Archive for September, 2011

Time to appreciate

This week I’m going bike-less. I’ve tried it before and failed, but this time I’ve bought a weekly bus pass to give me a financial incentive not to give up. For a whole week I’m at the mercy of public transport.

There is a sensible reason for my abstinence. It has been raining rather a lot and I’ve just recovered from a headcold. When I left the office last night, my decision pleased me:

Indian Summer in Angel

As you might know from my general complaining, I don’t really like public transport. I get quite anti-people when I have to use it. Which, in a crowded city like London, is not ideal. The two best things about cycling are that it’s free and fast so when I have to pay to go slow I get a bit grumpy.

But we are damn lucky in London to have a comprehensive public transport system and I do really appreciate it. The fact that the tube teams with commuters, hot, sticky and smelly, is really a testament to how vital it is and how much we rely on it. If I really need to be across town in a hurry, I’ll hop on the tube, and it’s a joy to have that freedom.


This week I am using the bus to appreciate the bike.

Bus best:

– I can read books again
– Don’t get sweaty
– Can apply make up on journey
– Can wear pencil skirts

Bike best:
– Leave later = get up later
– Exercise integrated into daily life
– Faster
– Wakes me up
– Free

And I leave you with the info that a woman who smelt quite strongly of wee sat next to me on the No.4 bus this morning. So make up your own minds.


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Helmet hair

Helmet hair has to come in top three MOST FRUSTRATING things about being a cyclist (that, the general dicing with death and perspiration).

I must have a haircut soon as I’m resembling a rag doll and this time I am dedicating the next few weeks of my life to making it look respectable despite the handicap of a helmet. I love my hair, it’s bright red and fringed and it makes me feel like me, so scraping it all back in a practical manner as I have been doing of late, is woefully miserable.

Here is what I have learnt thus far:

1. Under your hair is your rather useful brain so no matter what the consequence on your barnet, it’s not worth skipping its protection. Wear a helmet. After once getting concussion while wearing one, I cannot stress this enough. If I had been bare-headed I would probably be dead.

2. Beware of hair spray. Setting your hair into position before you put your helmet on may seem like a good idea but beware! The indentations of a helmet on a carefully set fringe are not a good look. You will get glances of pity from all around you.

3. When it rains. Wrap a thin scarf around your head, under the helmet. This should keep your locks dry (apart from the sweat, which is sadly unavoidable). Though try not to pick that cheap, bright blue one you bought in Thailand as it may run and give you blue hair and a blue face. Not that it’s ever happened to me…

Always have a stash

4. Wet hair + helmet = cold head. ’nuff said.

5. Keep an emergency brush and curby grips at work. Work on your speed at twisting your hair into an intentional bird’s nest that you can pretend was by design.

6. Straighten it the night before. Much like festival-hair, this works a treat.

If all else fails, investigate your work showers and find somewhere to plug in hair straighteners. Don’t do it at your desk, it’s not a good look.

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I own this city

I never feel more powerful than when I’m cycling over the Thames. (On one of the bridges of course, I’m not Jesus.)

I’ve banged on about how this is a cyclist’s city before, but it never rings more true than when, with a glance to your left just after dusk you can see the city light glinting in the river and the rising architecture hemming you in on two sides. Big Ben is just round the corner on one side and Tower Bridge is shining to the right.

After a trip to the National Theatre last night, which saw the cramping of my poor, abused cyclist’s legs into the cheap-seats-of-little-view, I took the Peugeot on its first “long”-distance journey.

Pinging on my elasticated lights, I crossed via Waterloo Bridge, feeling an overwhelming surge of independence and sped off past the Adelphi into the Covent Garden heat. There’s something hugely freeing when you learn how Kingsway connects to Covent Garden and to the riverbank, and how past Holborn, Theobalds road will take you up into the North. Tip your hat at Angel station as you pass, for Upper St and the Essex Rd will get you home.

All under peddle power, in less time than it would take you to get the tube, everyone should try this.

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New bike new pain

My new bike is causing me pain throughout my body.

The legs I can take. The bike functions at a totally different angle to my old mini-shopper, and the muscles I have worked so hard building over the past 14 months no longer have to work in the same way. Though it’s a bit hard to take that despite having thighs of steel, they are throbbing away under my desk from a mere 20 minutes ride with but one mountain (up to Highbury Barn).

It’s the other things that are more concerning. It took me most of the morning to convince myself that despite having not borne children, nor had any medical problems in the area, my womb has not prolapsed* and I’ve merely strained my tummy muscles. How?!

I’m trying to look on the bright side. Judging by the state of me when I arrive at work, this bike is giving me a more complete workout. And judging by my sore arms, it might have a go at sorting them out. Shame that wasn’t why I bought the damn thing in the first place.

And this did happen before between the transition from mountain to shopper.

Wednesday’s resolutions: stretch before and after and dig out the Tiger Balm.

*parenting journalist + regular pregnancy research = severe hypochondria

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The peugeot has landed

After months of jabbering on about getting a new bike, hours spent in Evans, trawling Ebay and emailing my bike guru mates I have begun the journey to a new bike.

And I say journey because my “new” bike needs replacement handlebars, handlebar stem, grips, pedals, mud guards, saddle and ideally a rack for carrying all my importand fings around. Also, it needs a jolly good clean.

So really I’ve got a frame on a pair of wheels. Oh but what a frame! What wheels!

In the only walk of my life where brands and lables mean anything to me, I’ve succombed to the lure of a Peugeot racer.

peugeot racer

The words you’re look for here are OMG!

She’s a 52″ with 700s and with the seat put right on its bottom setting, she fits me perfectly. Which is a damn good job, as it took a long Bank Holiday weekend trip to Portsmouth to pick her up.

And now I have realised that despite my love of cycling, my bike maintenance knowledge is pretty shocking. For someone who eschews the tube in favour of a pushbike on a daily basis, being able to put a chain back on should not be the source of extreme pride it remains for me.

So when it comes to the exciting task of picking out my new handlebars, stem and other bits of bike that I’m told will turn her from a £45 Ebay gem to a Thing Of Beauty a la this helpful image created by my bike buddy, Chris:

bike additions

How this bike will be awesome

…I am suddenly totally out of my depth. Though I once made a clock in DT, I wasn’t the sort of teen that tinkers over a BMX or tries to soup up a Fiat, so I have no idea where to start with the renovations. As such, I’ve been pouring over forums, blogs, bike shops and this brilliant girl’s Lovely Bicycle blog to work out what handlebars are going to make me happy. But I’m still not sure.

What I am sure of, though, is that what I end up with will blow Evans’ Specialised three-hundred-and-fifty-pounder out of the water. You just watch this space.

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