Frog cyclist likes to ride like this...




It makes me wander whether he might chuck in this move on his next bike ride...





My boyfriend says it's because his seat is too low. I say it's because he was born into a bicycle Frog clan and it's in his genes.

Or maybe he spawned from this classic game. Remember Frogger?


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

My winter cycling summary- The good, the bad and the very ugly

I think I can vouch for all regular cyclists when I say that the onset of longer and lighter days is top in the book on How to Make a Cyclist Happy, apart from the usual – not being run over/cut up and squashed into the drain of course!

And with longer days comes pleasant cycle-friendly weather and an end to the dark shadows of winter. Gone are the lonely icy rides, numb fingers and toes and using your breath to heat up your hands whilst waiting at red lights. Yes, with Spring well and truly on the fast train, now is a time of reflection on the pleasures and pains of winter cycling.

So how did you get on? Did you give up your two-wheeled diva for hibernation or did you brave the worst of the winter weather?

I am pleased to say that I was the latter, which means I have successfully completed the B-Icycle Challenge– HURRAH! If you don’t know about this challenge then you can read about it here, but the gist is to keep cycling whatever the weather throughout the winter months for all journeys apart from when it's too icy or if you're too ill.... or when you have had a few alcoholic tipples...

I’m not going to lie, my friend, there were times when I thought I might not make it and would slide into the abyss of the cold London fog, and then there were times when I thought I was pedalling like a polar bear, content in the winter sunshine. It’s no secret that the weather can be a harsh mistress and having a permanent runny nose and watery eye for the whole of winter was just one of the tribulations of the challenge I had to endure.

So with that, here is my picture summary of the good and the bad and the very ugly of my winter of cycling:

The Good...



Beautiful, sunny days cycling through London's parks.
















Sometimes I wore these shoes to keep my toes warm.

Christmas day cycling with barely any cars on the road.


The Bad...

Waking up to find the roads like this and having to ditch the bicycle and succumb to the tube in the name of safety.






However, walking to the tube station wasn't the safest alternative after all! It was like an ice rink.


And now for the very ugly....wait for it..... 
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Arghhhhhhhh!! (Should have made this picture small!). Getting caught cycling home in the snow wasn't what I expected one Thursday evening. Snow actually started to settle on my fringe and my scarf was actually encased in ice. This is the HelpMyChainCameOff eskimo chic look. I heard it's going to be big on the AW2012 catwalks...

How I coped...























I wore this of course! My deconstructed jacket potato look!

 It's nearly time to put away my ugly gloves and knitted scarf and time to get out the sun glasses and sun cream (let's hope!). Happy Spring cycling bicycle kids!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Riding in the slipstream

There I was cycling home the other day, happily cruising along with my burger bike bell, when I saw the shadow of another cyclist trotting along behind me. The shadow edged closer and closer behind me, so close it looked like he was my own shadow. I wasn't happy with this situation, so I stepped up my game and cycled faster, after all my cycle space was being intruded by an uninvited visiter.

The faster I pedaled faster, the faster the cyclist  behind me also pedaled. So it was time for plan two, put on the brakes! I have my pride, but sometimes you can't always be speedy Gonzalez, you have to compromise and side step to get what you want. The brakes went on and I slowed down, but still the shadow of the cyclist was on my tail and I just couldn't shake him off.
And then it hit me....this man is DRAFTING me! I have heard about this before through whispers at the traffic lights, but didn't think anyone would be as cheeky as to actually do it, especially on a Tuesday, in Islington on a grey dreary day. If you haven't heard of drafting then let me tell you, but please, I ask you to not tell anyone as I don't want this getting out. It's definition is 'To select (a person or a group of people) for a certain purpose.'. 

I had been selected, but for what purpose?  If you are a fan of sports cycling then you will be well informed about this tactic. In fact, it is even publicised on the internet!  Now, I don't want everyone to latch onto this, so make sure you delete your internet history after reading this page. There is a site which tells you what drafting is and even gives you tips on learning to draft another rider..... Here's what they say:
5. Learn to draft another rider! 
By sheltering and following closely behind a rider (drafting), you can save up to 30% of your energy!  Now that is significant and could be the difference between finishing well and struggling to finish over a tough 100 miles, especially if it’s a windy day!  Look to ‘shelter’ at all times on group rides and think about where the wind is coming from to shelter on the right side of the person in front of you.  Never just sit in the wind if you can shelter behind someone.  The same goes for false flat descents.  If you’re a small person and don’t ride them well, find a ‘big boy’ and get down low behind him to get pulled along…yeeehaaa!:-) 

So, this guy was stealing my wind, I was his big boy! All the way from the square mile to Arsenal stadium, this sneaky cyclist was on my back. He finally sloped away at a roundabout after about 20 minutes of basking in my slipstream. I thought that he was going to draft me right onto my pannier because of how close he was getting. I was in no mood to give a fellow cyclist a backy!

I felt violated, after all, I didn't invite him to 'shelter' in my wind. I have learnt my lesson and now when I'm out and about on the mean streets, I steer clear of folk who look like drafters. You can tell the sort once it has happened to you. You always remember. Sometimes cars like to draft me, but I'm not always sure why??

Please let me know if you have experienced such a crime too...