Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Tut tut tut

Here's a cracking tale courtesy of the Daily Torygraph, about a rather naughty cyclist who, by the sounds of it, got his comeuppance!

Cyclist fined £900 for riding through a red light

Now don't get me wrong, I'm no angel. It is likely that at some point in my cycling career I have been guilty of every single one of these offences - hopping red lights, cycling without lights and cycling on the pavement. Of course, I wouldn't condone or advise it, but sometimes these things do happen. However only a complete idiot would then fail to stop for police. You stop, say sorry, say you won't do it again, and if you're polite, courteous and respectful I'm sure Plod has better things to do than book you. However if you behave like a complete asshole, as this fella obviously did, then you deserve everything you get!

Disclaimer. I do not cycle without lights, on pavements or through red lights as a general rule. However, as every cyclist knows, no-one is perfect and I'm sure I've hopped the odd red or pavement in my time, just as most pedestrians will have crossed a road even if the green man ISN'T flashing!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

London to Brighton on a tandem

My good friend Rachael and I recently made the rash decision to cycle from London to Brighton on a tandem. Keen cyclists may be aware of the Friday night rides to the coast, organised by Simon Legg of CTC. These madcap missions depart Hyde Park at midnight and arrive at a seaside destination the following morning - just in time for breakfast.

Rachael and I did our first overnight ride together last July. We chose the London to Brighton ride and several things of note happened:
1. An idiot in flip-flops brought a bike so aged and ill-maintained it actually fell to pieces halfway through the ride, causing untold bother for the poor organisers
2. A couple of blonde and undoubtedly Scandinavian girls in hotpants, ballet flats and not much else managed the entire ride without ever covering their exposed skin, breaking a sweat, eating a morsel or drinking a drop of water. Lord knows how they did it but they arrived at Brighton looking as fresh, groomed and wearing as little as a pair of clubbers heading out on the town - not two cyclists who had completed circa 60 miles overnight!
3. I managed to haul my boyfriend's mountain bike (enlisted at the last minute as my bike was buggered) up the monster that is Ditchling Beacon, a hill of epic steepness and length.
4. My boyfriend proposed to me when I arrived back at home

So what could top that experience? Riding a tandem, we decided. We'd dress in matching kit and borrow a friend's tandem and it'd all be fabulous.

It was certainly an experience. I have never ridden a tandem before and as we wobbled madly out of Hyde Park, totally unprepared for the issues of balance, steering and braking, a number of folk commented on how 'brave' or more accurately 'stupid' our decision to pop our tandem cherries on a 60-mile overnight ride kicking off in central London was.

With hindsight, 'stupid' is exactly the word I'd use to describe our endeavour. Riding a tandem is completely unlike riding a regular bike - it certainly is if you're the stoker (the person at the back). You cannot steer, brake or even see where you are going over your partner's shoulder, and the back of a tandem is a surprisingly claustrophobic place to be. For the captain (the person at the front) you have to cope with steering and braking for two - and dealing with the fact you've got twice as much weight behind you - as well as the responsibility of your stoker having to put complete and utter trust in you.

Stupid we may have been, but the trip was also memorable and about the toughest physical challenge I've ever faced in my life. Between us we got the beast up every single hill between London and Brighton - yes, including Ditchling - and coped with the downhill issue of having 20+ stone of weight propelling the bike to frankly terrifying speeds. I also got very disorientated around three-quarters of the way through the ride and became convinced the bike was tipping, leading me to lean in the opposite direction to balance the perceived lean. This was both uncomfortable and futile.

It was all worth it though to glide into Brighton aboard our geeky steed, and Rachael and I were the heroes of the hour thanks you our persistence. Having promptly forgotten all about the down-sides of tandem riding, I reckon we'll be having another go soon. Whitstable, anyone?

Monday, 8 February 2010

Stop the doom and gloom!

As a keen and interested cyclist, I subscribe to Google news alerts on all things bike. That means every day I get the latest news on bikes and cycling from around the world in my inbox.
A clear and disturbing pattern has emerged since I started subscribing to these alerts. Nearly every day, at least one story will be devoted to an accident which has resulted in the death or serious injury of a cyclist.
It seems to me that any accident, anywhere in the world, that involves a cyclist becomes newsworthy. I find this a worrying phenomenon. This is not to say the death of a cyclist is not a tragic event and that human lives are not affected. But the death of anyone is a tragic event that affects human lives.
Can you imagine if every car accident that resulted in injury or death was reported? Or every death as a result of heart disease or cancer? As sad as these events undoubtedly are, they are hardly front-page news in a modern world. So why is just about every death of a cyclist reported in such great detail?
Anyone reading any kind of news about cycling is going to assume death is endemic, such is the way it is reported. In fact deaths as a result of cycling accidents are very rare. But you wouldn't think that if you paid attention to the news. No wonder cycling has a reputation for being 'dangerous'.
Every now and again I pass a ghost bike - a bicycle that has been painted white and placed at the scene of an accident where a cyclist lost his or her life. These poignant tributes serve as a reminder to be careful when on the roads, but I do not feel we need the fear of death rammed down our throats by every cyclist's death being reported, making cycling feel like a far higher-risk activity than it actually is.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Bye bye, Snow Eye!

The big freeze continues and there's no let-up predicted with latest reports anticipating the cold snap will last for at least another 10 days.
Those still braving it by bike in the icy conditions could do worse than consider a pair of snow goggles or clear-lensed glasses to protect eyes. I've been lent a pair of these dhb triple lensed sunglasses by a friend and despite my initial baulking at the price of them, I must confess I'm totally converted and have already requested a pair for my birthday. They are fantastic - the only slight problem is they can steam up a little at the beginning and end of your journey as your temperature changes. I've been using the clear lenses, but they also come with blue-tinted lenses for glare and standard sunglass lenses.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Look after your skin this chilly winter

It's officially freezing! In the grips of one of the coldest winters in living memory, and what experts are saying may be one of the coldest on record for many MANY years, what's a girl on two wheels to do? Well, wrap up warm and brave it - as long as you keep an eye out for that pesky ice. With a few extra layers and a scarf and gloves, it's not so bad out there and the crisp, winter air is actually very refreshing.
But there's one part of the body it's impossible to cover up completely - your face. In these freezing conditions it's important to take extra care of your skin.
Try a super-rich moisturiser like this fantastic anti-redness rich moisturising cream from Eah Thermale Avene. I'm hooked on this stuff - we can all suffer from ruddy cheeks in this cold weather and this clever cream evens out an overly red complexion whilst intensively moisturising even the most sensitive skin.
Don't forget your eyes either. Moisturising eye drops are invaluable in chilly conditions. I've been using Murine's Bright and Moist Eyes and they do exactly what they say on the tin.
A good lip balm is also essential. There's more types of balm out there than you can shake a stick at but I'm a fan of the traditional Vaseline Lip Therapy tins - my personal favourite is the green tin with Aloe Vera. Alternatively if you want more protection Blistex MedPlus for Lips is a good buy.
Finally even hands warmly wrapped up in gloves can get dry and flaky. This year mine have been particularly bad and as well as dry skin, I've developed a delightful prickly rash that flares up from time to time - usually after washing up! I'm using Eau Thermale Avene Tridera creme emolliente, which is a rich emollient cream, but I imagine good old E45 would also do the job just as well.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Next Pedal it Pink event - Essex

Want to cycle a marathon distance and raise money for a good cause? Look no further than Pedal it Pink, one of Breast Cancer Campaign's cycling fundraisers.
Participants are invited to register and cycle either a half marathon - a paltry 13.1 miles - or a full marathon - an exciting 26.2 miles.
There's also a 5K family lap for husbands/boyfriends/partners and children.
The next Pedal it Pink will be held on Sunday March 28 2010 at River Lee Country Park, Essex.
Get more info and register online here.

Happy New Year!

And Happy Cycling in 2010!