Beware the wrath of the cycling gods

Shadwell - not the most convenient place to get turfed off the Overground

Shadwell – not the most convenient place to get turfed off the Overground

I fear I may have offended the cycling gods.

No sooner had I published my last blog post than I started to develop a chest infection. Cue three weeks (and counting!) of hacking up a lung and generally feeling pretty rubbish.

So rubbish, in fact, that I’ve been unable to cycle for most of that time. Continue reading

The end of the affair?

Will my love of cycling return with the spring?

Will my love of cycling return with the spring?

The insistent buzz of my alarm woke me with a start. I reached out into the pre-dawn darkness to switch it off, then snuggled back down under my duvet. Getting out from the cosy warmth of bed has been proving a challenge of late, and on that particular morning my legs were having none of it. ‘C’mon guys,’ I urged them after five minutes had gone by. ‘You can do it.’ Nothing. Another few minutes went by with no sign of movement, so I made them an offer: ‘If you get me out of bed I won’t make you cycle into college today.’ That got their attention. Continue reading

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

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

The seven-year itch

The Trusty Steed - seven years old today

The Trusty Steed – seven years old today

Sorting through some old papers recently, I came across the receipt for the Trusty Steed. The date on this now extremely faded scrap of paper was 31 March 2007 – which means the Trusty Steed is now seven years old.

(OK, technically you could argue that he’s slightly older as he’s a 2006 model, but I look upon that more as the date of conception. His actual birthday is the day he became mine.)

Seven years. That’s longer than I had with all three of my previous bikes put together. Continue reading

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers

This is getting to be a regular occurrence

This is getting to be a regular occurrence

I came off my bike again on Thursday evening – and I mean properly came off. No getting my trousers caught, or skidding down the ramp at work for me this time.

No, those were just practice runs ahead of the main event.

I was on my way home from work when it happened. I’d taken a detour to stop off at Sainsbury’s in Camden, and I was heading down Parkhurst Road towards the junction with Holloway Road when I very suddenly came off my bike.

It all happened so quickly I had no time to react at all. One second I was cycling along, thinking about dinner and getting in from the rain, and the next second I was on the ground. Continue reading

A visit to the bike shop

A visit to the bike shop - about as painful as a trip to the dentist?

A visit to the bike shop – as painful as a trip to the dentist?

There aren’t many things I know how to fix on my bike, but replacing worn brake pads is one of them. Mine had gone well beyond the point I should have done something about them – I wasn’t so much stopping as gliding to a gentle halt – so replacing them had become a matter of some urgency.

But before I could replace the old ones, I needed to buy new ones. Cue a visit to my friendly local bike shop.

Not so long ago, this would have filled me with terror. Even though I knew exactly what I was looking for – two sets of V-brake pads, please – the moment I walked in to a bike shop all confidence would disappear. Continue reading

How do I keep finding myself here?

From this evening's protest (photo credit: London Cycling Campaign)

From this evening’s protest (photo credit: London Cycling Campaign)

Two years ago, when the news broke that a female cyclist in her 30s had been killed at Bow roundabout, my dad says his first thought was that it was me.

My parents tend to keep their fears to themselves, so I didn’t actually find this out until it had been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was alive and well – in other words, after I’d phoned them. Equally, while I’m sure the news this past week has had my mum lying awake at night worrying about me, I haven’t heard a peep out of them.

Because, let’s face it, for the parent of a cyclist in London, this has not been a good week.
Continue reading