Archives for category: Chat

Unlike some robust gals who bike through wind and hail, I only cycle for fun, so I’m going to take a few months off during the dark winter days! Good luck to you cold-weather cyclists – the only cycle I’ll be on this winter is my exercise bike!

See you in the spring!

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I had a brilliant day yesterday completing the (nearly) 40k course at Cycletta South, and thought I would share some of my observations and great wisdom with you. See, now I’ve done my first 40k RACE I am now a proper athlete and such, and I even have a tiny medal to prove it.

  1. Say what you like about safety, but the number one use of a bicycle bell is to ping at small children who are waving at you. They LOVE it.
  2. When event organisers say ’40k ride’ along with the words ‘you can even do it on a Pashley’, bear in mind that if you DO cycle on a sit up and beg, everyone will be surprised you didn’t die on the way round.
  3. Hills are a bitch.
  4. Headwinds are a bitch.
  5. Headwinds and hills will make you think you are about to die – you probably won’t, but it will be close.
  6. You burn calories doing long cycle rides, but you can’t count them all if you hit the flapjacks at the feed station.
  7. Do not greet male cyclists in a friendly way by dinging your bell at them, whilst sticking your tongue out in concentration so you don’t fall off your bike. It looks a little like you’re trying to sexually harass them.
  8. Bison Hill should be renamed Bitching Hill, because that’s all I did on the way up.
  9. Wet wipes are your friend when you’ve finished.
  10. Once you’ve got past that finish line, you’ll feel like the Queen of the Universe!

Stay tuned for a proper write up of the day later!

Now, this isn’t so much related to cycling, but I thought I’d post it here nevertheless – and it’s also being posted on my food blog, Distracted Gourmet (check it out if you haven’t already!).

Autumn is my favourite of all the seasons – and I love all of them already! But there’s so much great stuff you can do in autumn that I can’t help but love it. In order to help me get the maximum out of the season, I’ve created a check list for myself. I’ll be heading back every now and then to check my progress, too!

New Forest Autumn 3

The beautiful autumn colours of New Forest - by stevestreet

Autumn to do list

  • Have Halloween party
  • Have Thanksgiving dinner
  • Make pinecone decorations
  • Make a leaf wreath
  • Make jam
  • Walk through the leaves
  • Gather chestnuts
  • Make Christmas pudding
  • Celebrate Bonfire Night
  • Carve a pumpkin
  • Cycle down a hill with my scarf flying behind me
  • Make the best hot chocolate
  • Make pickles

What’s on your to-do list this autumn?

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?

It seems as though when you start a new hobby, it’s easy to stumble upon never before realised controversies that were lurking all along, under the surface of everyday life, completely unobserved by everyone else. For fans of foreign TV programmes or movies, there’s the dub versus sub debate. For bento box lunch enthusiasts, there’s some snideyness amongst people who only use ‘proper’ Japanese boxes, versus those who use western lunchware like Tupperware or Laptop Lunches. With vintage dressing, I know there’s some debate about repro clothing versus authentic, really from the era vintage clothing. To be honest, a lot of these are more to do with perceived elitism and snobbery than anything else, which I guess you get in the cycling world too. I was expecting a similar debate around lycra/safety clothing versus streetwear to crop up quite early on in my enthusiastic web surfing, but I must be dodging those sites completely. The one thing that keeps jumping out is helmets versus no helmets, and I’ll explain why that’s a bit of a shock for me.

As a child, the school laid on cycling proficiency lessons for us, which mostly seemed to involve dodging between traffic cones and being able to hold your hand out to signal right and left. The one thing that was totally gospel was helmet-wearing, and I guess, due to a lack of real cycling between then and now, as an adult, the idea that helmets were an essential part of cycling has always stayed with me. I see a lot of cyclists on the roads now, especially as I’m looking out for them, and I rarely see anyone without a helmet. Those that do are generally quite obviously making smaller, neighbourhood journeys. In order to get to the next shopping area from me, you have to travel down and up a rather large hill, and all the cyclists I’ve seen tackling this are wearing helmets.

For me, personally, as a new cyclist, I feel compelled to buy and wear a helmet. I don’t feel confident enough in my ability to cycle, in the roads, or in the traffic flow, to go without one. That could change,but in the meantime, I’ve been researching the most stylish options available for cyclists, and I’ve found some pretty neat ones!

Perhaps the most traditional looking helmet on my lust-list is the Nutcase, a cool-looking solid type of helmet from the US which resembles a BMX biker or skateboarders helmet.

Love the cool Union Jack design – and although it doesn’t have as much ventilation as the average aerodynamic helmet does, it still has some airholes there to keep your head cool. Priced around £45.

I also really like Sawako Furuno helmets, which you can buy at cyclechic.co.uk.

They’re quite pricey (from £60 up to £73) and I haven’t seen one that I’ve fallen in love with – yet. The colours are very pastel, so if that’s your style, you’ll love these! They’re very subtle and girly.

My favourite find so far has to be the cool Yakkay helmets, which come with interchangeable soft covers!

I’ve heard they can make your head sweaty, but it seems like a small price to pay for such stylish and protective headwear!

They come in three different sizes, so I’d have to purchase them in person to be sure I was getting the right size for me. They’re a bit pricey to buy sight-unseen, and I’m sure they’re not really waterproof either. But, they look great! They range from about £30 for a cover to £104 for a cover and helmet, depending on the style.

By far the most intriguing of my finds is the Ribcap.

Made from an amazing material which hardens when struck with a hefty force, the Ribcap looks like a soft beanie type wooly hat, but the manufacturers claim prevents head trauma. Sounds good to me! They look a little hefty for the summer, but I can imagine them being really good for the winter.

The Jackson may not look much on the mannequin, but it looks great on the model!

Again, they’re quite pricey (£50-60), but they do look good, and seem like a less restrictive choice if you don’t like the feeling of a traditional helmet. If you’d like to see the Ribcap being put through its paces, and want to find out more about what it’s made of, check out the Youtube video below of the Gadget Show.

If you’d like to see some more amazing helmets, I found this excellent site which has some really cool examples: Helmets Rock Hard.

Sunday Ride

Image by Josh Koonce via Flickr

I’ve always enjoyed cycling, especially when I was a kid. One of my happiest memories was cycling round and round my block on my bike (pretending to be a train for some reason…), but as an adult, as I guess a lot of us do, I stopped cycling so much, and now I don’t even have a bike.

I currently work from home and so I don’t need  a bike to commute. When I used to work the other side of town, I briefly flirted with the idea of cycling, because I had to catch a bus that took an hour to make what should have been a 20 minute journey. Unfortunately, I live at the top of a hill (which leads to another hill), so it’s very off-putting to think about travelling up it first thing in the morning. Also, at the time I was considering this, the weather was awful and it was really dark in the mornings. And, I was totally broke. My dad took me to the tip and we found a bike which was rideable (for £5!), and we got a helmet and some lights from the local bike shop, which cost about ten times more than the bike itself. The bike was pretty hard to ride, but to be honest, it wasn’t until I tried another friend’s bike several years later that I realised just how hard to cycle it was. Anyway, I told my boss I was cycling to work, and he was pretty keen that I didn’t, citing how dangerous it was and how tiring it would be. When I say pretty keen, what I mean was he basically said ‘No way’ and suggested one of the other guys from work give me a lift. Not wanting to make a fuss or try to circumvent him, I quietly nixed the idea, secretly glad I wouldn’t have to face that monstrous hill, and carried on commuting by bus.

Fast forward to last year, when my friend Rachel got a Trek mountain bike. It was summer, and I saw adverts for the SkyRide, which is where they shut down the roads in city centres across the country so that cyclists can take over the streets and generally have a blast. We did a couple of laps, her on her fancy bike, and me on my dump-cycle. I noticed she was having no problem tackling even slight hills, whereas for me it was like trying to pull a tractor on the back of the bike. So, we swapped bikes – what a revelation. I could actually cycle and it felt effortless. (Meanwhile, she could barely get mine going). I have to say I cycle on my exercise bike a lot – at one time, on average an hour a day at least four times a week – so I have no problem with fitness. I could have cycled around the city all day but eventually we had to go home… Even so, it was that that really made me realise that the enjoyment I got out of cycling wasn’t lost to me as an adult.

So, all it really took was another nudge to get me into the right direction…