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

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Bike dreams (part two)

Cityglide or Specialized - which is it to be?

Cityglide or Specialized – which is it to be?

In last week’s installment, the prospect of yet another expensive repair to the Trusty Steed led me to think about retiring him – and my idle daydreams of a beautiful new bike took a step closer to becoming reality

Ah, the beautiful Norco Cityglide 8…so pretty and yet so practical. Could this be my bike of dreams?

There was only one thing for it. I had to take it for a test ride.

In my experience, there are two possible outcomes to a test ride. One is that I fall hopelessly in love, and can think of nothing else but how wonderful the bike is and what a difference it will make to my life – with the inevitable consequence that I cannot rest until I’ve bought it. The other is that a bike I’ve spent days drooling over turns out to be rather more prosaic than I’d been imagining, and my dreams are left in tatters. Continue reading

Bike dreams

The ever faithful Trusty Steed - but is it time to retire him?

The ever faithful Trusty Steed – but is it time to retire him?

Dear readers, I have a confession to make. I have cheated on the Trusty Steed.

It started, as these things usually do, innocently enough. One quiet afternoon at work an email advertising Evans Cycles’ end of summer sale landed in my inbox. I had nothing pressing on my to do list at the time, so I clicked through.

As I glanced through the array of slightly-cheaper-than-usual bikes, one of them caught my eye. The Norco Cityglide 3 – a beautiful powder blue, three-speed town bike. Not a brand I’d ever heard of before, but never mind that. My head had been turned. Continue reading

On drinking and cycling

Drinking and cycling - how much is too much?

Drinking and cycling – how much is too much?

It’s 5pm on a Friday afternoon. I’m just shutting down my computer and washing up my mug when a colleague wanders through.

“A few of us are going for a quick drink. D’you fancy coming with us?” she asks.

I pause for…oh, about a nanosecond to consider my response before accepting the invitation.

I grab my helmet and keys, then hoist my Ortlieb bag on my shoulder. “You’re going to take your bike to the pub? Will you be alright cycling home?” my colleague asks, concern in her voice. Continue reading

I am woman, watch me charge

Tavistock Place cycle path - does it need a fast lane a pootle lane?

Tavistock Place cycle path – does it need a fast lane and a pootle lane?

It was early Saturday night, and I was heading out for the evening with a friend. He was over visiting from Mississippi, a hot and humid state where the pace of life is considerably more laidback than here in London. Heading up the High Street to catch the bus, I became aware that he was no longer by my side. He was, as I saw when I turned to look back, a good few paces behind me.

“C’mon!” I urged. “Can’t you walk a bit faster? We’re going to be late!”

“Can’t you walk a bit slower?” he replied as he finally caught up with me. “Why d’ya need to rush everywhere?”

I don’t rush, no matter what my friend might think. Continue reading

This, above all, is why I cycle

The ladies' pond on Hampstead Heath

The ladies’ pond on Hampstead Heath

Ripples on the surface of the murky brown water reflect a kaleidoscope of colours – blue, from the almost cloudless sky above; green, from the leafy trees, bushes and rushes enveloping the pond; brilliant white where the sunlight catches on the water’s surface, and the occasional flash of red from the lifeguards’ bright shorts and shirts.

A gaggle of geese glide gently by, seemingly oblivious to the swimmers bobbing and splashing around them.

From the platform at the water’s edge I take a tentative step down the ladder, then two. As my toes touch the water, I let out an involuntary yelp. It’s cold. I pause for barely a second, gathering up my resolve, then launch myself in. Cold is, after all, why I’m here. 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

Of bike storage and gyratories

No room at the inn?

No room at the inn?

I moved house last month.

I mention this not merely to explain why things have been quite quiet on this blog lately; what with packing, organising the logistics of the actual move, unpacking, sleepless nights worrying about the move and then, in the new place, getting used to sleeping in a strange room, the subsequent headaches from the stress of it all, and then – once I’d finally settled in – the horrible summer cold that sneaked up on me when I wasn’t looking, I didn’t have the time nor the head space to write anything.

No, I mention this because the move has had two wholly unexpected bike-related consequences. 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

Tweed Run – 17 May 2014

A little light refreshment along the way

A little light refreshment along the way

In a narrow, winding street just off Clerkenwell Green, lined with shuttered shops and old warehouses converted into modern office space, all was quiet. Except for me and a man out walking his dog it was completely deserted. There was no indication that anything was going to happen to make this particular Saturday afternoon any different from every other Saturday afternoon in this part of town.

And then from around the corner a lone cyclist appeared, dressed in head-to-toe tweed and riding a vintage bicycle. Continue reading