Tag Archives: bikes

Training for the Rapha Women’s 100 (1)

So, as I said the other day, I’m planning to cycle 100K on July 7th. I’m going to have to be fit enough to do that so I’m following a diet and fitness regime that so far has involved no cycling, and eating rather a lot of chocolate.

However, the weather has been frightful so I’ve not actually been able to go out for fear of falling off my bike. It’s very slippy out there.

(That’s my excuse at least. I did break my elbow falling off my bike a couple of years ago and I’d hate that to happen again.)

Instead, I am getting fit, strong and flexible by doing gyrotonics and also Bikram yoga.

Gyro is an exercise system that is taught one to one and involves lots of stretching and stuff attached to pulleys and weights. It’s based on ballet, pilates, swimming and yoga. I’m finding it really good for my alignment (getting rid of a dodgy hip in the process) and also building core strength.

Bikram yoga is something I did as a bit of a dare but have got hooked on. It’s a series of 26 yoga postures, done twice each. In a room heated to 40-odd degrees. It sounds mental and it isn’t the easiest class to get through but I strongly recommend it.

A Bikram studio opened near me and recently did a 20 days for 20 quid offer. My friend (who had a baby on the same day as me) persuaded me to go. Now we’re both addicted, we’ve been going for about 6 weeks and are about a stone lighter each and bendy as fuck.

I also make myself cycle over University Avenue when I go to Bikram. It’s a fairly steep hill (albeit short) so I do feel like I’m getting a bit of practice for my 100K route (tbc).

So whilst I’m not actually cycling much I do feel like I’m doing a bit of work to prepare myself for the challenge. I’m hoping April will be more clement weather-wise and I’ll get out on The Bike of Discovery at least once a week for some proper rides.

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Rapha Women’s 100

I’ve decided to do the Rapha Women’s 100 on the 7th of July.

It’s a virtual event. There’s no ‘thing’ to register for, nowhere set that you have to go. The only organised aspect of it is knowing that other women will be riding 100 kilometres at the same time as you.

It’s therefore a social event. Participants are encouraged to tweet, Instagram, Facebook and blog about what they are doing on the day and during the run up to it.

I’ll do it because I would be anyway. I’m slowly getting my fitness and my body back after having a baby and I reckon I will be fit enough by the beginning of July. It’s good to have a target to train for.

It’s an interesting one because I think it will be quite popular despite it being something people just have to do themselves. There are a few sponsored participants who are blogging about it but on the whole it’s down to us to talk about it and feel part of it.

I like it because I wonder whether there could be many other ‘events’ like this that could work quite so well. Would it work as well, for example, if July 7th was ‘Go for a Run Day?’ Would runners run if it wasn’t a race? If the only challenge was the day and the distance? And choosing the route?

I like it that there’s no registration pack. No race number. No sponsorship money to collect, no Justgiving page. Just me, my bike and some friends. And the knowledge that out there, somewhere, other women will be doing the same.

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Brackets, and going up the Tak Me Doon

I was going to write about a really interesting conversation with a strategist I’m having across the pond but it’s a bank holiday and I am chilling out so I’m going to write about bikes instead.

On Saturday we did this ride, although we did it the other way round, and started near Kilsyth rather than Torrance.  It was the hardest ride I have been on.  There were two big hills, one called Tak Me Doon and the other one called the Crow Road.  They are quite famous in these parts, and popular routes for cyclists and lycra perverts alike.

Here we are after getting to the top of Tak Me Doon Hill.

I was trying to show the full pain of it there.  My chain fell off on the way up, my gears wanted to give up the ghost.  As you will see from the map, however, that was very early on.  After that, we went through beautiful scenery, mist and sunshine and rain.  Got so much fresh air we thought our lungs were going to collapse.  Felt amazing and dead at the same time.

It was ace.  We came home and spent a shitload on stuff from Wiggle and Rapha.  I’m getting another jersey with ARMWARMERS and some SPDS.  I’m turning roadie!

In other news, yesterday we (I say ‘we’ but in reality ‘he’) replaced the bottom bracket on the Bike Of Joy.

Replacing the bottom bracket is a total faff.  Taking the cranks off was OK.

But even that was quite difficult.  When it came to taking the bracket out we had a nightmare.  All the water gets into the bracket and it gets a bit rusty and really tightly stuck in.  The bracket removing tool got bent in the process, so we ran down to Gear to see if they could help.  The guy there was amazingly helpful and we got the bracket out.

Big thanks to everyone involved, the Bike of Joy is back!

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Don’t shout at me if I don’t use the cycle lane, you dicks!

I really wish that the council would talk to people who actually ride bikes when they are putting lanes in.  Apparently they do, but they never asked me.

I am all for the idea of making cycling in cities safer.  However, I am slightly worried that cycle lanes make it more difficult – and perhaps more dangerous.  There are very few cycle lanes I can think of that don’t have parked cars in them, aren’t on the wrong side of the road, or that don’t finish randomly, leaving you stranded somewhere.

There’s a new expensive looking development on Elderslie Street which is a case in point – there’s a contraflow lane on one side of the road, which is totally useless because they’ve put speedbumps in the wrong way round which skinny tyres get stuck in.  Also, if you going the other way on the other side of the road, you’d have to cross the road for one block just to use it.  It’s rubbish.

However, the other day I got shouted at when I wasn’t using it.  Someone shouted, ‘Use the cycle lane you slag,’ from their car on the other side of the road.  I just ignored them, but it really annoyed me.

The answer to making the streets safer isn’t cycle lanes, it’s driver education.  It’s speed limits and speed bumps.  It’s not using your car for a ten minute journey.  It’s chilling the hell out and giving every road user a bit of room.

Anyway, shouty, rude and sexist drivers:

  • I pay council tax and income tax too
  • I don’t have a car, which means there is one more parking space out there, just for you
  • So leave me alone, and stop trying to kill me/scare me off the road

I really like things like this which make it clear that there needs to be more thinking around cycling in cities.

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I’m not talking about longbows or live animals here, people

I have had a bad day.  It is largely due to Eurostar and SNCF‘s inability to join their service up properly, but also just general computer-says-no-jobsworthness, bad British customer service, and cyclist-hating.

Let’s start with the problem.  I booked a return ticket on the Eurostar website from London to Bordeaux.  You go Eurostar from London to Paris and then SNCF TGV to Bordeaux.  Fab.  I’ve been on the train to southern France before and it is magical.  I loathe flying anyway, but another reason for doing this on the train was that I could take my bike, whole, rather than dismantling it and carrying it with me.

Or so I thought…

Nowhere on the Eurostar site does it say you cannot carry a bike on the TGV leg of your journey.  It does say that you have to contact Eurodespatch to book your bike on, which I did in person this week whilst visiting London.  It doesn’t say that you can’t take your bike further than Paris.  They charged me £140 (rather than the £30 each way stated on the site) for the privilege of taking my bike (and my partner’s) on the train both ways and told me that it would only get me as far as Paris, but no problem, call SNCF and it costs 10 Euros each way.  They gave me the phone number and sent me merrily on my way.

Great.  Back in Glasgow I phoned SNCF and they said no.  Eurostar are responsible for the booking.  You can only get your bike on if you book your ticket through SNCF, which you can only do if you are French or if you split your tickets and make it twice as expensive.  Not only that, but everyone I spoke to, from Eurostar, to Eurodespatch, to Rail Europe, to SNCF, were extremely unhelpful (with one potential exception) and were at pains to make it clear that it was my fault for buying a ticket in the first place, for not doing lots of internet research beforehand.

Some choice examples of what these people said:

‘Only one percent of our customers are cyclists.’

‘You shouldn’t have bought a ticket.’

‘Leave your bike at home.’

‘You should have read [this site], [that brochure] and [this small print].’

‘Buy a bike bag.’

‘Buy your ticket from SNCF.’

Eventually I did speak to a fairly sympathetic human being who is going to try and get me a refund for the Eurodespatch thing, so I can spend the money on a bike bag instead.  But this will not solve the problem.

Booking my bike whole onto the TGV would solve the problem, but apparently this is impossible.  Why, I don’t know, because there are spaces for bikes on the TGV.  No one can tell me why I can’t tell SNCF I am going to be on that train, and book a place on it.

I was prepared for it to be a hassle.  I was prepared to speak separately to Virgin, Eurostar and SNCF to get my bike on the train.  I was prepared to pay extra.  I just wasn’t prepared for this absolute nonsense.

Perhaps it is easier to take a crossbow, sword or a speargun all the way to Bordeaux than it is to take a bike.  I’m not sure how easy it is to transport live animals…  You can certainly take your car on the Chunnel.

It just feels like being a cyclist is much harder work than it should be.  Certainly, when I take my bike on the train closer to home on Scotrail trains I always have to ask permission to share the cycling spaces with people’s suitcases and buggies and what have you.  However, they do at least try and are putting more cycle spaces on their new trains.

Likewise, Virgin won’t charge you to take your bike along, you just have to book ahead, take your ticket to the station or phone up the phoneline and sort it out.  That’s absolutely reasonable.

As a cyclist, I’m used to having to wear a helmet so that I would be seen as less responsible in an accident, I am used to being cut up by impatient cars, by being wolf-whistled, by getting wet in the weather that hates me…  And I love it all…  I’m unlikely to learn to drive, I have never owned a car, I don’t see the point in driving when all it would do that I can’t currently do is get me to IKEA quicker…

I’m doing my bit for the environment, and for car drivers, by not using fuel and space on the roads up.  Why aren’t people nicer to me?  Or at least, why aren’t train companies nicer to me?  I am the future.  That ‘one percent of passengers’ I belong to is going to grow and grow as fuel prices grow and grow.

Get it right, Eurostar.  Oh, and please add a search function to your site whilst you’re at it.

But also, where is the ‘cycling lobby’?  We can’t have much power if nothing’s getting much better.  Or did it all use to be much worse?

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You can wear ordinary clothes to cycle in

Levi’s are apparently getting into the bikewear game – starting with adapted versions of their skinny 511 jeans.  Adapted so that there’s a nice slotty thing in the waistband for your Kryptolok and also reflective seams so that when you roll your jeans up they look good and keep you visible.

None of this is new, of course, Swrve and Rapha and Howies and a host of other niche brands have been doing this kind of thing for the urban cyclist in countries where cyclists are generally seen as sad or mad for a while now.  Cyclists who don’t drive places to ride their bikes but actually ride their bikes to get from A to B not because they don’t have a car but because they prefer riding their bikes.  They prefer cycling in cities to walking or driving or taking a bus in them.

Anyway, part of the reason that cycling doesn’t take of in countries like ours (besides the grossly inflated perception that cycling in cities is suicidal) is the weather and the myth that you have to wear special lycra clothes to ride your bike in.  I recently bought some padded shorts after a ride round Arran on my fixie made me realise what they are for.  (The weather in Arran was lovely and I wore a dress the whole time.)  But for riding in the city – even in the rain – you’re not going far, so jeans are perfect (although when it’s hot a skirt or shorts is a much better option).  In places where cycling isn’t seen as crazy people go even further than this and ride their bikes to special do’s wearing evening dress and suits and high heels and so on.  Amazing. I was blown away when I visited Amsterdam for the first time in April this year.

It’s what all these cycle chic websites are for.  Americans and British people marvel at these Continentals who wear whatever the hell they want to ride their bikes.  There’s an emerging movement against lycra and the tyranny of organised rides in these sites, campaigning for the right to normalise bikes whatever, whenever, however you like.

Anyway, the point is that if big mainstream brands like Levi’s are getting into urban bikewear then we’re maybe beginning to enter the next phase of the cycle revolution.  There must be money in it, if they are investing in it.  Perhaps urban cycling is where skateboarding was in the eighties and nineties when brands like Nike were making their first experimental moves, having the confidence that a bit of trial and error with activity was worth it, eventually settling on a successful business model after 20 years.

Hmm, this was meant to be a ‘play’ article but it all comes back to what I do for a living…

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What are the rules for (besides being there to break)?

People who know me will know that I am, basically, obsessed with cycling.  I don’t go for ‘training’ or all that, I am just not competitive in that way (I only get competitive about things I can win, generally,) I just like bashing about on my bikes, using them as the most fun and amazing form of transport known to humanity.

Anyway, this isn’t a post about how amazing riding bikes is – that would need a whole blog of its own.  No, this post is about rules.

I was forwarded a copy of these rules recently and it sparked loads of different, very interesting and insightful conversations, Twitter chats and emails to-ing and fro-ing.

These rules are a mixture of sensible, petty, weird and obsessive, and downright obscure.  Of course, there is a tongue somewhere in someone’s cheek there but to all intents and purposes these rules help to paint a picture of the cycling subculture, help us to understand ourselves people on the bike spectrum better.  Although I also really enjoyed reading Bike Snob’s guide to cycling tribes (which is also funny and true,) I think the rules are much more interesting from an anthropological, human behaviour perspective.

The bike rules sparked off a whole load of conversations about other subcultures’ rules.

Skateboarders told me about theirs – there’s a whole lot about what colour tape you use, whether screws or allen key screw things look better on a truck, what tricks are beyond the pale, what you wear for different situations and so on. They figured that their list of rules could be as long as the bike one.

I also thought back to another obsession of mine – dance – and there are a lot of rules there too.  What you can wear to show that you have been doing it for ages, how to stand when you aren’t actually dancing, how to sew the ribbons on your shoes, whether to wear pink tights or black (footless black tights are OK, ones with feet are not,) when legwarmers are appropriate, and so on.

A lot of them (like in skateboarding) are related to helping you not bump into each other.

Usually subcultures’ rules are unwritten – and often unspoken – so you have to pick them up for yourself.  The thing I thought was really interesting is that these are the rules people stick to.  It’s probably because they make them up as they go along, there’s a consensus somewhere about which rules to adhere to, which rules will help you belong.

When you want to understand people better, look for the rules they follow.

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