Now we are one

Anyone for birthday cake?

Anyone for birthday cake?

Cycling with heels is one year old today!

If it were a child, there’d be a party with balloons and streamers, a huge birthday cake, more presents than one small person could ever play with, and a room full of proud parents and screaming babies.

But as it’s a blog, a party seems a little over the top. So instead – if you’ll allow me the indulgence – I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back over the past year.

I had no great master plan when I started Cycling with heels. I simply wanted to write. Continue reading

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Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?

An increasingly common occurrence now the nights are drawing in?

An increasingly common occurrence now the nights are drawing in?

One extra hour in bed. One measly little extra hour in bed. That’s hardly adequate compensation for six months of having to cycle home in the dark, is it? If it’d been an extra hour in bed every day things might be different. But it’s not, so they’re not.

I pride myself in not being a fair weather cyclist – I cycle to work day in, day out, all year round, in almost all weathers. Yet it’s always around this time of year – when the clocks have gone back and winter is just around the corner – that the temptation to abandon my trusty steed in favour of the Overground is at its strongest.

As if the thought of the long dark ride home weren’t enough to put me off, there’s also the small matter of tomorrow’s predicted storm to contend with.

My resolve could do with all the help it can get right now. Continue reading

CS2: Lane of the Brave?

Cycle superhighway 2

Cycle superhighway 2 (By Felix O (Barclays cycle superhighway no 2, Mile end. e1) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

“God you’re so brave, cycling in London. I could never do that. I’d be afraid I’d get myself knocked off, or killed.”

I can’t tell you how many times people have said that to me, or words to that effect. Tens. Hundreds, maybe.

I used to get mildly annoyed when someone tried to tell me I was a hero for doing something as ordinary as riding a bike. I used to think if they could stop being such scaredy cats, they’d see it was really quite simple: you just get on the bike and pedal. OK, you have to pay attention to the traffic around you, but you learn to do that quickly enough. I mean, if I can do it, then anyone can.

These days, though, I’m starting to think they may have a point. Continue reading

Cycle chic? Mais non

Yes, this really is what I look like on my bike (helmet aside - I now have a lovely purple Bern one)

Yes, this really is what I look like on my bike (helmet aside – I now have a lovely purple Bern one)

Dear reader. I have a confession to make.

Almost every day I see lots of well-dressed women on their bikes. Women in leggings and short skirts, in skinny jeans, in peg leg trousers – even in leopard print dresses. Women riding rattling old road bikes, traditional uprights and shiny new step-throughs. Women, in short, who are the embodiment of cycle chic.

You may think, from reading this blog, that I’m part of this stylish sisterhood.

Alas, dear reader. You would be wrong. 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

The grass is always greener…

Thunderstorms are on their way, but do I really want one?

Thunderstorms are on their way, but do I really want one?

The air is thick and heavy as I ride home. It’s an effort to cycle in this heat: the harder I pedal, the slower it seems like I’m going. I can feel sweat beginning to pool on my chin, upper lip, forehead, and trickles of it down my back and behind my knees. The tops of my thighs – barely covered by my rather short shorts – are sticking painfully to my saddle.

Not for the first time over the past couple of weeks, I find myself thinking how wonderful a bit of rain would be right now. Maybe even a thunderstorm. Continue reading

Blue paint is not enough

2013-07-12 18.36.53

Call this a cycle lane?

Picture the scene. It’s a little after 11pm; you’ve spent the evening with friends down on the South Bank and now you’re on your way home. You follow, as you normally do when you’re heading home from central London, the cycle path that skirts past Angel. It’s unusually busy for this time of the night, but it’s been a warm evening so it’s perhaps not surprising that so many people are still out on their bikes.

As you approach the next set of lights, where the path crosses Goswell Road, you realise there’s something very familiar about one of your fellow cyclists. That mop of unruly blond hair, sticking out at all angles from underneath the rider’s helmet…it’s not…is it? You pull level with them, and glance to your right. Your suspicions are confirmed. It’s Boris Johnson. 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

How many cyclists can you fit in one advance stop box?

Photo copyright Barnet Cycling Campaign

Photo copyright Barnet Cycling Campaign

The photo above, posted yesterday on Facebook by the London Cycling Campaign, really struck a chord with me. I used to cycle though this junction – at the intersection between Gray’s Inn Road and Theobald’s Road in central London – on my way to and from work for over three years. It’s a junction I know very, very well.

If you think there are a lot of cyclists in this photo (taken at 6pm), you should see the same junction in the morning going the other way.  I used to wile away the time waiting for the lights to change by counting the numbers of cyclists around me. It was often well above the 27 pictured above. It’s been four years since I stopped commuting this way, so I can only imagine how much worse it’s got since then. Continue reading