Friday, 1 April 2011

Random Cyclists Part Two

Saturday 2 April – Thames Path to Richmond
Attention all Random Cyclists!  Tomorrow's ride is due meet at the south side of Putney Bridge, as close to the bridge as safety will allow.   If you are able to attend, be ready to ride at 11.30 to take this lovely route along the west of the Thames and round Richmond Park, stopping at about 1pm for lunch somewhere along the way.
I'm so sorry but I won't be able to lead the ride.  I've been in gastric flu hell over the last week, first my son, then me, and last night my daughter started with the bug from hell.  I'm still suffering from my bout and I can't leave my daughter with a nanny because it just wouldn't be fair.
Would it be possible for one of you good people to lead the ride?  I'll be back on for the beginning of May.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Random Cyclists

The first WWCBNIACC ride took place this morning. Thankfully it was dry.  It was sunny at times but it was quite cold so we were all wrapped up well.

Thank you so much to Donna, Aileen, Neil (I think), Hannah, Francesca and Rose for coming along and making it so much fun.  It's really nice to see lots of different bikes, to see how we all carry our stuff and what we wear. We were sharing our tales of cycling gear, what we wear to cycle to work and lots of other issues that we all blog and tweet about.

All of us were on hybrids with rear racks and some form of panniers or rack bags apart from Aileen who was riding a Specialized Dolce road bike which looked lovely.
We met at Tower Bridge and followed the Thames Path along the east of the river, through Wapping and to the Isle of Dogs.

The famous traffic light tree on the Isle of Dogs and cormorants with the Shard in the background. It was so nice to cycle along the river and see all the different buildings along the Thames, from Georgian warehouses and buildings in Wapping to the ultra modern residential and business district on the Dogs.  It's an area of London that's rich in history and interest but not somewhere I go to without a specific reason.  I think the last time I was at Canary Wharf was three years ago for an interview.

When we got to the foot tunnel to go under the Thames to Greenwich, the lift was closed and nobody fancied carrying their bikes down 89 steps and then up another 89 steps at the other side, so we went up the middle of the Isle and stopped at Cafe Rouge in Canary Wharf for lunch.

I forgot to take any lunch pictures but we did have some, honestly, and then we rode back to Tower Bridge and all went our separate ways home.

I really enjoyed it.  A leisurely pace with some lovely people, all chatting about cycling and all keen for the next ride on Saturday 2 April, from Putney Bridge to Richmond Park and back.

Hannah had an idea for the name of the rides, the Random Cyclists, which I think is rather that's what we'll be.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Cycling in Antwerp

A couple of weekends ago I was in Antwerp and I went for a bike ride along the canal that leads out of the City and into some rural areas to the south west.

I learnt two things. One, that flat countries are deceptive for a cyclist because you get all comfortable about the fact that you're about to cover miles of flat and it won't hurt a bit, but then it goes and slaps you with a headwind that makes you feel as though you're cycling through porridge! Which hurts...

And two, that I managed to cover nearly 40 miles without cycling on a road next to cars. The whole ride was trail, track, cycle path and shared pavement.

My partner lives in the suburbs about ten minutes outside the city centre. Antwerp is one if those cities that has a natural border, the river at one side and a huge ring road making a circle from the south of the river to the north. So, I cycled from the north of Antwerp to the east and then circled the south on my way back.

I didn't venture into the centre of the City. All of my cycling was in the suburbs, along the canal side and across rural parts of the district and all on a specific cycle route, of which there are hundreds of mapped and marked kilometres. There are hundreds of lamp posts labelled with a number, each giving directions to the next number, which you follow depending on which number you need to get you where you want to go. If there are a few different directions and numbers you could follow, then they are all signposted. At each road junction, there is a post with a number reminding you which number you're closest to and which direction to go in. When you buy the cycle maps they give you a plastic-coated paper label on which you write the numbers you want to follow. When you've plotted your route, you write the numbers down on the label and attach it to your handlebars and then you don't have to keep referring to your map. Genius!

As I was following a number, I had to cross a main road and as I was waiting to do so, about 100 yards away from the marked crossing, an HGV and a car both stopped to enable me to do so. I was really just stopped, deciding whether to go to the crossing or chance it. But they stopped to let me cross! If only that would happen in England....

Road users are just more polite, less aggressive and not in the 'me me me' mentality that we have here.

City centre and suburban cycle paths look like this. If the cycle path is shared, the pavement is generally split into two sections, one for pedestrians and one for cyclists. As you approach a junction, the cyclists route is marked in red and the pedestrians follow the grey paving.

These pictures below and right show a cycle path that is just for cyclists. The pedestrian path is to the left, out of this picture, but you can see it on the picture below. The cycle paths in Antwerp are mostly coloured red, some paved, as this one is, and some painted. You can see that neither path is next to traffic.

Antwerp centre is a smaller than London but the region the local authority covers is probably about the size of Greater London and Sussex and the cycling infrastructure is brilliant. The marked paths and trails are all mapped out and they probably mean that you can cycle an area the size of Sussex without cycling on a road next to traffic and that has to be the way to go right? Their budget must be about half of what Transport For London and Sussex County Council have. Why is cycling infrastructure so poor in the UK and why is there no appetite for improvement?

My first long ride of 2011, and preparation for the Diva 100 and my Provencal odyssey in the summer.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Wo(men) Who Cycle But Not In A Club, Club...

The first WWCBNIACC meet was a fantastic turnout and thanks go to all who braved the element of not knowing who was going to turn up but doing so yourselves.
May I stress at the outset, and for all of who you ask the question, I put the word Wo(men) in the title to encompass all-comers, not just women.  It means women, predominantly, but men too.  For this reason; men who want to cycle in a club generally already do so.   They don’t seem to be put off by competition and Garmin results like I am.  So I figured it would be mostly women, and a few men, hence the title.  But I stress, again, that anyone is welcome.   If there are those out there, like me, who have children and would like to organise a children’s ride, then feel free to comment and we’ll do one of those too!
The Club will have a regular ride on the 1st Saturday if every month at 11.30 prompt.  The meeting place and route will be determined initially by me and then by suggestion and agreement, always having at least 3 rides posted in advance.  We will aim for medium to long rides of between 10-40 miles and some longer rides if anybody wants them.  The only thing that you have to do to participate is bring a bag of tricks consisting of a puncture repair kit, spare inner tube, pump and money for cake and/lunch.  It would be appreciated if you had experience of fixing a flat.  It’s not nice for others if we all have to hang around in the cold/wet while you dither, because we won’t be dropping anyone, riding on ahead or anything like that.  We ride as a bunch.
In terms of admin, I’m posting up the next three months rides here and on London Cyclist and from then on they will be on this blog and, in time, and if everybody commits to adding a pound or two to the kitty, we can set up a group on, where we can all add rides and route suggestions and generally make it more of a club.

The first three rides will be taken from London Cyclists’ 30 London Cycle Routes.  Andreas has done the hard work of working out loads of great routes so, frankly, why bother creating any more, just yet.  We will be following routes 2, 14 and 22 for our first three rides.

Saturday 5 March – Tower Bridge to Greenwich Park
We’ll meet at the Girl and a Dolphin statue at St Katherine’s Pier on the north east side of Tower Bridge and be ready to ride at 11.30 to take this circular route, stopping at about 1pm for lunch somewhere along the way.
Saturday 2 April – Thames Path to Richmond
We’ll meet at the south side of Putney Bridge, as close to the bridge as safety will allow and be ready to ride at 11.30 to take this lovely route along the west of the Thames and round Richmond Park, stopping at about 1pm for lunch somewhere along the way.
Saturday 7 May – Grand Tour of the Grand Union
We’ll meet at  Wormwood Park. outside the Linford Christie Stadium (nearest tube East Acton and plenty of railway stations within 2-3 miles) and be ready to ride at 11.30 to take this route along the Grand Union Canal, stopping at about 1pm for lunch somewhere along the way.
Davina’s Diva 100
For those of us who are planning to ride this 100km sportive on 8 May, I’m organising a training ride and a mini sportive to get us up to optimal fitness! The dates for these are 20 March and 10 April. The first ride on 20 March will be a Sussex sportive of 56 km, 86km 0r 116km, organised by SKS events, entry and details here.  I’m going for the shorter distance.  Don’t want to peak too early!  I chose this ride because the terrain will be similar to the  Diva 100 and if you’ve never done a sportive before, this is the ideal introduction.
The second ride route is to be confirmed but will be an 80km route, again in Sussex on 10 April, in preparation for 100km a month later.
Anybody interested in any of these rides, do comment and we’ll all get together on the day.  Happy cycling!

Friday, 25 February 2011

F**k it. Now I can't not buy more..

Rapha are holding a one-day only online sale on Monday 28 Februaty. 50% off all women's stuff.  I've got some shorts, socks, scarf and some of their new v-neck merino base layers, in pink, in my basket, ready to go.

Then it's got to stop....honest it will..

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Skiving in Brighton

The first days of spring. It doesn't get much better than this.

I don't want to love you Rapha...

....but I just can't help it.

You know when one of those brands comes along that is so studiously cool and, frankly, up it's own arse that you want to shake it and tell it to lighten up but then you look a bit closer and you start to get it and then you buy some stuff, for research purposes, clearly, and then you like the stuff so much you buy a bit more and then you start to feel that it might not be so bad to be smug after all and then you have to defend your choice to all those naysayers and the brand just keeps on getting smuger and cooler and you're torn because you love it but don't want to fall for the hype and the promise of a cycle-style that can never be yours when you're riding to the railway station in the rain rather than the in the crew of the Continental but you just want to feel that when you don that jersey you could be one of them and then you wish that you hadn't fallen for it but you have, hook, line and sinker and then they give you a sneak peek at the new season's stuff and you fall all over again and you just want more.

Do you ever get that?

Look at this awesome short film and tell me your heart doesn't beat just a bit faster and you don't want this in your life. They're men and I still want it. Now look at this one and imagine you're in that jacket, riding that mountain. I defy you not to fall in love.