Cycling, driving and convenience

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The Peak District – where I saw more people out on their bikes than I did in the centre of Sheffield

Given how long I’ve been living and cycling here, you’d think I’d be used to how many cyclists there are in London. Maybe it’s because I don’t get into central London very often – especially not during rush hour – that, whenever I do, the sheer mass of bikes flooding through the traffic always takes me by surprise.

I had the day off work recently. After visiting the Imperial War Museum for the afternoon, rush hour found me at the intersection of Waterloo Bridge and Aldwych. As I waited to cross the road, I watched in amazement at the phalanx of cyclists whizzing past. At every red light around me there were even more – at least twenty or thirty, maybe more, at each junction – bursting out of meagre advance stop boxes and snaking back through the traffic.

Compare that to my experience when I went up to Sheffield to deliver the trusty steed to his new retirement home. Continue reading

I could’ve cycled, if I’d wanted to

Cycling, Croatia-style

Cycling, Croatia-style

The clack of toe cleats against hard floor was unmistakeable. I glanced up from my guidebook, which I’d been perusing in the vain hope it would help me decide where to go next, to see the source of the noise – a guy dressed in t-shirt and cycling shorts, carrying two Ortlieb pannier bags, and wearing a cycle helmet.

“Did you cycle here?” I asked. A rather obvious question, perhaps, but a girl has to start a conversation somewhere.

Indeed he had. As the guy – an American called Scott – worked through his post-ride stretches, he told me about his trip. Setting off from Zadar, in Croatia, he was heading down the coast to Montenegro, for a week long swimming camp – 2km of open water swimming every day – after which he would get back in the saddle and cycle back up the coast again.

I could feel my muscles starting to ache just listening to him. All that effort – and he called it a holiday? Continue reading

Ey up, summat’s ‘appened: Le Grand Départ 2014

The world's greatest cycle race - in the world's greatest county

The world’s greatest cycle race – in the world’s greatest county

I really ought to have been ready. After all, I’d been standing by the side of the road for the previous three or so hours. I’d been photographing my friends and their kids, the crowds around me, the caravan as it went past, the tour maker standing next to us…even the police on motorbikes as they whizzed past.

So yes, I should have been ready.

But then the Tour de France isn’t exactly something you can practise taking photos of. Continue reading

“Come on love, get yer kit off”

Warning: this post contains pictures of naked people.

The World Naked Bike Ride crossing Waterloo Bridge

The World Naked Bike Ride crossing Waterloo Bridge

I was heading down Old Bond Street towards Piccadilly when I saw them.

I’d spent the previous hour cycling through the side streets of Soho and Mayfair in a fruitless search for some buttons for the cardigan I’d just finished making. After trying four different haberdasheries to no avail, I decided to head to Waterloo to have a coffee and wait to catch sight of the London leg of the World Naked Bike Ride.

Except there they were in front of me – a stream of naked and semi-naked people on bikes, all heading along Piccadilly, not 20 metres ahead. As I reached the lights, I realised there were no marshals nor police escort blocking the traffic: naked flesh mingled with cars, buses and taxis. What’s more, once the lights changed to green, the cars queuing up behind me would be joining them – as would I. Continue reading

“Why would anyone choose to cycle down something called the Death Road?”

Death Road, Bolivia

Death Road, Bolivia

“Are they completely crazy?”

This was my flatmate’s response when I told her what I was reading: Andreas’s account on London Cyclist of his recent trip down the world’s most dangerous road.

It’s a good question – and one that I’m qualified to answer, given that that’s exactly what I did a little under six years ago. Continue reading

Na rower!*

Cycling, Polish style

Cycling, Polish style

“Look! It’s Bradley Wiggins!”

We’d just come back from the beach, and I’d been about to jump into the shower, intent on washing off the residue of sand, sun cream and saltwater I’d accumulated during the afternoon. But my friend’s shout from the living room drew my attention. I hurried back to the TV just in time to watch Wiggo, in his familiar Team Sky jersey, cycling through the streets of Krakow to win the final stage of the Tour of Poland.

Well, I thought, as I finally headed off for my shower. At least I can say I’ve got one thing in common with Bradley Wiggins.

We’ve both been cycling in Poland. Continue reading

Is it OK if I leave my bike outside?

Would you leave your bike unlocked?

The trusty steed in Devon: would you leave your bike unlocked?

The pub looked so inviting: a country inn, serving real ales, possibly some cider, and a lunch menu that included doorstep sandwiches. There was just one problem – what was I going to with my bike? I thought about leaving it in the street out the front, then noticed the gateway at the side which led to a small covered yard. I wheeled my bike through, and propped it against a wall, next to the bins and underneath a window which, judging by the conversation I could hear, I presumed to be in the pub’s kitchen. I took my phone, wallet and camera out of my pannier bag and then went into the pub.

This would have been unthinkable had I been in London at the time. But I wasn’t – I was in the small market town of Hatherleigh, in Devon. Continue reading

My trusty steed goes on holiday

Enjoying the view near Woolacombe

Enjoying the view near Woolacombe

You have to feel sorry for my trusty steed. The poor thing works hard: day after day, mile after mile, back and forth, through wind, rain and cold. It’s not even as if he gets a break when I’m not riding him; no, he just gets slung in the back garden, without any protection from the elements – not even a rain cover. It’s a wonder he doesn’t go on strike.

So I thought it was about time I took him on holiday.

I’d read an article about the Devon coast-to-coast cycle route on the Guardian website a while back. Described as ‘long distance for the laid-back cyclist’, it sounded pretty much perfect. I’d already been to Devon once before, for a friend’s wedding a couple of years ago, and was keen to go back to explore more. Beautiful beaches, rolling hills, quaint villages, cider, cream teas and ice cream – what more could a girl and her bike ask for? So I pumped up the trusty steed’s tyres, cleaned and oiled his chain, packed my panniers and off we went. Continue reading

Cycling with heels goes to Copenhagen

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Almost every street in Copenhagen is lined with bikes

“Wow…just look at all those bikes.”
My friend sighed impatiently. “I’m hungry. I need food. Let’s find somewhere to have dinner.”
“But…bikes!”
“Food!”

We’d arrived in Copenhagen early Friday evening, just in time for dinner. As anyone who’s ever travelled anywhere will know, that’s never a good time to arrive in a strange city. After checking into the hotel, we headed out into the unfamiliar streets in search of some food. While my friend focused on the task in hand, I found myself being somewhat distracted. Almost every street we walked along was lined with bikes – red bikes, blue bikes, green bikes and black bikes, bikes with wicker baskets and metal baskets, bikes with big, Dutch-style frames, shiny new bikes and rusted old ones. Row upon row upon row of bikes. Continue reading

Once upon a time…

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Clifton suspension bridge: there’s a cycle path down there somewhere

These days, most of the riding I do is about getting from A to B (where A is home, and B is usually work) as quickly and cheaply as possible. But once upon a time I used to ride my bike for fun. I would take my bike out on the weekends and I’d head out – sometimes with a destination in mind, other times not – and just enjoy the experience of being out on two wheels.

Most of these rides were done with my ex-boyfriend, a fellow cyclist. Usually we’d cycle north through London – past street after street of houses, shops and offices and past the traffic clogged roads – until we reached the edge of the city. Urban dreariness would give way to…well, I wouldn’t quite call it rural wilderness. We were only in Hertfordshire, after all. Continue reading