Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The rights and lefts

Yesterday I got beeped and sworn at for being on the very far right of three lanes of traffic. I think the words were along the lines of 'Get out of the f*cking way' and 'Use the f*cking cycle lane' but I can't be sure as the man was inside his nice warm car with the windows shut. I was battling wind and rain in the outdoors and concentrating on the road.

I was on the right side because I was about to turn right, and, as the last person to go through the traffic lights, had used the lack of traffic behind me to cross the lanes a bit earlier than usual rather than having to dodge countless cars, possibly get in lots of people's way and risk life and limb. I'd then tucked in on the far right hand side next to the central embankment rather than take up a full lane so cars could get by easily.

Now, call me crazy, but I don't think I was being unreasonable, I don't think I was in the way, I think that driver should have just tootled round me instead of being rude, I think his swearing over nothing (there was very light traffic and the two other lanes were empty) was incredibly rude and constituted harrassment.

More importantly, I know that he broke the law because horns are only to be used legally if someone's life is in danger, whereas I am not legally obliged to use the cycle lanes provided, particularly when I need to turn right, and did nothing wrong.

What a ****.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Camping and a killer BMW

Having sore knees and then going camping is a bit of a pants idea. I know this because after being in pain last week I went on a music weekend avec tent.

Ow. My knees are really sore now. My head hurt too for a while but I think that may have been the combination of red wine and Gilbert and Sullivan in quick succession. JAM! BUN! JAM! BUN!

And I'd forgotten the exciting machine gun rattle of rain on a tent. And the intimacy and subsequent awkwardness of impromptu spooning (through sleeping bags) when you slide down the hill into your tent mate while asleep. And the rule of never looking up when you're in the loos or the showers. Eek!

Oh well, at least it ended up being super sunny and it was super fun. Not like this morning. Eugh. I decided to at least go halfway despite the weeing rain and was tootling along in a cycle lane near Northfields when a BMW coming the other way decided to turn a sharp right and nearly hit me. It wasn't totally the car's fault as the Beemer's view was blocked by the very heavy traffic but the driver was going a bit quickly and I did do a bit of a rabbit trick as I braked sharply but because of the wet road surface ended up stopping right in front of the car with my shoe resting on its bumper.

After being sworn at I carried on (very slowly) but I was more than a little shaken. I then stopped for a little bit to recover before heading off because I was a little wobbly. I was then late for work, which is a bit rubbish.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Chump at a bus stop and my crappy body


This morning I took public transport all the way to work for the first time in months. and I hated it. The wait for the bus was horrible even though it wasn't for long. I felt like a chump. I kept catching myself working out how far I could have cycled while waiting. Sigh.

One reason for using mass transit was that I'm going away this weekend and need to leave straight from work. The other reason is that my knee is killing me.

I have a hip problem that means I fall over a lot and have a funny gait. This causes knee and ankle problems because I walk weirdly and, when I fall, it's often onto my knees or involves turning my ankle. Funnliy enough, I'm actually more stable on a bike than walking. I've fallen off my bike once in a year and a half (the great canal odyssey) and I find my hip likes cycling more than walking. But my knee's less content and feels a bit like a hinge that's been overly loosened. I hit a pothole yesterday, jarred my knee and actually cried out because it hurt so much. It's pants.

Am wearing a hugely sexy compression tubie bandage today, which gives me a Frankenstein's monster-style lurch or makes me look like I'm attempting the Fiddy Cent "I've been shot" limp. Loving it.

I'm hoping a weekend off two wheels will give the knee a rest and ensure my reunion with Roger is less painful. Those you love the most can hurt you the most.... so true.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Bugs - An annoyance or free protein on the go?

They hit you in the face, bounce off your extremities, get caught in your helmet, buzz past your ears and, occasionally, get swallowed.

Yes, 'tis the season for bugs. Eugh!

I'm not really scared of big fat bumbly bees. They tend to be hugely drowsy and bounce off harmlessly if they get in your way. It's the little tiny greenflies and midges that I hate. They get on your eyes, they land on your face and tickle you as they crawl about and they love to get in your mouth. It's fairly gross if you think about the fact you're eating creepy crawlies but I choose to imagine I'm just following in the footsteps of many indigenous peoples who eat insects as a valuable source of protein. and you don't even have to stop to eat them. McDonald's eat your heart out, food desn't get any faster than this.

On a more serious note, I still haven't decided on the form of my next bike but I've decided that I can't buy one just to spite Mr Weenie so will be trying out many before making a final decision. He'll definitely be called Reg though.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A new addition and the road-hybrid dilemma

A new bike is in the offing and I think I want a roadie. But Mr Weenie is adamant that I should just get a better hybrid.

I love Roger, let me make that clear, but the fact is that I go on his top gear a lot and could probably go faster than he can. Plus I do almost exclusively road cycling after the canal incident.

My other problem is that I've fallen for a bike that costs just over £500. Hmmmmmm, the reaction to trying it out was almost sexual.

Mr Weenie's arguments that road wheels may buckle on the crappy asphalt I'm forced to ride on, that they're less stable than hybrids and may be more dangerous and that the kind of person who falls into canals shouldn't have a bike with paper thin wheels are valid. But.....


I want a bike that goes faster, I'm considering doing a charity ride sometime in the future that may need that kind of bike and I WANT ONE.

I may compromise on a cheaper road bike and some accessories for Roger for when I'm doing slower but longer distances. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Courtesy bings

Should overtaking involve courtesy bings? It's a serious issue and can't be taken lightly.

I'm for binging but I acknowledge it's not always practical. Technically a legal requirement for road bikes is a bell so we should all be capable of binging. So why don't people do it?

I've nearly hit many a cyclist who has whizzed past in the guise of silent death as a tootle along. If a courtesy bing had been provided death would not have come so close. A friend came a cropper this morning because she wasn't aware of a fellow cyclist attempting to overtake. Because of sod's law, she came off and he didn't.

I often bing pedestrians on cycles tracks to warn them of my approach and to tell them to move the hell out of the way because they're taking all the motherf*cking space. Somehow a bing is so much more genteel than articulating such thoughts....

In other news Roger may be expanding his travel experience to the wilds of High Wycombe. He loves trains.

Oh and Mr Weenie's laughing at my red and puffy progress up local hills is NOT appreciated. Harumph.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Newsflash - Style comes to cycling

Topshop do cycle gear?!


Roger goes to town

I went to see a friend in the wilds of Croydon this weekend (well, the edges of Croydon, is quite pretty there). Last time it took just over two hours to get there and about three to get back because of train delays and slogging around on the tube. This time I had Roger with me.

I popped to my local station, took Roger to Paddington, hopped across Hyde Park to Victoria, parked Roger and got the train to my friend's local station. Then I did it in reverse on the way back.

I got a bit lost on the way to Victoria (the Hyde Park cycle system is bizarre and there's loads of one-way roads everywhere else) so it took me about two hours from start to finish but, on the way back, I had a revelation. It took me an hour and a half in total. Half the time it took last time, and this time I got to cycle through Hyde Park in the sun. It was lovely.

Roger came out again on Sunday but it was less enjoyable. Doing shopping with a rucksack's horrible. It's heavy, cumbersome and on each bend you expect your eggs to break. Plus the freezer section is a little goosebumply....

Friday, 17 April 2009

Pothole traffic calming

Roger finally got the hot water, soap, white spirit, rinse, dry, oil, water-repellant lubricant treatment last night and is now looking splendid and gliding along smoothly. It's wet though, so it won't last, especially given the puddle-strewn surface of the Uxbridge road. The puddles are mainly caused by potholes, those 'natural traffic calming measures' so loved by an obscure parish council that's hit the headlines.......

I already know of one person who successfully sued Ealing council over a pothole. It buckled a wheel and, because of laws governing how long very deep holes can be left unfilled, Ealing Council were liable. They hired expensive lawyers to try and beat the case but my friend still won. That's why the idea that they're acceptable is so absurd. They cost money to fill but they also cost taxpayers' money if they damage people's vehicles and cycles.

With the rain they add a new and exciting dynamic to road cycling, will it be an inch deep, will it be several? Filled with water it's impossible to tell.....

I have no mudguards so my bottom gets drenched every time I hit a puddle, it's deeply unpleasant (picture switching on a powerful bidet only to discover the boiler's exploded and the only water available is glacier melt) and, if you go partway and then get on the tube, you're afraid to sit down lest you leave a wet patch and people assume you've wet yourself. This alone is probably grounds to sue as it's hugely traumatic.

Still more fun than freezing and getting wet at a bus stop though......

Thursday, 16 April 2009


Cyclists get a mixed reception wherever we go but I've witnessed polar opposites recently.

The good:
Funnily enough, those at bus stops seem to be lovely to me at the moment. Last night an accident or similar meant the traffic on the main road near me was completely stationary. The buses are every 20 minutes and there were FIVE in various stages of their journey sitting in the jam. (Yes I felt smug whizzing past the cars, mwahahahahaha!)

I got stuck behind one of the buses as it tried to pull out of the stop and was surrounded by the passengers that had been dumped off it because it was 'running late'. To my surprise, a couple of said passengers actually chatted to me while I waited and there was no laughing. An elderly lady did ask for a lift on the cross bar but I pleaded health and safety.

The bad:
Because of the rain I was forced onto the tube halfway this morning (I wear glasses and when it really tips down I'm blinded). Oh why did I wear my lycra short shorts this morning? Why did I go out with hair already massively greasy and looking like I'd been shagged five ways through Sunday? (I hadn't unfortunately.) Why the yellow jacket and road spatter going up my bottom crack?

Getting on the train, the reaction was one of disbelief and disgust. Many noses were sniffed and open gawking at my bare knees was considered totally appropriate. I wasn't even on Roger but I was a marked lady.

What made it worse was that I really resented taking the tube. Unfortunately, having commuted for our and half years before getting Roger I feel like a chump when I take public transport, maybe that was radiating to my fellow passengers.

The ugly?
I'm choosing to belief the teenagers who shout "Feel the burn!" and occasionally jog alongside shouting "Whoop!" and "Come on baby!" as a I chug up the last massive hill before home are being supportive....

PS: Have just seen an ambulance cyclist (yes they exist) cycling along with his helmet hanging off his handlebars!!!!!! Outrageous.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Sweaty betty

Oh God the sweat.

'Hurrah it's sunny!' shout non-cyclists everywhere, as we normal people pull out dark clothing that hides sweat patches and the extra strength deodorant.

Every two minutes you're wiping away the sweat 'tache and praying no one you know will see you. You start out wearing the jacket because it's overcast and a bit chilly, but you take it off halfway because you're baking only to freeze for the next mile as the 'gentle breeze' sweeps through your sodden t-shirt. Then you're puffing and red-faced and even after a cool shower you radiate heat at your desk and the waves of wetness keep creeping up your neck. Sexy. And it's only April.

In an entirely unrelated rant, where are your helmets people?! Yes they're a bit silly-looking but, frankly, my sister's never got over hearing a cyclist being hit (yes, hearing, the sounding was his head meeting tarmac) and you'd look even sillier dead.

Oh and those of you who burble on about people not wearing them in the old days and being fine bollocks to you all. My grandfather and his best mate, who are near 80 and have cycled thousands of miles in their cycle histories, both told me separately to buy and wear a helmet as soon as they heard I had a bike. And a year and half later grandad still checks I wear it every time we speak.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

An unhealthy attachment

I had a dream.

This dream was set in a London that was a bit weird and futuristic and in which bike racks were on the roofs of buildings. This dream involved a lot of cycling. Then it involved loss and hysteria, because when I returned to said futuristic rack on the top of a building, Roger was not there. I searched other racks, I asked other cyclists if they'd seen him, I mourned his loss and that of the lights and Kryptonite bike lock that were on him. And I was sad.

Then I woke up and realised I was dreaming about my bike. Hmmmmm unhealthy.

I only cycled once this weekend as I spent much of my time in pyjamas playing on a borrowed Wii. All in all, a great weekend. When I did cycle it was in the rain, that nasty wee-like spitty rain on Friday. But, sadly enough, it was still way fun and I felt a massive sense of achievement at cycling on him in such rubbish weather. And the journey was so much quicker than by bus it was unreal.

He needs cleaning though, the white spirit and hot soapy water treatment is way over due. Besides, he goes all shiny when he's clean.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Temptation and the phenomenon of birting

I've been looking at other bikes.

There, I've said it. Roger may not fulfil my needs in the future and I've been looking around. The new Ride to Work scheme has started and you can't just buy accessories with the voucher so I've decided to get another bike.

They warned me when I bought Roger that he wasn't built for the kinds of distances I now do so I've decided to get another one for if and when the time comes and so I'm not taken off road every time Roger's unwell or in the shop.

I haven't told him yet and I'm worried that he'll be upset. I am, of course, projecting my own feelings onto my bike. I've never been able to drive and couldn't afford a car anyway so Roger is my equivalent. That bike has helped me take control of my arthritis and has been instrumental in me losing about a stone in flab. I just love him to bits and am dreading replacing him. Sigh.

Anyhoo, on the subject of love, when did 'birting'* become socially acceptable?

We've all been there, trapped at the lights with a counterpart of the opposite gender eyeing up your framework. "So, how far do you go?" or "What kind of bike is that?" opens the conversation and suddenly you're being birted with. Having said which, I find it quite comforting that anyone finds me attractive when sweaty and in flourescent yellow and lycra. I'm obviously a fox.

*Flirting on a bike with a fellow cyclist.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Beer plus cycling... hmmmmmmm

I didn't blog yesterday, shocking!

To be honest it's partly because I feel that the fall into the canal can't be topped as a topic but I'll try anyway.

Last night I had a pint before getting on Roger and cycling home. I was offered a second (the boss was paying) and I was sorely tempted, but I decided against because I just think it's a bit silly to cycle while squiffy.

I friend, let's call him Bust-up, is legendary in his particular social circle for coming into work looking like he'd been in a war zone, because he'd cycled home worse for wear after a leaving do and come off. No cars were involved, but a pavement hit him at high speed.

He's not the only person I know who cycles when squiffy but I just can't do it. Not only am I a bit of a lightweight but if I can fall into a canal sober I dread to think of what I'd do if pissed. However, I have to admit that last night's cycle was pleasant and I got home in record time. I have two massive hills to climb on my way home and I often walk up at least part of the second, but last night I sailed up both. I was still exhausted when I got home, but I can't help wondering if beer is the secret cycling super fuel.

Worth experimenting with I feel.......

Friday, 3 April 2009

Debating red lights in the sunshine

It's not been a great week so I hadn't even noticed that for the first time in months it's actually a bit warm and sunny.

And the clocks changing mean that I cycle home in broad daylight instead of the deadly gloom of dusk.

Still suffering the effects of my fall this week and a visit to the dentist after work led me to leave Roger halfway at a station this morning and I feel quite guilty. He'll be aching to ride in the sunshine but instead he'll only get to go halfway and via the A40.

We did, however, get shouted at by a woman on our way to said station though and I wish I'd stopped and debated the point with her.

The argument centred around a red light, that I may have gone through. Now, I already hear the mob gathering pitchforks, but allow me to argue the key points:
  • The lights are there solely for pedestrians and it's not a junction so there was no risk of other cars coming my way.
  • The cycle lane stops a few yards before the crossing and restarts a few yards afterwards meaning there are cars attempting to climb up your bottom whenever you stop there.
  • I had a clear view of the crossing and all pedestrians had stepped off the crossing before I proceeded.
  • A car was already revving right behind my back wheel in a threatening manner.
  • In the year and a bit that I've been using that route I have never hit a pedestrian, not when they step out randomly, nor on a crossing, whereas I've been nudged, bumped and hit with wing-mirrors by impatient cars at junctions around 20 times because I've not got in front of the traffic.
I hate cyclists who whizz through red lights when they haven't got a clear view. I hate cyclists who dash through junctions on red lights causing cars to screetch to a halt and put lives in danger.

But I'm afraid that until you've cycled regularly on main roads in London you're not entitled to swear at me for going through a red. Nor should you stand in the road to berate me as it's a danger to you and other traffic. In fact, you're not even entitled to an opinion on whether you'd do it yourself because it's like the question of eating human flesh, until you're in the situation you just don't know.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Getting back on the bike

Having survived a water collision I decided that I should get straight back onto Roger this morning (although I did avoid all canals, towpaths and deep-looking puddles).

I gained a renewed appreciation for roads. They go in reasonably straight lines, there are rules for overtaking and which side you're on and, although there are potholes, asphalt tends to have less broken glass, bits of brick and mud than towpaths. In fact, I may never have to go on a towpath ever again. Ever.

Not because I'm frightened, obviously, but because I don't need to. Yes, it's all about necessity. Am definitely not frightened. At all.

I have also gained a renewed appreciation for Roger. He's pretty damn bomb-proof, as evidenced by his ability to take me home and back out following a near catastrophic water landing. I'm actually glad I fell in rather than him. For one thing I float.

Mr Weenie was also very lovely about it all and, although he did start to giggle, when he saw my various scratches he gave me lots of 'That looks sore', 'Do you need some Germoline?' and 'You are a bit silly but I love you anyway'. Thanks is also due to the foxy bird who took me for a beer last night, she was the only person who realised I was actually quite shaken and was only laughing because everyone else was.

In other news, Roger and I are popping to Westfield tonight. with its shiny bike racks everywhere and the Uxbridge Road being so close I'm hoping it'll be a lovely excursion. No canals either. Phew.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Canal-bike interface

I am officially a loser.

Someone put something across the canal towpath this morning and as a result of the collision I fell in.

On one hand it was spectacular. I was launched into the air, throwing Roger to one side and landed side-on, sinking completely before resurfacing and dramatically dragging myself onto the bank. Roger was saved by my quick-thinking and only got wet on one wheel. Plus it makes an interesting blog topic.

On the other hand, I got drenched in rat-pee water, required a tetanus jab and will spend the rest of my life being laughed at.

What annoys me the most is that I could have recovered from hitting the planking if the canal path was properly maintained. I carried on for some time but the deep and narrow pit left by generations of cyclists meant my already wobbly progress went to pot and in I went.

No one was around and it was only adrenaline and my freakishly strong upper body that allowed me to pull myself onto a bank that was a foot above my head. The water was shoulder-height even when I stood on the accumulated shopping trolleys and debris. I don't know many other people who could have done it and there aren't any jetties nearby.

I think tomorrow I'll just go on the road, there's a much lower risk of drowning.