Archives for the month of: July, 2011

I mentioned before that I’d been searching Etsy for some great bike accessories and hadn’t found much. Well, I’ve been keeping up with my searches and found a lot more than I originally thought! I decided to put them all together in an Etsy treasury list here, so you can check out these extremely beautiful objects and the talented folk who produced them!

Etsy treasury

Find my Etsy treasury list here!

What are your favourites? I have to say, I’m totally loving the barrel bag and the mudflaps – seriously cool.

Another Sunday, another Sky Ride: Itchen to get to the Park. This time, it was just me and Rachel. We braved the terrible weather and wound up doing half of the trip, opting to cycle back from the highlight, Itchen Valley Country Park, to our homes, instead of all the way back to the starting point. Personally, I would have preferred to continue, but it was pouring it down and Rachel didn’t have a jacket! That’s one downside to a mountain bike with no basket or panniers…

Here she is, during a dry spell! Everyone got the Sky Ride bibs again, which helped keep a bit of the rain off…

Itchentogettothepark

Anyway, getting a bit ahead of myself here – this was our route! We were five minutes late to the start yet again, this time because we just couldn’t find the area we were supposed to meet at. We cycled around the park and stumbled across by accident in the end – although some others arrived much later than we did!

As usual, there wasn’t any time to take photos during the ride itself, but I managed to take a few at Itchen Valley Country Park. Here, you can see how much it was raining on the day!

Brr!

We stopped at the cafe and filled up the bike racks…

Rachel and I somehow missed the fact that there was an offroad cycle at the park itself, because we were busy getting ourselves coffee at the time… Still, it gave me a chance to show off my new helmet! More on that in another post…

Neither of us had our locks with us, so we brought our bikes around the back of the cafe and left them in plain sight by the door…

Here’s our friendly cycle group, still sheltering from the rain at the front of the barn!

As usual, the leaders were very friendly and helpful, and made sure everyone was safe and working to a pace they were comfortable with.

As we missed the off-road ride, when the group cycled off, we spent some more time at Itchen Valley exploring. Unfortunately, it turns out that the usual cycle track used at the site had been ruined by some vehicles which had left huge ruts down the centre, so we had to make do with cycling in the fields.

It was quite hilly and bumpy, and the wet grass was pretty challenging to cycle on, but I did all right! Unfortunately, cyclists aren’t allowed on the nature trails at the park – which is fine by me, as I also love walking too.

However, I did think it a bit strange that cycling was considered to be too stressful for the wildlife in the area, but that it was okay to have a brand new Go Ape adventure park installed in the same place!

That’s fine too – because I also love Go Ape and it’s great that there’s one now so close to where I live. Mind you, it’s still expensive – £30 per person.

What would Go Ape be without the obligatory ape statue to pose around?

To the left of the centre of this picture, you can see the zip line for the finale of the Go Ape experience – puts the one that’s already there to shame…

After checking out the Go Ape course, we decided to head on home, but not before one final photo to show off my new helmet!

In my first wet weather cycle, I learned the following things:

  1. My trainers do not have a good grip on the pedals when they’re wet.
  2. It doesn’t take long for your saddle to get soaked.
  3. My waterproof jacket is not all that waterproof.
  4. Brakes make scary noises in the rain.
  5. Wearing a helmet makes you forget how wet you’re getting.
  6. And most importantly, cycling in the rain is still good fun!

Although I’ve yet to buy any special cycling clothing, except for headwear, that doesn’t stop me from looking… Whilst a lot of cycling jerseys for women are… uninspiring, to say the least, there’s an excellent selection at Minx-Girl. The site is right up my alley – cycle gear for women who aren’t going to put up with flourescent pink monstrosities…
Maloja Viola Freeride Jersey

You might remember me saying that red is my thing at the moment, so I was instantly drawn to this amazing red jersey from Maloja. Check out that gorgeous embroidery style detailing around the neck – love it! You can find it here: currently available in large for £44.25. (It’s also available in blue here.)

Keeping with the theme, this sleeveless number is cute beyond belief:

Maloja Sunrose Jersey

Check out the pretty alpine scene – and the gingham, and the stag…

Maloja Sunrose Jersey back

And, check out this amazingly roomy back pocket! The Maloja Sunrose sleeveless jersey is available here for £44.25 in large and extra small.

Maloja Sunrose Jersey Lake

This is a short sleeved version of the tunic above, with a snazzy dark blue colour added into the mix. I love this one, it’s sporty and cute at the same time, and I’m totally a sucker for the stag. This jersey is £48.00 and is available in extra small here.

I’m totally loving Minx’s range, and Maloja’s designs are amazing. I’ll have to keep a look out for designs like these in my size! Check out Minx’s huge range of great cycle tops here.

I’m pretty lucky – I don’t need to commute, because I work from home. (Or, it sometimes seems more accurate to say, I live at my work). My husband refuses to cycle to work because a) the route back is one mega hill, b) his bike is more unreliable than our car, and more importantly, c) he always has boxes of paperwork and a laptop to transport. So neither of us have much experience of commuting by bike. But, I know for some people it’s a tipping point for buying a bike, and in many cases, it can actually be faster to get to where you’re going by bike. But, is it cheaper?

Cycletowork

There’s a handy website at http://www.cycletoworkcalculator.com/ which could help you work out how much money you can save by travelling to work by bike. It’s not perfect (and requires you to do some of the maths yourself in order work out how much your present commute costs per day), but it’s a good start to incentivizing people to cycle to work. With petrol prices going up all the time, it certainly something to consider.

I wonder, though, how many people cycle to work because they just like cycling? Shouldn’t that be your main reason? All of the cost and health benefits are really a bonus – and sort of pointless if you actually don’t enjoy the commute. Cycling is something you should do because it’s awesome, not because it’s ‘cheaper’. And, I really do wonder how much cheaper it really is – honestly, starting cycling from scratch, with a brand new bike and all the equipment, is not cheap. Yes, it pays off over time, but a bike isn’t a financial investment – it’s freedom on two wheels. Can I get a hells yeah?

But, of course, as the Cycle to Work Calculator site itself is the first to point out, sites like these are great for making you feel smug about your bike-bound commute. Saving the planet… yeah, cool. Looking stylish… great. Sailing past traffic… ha. SAVING THE MONEYS… AWESOME! May I get another hells yeah?

Yesterday, I took part in my first Sky Ride Local led ride, which was awesome. What wasn’t so awesome was the stress involved in buying a bike rack for the car, finding out how to install and use the bike rack, and tracking down a false cross bar for my Trek Allant WSD to get it onto the bike rack. We ended up spending a lot more on it than we intended, and then spent the entire journey watching the bikes bounce perilously up and down in the window. And we wound up late (thanks to having to take a last minute trip to town to get said crossbar when my local cycle shop’s offering turned out to be totally unsuitable), which stresses me out more than anything…

Winsor by Compass

This is the route we took, and the ride was called ‘Winsor by Compass’. It was a 14.3 mile course called ‘Ride Steady’, which is a long, yet relaxed, trip.

This was our leader, explaining a bit about the journey and giving us some basic safety rules. Basically, it boiled down to: pay attention!

This is Rachel, kitted out with her Sky Ride tabbard. Her mountain bike had the distinction of having the fattest tyres in the group. There was a real mix of bikes there, from Dutch style bikes (complete with a pink wire basket, which I think you can see above in the group shot!) to racing and mountain bikes.

This is Omar – he bought his bike through the Cycle to Work scheme – something I’d love to do but is not really happening when you work from home!

We travelled on the Test Way for part of the trip. Coming to this from a bit of a walking background I always find it amazing how much ground you can cover on a bike compared to walking. Obvious, I know, but the pace is so much faster and you just get to see so much more! On the other hand, on a trip like this, you don’t get much of a chance to take photos or stop and look at the scenery. Mind you, considering these organised rides are completely free, I’m more than happy to forgo taking endless snaps on my phone!

Most of the ride was along pavement or roads, but we did have a section that was pretty rocky and covered in sharp stones. Someone ended up getting a puncture, which was pretty scary, to be honest! Luckily they had equipment to fix it with them, but I didn’t have anything, so I spent the rest of the stretch worrying about what would happen if I got a puncture too… I really need to get a repair kit!

This was far more typical of the sort of road surface we were traveling on – my bike likes this better, and so do I!

As you can see, I’m still wearing my blue helmet – I haven’t got a replacement for it yet (news on that later, I hope!). The good thing about it is that it is very breezy and doesn’t make my head get all sweaty!

Also, my bike computer decided to stop working yesterday too, which is pretty irritating considering how new it is. I’ll have to take it back to the shop and see if there’s something that can be done about it… In other news, I have a new bag (which you can still buy in the sale here, if you’re interested!). I totally wouldn’t have had a new bag if the bike rack purchase had happened first…

So. my first led Sky Ride Local was a blast, and I can’t wait for Sunday for the next one, which is in Itchen!

You might remember me mentioning before that I was interested in looking for alternative cycling helmets. I have an aerodynamic helmet from a cycling shop at the moment in a light electric blue – and it’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with it at all, but there are plenty of really cool helmets out there that I’d much prefer to wear.

After discussing the Ribcap, I thought I’d do a bit of investigation and actually purchase one. They’re quite difficult to find in the UK, as although they’re a European company, their official UK site seems to be a reseller rather than the company itself.

Given the rather limited range, I went with a Marley beanie, because red is sorta my thing at the moment:


The original RRP of this hat was £60 ($95), but this was on sale for the more reasonable sum of £27.95 ($44.59). I think I would have been incredibly disappointed if I’d paid full price for this.

So, first of all, the safety claims. Ribcaps have a material sewn into them in rib shapes which is slightly soft under normal contact, but which hardens when knocked. So, it’s malleable to mould to the shape of your head when wearing, but in theory, if you knock your head against something, the material will harden to protect you. Because there are gaps due to the way the material is sewn in, the Ribcap can’t protect you from a pointed surface, as there’s a possibility the impact could fall between these ribs and into the fabric. However, on a smooth surface, the ribs will absorb some of the impact. The greatest protection Ribcap claims to offer is against ‘mild concussion’.

The reactions of my friends to this have been mildly negative. All of them wear helmets and I don’t think any of them would consider wearing this instead of a helmet. My husband certainly wasn’t keen on it being used as safety equipment, and another friend was quite incredulous at the idea of me wearing it cycling.

But forget that, let’s just be a bit shallow about this for a minute… what does it look like on?

Tah dah!

I have to say, I don’t usually wear beanies, and I think they look sorta dorky on me, but I’ll make an exception to avoid ‘mild concussion’.

The unfortunate thing about this cap is its tendency to make you look a little bit like a pixie… Because of the stiff ribs, the top doesn’t really mould itself to your head, so you end up with a bit of a peak at the top. Also, there’s a large gap of protection at the top where the ribs don’t meet, which is a bit worrying. But I suppose if you’re going to be landing upside down on your head, a Ribcap isn’t going to help you…

In summary: the Ribcap is an excellent idea and I can definitely see it would be useful in sports or activities where it’s not traditional to wear headgear, but where head protection might be a good idea (ice skating, even walking on icy pavements). However, the claims floating around about the kind of protection it offers are not backed up by the company itself, and I think that third-party claims about the protection it does offer has been somewhat over exaggerated. It will only protect you from bumps and bruises and maybe offer some mild protection if you knock your head, but it’s certainly not going to offer you the same protection as a helmet. If you have a choice between this and a helmet, the best advice would be to wear the helmet every time. But if your choice is more likely to be between this or nothing, this is obviously the better choice than a naked head… And, it’s warm too!

…when I have such an awesome bike basket…

That’s right, folks – I pimped my basket with a garland of fake roses that I picked up on eBay. It’s not exactly the best way to prove yourself as a serious cyclist, but frankly, I don’t care. Maybe I’ll make someone happy with my silly flowers – who knows?

You may remember me posting about the Big Bike Celebration in Southampton at the end of June. Luckily, my bike arrived just in time for me to be able to attend with my friends Rachel and Lorraine, and we had a great day at Weston Shore!

There was plenty to see and do, including a chance to go on some more unusual bicycles, plus plenty of led rides – more on that in another post!

There were loads of stalls, too, and although there weren’t as many selling things as I expected, the Sustrans stall was brilliant, and the guys working there were amazing. They had loads of great maps and information leaflets, and I came away armed with a bagful to go over in the weeks ahead!

This was by far the weirdest contraption I’ve ever seen – a bicycle powered by several people which went up and down the central pathway seemingly all day. I didn’t get a go on it, but it looked like fun!

Even the mayor turned up – he doesn’t look that happy here but I’m sure he was having a good time…

The weather was pretty good – warm but not too hot. As you can see from Lorraine’s picture, above, we did come prepared with coats, but ended up not needing them!

…Although, occasionally the sea breeze got a little bit nippy…

All in all, it was a great first outing for my bike, which proved incredibly comfortable – so much so that my friends are now lusting after a comfy saddle like mine! I have to say, the Allant really is a very comfy bike to sit on.

But obviously, it has its limitations, so you won’t be seeing any stunts like this from me in the near future… (Or ever…)