Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Jingle bells batman smells!

It's so nearly Christmas and while that's fab, I'll be offline for most of the holiday period. Boooooooo

It's an irrefutable fact that for most of the people I know 2009 has been rubbish. Between dad's illness and various other bits mine hasn't exactly been stellar either. With that in mind I'm quite looking forward to 2010.

At the same time let's look at the positives....... In January it'll be two years since I started commuting by bike. Although it wasn't all the way at first, nor was it every day that was the month when Roger and I went all the way. I cried the last couple of miles because my legs hurt so much. In February 2009 I started going all the way every day and in April I got Reg.

I'm a different person now. I've taken control of a lifelong hip problem and taken action to get moving and get fitter, I've lost nearly two stone, I sang with the London Symphony Chorus, one of the best choirs in the world, in three countries.

Still, let's hope 2010's exciting.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Rage Against the Machine

It's no jingle bells but, having finally listened to our Christmas number one, I'm feeling quite festive.

Waitrose bike trailers: Fail.

I'm hosting Christmas dinner this year and I decided to get some of my shopping done on Saturday. The ice had temporarily subsided from the roads and, rather than have to buy tiny amounts and fit it all into panniers I decided to go to Waitrose.

But what do you mean Weenie? How will you get it all home?

Aha, I thought, I shall use he much publicised bike trailers, which my local Waitrose is piloting.

I got to the shop, parked Reg and went to customer services. A very polite young lady guided me through the trailer lease agreement and told me to come back when I had shopped.

I went off and bought my various bits and pieces. A couple of kilos of potatoes, a big bag of onions, bulky toilet roll, parsnips, mince, big bag of chicken and a few other bits.

I paid and duly headed back to the desk to pick up my trailer. The nice young lady fetched two equally lovey young men. And this is where the trouble began. They have eight trailers at this particular Waitrose and four were out. Even so, the two lovely young men couldn't find me a hook necessary for attaching it. They found one, then couldn't find the bolts to secure it. After 10 minutes or so in minus one we finally found the bolts necessary.

Oh dear.

The hook wouldn't fit round my seat post. The boys made a valiant effort but apart from scratching my powder coating, no progress was made. No other sizes were available and as my panic mounted I chatted to the young men. We tested and the hook provided only fitted one of the five bikes in the stands.

Reg is a Specialized Sirrus, one of the most popular commuter models sold in the UK. Hmmmmmm

They were very apologetic and I headed home, in short leggings and inappropriate cycle trainers. I hung the shopping off my handlbars, balanced the heaviest bag on my rack with the handles tied round my seatpost and walked.

All in all it took me about half an hour and I was FREEZING. The bags kept slipping, Reg kept slipping and falling on the icy pavements, the pedals scratched my legs. It was rubbish.

Oh Waitrose, I'm soooo disappointed.

I plan on emailing them to let them know, I await a response.........

Friday, 18 December 2009

Siberia in the office

I'll set the scene:

There are several people in coats at their desks and a few have resorted to putting their hoods up or hats on.

The sound of typing is muffled by woolly gloves and the shuddering of people breathing the frigid air.

Staff take it in turns to get supplies from Starbucks in a desperate attempt to stay warm and keep moving.

Our repeated attempts at communication with facilities has failed. We have now been told that our other building is now without any heating and takes priority. As the minutes tick by we can only hope that help will come before someone freezes to death or, alternatively, everyone goes to pub.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Christmas lunch

Well that's something I'll never organise again.

Maybe it was the person who embarrassingly loudly had a go at me about paying the full amount upfront in front of the venue's manager rather than talk to me about it six weeks ago when I started organising it, maybe it was the people who didn't pay until the last minute even though I specifically asked for the money straight after a pay day (one of whom was apparently taking a stand against paying all of it so early but who never spoke to me about it), maybe it was how rude people were to the serving staff even though the problems mainly arose from people not knowing what they ordered and not bothering to check before we got there even though I told everyone I had a list, maybe it was the fact that even though I organised the whole thing no one thought to save me a seat and because someone turned up unexpectedly expecting to be fed a chair had to be dragged over and I had no cutlery, maybe it was because someone ended up with the wrong meal because even though I handed out the menu choices list three times someone still took his main, maybe it was because people complained to me about their perfectly good food instead of just eating it or talking to the staff, maybe it was the people who rather than just not put money in the tip envelope decided to put bottle caps, coppers and other pieces of rubbish in there.

Whatever the reason I had a shit time.

Merry f****** Christmas.

Defeated by black ice

I'm out for beers this evening and Mr Weenie has respectfully requested that I don't cycle.

I was a bit put out but obeyed as he very very rarely asks and supports my mad overnight forays. I was glad.

Walking to the local station I nearly fell twice on invisible black ice on our ungritted roads. I was furious. Everyone's known it's going to snow and be icy for days so where the hell is the rocksalt?

Frankly, I may not cycle tomorrow either if the roads aren't done. I cycle on a very busy road and I work hard to stay safe, ice is just one risk factor to far I reckon. I guarantee they'll forget to do the road edges, you know, those green bits with bicycles painted on them.

Hmmmmmmm

Given that I'm out with CC and T though there's also the possibility that I'll be too hungover/tired and emotional I spose.......

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Eek!

So this morning I was in the work shower, as usual.

I hung my pannier on the back on the door, as usual.

I got totally naked, as usual.

I did my last-minute, before I get in the shower, check that the door is locked, as usual.

It's not locked, in fact it's very slightly ajar because of my panniers hanging on it. Shit.

I can't actually think about what could have happened it brings on palpitations.

Check your doors people.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Chilly

This morning I forewent my jacket again (I was, of course, wearing my eyeball-searingly reflective Sam Browne) and although my arms got a bit chilled I didn't really mind. I tend to build up a lot of core heat so my arms are a handy outlet. My face on the other hand, was frozen.

I wear a headband/ear warmer that cuts the wind and still lets me hear traffic but I'm starting to see the merits of the 'buff'.

I've always scoffed at them in the past but I'm starting to think that an item that can prevent nasal frostbite AND hide your sweat 'tache has got to be a good thing. I'm always worried I'd feel a bit suffocated but my breath this morning seemed to crystallise as it left my mouth and I'm getting increasing glasses mist as a result. Could a buff be a solution?

Still haven't decided what to do about my eyes though. I'm starting to think male cyclists are avoiding me because the tears streaming down my face and the ensuing redness make me look like someone who has been dumped while suffering PMT rage.

Sexy.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Morning cycle fans

So, I'm back rom Switzerland and among the many glorious things there (chocolate, the guy playing an alpine horn, chocolate, the gummi bear shop, chocolate, delicious coffee, chocolate, going for dinner in Germany and chocolate) there was a plethora of bicycles.

Not only are the roads and cycle paths smooth as silk with sloped subways only for bikes at tricky junctions, not only did no one lock their bicycle to anything because the risk of theft is so low, not only did everyone have nice practical bicycles often with cute baskets but my uncle Jan told me that it is a legal requirement for cyclists who cycle on road to be insured and to display their sticker as proof of this on their bike at all times.

It costs the equivalent of £5 a year to get insured and you are covered for up to two million Swiss francs. How marvellous!

It is not used to police cycling behaviour but it ensures that anyone in an accident, whether they caused it or not, is covered. Surely this would be an ideal scheme for England?

Not only that, but each train had at least two bike spaces in every carriage. Every CARRIAGE, not every train. Super marvellous!!

The public transport in Basel, I hasten to add, was similarly fab but my uncle has said he will lend me a bike next time I'm around so I can whizz round on it. I'm excited already.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Bobbing along...

Bobbing along on the bottom of the beautiful briiiiiny sea!

I have no idea but I've had that song from Bedknobs and Broomsticks in my head all day. I must have been humming it out loud without realising for some time as a colleague's just turned and asked if it was from the film.

I'll be away for the rest of the week in Switzerland so this will be the last post for a while (put away that bugle!).

I'm going out on a high as I'm actually very proud of myself after the weekend, when I cycled to Edgware to have lunch with the journalism girls. Having never ever ventured that way before I was prepared with an AtoZ and a vague idea of which direction in which to head.

I pulled over three times o check I was going the right way and had a thoroughly enjoyable, if hilly, pootle. I was the first to arrive at the destination by a considerable length and had brought not only clothes to change into but pressies as well.

After a delicious lunch and some juicy gossip I changed back into my gear and cycled home. My weird memory means I often forget what I've had for breakfast by brunch but I have a photographic memory for routes. Despite never having been in that direction before I got home without checking my map once, without making an error and 20 minutes quicker than the outward journey.

I was home safe and considerably damp, had a hot shower and was snuggled up with Mr Handsome and The Fat One when Mr Weenie arrived home from rugby half an hour later. My legs were pain-free and I wasn't particularly tired. Having checked TfL and seen the horrendous traffic on the bus route I would have taken I knew it could have taken up to two hours to get home by public transport.

I would think about padded undershorts the next time as it took about an hour of pootling on badly maintained roads but other than that it was lovely and far more intellectually stimulating than a couple of bus rides.

What on earth did I do without my bike? How did I survive? I hope only that I'll never have to find out.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Finally some proper weather

This morning's commute was marvellous.

Despite having imbibed Stella Artois last night, which always gives me a headache, I arrived at work in a glorious mood and full of the joys of winter.

You see, I'm a sweater. The height of summer is just not that fun for me as the film of sweat coats me an drips into my eyes. This time of year, when the air is cold and crisp and I have all the right gear, is perfect for my cycling needs. The sun was low but my route is protected by buildings so it's not too bothersome. For some reason traffic was very low and I sailed along, steaming slightly at stopping points.

I whizzed to work in a heavy base layer and jersey, fleece-lined leggings but no jacket. I felt aerated while moving and snuggly when stopped.

Yes commuting in the rain is a total pain when you're on two wheels but myself and my cycling colleagues were the only conspicuously bouncy people in the office this morning. Wonderful.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Oh the rage

This morning I was watching BBC1 with my coffee as I usually do before setting off. As well as the news it provides valuable weather information and the traffic report.

A report about cycling was announced and my ears pricked up. Apparently research has found that you're more likely to have an accident/get injured if you cycle to work than if you drive.

No sh*t Sherlock.

My jaw was slack in disbelief that an entire slot of the news was focused on this amazing piece of news. The rage started to build when the reporter, in Bristol, started his pre-recorded section. At no point was it mentioned the kinds of accidents they were talking about, all accidents including minor bumps, those reported to police, those involving injuries? It would have been nice to get some clarity. If, for example it was based on injuries sustained it would have been revealed as rubbish. Of course cyclists are more likely to get injured, they are not in a big metal box with air bags and bumpers.

There was much talk of cyclists going through red lights and being silly, a refreshing change in fact as mostly these reports will not apportion any blame to cyclists at all, but there was little mention of the appalling state of cycling facilities and the fact that even where they exist some motorists swerve into them, park in them and generally act like nobheads.

What is the point of research like this if it is not examined in any meaningful way?

I honestly believe that while you can't prevent some accidents, cycling within the law and sensibly greatly reduces the dangers you face on the road. This danger would be even more reduced if cycle lanes and facilities were protected from idiots parking in them and if motorists who drive dangerously and those who hit cyclists through their own fault were prosecuted and given meaningful sentences.

This perception that cyclists are mavericks who take their own lives in their hands every time they take to two wheels and that an accident is inevitable must be addressed. Being hit by a car at some point is not a foregone conclusion, perhaps the money spent on this research would be better spent on cycle facilities rather than stating the bloody obvious.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I know it's raining but....

Stop leaning out into the cycle lane to look down the road with your umbrella at f***ing eye level!

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Monday, 30 November 2009

The wettest ride..... ever

On Friday I set off for Brighton at midnight with nearly 50 coasters. We were in good spirits. Sure there was rain forecast but hey ho let's go.

We made very good time going through London on this ride and the roads were clear of traffic. I thought nothing of it, at no point did I think 'hmmmm I wonder if everyone's staying in in case it wees it down', at no point did I wonder why the streets were eerily clear of the usual rowdy drunkards that give us all a giggle and the occasional thrown missile. They were probably at home battening down the hatches.

The Brighton ride was my first FNRttC back in June/July so I knew a bit of the route although this one had been altered to be weather safe. The enormous hill heading out of London that seems to go on forever was one of my sharpest memories and this time I was ready for it. I shuffled Reg into a comfy low gear and pootled my way up. Last time I didn't realise I'd be on an upward trajectory for so long and grossly misjudged it, but not this time.

We headed out of London and I stayed near the middle of the pack with A2 hanging out nearer the front with some colleagues he'd roped in from work. We were, in fact, doing really well until 2.40am when it began to rain.

Ok so it had started to rain a little at about 12.40am but it had been small, light patches, in short, usual commuter fare. But this was biblical flooding of the lands, build yourself an ark because damnation is on its way rain. Going down a steep hill it felt like someone with a pea shooter full of marbles was aiming for my eyes. At one point I abandoned all hope of looking forward where I was going and just focused on the white lines to stay in the right place.

We were guided into a tunnel for five minutes' rest while punctures were repaired and we were off, sloshing into the darkness. Puddles and mini-rivers formed at our ankles and a highlight was a small fjord-like body of water that I hit without seeing it while cycling pretty much alone. I felt a bit stupid until I heard the combined squeally groan of the group behind me two minutes later.

At this point everyone was wet and cold. There were no longer divisions between those in Assos and Altura and those in Lidl gear, no one was dry. I had bought a weird-looking strip of material to cover my ears and some peanut butter Clif bars on my way home from work and my God was I grateful. I scoffed my way through my bars and praised my ear warmer repeatedly.

We reached the halfway stop and a chaotic scene was there for any bystanders. Haggard-looking bikers sat in puddles of muddy water and dejection. At this point one of the regular leaders offered to take anyone who wanted to head home to the nearest station. We only lost about three riders and I'm sure I wasn't the only person looking at their arms in disbelief as they refused to rise and be counted as someone going home.

When we left the cafe the rain had stopped but the wind and an hour's sit-down meant it was very hard to get going. At one point I was convinced that my hand and feet had been lost somewhere on the journey. We pushed on until a guy in front of me got a puncture.

I lent tyre levers and was one of three who stood by offering light. Disaster struck when an integral bit of wheel bounced off into the night, I was sent to bear the news to the front of the ride. I'd never done a 'back to front' before and it was HARD.

I passed several wayfinders and eventually got to the front only to find out they'd since found the part and were heading in. We then headed off again while I continued wheezing from the lack of stop.

As the light at the end of the tunnel got closer we all became impatient to finish. We were freezing at this point and the continued puncture stoppages were starting to niggle. The last couple of miles seemed to take forever and I wasn't the only one to spontaneously cheer when the signs for Brighton started to crop up with increasing regularity.

With the cafe in sight I was near tears of relief and I and several others insisted on sitting outside to eat breakfast as we'd fought so damn hard to get there. Never mind that two minutes in the wind rendered our tea and breakfast stone cold, I needed to believe I'd actually made it.

Not a soul cycled back as far as I'm aware and so the trains were packed with very tired cyclists. I helped four ladies from Hull negotiate the tricky Victoria one-way system and got them pointed in the right direction before heading for home, bath and bed.

I don't remember much of the journey from Paddington, the next clear memory is lying in a very hot bath enjoying the smug sensation washing over me and watching the cat sniff my shoes with a look of utter disdain.

I have, in the past, been a quitter when things got tough and, believe me, I was sorely tempted by the turn back option at the cafe but I had made it.

This morning Mr Weenie offered me a lift as it was raining... 'Ha!' I cried, 'Compared to Friday this is practically tropical, bring it on!'

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The winged nemesis

This morning I fought off potholes, bad driving and road crud as I pedalled into work. I did the commute in the standard half hour and apart from getting annoyed by the weather (too cold not to wear a jacket but you're well sweaty when you get to work) the ride was unremarkable.

Having gone unpadded yesterday I was mightily relieved to be back in my Gorewear leggings with their ergonomic protection for lady bits. You think a bit of foam wouldn't make that much difference but when you hit that speed bump you feel the love.

But anyhoo so there I was, speeding along despite the wind when there he stood. His bead-like eyes staring at me. He was like a statue, daring me to a game of chicken, ignoring the irony that he was, in fact, a pigeon.

I set a course and put my head down to charge. He remained still, serene in the morning breeze, seemingly unaware of my ability to squash him with barely a bump. He stared into me... then... suddenly, he was away, jumping up towards my face and flapping towards me in a mess of feathers and rage.

I squealed and swerved a bit to avoid him then he was gone... to where nobody knows.

Monday, 23 November 2009

The weenie photo competition

What is this? (Answer below)
























Answer: A man in a jaguar reading what looked like a medical journal as he drove up one of the busiest sections of the Uxbridge Road on Friday night. So engrossed was he that he didn't even look over when the flash on my camera went off.

Apologies for the blurry quality but he was actually moving at the time, yes driving while reading what a marvellous time saving idea.

Wet feet

I'm sure the rain wasn't that heavy when I looked out of my window and decided to cycle to work.

Huge ploppy raindrops yes but not that many were falling and it didn't seem that wet. How wrong I was. As I stopped for the billionth time to wipe my glasses I realised I was a very rare breed on the road. There weren't may cyclists at all and the rain seeping through my leggings was why.

The mist and rain fogged my glasses so I stopped regularly to clean them, I tried to avoid as many puddles as possible and pootled as the rain had affected my braking somewhat. Cars were, on the whole, quite considerate although there were a couple of nobbers who weren't looking. As my last accident was in rain I was in my high-vis the whole way and was extra careful at junctions and where there where blind turns.

I was warm throughout and, actually, the only part of me that got REALLY wet was my feet and I have spare shoes at home anyway. I also have waterproof socks for the journey home.

Sooooooo, the critical commuting question is: would you rather get wet and sweaty in a crammed tube carriage or get wet feet?

No contest really.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Learning not to swear

This morning an incredibly naughty E2 double decker nearly squooshed me.

I was in the right-hand lane because I knew that the E2 route demanded he go left and I didn't want to be in the way. I was happily tootling along when he indicated right, 'Fine,' I thought, ' he's probably pulling out round a parked car or summat but as I'm halfway up the side of the bus surely he'll wait until I'm clear, surely in my bright yellow Sam Brown and bright clothing he can see me.'

I was wrong. He pulled straight across me and I emergency stopped and had to waddle Reg backwards a bit to avoid being smacked by his rear end. He then swung back into the left lane from whence he came.

But justice prevailed. He had to stop at a light.

I pulled up to his window with a hearty 'Oi!'.

'You do NOT pull out right when there is a cyclist halfway up your bus!

'CHECK YOUR MIRRORS!'


It was snarly I'll admit but at no point did I swear. The bus driver looked around 60 years old and a bit frightened to be confronted by the raging weenie beast. No point in swearing really, point was made. I then swept away in a dignified and snooty manner.

Harumph!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Wind glorious wind and playing with lorries

No not farting, but the weather phenomenon that causes cyclists everywhere to wince or rejoice depending on the direction in which it's blowing. I was wincing.

It came head on for some of the journey and, although annoying I didn't get too het up. I changed down a gear and put my head down. It was when I went past open ground that it became a problem.

On city roads with high buildings it's easy to forget the waves of air that roll across you and attempt to turn your bike into the side of that attractive looking lorry. Going past Ealing Common was very exciting for all the wrong reasons as I gripped Reg's handlebars, slowed down and wrested him back under my control. It was for this reason that I didn't really take much note of my fellow commuters, until Acton that is.

A very large lorry was in front of me and I decided to stay far back. The junction in question has a possible left turn and people often don't indicate until the last minute or at all because of the filtering lanes. Plus my view of the traffic lights was blocked by said lorry so I couldn't gauge the speed of traffic and predict it's movements. I sat behind basking in the warm and comforting swirl of exhaust.

A middle/older aged lady came past on her shopper. She then went up the left side of the enormous lorry binging as she went. Binging that was barely audible above the heavy thrum of the lorry's engine, certainly not audible to its driver. I looked on in abject horror fearing imminent squishage. I reasoned with myself, perhaps she was going left, that would be ok, especially as the lorry was now indicating left. I actually held my breath.

The lights changed and the lorry turned left I looked ahead and was incredulous to see lady binger straight ahead. She had undertaken a left-turning huge lorry in its blind spot and wasn't even going left. I said nothing as I overtook her. My feeling wasn't anger it was immense relief on the lorry driver's behalf.

That lorry would have squished her without the driver even feeling a bump. He would've lived with that forever even though he probably couldn't have done anything to prevent it if she'd been in a blind spot.

Phew.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Back on the bike

So...

I dropped Reg at the shop on Friday and was quoted £30. If it was more than that they'd give me a ring before work started on it I was told, it'll be fine I was told. Imagine my dismay when I rang them only to be told the price was coming in at around £75 and the work had been done.

I was livid.

I charged in there ready for a fight. I sighed, I was silently unimpressed and resentful and my voice got subtly louder when another customer came in. I got £15 knocked ff the bill. Result. Especially since they had to change the rear braking mechanism and had done the gears etc.

I didn't bike to music school as the weather was abysmal and looked forward to a foray on a tandem on Monday when disaster struck. CC, my tandem partner, caught the bug that's going round. I was forced to Christmas shop instead.

Nowhere near as fun. Sigh.

Was back on Reg this morning with VERY heavy panniers full of music for a rehearsal tonight. We tootled in and even with the extra weight and me being knackered from my idiot neighbours messing around all night we sped past several fellow cyclists.

Perhaps it's a way of a higher power telling me the only twosome I should be involved with is Reg and me.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Tube in the rain

Eugh, this morning I took ... the tube.

With Reg in the shop I had no option. I managed to cadge a lift to the local Piccadilly line station and climbed aboard for a three-stop ride.

First I realised I had no money on my Oyster card, so I duly topped it up before stepping through the gates. I near slid down the stairs coated in the muddy slime of thousands of shoes before getting onto the platform. What met me was a scene reminiscent of Shaun of the Dead. Zombified commuters stood around looking depressed and avoiding each others' eyes. Many were shuffled near the edge of the covered section ready to dash though the raindrops in an attempt to reach the less crowded carriages once the train arrived. I joined them.

The train came in, already packed and with windows steamed up with the germs of those inside. The mass clamber began as people tried, with forced, and very British, politeness to push past each other and get to the slightly emptier carriages.

I managed to get on and memory served me with the method for folding a Metro twice to get it as tiny as possible so you can read it without bumping anyone.

At the next station more and more people oozed into the carriage until you couldn't actually move. Then at Acton Town an announcement said the train on the opposite platform was leaving first. Cue a mad dash to cross the four metres of wet asphalt with men in suits battling teenagers in skinny jeans. I stayed where I was knowing from my dark commuter past that it only saves about two minutes in the long run and I only had one stop to go.

I got to Hammersmith and joined the queue to climb the stairs. I escaped the tube and limped into McDonalds exhausted by it all.

God I miss my bike.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Pootling and the best cat

Firstly I must announce that Mr Weenie is the best cat.*

I came home last night to not one but two pairs of new shoes, some uber funky trainers and some gorgeous ballet flats, both of which I'd been looking at and decided I shouldn't buy as Reg needs work doing. Sigh. What a man.

Anyhoo, back to pootling. Part of Reg's issue at the moment is that he's a bit confused about which gear he's on. He's one gear out in either direction depending on his mood. The result of all this is a feeling of complete liberation.

Normally I gauge my fitness and leg strength by my commuting gear but not that that option is out I just go with what feels comfy at the time. Shockingly this has, in fact, reduced my commuting time some mornings and improved my mood immeasurably.

Sometimes I pootle along feeling like a slow coach only to realise I'm hitting 20mph but because I'm not conscious of the fact it's all the easier. Sometimes I am in fact going very slowly but I don't care. Added to the gear issue is the drop in the number of cyclists. With no one to race against and precious few of the 'all the gear, no idea' crew willing to brave the icy winds I have no one to race against and no one to teach a speed lesson to when they've annoyed me.

What shocks me about cycling is how often my own views on things change and evolve. In a year and a half I've gone through timid, aggressive, law-bending to strict law adherence until I've found a style that suits.

Life change through cycling, how zen.


*The best cat means the best thing ever. The term evolved from inter-family rivalry about who had the best feline friend as three of us own cats but is now used for all things fabulous.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Sorting the wheat from the chaff...

Or more bike parking for me.

This morning there was just one other bike in the rack I normally use. We have other ones round the back and there were a couple in them but there are very few cyclists left.

On the plus side the waiting time for the showers has reduced dramatically and I have my pick of he bike stands. I'm also given the look of awe by some as I stride in in lycra on frosty mornings.

On the down side, it's bloody cold out there. However, my problem is not one of chilly extremities, rather it is of sweaty hotness. Piling on the layers is all well and good when you set off, puffing clouds of steam and thanking the Lord for those fleecy leggings you nearly didn't buy. Halfway to work though you've worked up some body heat and you're dripping with sweat. You can't be arsed to pull over because you've only got 15 minutes left to ride so you struggle on encased in a cocoon of clammy lycra.

You alternate between keeping those toasty gloves on and taking the damn things off for short periods when you become like a furnace.

Then when you get to work you sit red-faced in a t-shirt while colleagues pull their cardigans around them in a vain attempt to get warm.

Roll on spring.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Envy retro stylee

There was a woman on a Chopper on my commute this morning.

Yes, a Chopper.

It was clearly one from some distance because of the unique seat shape etc and the fact it was tiny small. She had the Vans and surfer-style mess of hair that meant she was obviously deeply cool and I must admit that rather than scoff I was envious.

She couldn't go terribly fast but was cruising rather than pootling, exuding the sense that she would get there when she got there and to chill out speed freaks.

Reg was the equivalent of a bowler hat and pinstripe suit in comparison to her Juicy Couture tracksuit of a bike. Her bike is probably called India or Hiawatha or something that can be shortened to C or whatever the first letter of its name is. In fact, it's probably so cool it doesn't even have a name.

I think my sense of uncoolness was magnified by my new 'Sam Browne' a reflective belt around the waist and over the shoulder. Following the accident I'm a bit nervous about being seen. I'm sure my desire to look like a clown will end eventually but for now I look like a Mexican goalkeeper.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Car-bike interface

It's finally happened: I've had an accident.

I can't go into full details yet as, although I'm fairly sure nothing will come of it, but it involved rain obscuring visibility, a late indicator because someone was lost, wet leaves causing skiddage and Reg and I survived with nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises.

Lessons I have learned:
  • Wear hi-vis, it's ridiculous looking but makes a massive difference.
  • Leaves do not care about you, your new brakes or your welfare, they will still increase your braking distance considerably.
  • Traffic wardens will attempt to ticket drivers who have pulled over to see if you're ok.
  • Lying in the road is very embarrassing.
  • My handlebars are magnetically attracted to my inner thighs and determined to cause massive purple bruising therein.
  • I don't swear when under that kind of pressure.
  • The driver will be in shock and incredibly distressed.
  • Sometimes shit happens.

Friday, 6 November 2009

An enforced sightseeing tour

Reg and I were in Bermondsey last night and Reg had his first trip in a lift. We were off to see the lovely M. In between catching up on literally years of gossip I showed her the rudimentary basics of puncture repair and brakes. The fact is that when you first get a puncture it's horrible but if you at least know what it all looks like it's not so bad.

We headed home just before 9pm and, as in London you can see where you are if you're near the river, I decided London Bridge was our best bet. Once there I turned left and negotiated the various roads behind Waterloo. One of my greatest loves about cycling in London is that when you get a bit lost you can pull over, get off and get your bearings. I did that a couple of times.

Some nasty roadworks meant I ended up heading across Westminster Bridge towards Parliament. It was lit up and gorgeous. The one way system then meant that we went down Whitehall, passing Number 10 and watching as they started preparations for Remembrance Sunday. Before you could blink we were at Trafalger, fountains plumed in the dark and tourists' flashbulbs gave the impression of strobe lighting.

Left again and Buckingham Palace loomed ahead, a majestic and beautiful chocolate box, with handsome and watchful military guards standing outside.

Then I went up through Hyde Park corner, across the ugly but deliciously smooth new tarmac put there, presumably, for bikers. Into the park, shaking may head at the sheer selfishness of the ninjas who, without lights, appear in the inky gloom inches from your handlebars scaring the crap out of you. The new Marble Arch fountains were in full technicolor brilliance splashing audibly.

The romance ended there as I made my way through the back streets to Paddington to catch the train with Reg.

The roadworks could have been a pain and they did delay me somewhat but instead of grumpy I was thrilled, how much would tourists pay to see all that in one night?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Fleecy trousers and bike envy

I wore my winter cruisers for the first time this morning and although I was a little on the warm side my legs were flying. I was zipping around and my knee doesn't hurt so I think I may well wear them again.

I'm popping to see a friend tonight. In return for dinner I'm giving a puncture repair tutorial and catching up with all the gossip. The fleecy leggings will come in useful on the ride home methinks.

I bumped into new boy J on my way in. We've worked together for ages but he's just started commuter cycling on a rather sexy-looking Trek. It's a proper roadie and is all drop handlebars and aerodynamic tubing. Reg looked almost scruffy in comparison.

I found myself drawn to the various clumps of crud that he's accumulated, overly conscious that he hadn't had a good clean in a while. The fact that one of his pedals clicks for some unknown reason at the moment, the fact that his acutely flat handlebars are filthy, all these and more were made all the more obvious by the presence of his new shiny rival.

Of course I compensated by speeding off into the morn leaving J with a string of red lights and the spectacle of me and my scruffy bike pedalling over the horizon.... hehehehhehehe

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Whitstable.... pictures of random things

The Woolwich ferry:














A handy bus stop as we wait while yet another p******* is repaired and a random stoppage in the dark:





























Hurray, some nature (a few comedic members of the crew warned me against another bike-water interface, one was not amused):



















The sea!

Whitstable.... soooo tiring

So on Friday night, before the lergy set in, I headed to Whitstable with the Friday night crew. The omens weren't good. It started weeing with rain as I left Paddington and cycled through Hyde Park. I get hot at the mere mention of a waterproof jacket and as I and a couple of other early birds took shelter under the Hyde Park Corner arch we were sceptical. More and more lights blinked towards us and soon a sizable number of regulars had arrived, including the lovely Andy on this:

Yes, it's a two-wheeled recumbent with a ghost on it. I knew it was there but on dark country lanes at 3am I defy anyone not to jump a little bit when it veers into view.

Anyhoo, we gathered and had the usual safety talk from Super Simon and swung onto our bikes. As we set off it stopped raining and I'm pleased to say it remained dry until the very end, when we pulled into Whitstable bay.

We were plagued by the p******* fairy even while still in London. One of the lovely regulars went over a beer bottle at London Bridge and tore a new tyre. He was visited twice more over the ride and our total for the whole ride was 10/11 depending on who you asked.

All this meant that the first half took far longer than it should have, but, on the plus side, I got to see where the Woolwich ferry is while chatting to the lovely Mike who had his bike rigged up like a Christmas tree. I know I keep saying lovely but they just are.

The air was cool and crisp with the full moon slowly revealed as the journey went on.

The cafe stop in Rochester was more than welcome and I have discovered that there's nothing quite like a fried egg baguette to perk you up. Having opened specially for us, the owners were a little put out when a couple of revolting teenagers turned up and tried to make trouble. In the end and irate female owner and the sight of 50 weary and lycra-clad bikers forced a retreat.

We headed into the countryside proper and it was beautiful. Empty fields and minimal traffic, cold clean air and good company. Bliss.

I was promised the phenomenon of 'misty sheep' at one point. Apparently, this time last year the mist was such that all you could see of the sheep were the tops of their heads. The mist had burned off by the very end but I did get the bleating from within the fog at one point.

As we arrived in the bay the rain returned in spitting form and the sight of bikes that meant 'Cafe stop!' was massively welcome. The final destination was a fabulous cafe with a large terrace to look out over the sea. It was too cold to sit out for me but a few hardened nutters sat out there just to say they had. A few even harder nutters demanded to be served beer when the clock reached 10am.

This was easily the most knackering ride I've done but my God it was fun, more pics to follow.

Rumours of my disappearance....

Apologies loyal fans, I've been very ill since Sunday and have only just rejoined the land of the living!

I shall post about the Whitstable ride ASAP!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Reg's new shoes (and other shiny stuff)

Yesterday two big Wiggle boxes arrived and I skipped merrily down to the post room to collect them.

Reg's new Schwalbe marathon shoes were in there along with some new inner tubes and some very posh bike cleaning gear. Work was horrendous and at lunchtime I decided that since I shouldn't access my work I'd put the new shoes on. Tomorrow's the Whitstable night ride and I wanted them on for it.

I headed down to the car park and had soon flipped Reg over and had the first wheel off. The new shoes are surprisingly easy to get on and have a beautiful reflective strip running all the way round on both sides. I had both the new shoes on and Reg cleaned up a bit with some of the posh new wipes within 40 minutes and he looked gorgeous.

In the course of the tyre change I also caught what was about to be a puncture and repaired it.

I had even managed to ignore the smug 'The joy of cycling to work eh? Puncture?' from more than one person coming in from lunch.

I came back upstairs to meet mayhem. There was much panic in the air because of an issue with computery stuff and stress levels were high. We pulled together and I headed out around an hour past home time. I got outside into the dark and cold evening exhausted and feeling rubbish. But there were the new shoes, winking at me.

My ride home was tangibly comfier and I could feel the extra grip without it slowing me down. Reg and I soared through the night and I arrived home still exhausted but happy. God only knows what mood I'd have been in if I'd been stuck on the bus for an hour!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Watchoo!

Yes, tis the season for the sniffles, tralalalala lala la laaaaah!

I have succumbed to a nasty cold that Mr Weenie had last week. All it does is make me feel a bit hazy, encourage snot and makes me very hot.

Mr Weenie did ask whether I'd rather take the bus to work but when you already feel feverish and rough, the last thing I want to do is climb into a hot metal box on wheels filled with other ill people who will cough and sneeze all over me. Plus, even though it's October I've been wearing naught but a short-sleeved jersey on some commutes because I'm getting so hot. It's cut down the laundry significantly.

No no, I'd much rather sail through the crisp, cool autumn air, pootling if necessary.

A down side is that I have to pull over when I sneeze. I may be a lady but I'm very much of the Watchoooooo! variety when it comes to sneezing. The last time I sneezed while riding I was, fortunately, on an empty road as I didn't feel it coming and the sheer force of it made me swerve indecorously across two lanes.

Yesterday and today I had to pull over on my way to work as I felt that familiar tingle that heralded a whopper. What makes me laugh about myself is even then I felt the need to say 'Excuse me!' in an overly polite fashion.

See, large sneezes don't make you a tramp, I'm still a lady.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

I have no life. It's official

So this month I have a little extra cash through various means so what have I spent it on, yes, bike stuff.

Not even exciting frivolous stuff. No no, instead I bought tyres, inner tubes and posh cleaning stuff. CLEANING STUFF?!?!?!!?

I have no life, it's official.

It's pay day and everyone else is buying party dresses for Christmas drinks, nice shoes, sparkly clothes you know frivolous stuff. Not bike stuff by any stretch.

I'm consoling myself with the fect that the amount I spent is almost exactly how much my monthly travelcard would be and, as I stopped cycling this time last year and all the stuff will keep me cycling, I've not actually gone over budget. Plus I did warn Mr Weenie that I was planning a big Wiggle purchase and, rather than dissuade me, he actually agreed I should buy the stuff I did.

What a guy.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Shower rage

My company's quite good when it comes to facilities for cyclists and runners. We have showers in every building with new ones installed recently and one more planned. What's not so lucky is some of the people who use them.

Now, I'm not your average girl, I shower quickly, don't wear make up and am happy to display my Wurzel Gummidge hair in the office and brush it at my desk. However, the reason I get the rage is that when I'm queueing for the showers it is generally the boys who take aaaaaaages.

We have a shower on each floor for three floors. They're in the stairwell and you can stand in one position and see all three doors and dash into the next vacant one. I've queued in this manner several times and at least one management bod knows that if I'm there the showers are full and always says hello.

This morning I was there for bloody forever waiting and it was deemed all the more shocking by the fact that at least two of the showers were running when I started waiting. I heard at least one go off then start up again, I presume for the second hair wash rinse or similar.

I'm all for men taking a bit of an interest in their appearance but do it at home. Some of us are waiting to become office butterflies and are forced to wait in the stairwell still cocooned in sweaty lycra.

This morning I actually had visions of fitting buzzing timers that cut off the hot water after 10 minutes, perhaps that would shrink their..... shower time.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Reg goes clubbing

So I decided to go ahead with my cycling/clubbing plan when it became apparent that the tube was a bit pants. I did, however, decide that I'd aim to take Reg with me on the train partway both ways and that I'd only cycle all the way if I missed the last one from Paddington.

The only down side of all this was that Mr Weenie offered to buy me a beautiful dress to wear out but its length and the fact it was silk meant I didn't want to cycle in it. Sigh.

Instead I wore a fab black sequinned vest-top dress over black leggings. I wore trainers and packed smarter shoes into my pannier along with my cable loop and headed into town. Reg and I caught the train to Paddington from my local station and then I cycled to Oxford Circus. It took 10 minutes (only!) and I had loads of time to lock Reg to a lamppost that was in full view of the club's bouncers on a very well lit piece of road. Someone else's bike was also there so Reg wasn't lonely.

I tidied myself and changed my shoes while waiting for T, whose birthday it was.

When she arrived she laughed and said her mum had joked I'd probably cycle there. She laughed even more when I pointed to Reg chained up a few yards away. We got inside and the night began.

The hardest part was making sure people didn't top up my glass once I'd decided to stop drinking (I don't think cycling squiffy is particularly clever in London traffic). I solved this by getting glasses of tap water with ice from the bar. As long as you're holding a drink no one tries to give you one.

We danced to Dizzee Rascal, I chatted to T's other half and a good time was had. At around 11.30pm I lost the others as the club got packed and, knowing I had to leave at midnight anyway, I decided to call it a night. I got my pannier out of the cloakroom (took ages) changed my shoes and went to get Reg. At 11.45pm we headed to Paddington and at 11.55pm I was buying a coffee from the Costa in the station (who knew it opened so late, hooray). I got on the 12.05am to Reading so I could get to Ealing Broadway and cycle from there. It was the most unpleasant part of the journey.

Everyone was trashed, people kept bumping Reg and only my delicious and much-needed latte kept me going. We got to Ealing Broadway, I carried Reg up the stairs and pedalled home.

I had texted Mr Weenie from Paddington to let him know which train I was on so I was surprised at the level of shock he displayed when I walked in the door. 'Check the time,' was all he said.

It was 12.30am. It had taken me 45 minutes!

Last time I got stuck in Leicester Square and came home alone it took more than three hours by night bus. Where I now live is a good solid walk from the nearest night bus stop and I reckon two hours would have been a good time to do it in.

I was actually in bed an hour after leaving a central London nightclub and I live in zone 4. Even if I'd cycled the whole way I'd have been home in 1hr 15mins max, I know because I've cycled home from the Barbican late at night.

Cutting more than an hour off your journey home and feeling totally safe the whole way door to door: worth skipping a few drinks for? Oh I think so.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Clubbing by bike

Some people think I'm mental but I'm seriously thinking about taking Reg clubbing.

Basically I'm going out for a mate's birthday in central London and getting home by public transport late at night could take me upwards of two hours. By bike it'd take about an hour.

I'm not a big drinker so the prospect of not drinking a lot doesn't faze me and I'd rather bike door to door than have to walk home from the night bus stop alone late at night.

The rain may prevent me from carrying out my dastardly plan but if it doesn't am I mad?

Friday, 23 October 2009

Moomin: my hero

So there I was all worried I had nothing to blog about when a text came in on my phone:

'Ohmigod! Was sailing down Argyle rd feeling smug when back brake unscrewed itself. Fortunately only doing moominspeed or would have been serious A over T* situation! x'

Argyle Road is a massively speedy hill near my parents which has just been resurfaced so is slick and I can easily hit more than 20mph down it. Moomin's steel lady-bike is very heavy and the weight means it can also pick up speed. At the bottom of the hill is a busy roundabout linking traffic to the main route onto the A40!

My hearts beating wildly and although I've rung her her phone's off so I can't find out how on earth she stopped. I would have been terrified! I love the fact that she's obviously found it all hilarious. What a hero. When I get more details I shall duly post them!

*Arse over Tit in family lingo.

** Update: Apparently moomin was able to stop with careful use of her front brakes and is now fine. Not only that, she got off, screwed the relevant bit back together and pedalled on to her destination. What a gal.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Shout out for J

Two punctures in one day and he hasn't been cycling for long.

I feel your pain.

Why I'm reporting you: take two

You drive an enormous articulated lorry through a very busy road. That's not why I reported you.

Last time I saw you you waved and smiled when I got to the front of the traffic queue. That's not why I reported you.

You once stuck your head out of the window of your cab to check I hadn't come down your left-hand-side before proceeding. That's not why I reported you.

When I was in front of you you waited a full five seconds after the lights changed before starting to move so that I could get safely ahead. That's not why I reported you.

You are consistently nice to me as a cyclist and take an interest in protecting me because you know your blind spots are considerable and you don't want to injure me. That's why I rang the company you deliver for and told them you're fabulous.

They've even emailed me back thanking me for emailing and said they'll pass on the message.

BoJo baby get with the programme....

One of my readers met the straw-haired one!

Now I was never a fan of Ken Livingstone, his tram plans and slimy demeanor put me off somewhat. My paperwork was lost so I didn't get to vote in the mayoral election but I often wonder if I'd have voted for Boris Johnson. He's in now, and the fact he's a cyclist is good.

The fact that he's the Tory flagship and will be guided every step of the way by advisers so he doesn't cock it up for the party when they go for the big general election is, in my opinion, also good.

I was horribly disappointed therefore to learn that his solution for women being killed by lorries is that we need to fight our way to the front more. Sigh.

Tory thinks women are ninnies, the cliche is spectacular. Perhaps Mr Johnson would like to come on my commute with me one day and decide whether my decision to hang back from enormous articulated lorries is sensible or silly.....

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

£986.40

That's how much I'd spend in a year on travel if I bought monthly travelcards at the new fare rates.

Mwahahahahhahahahahhahahahaha

Why I'm reporting you...

When I overtook you I was halfway up when you decided to pull out and nearly hit me. Then you trapped me on your right side at the lights. That's not why I reported you.

When you finally let me get onto the left and into the cycle lane a large bin lorry was blocking the lane. I signalled I was pulling out round it but you refused to let me out and nearly ran me into the lorry when you accelerated past me so I definitely couldn't pull out. That's not why I reported you.

I overtook you while you were at the next bus stop. Then the light was red so I took primary position in the traffic queue and you were behind me. You crept your bus forward until you were less that half a metre from my back wheel and when I turned round to check how close you were you smirked. That's not why I reported you.

At the next set of lights you accelerated past me and cut me up while entering the cycle lane. That's not why I reported you.

I overtook you again at the next stop and got far ahead. I stopped at a light and asked the motorbike driver who roared up how far behind me you were and were you at a stop. I decided that if you were anything less than half a mile behind me I would take a different route to avoid you because I was feeling uneasy and more than a bit frightened. That's why I reported you.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Nearly hit a cyclist and a victim of my own success

I just didn't see him.

I was at a T-junction and as I pulled across to go right I realised a cyclists was alarmingly close on my left. I'd looked both ways and seen the bus behind him but missed him completely.

It was morning, fairly light and 90 per cent of the cycling population did NOT have their lights on, me included. He was ninja-style all in black but it was broad bloody daylight. See I knew there was a reason I wore bright pink.

I reached work still thinking about it and feeling bad even though neither of us even had to brake hard and no one was hurt, only to find that ALL of the showers were in use. Yes my evil plan to get more people cycling has worked and we're inundated with them. Harumph.

They leave their towels everywhere, get water all over the floor and take FOREVER to get washed.

Bloody cyclists.

Monday, 19 October 2009

'You're brave!': My first of the season

Hurray, someone's finally said it.

You know winter's coming when someone thinks you're akin to Superwoman for taking your bike out even though it's a bit chilly.

Saturday morning music school was the scene. It wasn't that cold, or so I thought. Apparently it was freezing, but I just don't feel the cold when I get going. I wore a base layer this morning and was BOILING when I got it even though I was sedately pootling with S.

Still, always feels great when someone says it, enough of a motivation to keep going over winter I reckon.

Friday, 16 October 2009

A brief rant on lights

S and I are religious about putting our lights on when it gets even slightly dark. In fact, last night we had her rear light moved as we realised her new rack had hidden it.

This means I get super cross when I see ninja-style cyclists (dark clothing, no lights, silent in their approach). You can't see them, traffic means you can't hear them and they're asking to be hit by someone/thing.

Last night my leggings purchase delayed us and it was really quite dark when we pedalled off. A ninja on a Brompton came past us both inches away, I saw him at the last minute. When we stopped at the next lights I remarked on it.

'Gosh, it makes me so cross. That guy was barely visible!'

'What guy?'

Exactly.

A lovely morning

Last night I headed to Evans for the second round of leggings-gate.

I'd ordered in the XL Gore Wear ones and went to try them on. They fit. Like a dream. And are so comfy I could wear them forever. How annoying.

I was, in my heart of hearts, hoping that they'd be way too big but the XL fit like a glove. The fabric's so posh it feels like I'm naked and I have to keep looking down to check that I'm not. The panelling means the fabric is snug without pulling and there's so much ergonomic padding I feel like I'm sitting on a cushion. Mmmmmmmm

S and I set off and secretly I was hoping we'd escape without incident. Yesterday, her first day back after a nasty cough and cold, was horrendous. Solid traffic, a vicious left hook by an insane 4x4 BMW that would have left even the hardest lycra loony shaken and various nobbers on the road.

This morning was a dream. Very little traffic, whole stretches where we could pull out into the right lane with no one behind us and we beat the rain to make it into work dry. We also helped a fellow cyclist on a delicious looking Tricross who needed to borrow a pump. Then to top it off the lovely A2 met us in the coffee shop for a natter as we headed in to park up.

Lovely lovely.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Labia protection for ladies

I've been simmering over the Evans business.

If the staff knew that all the women's stuff is in teeny sizes why weren't there more normal sizes on the shop floor? Why?

I'm so bored of asking in a timid and embarrassed lady voice whether there are any extra larges pretty please. Next time perhaps I should just bellow, 'Hi, got anything that sounds like it's for fat people even though it's actually just for ladies bigger than a twig?' jovially as I stride through.

What horrifies me the most I think is that I'm a size 14 and find it difficult. The average size in the UK is a 16 so where on earth are those ladies meant to get their clothes? Plus, while non-cycling specific gear is ok for short hops and social rides, padding is where it's at when it comes to regular riding.

Ergonomic labia protection is, frankly, a vital part of the kit. If you asked a male cycle clothing executive whether he would expect most men to wear stuff that compromises their balls because they're not thin enough for the clothing on the market I'm guessing he'd say no, so why are women of normal and slightly larger build made to do so by sheer lack of variety?

Just because we don't feel the need to talk obsessively about our lady bits doesn't mean we don't value them highly and feel they deserve the best in terms of comfort.

Come on cycle clothing people, get with it.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Worst morning ever.

Last night I got a puncture just seconds from home so I fixed it in the living room and headed off this morning full of the joys with cycle vouchers in my pocket from my fabulous sister.

A few hundred yards in something was wrong. Yes, the front wheel was on backwards. Oops. Put it back on and continued.

Got to Evans only to discover that they only had the tights I wanted in 'small' and 'medium'. In women's cycle clothing this means 'stick insect' and fat 'stick insect'. Outraged, I demanded that bigger ones be ordered in. The guy across the counter started to ask for payment with a refund of they didn't fit but an icy glare meant the sentence was abandoned long before it concluded.

Tootling on to Hammersmith I reached a road that, while unmarked, you're supposed to go to the right or left depending on which way you're going at the T-junction. I headed for the middle as I was turning right and if you hug the right-hand curb you get squished. I was thwarted by a nobber who was crawling up the middle in everyone's way. I decided to overtake him on his right only to have a blacked-out pimp-mobile roar up my right-hand side. A cloud of suspicious smoke rolled out of the window as it was opened. 'WHAT THE F*** YOU DOING YOU C***?! STOP CYCLING LIKE A F****** IDIOT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!' Was spat out of the window by the passenger.

Normally I would have retorted with similar wording but men in hoodies in blacked out cars and who own gold teeth are, in my experience, to be avoided. 'I'm turning right and the guy in front of me won't move, what do you want me to do?' Was all I could say. I was shaking with rage and near tears with frustration a the injustice of it all.

I decided a Starbucks would cheer me up. I came out with a coffee and realised my front tyre was flat. Again.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

How short is too short?

Seriously though, some guy yesterday was in eighties stylie short shorts and it was, frankly, offensive.

Put them away man, get some lycra, it'd be less graphic. When you pedalled I could nearly see your bits and although I tried desperately to drag my eyes away it was train-crash-like in its magnetism. I HAD to look.

Bounce bounce bounce.

Bleurgh.

Good news from the physio

  • Over rotated spine affecting rib cage.
  • Hyper-mobility of ankles caused by overstretched tendons and ligaments.
  • Referral for orthotics IN shoes.
  • Recommendation I get blocks ON shoes.
  • Right thigh muscles incredibly tight. Calf muscles shortened.
  • Possible torn cartilage in right knee that may require surgery.
  • Hip remains f*****.
'Can I still cycle?'

'Yes you can.'

Can I get a whoop whoop?!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Women's cycle clothing, we're finally getting somewhere

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of stylish clothing on show. There were some very cool-looking biker-style jackets by Swiss company ASSOS and a whole stand dedicated to commuting clothes.

The BSpoke range was featured and, I tell you what, Weenie likes.

My favourite item was a black trench-style jacket with hood. Lined with funky purple it looked like a lovely going out jacket. ... to the untrained eye at least. Any cyclist worth their salt will have notice: the pull down section that covers your arse but then poppers away when you're not cycling; the hidden pit zips and inside pockets; the reversible belt that's reflective, the completely waterproof but breathable fabric. Sigh.

If only it wasn't around £120 I'd be sold. But with standard high-vis jackets, including black fitted one with reflective strips, coming in at a maximum of £70, I just couldn't justify it.

Depressingly, this was a common feature on the clothing I looked at. Cyclodelic and new designer Ana Nichooler were both at the show and had some lovely stuff (check below for pix of Ana Nichooler stuff) but all of it was expensive. A lot of my lycra gear is hard-wearing and not too hideous in the pricing range so I'm happy to throw it over London's roads and take it out most days. I would love some designer stuff but I fear it would stay at the back of my wardrobe as I'd be too frightened to take it out.

Perhaps when women's cycling becomes normal and less rarified prices will drop, at least we're getting somewhere now. On the weekends I don't want to wear lycra padded shorts as I trip round markets and do light shopping. I take great comfort from the fact that women's cycle clothing is being looked at by designers.

Ana Nichoolson stuff, I like........

Perving at Pinarellos and things I don't need

I went to the Bike Show at Earls Court on Sunday and it was super fun. CC and I headed there after I'd already been to Columbia Road flower market with my older sister. I'd headed out and decided to take Reg on the train to Paddington and cycle from there but the trains were cancelled. I managed to get him on the central line to White City and we cycled from there to Liverpool Street. I raced a bit so I wouldn't be late and managed it in half an hour flat.

I locked Reg securely in front of some outdoor seating at a popular and posh cafe and we walked via Brick Lane to the market. We looked at beautiful flowers while drinking lovely coffee and I contained the rage at watching people buy bikes 'liberated' from owners.

I then started to head to Earls Court. It took me an hour!

Traffic, closed roads, idiot pedestrians, road works. Eugh. I arrived to meet CC hugely sweaty and in a filthy mood. We persevered, fuelled by mini cupcakes from Columbia Road and soon started to have fun. I perved at Pinarellos:

You know it's sexy.













We saw a crystal-coated bike:















The clothes will get their own post, as will the BMXers!

Friday, 9 October 2009

BBC women cyclists article....

Not bad, not bad.

Easy as she goes

I'm relieved that someone finally brought up the whole more men are killed than women thing. More women have been killed by HGVs this year, a lot more, but I'm starting to wonder about the possibility of statistical anomaly (wipes brow after effort of enormous words).

The fact is that far more men are killed overall and this year could well be a blip as it were in the numbers. Action still must be taken as one person killed is one too many but it bears some consideration.

The other fab thing brought up in the article is that men and women are different. Yes it's bloody obvious, but when it comes to cycling a lot of dyed in the wool cyclists forget this unalterable fact. Women won't cycle if they don't feel safe and are less likely to be assertive on the road. Men and women have different styles, different things that drive them to cycle and different attitudes. Not all of them, but a lot.

Pity that diagram shows a lorry overtake maneuver that only a mentalist would try. Going up the right side of a lorry? In traffic? In London? With our narrow roads? Bugger that.

Making time for maintenance

Morning gang, I was off yesterday taking dad to his hospital appointment. He's now been told he doesn't need to see the surgeon again for a whole year. Hooray!

We were there for hours! When we returned to leafy Ealing I grabbed Reg and headed to my parents' while dad took the bus. I got to their house and waited. Then I waited a bit more. Then I noticed Reg looked a bit filthy. Then I noticed he looked really filthy. Then I noticed moomin and dad have buckets etc at home. Then I decided to gve Reg a rinse. Then I scrubbed him a bit.... just while I waited. Then I scrubbed him a bit more and gave him soapy scrubbing. Then I gave him hot water rinsing. Then I dried him off. Then I wiped down the frame and gave it a minor polish. Then I got him all oiled up and checked that he sounded all smooth.

Then dad got home.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

I wish I lived in Brussels

My cousin H lives in Brussels with two adorable and fabulous girlies and a couple of months ago she decided to get a bike. Lady C her oldest girly (four/five), soon decided she too wanted a bicycle, it's pink because Lady C believes everything should be.

H decided to use the method of giving Lady C a pedalless bike first to help her learn to balance before moving onto a bike with no stabilisers. It worked a treat and she is now a spreading the message of pink on two wheels across the city.

I say across the city because it transpires that Brussels is car-free one Sunday a month so that people can cycle freely. Yes, that's right:

The whole city goes car free one day a month!


Now I know Brussels is smaller than London but am I the only one who thinks it's utterly fabulous and something all European cities should be looking at as a model of good practice? Lady C and H pedal round everywhere whenever the day is on and both love it. It's a lovely, not to say healthy, way of having a family day out and means that Lady C can learn about the road in safety ready for when she gets older.

Vive la Brussels!

Google analytics, the addiction takes hold

Someone showed me Google Analytics as a way of tracking Roger and Me's visits etc and I'm LOVING it.

Hello to my international people and may I just say that I intend to use my fame for good, worthwhile causes. I love you all.

On a serious level, I'm so pleased so many people read it and I'm really flattered. I feel responsible for stuff now so do let me know if there's anything I should be blogging about or noticing!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The rain may not be pissing but the boys are

This morning I got hot, steamy and wet.

Eugh.

I got fully tooled up ready for the promised downpour: waterproof jacket in bright yellow; waterproof socks; shorts because legs dry quicker than fabric; positive mental attitude.

I was prepared, I was ready ... and it didn't bloody rain. Don't get me wrong, there was spittage and slight weeing of water onto my helmet but it wasn't real rain. So false was it that I had to take off my jacket two miles in because I was so hot. My feet got sweaty and I got all red. I was reduced to a pootling speed so as not to overheat. At the same time however, my bottom got increasingly sodden as I splashed through the puddles left by the proper rain that came down early this morning.

The lack of pissing from the sky was more than made up for by the pissing that went on last night however. More specifically, the pissing contests...

I was boxed in twice by boys racing at lights. To their credit they had stopped for them but the revving of engines was replaced by meaningful but polite middle-class looks and the clipping in of SPDs. As the light went amber there was knashing of teeth and furious peddling. Muscles were tested and lycra strained. Panniers bounced madly as potholes were hit and the rattle of mudguards was something to behold.

Half a mile later they all looked knackered when I went past them.

Monday, 5 October 2009

FNRttc to Southend: pictures2















On the move
















The sea!!!

FNRttc to Southend: pictures















Reg on the way to Paddington (you can tell he's excited)














Scenes at HPC, the 'crack den'

FNRttC to Southend: the report

What a weekend.

I headed to Hyde Park Corner (or HPC for those in the know) late on Friday night and was rewarded almost immediately when a beautiful young fox decided to accompany me some of the way to the station. When I got to HPC I wasn't the first person there, hurrah! Not only that but I saw my first recumbents in the flesh. Two trikes and a two-wheeled one. Just when I thought it couldn't get more exciting the tandem turned up. It was a specially built one with an upright on the back and a recumbent up front.

I'd put on cyclechat that it was my first ride without friends and, given the friendly atmosphere the last two rides, I wasn't at all surprised when quite a few people came up and asked if I was weenie and said hello. We set off without the ride leader when he couldn't be traced (our usual fearless leader who was meant to be taking a break took us) and headed for parliament, arriving just as Big Ben chimed 12.15am.

We headed off through London with the only unfortunate incident being an idiot throwing a bottle filled with a substance we decided not to check at a group of us. Luckily no one was injured and we turned the other cheek. We checked out the Olympic site (it's huge!) before heading to the Dartford services for coffee and cake. An hour in, an exhausted looking ride leader arrived having slept past his alarm and chased us all the way to the halfway point, which we'd arrived at half an a hour early.

As we set off for the second leg I became increasingly appreciative of my new long-sleeved base layer. I spent a little more to get a swanky merino one that was on sale and my God it was worth it. I was warm and dry throughout without getting overheated and as we left the city behind it got ever colder.

We swept on threough deserted country roads, the only sounds being the whirr of freewheels and the periodic shouts of 'Easy!', 'Hole', 'Glass' and 'Bollard!'.

The route was relatively flat and pace sedate so there was much chatting and we went. We even stopped for a lecture on Czech architecture outside an old boot factory. Near Southend we found a viewing point to watch the sunrise with the castle in view. Mr Weenie's text at 6am asking where his gumshield was provided much giggling before we headed for breakfast.

About 20 minutes in, the level of chat started to dip as knackeredness set in. A few fried breakfasts later it resumed with me being goaded into the cycle back. I resisted but agreed to cycle home from Liverpool Street instead. On the train myself and a fellow rider ended up moving our bikes continually to let people on and off (I say we, she did most of it, thanks again Kate).

I cycled the 12 miles back from Liverpool Street, got home, did the mountain of washing up, ate hopmemade soup with bread and butter and showered. At 12pm I lay on the sofa to watch TV. At 4pm I woke up withn a contented Mr Handsome asleep on my lap.

I then cycled to a local pub for a pint with an old friend I haven't seen for ages. Went home again to a similarly exhausted Mr Weenie before having a takeaway and going to bed.

On Sunday I went for an enormous curry lunch with my parents, sister and cousin. As I ate my second helping of muttar paneer, ginger chicken and tikka, washed down with another mango lassi my family could only look on in admiration, no one eats quite like a cyclist whose done more than 80 miles of a weekend.

I shall post pictures when I get them off my phone!

Friday, 2 October 2009

FNRttC to Southend

Tonight I'm heading to Southend with the night ride crew and I'm quite excited and a little nervous.

Given the colder weather I've invested in a nice long-sleeved base layer and will be wearing leggings. I have waterproof socks just in case, I got up very early and am leaving work at about 4pm so I can go home and nap beforehand. I even came in with Mr Weenie this morning instead of cycling to rest my legs and hip. My only source of apprehension is that I'm going alone. The other two rides I've always brought someone, A2 or CC. This time it's just me.

From a social point of view I'm fine, the boys and girls on the ride are lovely and even if I went all sexist about it around a third of the riders are female this time, a record for the group. Even though A2 came with me last time he's much faster than me and soon sped off into the night (with my permission) while I hung back with the very amiable Wowbagger and others until the next rest stop.

I had many an interesting conversation with people I'd never met before and found a guy willing to lend CC and I a tandem (if we ever get a free weekend, sigh).

No, my real concern is that I might make a tit of myself with no one there to explain away my behaviour. When I fell off at Hyde Park Corner last time A2 stayed with me, fended off others who enquired as to my welfare and shielded me from attention until I was less embarrassed and able to see the funny side of a hilarious accident. Who will do that for me this time?

Perhaps I should just try not to fall off?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Fat One, the cat-shaped dustbin

My commute in this morning was completely non-descript and unworthy of note. The usual idiot drivers, a couple of Tour de Commuters huffing and puffing to pass me and me pootling for once so I don't damage myself before tomorrow night's FNRttC (oh the excitement).

So the cats....

My darlings were on top form last night. Bounding around, play-fighting, meowing for food five minutes after feeding and begging for cheese. Mr Handsome begs for cheese to fit in but The Fat One loves it. All types, blue cheese, feta, cheddar she'll eat it all. She also loves couscous, chicken tikka masala sauce and butter. She'll even eat peas.

Is this normal?

We rarely give her these things because they are, after all, people foods, not for pusses. But her bottom continues to expand at an alarming rate. I won't leave any food out and plates are scraped and rinsed off before being put in the sink just in case.

I don't know of any other cat with this type of dustbin for a stomach mentality. She was dumped on a pet shop at around six weeks old and in our care has never known hunger or neglect. She did suffer a horrible bout of Campylobactor as a tiny but was treated successfully.

I'm at a loss as to her fatness, when she sits looking all cute with her paws neatly placed together all the eye is drawn to is the alarmingly pear-like silhouette she casts.

Any theories?

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Reasons I love my mum. No 4,056

When I texted her to say I'd seen a gorgeous little wire-haired terrier in a bike basket and it had reaffirmed my desire for a cat basket on my bike, she didn't scoff, instead revealing her secret dream to get a mastiff that can be towed in a child trailer on her bike.

Ace.

You, in the penguin-like body condom...

You're often on the Tour de Commute on the Uxbridge Road on your gorgeous expensive-looking bike and your black and white racing kit and cleats. You go very fast actually and I'm impressed by that. You have nice equipment, I envy it.

So it's a pity you're a t**t.

When there are five slowish people climbing a short hill on a very narrow stretch of road in heavy traffic you wait for a good time to overtake (as I was doing). You do NOT overtake them so closely they're nearly crushed against the 18-foot bendy bus they're overtaking. You do NOT then do the same thing to the others in the queue.

I'm sorry we were going a mere 15mph but it's a commute, it's not a f****** race. Get over yourself.

Oh and the white bits of your shorts highlight your other, more... ahem... physical, inadequacies.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Let me help you

I often see people cycling with nearly flat tyres. It depresses me as a lot of the time it's just poor maintenance or a lack of knowledge.

This morning I leant forward at a junction and addressed the latest flattie. 'I'm terribly sorry but you're back tyre is completely flat' (I'm quite posh and middle class about these things in that I apologise frequently). The lady in question turned round and looked panicked.... and embarrassed. 'Ummmmm, oh yes I see .... ummmm I'm sure it'll be fine ummmm until I get to work'.

Ladies and gentlemen, it was NOT fine, this was a tyre like a pancake and when she pedalled off one could actually see the rim hitting the road. But I knew this was a battle I wasn't going to win. In the face of such blatant denial one must walk away and offer help only when the flattie is willing to accept it.

She was wearing naught but a small handbag in the way of luggage and clearly did not have any kit with her and her abject terror betrayed the fact that she had absolutely no idea what to do.

I offer help to people (mainly damsels) in flattie distress perhaps four times a week. Some don't need it but most won't accept it only because they're in denial about it.

A p******* is not your fault, it could happen to all of us. I have the tools to help you, but only if you'll let me.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Setting an example

On Saturdays I teach small children music and I love it. I teach with my beloved moomin and recently we've started going by bike some of the time. And the children love it.

There are dozens of teachers at the music school but only around four of us come in by bike. I forego the lycra and wear black leggings with a long top but we often are still wearing our helmets and yellow vests when children start arriving and saying hello.

When I do night rides I tell them and they're often open-mouthed with awe, they love to hear about them and a few are bikers themselves already. At least one girl is desperate for a stunt bike for her birthday.

Too many parents are frightened of letting their children ride a bike. They don't have to go on a road, although one family locally goes to school every morning by road with the children carefully marshalled in the bus lane. It's a source of great joy to me to see the many tinies on bikes in the park near my house on the weekends. Increasingly I see whole families and the bike path near me often has a red-faced father towing children up the steep bit in a tow-along buggy or clip-on extension.

The best thing we can do to encourage children is to set an example. If they ask whey I wear my helmet and high-vis vest I tell them but it's all personal choice. Harder is fighting the temptation to swear at rubbish drivers when I'm near the music school. A range rover came so close to moomin and me on Saturday that I thought he was going to clip my ankle. You never know which parent drives which car and seeing their music teacher calling their dear mummy a c*** could undo all the good bicycle work even if dear mummy can't drive.

Until cycling is seen as a normal way of getting about children and young people won't see it as an option, so let's set an example.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Cycle lanes, the big debate

So there has been much hooing and haaaing over the whole, do cycle lanes make cars get closer to bikes debate. I just don't understand the hype, of course they do.

Along the Uxbridge Road there are both cycle and bus lanes and I lurve the bus lanes. The cycle lanes, not so much. Drivers seem to disengage the part of their brain that judges safe passing distance because if they're not crossing the dotted line, surely that means they're being responsible? Actually it just means that they're being totally selfish nobheads.

Bus lanes are fab because buses are far less frequent than cars so you have huge stretches with just you and the bike sailing along in a large, bright-red lane that no cars will touch because they'll be fined if they do. Cycle lanes are often parked in, driven in by scooters as well as cars, and many are so narrow that to get the whole width of your handlebars between the lines you cycle in the gutter through gravel, glass and the occasional dog poo.

The flagrant abuse of cycle lanes is what makes them so rubbish. Why the hell can't parking wardens get with the programme and start ticketing those who would force cyclists into the path of traffic because they need to avoid the five-minute walk caused by parking somewhere sensible (and legal)?

With this in mind, I've signed the Sustrans petition on making cycling safer (for women in particular).

I love to cycle and I love my bike, but when idiots swing in close 'But I haven't crossed the line even though my wing mirror's practically smacking your bottom' I know why other women are put off. Men tend to be far more risk-loving in my experience albeit limited. Maybe the government should stop whining about traffic congestion and actually invest in getting more people out of their cars.

Rant over!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Frog people

You know who you are. Your tiny BMX is entirely unsuitable for the road/park/pavement but you bounce along determined. Your feet turned outwards and your seat too low you bob along with your knees up by your ears, increasing your width three-fold.

Just in case you didn't know, you look really stupid.

Sunshiny cold

Many people I know make the assumption that high summer is the best time of year to cycle. Surely, they say, it's so nice to be out in the sun at one with nature... blah blah blah.

No.

Summer involves being covered in a film of stingingly salty sweat, eyes squinting as it rolls into your eyes, bugs flying into your mouth and down into your bra, tan lines that coincide exactly with the sleeves of your jersey and the length of your shorts. Summer is also the time of year when people who haven't cycled in years decide that now is the time to give it a go, weaving across lanes of traffic, stubbornly refusing to let you pass them, jumping lights and squeaking frantically up hills.

Now is the time when the bugs recede a bit and the fair-weather cyclists think twice about the cold bike or the cosy tube. Now is when you start out a bit chilly but warm to a comfortable glow without getting too hot. Now the air is clear and you can see the squirrels packing away their nuts for winter and the birds flying across the sky as they head for warmer climes.

Now is one of the best and my favourite time to be a cyclist.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Hurrah!

16 followers!

Am famous.

** Have just had to amend the number and my goodness we're feeling commenty!

Traffic jam

There were massive queues on the way home last night. The traffic was at a stand-still and I spent a lot of the journey near home sailing along the deserted bus lane while cars sat stationary in the lane next to me.

So many cars stock still could mean only one thing, an accident, and a bad one.

There's nothing on the news but my sister was caught up in the jam last night in her car and was told by the policeman advising cars to turn back that it was a fatal collision and that crime scene photographs needed to be taken before bodies could be moved. I'm hoping it was only one and he was talking generally but who knows.

The local grapevine is suggesting that a child has been killed.

It's an accident blackspot and there are many fatalities in the half mile either side of where this accident has happened. I went through that section regularly before we moved and it was all too easy to forget just how dangerous it could be. The regular reminders were the sirens, the lights and the police directing traffic whenever the worst had happened.

I got home in record time last night because of the buses being diverted leaving me with the bus lane to myself. I'd rather have been late and for nothing to have gone so tragically wrong and to have foregone the reminder that roads are dangerous, whether you're powered by a motor, pedals or your own two feet.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Super whizzy weenie

Having buddied S the last two days I've been going at quite a sedate pace but this morning I was alone.

And my goodness I was fast.

I set off a bit late and was all panicked but I sit here, freshly showered, at my desk, blogging a full 10 minutes before work technically begins. Shocking stuff.

I overtook several people, including two who were red light jumping but I still managed to lose them eventually, and I was nearly hit by a van that swerved into my lane because he 'didn't expect me to be going so fast!' He apologised and as there was a small and frightened-looking child in the van with him I let it go. It was a genuine error rather than malicious and he apologised, which is more than most.

I sped off once more and, joy of joys, the whole of the hill in Acton was empty of cars and the lights were with me. Bugger all traffic meant that even the many vans parked in the cycle lane weren't a problem as I didn't have to swing in and out of the cycle lane continually.

I pedalled on towards Shepherds Bush and the lights remained with me. The enormous bus lane and flat road on that section means it can be very quick and glancing at my speedometer I was shocked to see I'd hit 36kph. Shocked but smug, obviously.

I then swept down the hill to Hammersmith in triumph.

All in all, a marvelous commute, hurray!

It just all adds weight to my argument that the Uxbridge Road is a far better cycle superhighway than the A40 route proposed by the head honchos. When it works, it's a great road to commute on and if the cycle lanes were better protected and some tweaks were made in some narrow places it'd be ideal.

Come on Boris, agree with me.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A sad realisation

This morning the rude lady on the MTB was on my route again. This was the lady who called S and I idiots for no reason.

She pedalled away through red lights and junctions, S and I overtook her several times and she undertook me so close she hit me with her foot without noticing at a red light when I had stopped.

Then we reached a four-way junction. She mounted the pavement weaved left, decided to cycle across the pedestrian crossing, nearly hitting four people who were crossing it at the time, mounted the pavement the other side before rejoining the road. All this while the light was red and while cars were attempting to go through the junction while she was in the way. She saved a grand total of about one minute and S and I soon caught up.

To my surprise S lent over and gave her a hearty 'Have a great morning!' When woman asked why S pointed out that she and I were being gifted great amusement by her antics. Rude woman got quite shirty at this and sped off.

It was quite funny in a way but what made me sad was that sooner or later this woman will cause an accident and either she, or a pedestrian she hits or both will get hurt. Many cyclists skip red lights and although it's not something I do, many of them are at least aware of the traffic around them and adjust for it, this woman is completely self-absorbed. Unaware of the dangers she's putting herself and others in, it's only a matter of time before she comes acropper.

I shall, in future endeavor to stay out of her way, she's young, very pretty and probably has much to live for, watching her risk it all is just too sad.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Yaaaaawn!

Apologies for the late post but I am KNACKERED. Poor Mr Weenie had a bizarre night as he was so gripped by a nightmare that he woke me up by attempting to push me off the bed, gripping my arm when I asked what he was doing, attempting to leave the room via the wardrobe, then near running out of the bedroom door, coming to his senses only when he reached the bathroom and wondered what on earth he was doing in there.

As a consequence I'm bushed.

It doesn't help that I was out with my sisters last night too. Reg came with me to the pub though and it took me about 10 minutes to get home, bliss.

S and I met up at the usual time after last week's drama. We were understandably apprehensive. The bike shop couldn't find any problems despite her frequent inner tube splits so had concluded that my theory was correct and had retaped the inside of the wheel to protect the inner tubes from the spokes. After a test ride on Sunday had been successful we decided to go into work.

I had reasoned that the drama had lessened S's confidence a little so when we hit the road after the Chiswick Roundabout I carefully monitored my speed and let her take the lead. Oops. I was so busy checking my speedometer that I hadn't noticed she'd nipped off into the distance. I pedalled quickly to catch up only for her to nip off again. She was steaming ahead. She took lanes, overtook a Pashley, saw off an aggressive 4x4 and, as a result we got to Hammersmith Broadway at 8.45am. We were locking up our bikes by 8.55am.

When we first came all the way in we were locking up at 9.15am, that's a hell of a difference and means S has managed to achieve her goal of beating public transport for commuting time. We're already planning some longer routes home when she's built her confidence and strength back up. I was starting to wonder if we'd ever get over the bike problems and I'm pleased the bike shop saw sense, they even agreed to do the repairs for free.

At least for me, the nightmares are over.