Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Hooray... booo.... BMI sucks

Among the many things lost in the flood was my anti-baby pills so today I toddled off to the family planning clinic feeling like an irresponsible teenager and worrying they'd send me to the STI clinic by mistake again (this did actually happen, on taking my sexual history the nurse just looked at me, laughed, and asked what the hell I was doing there, I felt like such a prude).

I had a lovely doctor who weighed me and revealed I've lost a stone in two months. Hooray.

The doctor made me weigh myself twice to be sure and congratulated me on my achievement. She then beamingly turned to the body mass index (BMI) chart and proudly pointed out that I after all that hard work and slog, all those rainy rides and forcing myself into condom-like shorts I am now slap bang in the middle of the overweight category.

Seriously. Why do I bother?

She then took my blood pressure and said it was 'worryingly high'. Was I stressed?

Well, my father's still recovering from a major stroke, my arthritis is playing up, I'm hugely stressed at work because I had to take the day off work on Friday for a massive leak that's ruined my bedroom, forced me to move all my belongings into the living room and sleep in a room that smells of mould, damp and wet plaster and you've just told me that even though I've lost a stone all it's done is taken me out of obese and put me in the merely overweight category.

No I can't think of anything, everything's f***ing peachy thanks.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sunburn and feeling like you've pooed yourself

So the sun was out and it was a gorgeous bank holiday weekend for the first time in what seems like decades. If it wasn't for the colossal leak into my bedroom from the flat above it would have been great but it did put a damper on things (sorry).

And all weekend it was about bikes.

On Thursday night I rehearsed with my choir and M, my idol in terms of cycling was giggling about the padded shorts I wore. She's in her mid-forties, doesn't look it and cycles everywhere, but whenever I see her she's in her normal clothes. When I asked why she didn't go for the padded shorts option she giggled demurely and, in her cut-glass accent, explained: 'I can't help feeling like I've shat my pants and it's too distracting cycling while fearing that disaster's occurred!' Point taken.

Then the leak happened and I had to take the day off on Friday to move various belongings shout at insurance people and deal with the fallout. Whenever I get close to an 100-mile week something scuppers it. Sigh.

On Saturday I saw my grandparents and, along with Moomin we drove out to Buckinghamshire to have a cream tea. My grandad was a serious cyclist back in the day and we talked about various cycling bits and bobs all day. Grandma said it was fab that he had someone else to talk to about it. I also realised where we went made a fabulous cycling destination for myself and Cyclechick as we've been looking for somewhere nice to go.

On Sunday there was high tension in the Weenie household. Following the leak all our bedoom stuff is in our (small) living room. Mr Weenie and I were forced to sleep on an airbed in the rammed living room even though his feet went off the end by a considerable margin and it was very narrow. We were both grumpy from lack of sleep and Mr Weenie was forced to do paperwork all day to earn money to repair damage from said leak. As I strutted around vying for his attention and whining I was bored he sighed and suggested I go for a cycle. So I did. I had no idea where I was going but ended up on the cycle track along the A40 and it was lovely. Then my massive red, took a week and half to arrive and I've had it one week, pannier broke. Sigh. (Chiswick Evans are hoping to fix it tonight.) I managed to bungie it onto my rack and came back via Ickenham. I saw horses, pheasants and lots of birds (no idea what they were but they were pretty).

On Monday Cyclechick and I decided virtuously that we should meet up and cycle round Richmond Park. When we met in Kew the weather was undecided on its intentions so we sensibly locked up and went for a drink while the weather decided on its next move. It cleared up and became quite hot, so hot, in fact that the only sensible option was to remain on our outside pub table, watch the cricket on Kew Green and have a natter before cycling home. Two beers and a virtuous pineapple and soda later I arrived home sunburnt. Ouch.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The sweat crack, eugh!

This is an announcement worth doing a second post in one day.

Boys, if you have to wear lycra, wear black

I'm still recovering from the unnerving experience of staring at a pair of light blue shorts with what appeared to be a navy stripe up the bottom crack area. I was forced to follow this particular lycra junkie up a large hill and over the time I was behind him it slowly dawned that there was no stripe, there was only bum-sweat. Oh God, why, WHY????????????

Getting lost

Last night I cycled to Liverpool Street from Hammersmith and then from there to Paddington.

It was all very exciting. Especially because I got lost both ways.

After a beautiful ride past the Royal Albert Hall and tootling through St James' Park I suddenly realised I had no idea where I was. I headed in vaguely the right direction and got to my target of the Victoria Embankment before tootling up Bishopsgate. I tell you what though, going through a tunnel on your bike is no mean feat. It's noisy and frightening. There's a cacophony of different sounds bouncing off the walls into your ears meaning you have no idea where cars and bikes are in relation to your bike, it's eerily orange from the strip lighting and if a car edges too close you have nowhere to go. I think next time I'll come off the embankment before the tunnel.

On the way back I managed to miss the London Wall and ended up going past St Paul's, doubling back, taking an odd turn, going into Holborn and finally landed on Oxford Street, and I know the way from there.

In one way, getting lost on a bike is a bit rubbish, at one point I got off the road, fished my AtoZ out of my pannier and stood looking puzzled on the pavement before going forward but, actually, it's much less stressful than being in a car and being lost.

I've navigated for many people in cars as I don't drive and am quite good with maps and when you've taken a wrong turn it's a nightmare. You're hugely restricted by the road system and, unlike a bike, you can't pick up your car, wheel it across the road and double back on yourself. Nor can you enjoy the balmy spring evening while tootling about.

I never really get very scared when lost on a bike, I remain firm in the knowledge I'll find my way eventually and, as long as you carry a good map with you, you won't be lost for long.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Why so few women cycle - mystery solved

I've had a eureka moment and it concerns the freakishly low numbers of regular lady cyclists - they don't realise cycling's purchase potential....

Since I bought my bike, I have devoted many, many hours to the sourcing of new kit, drooling over expensive kit I can't afford, desperately trying to find ladylike gear for casual rides and buying appropriate clothing. Ladies, there is no limit on the amount you can spend if you cycle.

Not only that, but the mental justification for each purchase (which so many of us need in order to feel good about spending money on silly things) is so easy.

'But it's waterproof', 'But I'm saving so much on travel', 'But I need a pink Pashley Poppy for cycling to interviews as it looks far more professional that the muddy mountain bike I normally use to commute on', and, my personal favourite, 'I need another bike in case one breaks and I need a spare....'

It opens up a whole new world of spending and it's beautiful. There's the practical clothing and gear you need for everyday commuting, there's the more transferable clothing that can go from cycle to around town without looking weird, there's reflective for when it's dark, sunglasses when it's sunny, jackets, shoes, trousers, leggings, shorts and whatever else you can think of. Not only that, but some of it's designer.

Plus, having lost a stone myself purely from cycling, you can eat chocolate, McDonald's and other digustingly naughty foods while feeling completely guilt-free, it's a truly beautiful sport.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Life post-rucksack

I hate the London weather.

It's 'showers, with sunny spells', which means I’m either blown sideways in driving rain or being baked alive in my waterproof jacket that I have to keep on in case it rains again and blinded by the sun reflecting off the puddles from the latest shower.

But despite my weather grumbles, this morning was wonderful. The wind was foul and the rain was wet, but who cares because my big red pannier carried all my stuff and I was barely aware of it. I decided to carry just one as they're so huge I don't actually need two for everyday summer stuff. In winter I may need both as cold weather is all about the accessories though.

I'll admit that when I first set off I was conscious of the weight being on one side and felt I had to compensate slightly but that lasted a matter of minutes and the trade off of leaving my rucksack at home was more than worth it. I knew the weight of the rucksack was causing excessive sweat issues but, having ridden without it, I think it was also giving me back-ache.

I'll still use it for light things and if I need to use both panniers and a bag to carry stuff but actually it looks quite smart, is fully waterproof, clips on and off the rack easily and has an optional shoulder strap to carry it around and, dare I say it, may actually be worth the retail price of just under £80. Well, maybe not.

I'll definitely be getting some stylish ones a la though as I've been won over completely and would quite like one that doesn't look super hideous to carry around!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Panniers and pit zips

Hooray hooray it's a wonderful day because my enormous red panniers have finally arrived.

They're fully waterproof with welded (?) seams, they've got solid bottoms and a plastic flap that folds down inside so they can stand on their own and they're bright red. All good so far. They normally retail for a whopping £79.99 (gasp of shock) but were £49.99 in the sale AND I got them through Ride 2 Work. Hurrah.

I'm hoping they'll eliminate the need for me to cycle with a rucksack and will deal with the hugely unattractive phenomenon of sweaty back syndrome. Mr Weenie, though his love for me is not in doubt, draws the line at hugging me straight after a long ride and instead murmurs about wouldn't I like to have a shower and he's put the hot water on.... hint hint.

I've got pit zips on my high-vis jacket but they've never really had much effect. cycling back from the shop without my rucksack was a revelation. My pits were icy cool.... Mmmmmmmmm.

What they may induce as a side effect is pannier envy. I've already cycled past several other panniers on the way back from the bike shop and, frankly, they're just not as good as mine, plus mine are bigger, and red.

Sun, cycling and a missing cat

My panniers have not yet arrived to be reported on so here's some other news that's far more interesting.....

My sister is the proud owner of one of the world's most beautiful cats, the wee-wee, but he sacrificed many brain cells to be so gorgeous.

She gets back from holiday tonight and, thankfully, her wee-wee will be there to greet her.

My sister and wee-wee moved in with our parents to help out after dad had a bout of ill-health and it's been a battle to keep him indoors ever since. He's a Bengal with no homing instinct and who's very trusting so he can never go outside unaccompanied. My parents' cat Khan, however, was king of the Southall tip for several years and has the nibbled-looking ears of a warrior and the size to match. He rules the local cat community with a paw of iron and defends his right to an outdoor existence with vigour.

Someone, and we can't be sure who, smashed open the blocked up cat flap and on Saturday morning wee-wee was nowhere to be found. We put out posters, we spent hours over the weekend shouting ‘WEE-WEE’ in the local park, knocking on random people’s doors and generally getting frantic. Reg transported me throughout this difficult time and was a great comfort.

Then at 11.45pm last night, one of mum and dad’s neighbours rang saying he was in their garden. I’d spoken to them on Saturday afternoon and they’d decided I’d seemed so distraught that they would ring even though it was late. Mum dashed round but it was too late, Pongo the kitten from three doors down had frightened him off! The neighbour helped her look in the alley but after half an hour they had to give up.

An upset and dishevelled mum trudged back home trying to console herself that he was at least local. But after getting in she thought she’d at least check that the back gate was open in case he came back. And who was sitting outside the gate but the wee-wee!

After a cautious miaow he decided the tuna he was offered by mum was good enough and came trotting in. He was tired and very hungry but otherwise unharmed. Hooray!

Nothing to do with bicycles but what the hey.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Sniff sniff cycle sniff

I was off work sick yesterday with a horrible cold caught from Mr Weenie.

I got up early yesterday with every intention of going in but realised that the snot wasn't budging and, more tellingly, I couldn't face the cycle in because I felt so ill. It takes a lot for me not to want to cycle in. Even with the remnants of the cold I took Reg in this morning and I believe, having commuted for several years by both bike and public transport, when you're a bit ill bike is definitely best.

There are various health bods who tell you exercise will boost the immune system but I'm actually starting to agree. Obviously when you're really laid up it's a bad idea (yesterday I had many naps and when awake drank my own body weight in water and feel better for it) but I feel progressively rougher as I go in when I take the bus and train whereas cycling makes me feel better. And the snot definitely subsided a bit.

The only things that didn't make me feel good were an idiot driver trying valiantly to climb up my bottom and then beeping when I had to brake hard to avoid a bus randomly pulling out, and my saddle.

Reg's saddle is what my grandma calls a 'bum-numb-er'. It's a boy's and it's a racing-type one. It's hard and thin. I haven't been wearing my padded fanny-pant shorts of late because of the awful weather (if I have to take the tube halfway I'm paranoid it looks like I'm wearing Tena Lady pads to onlookers), and the combination of tiny saddle and lack of padding is becoming a little... ahem... wearing.

I've got a gel cover somewhere, time to look it out methinks.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Proof that Reg is a road bike

My dad was impressed.

Dad built his own road bike in his late teens and loved it. Dad and I are similar in that we both love to do silly things like abseil off high buildings and go very fast using small bits of metal on big roads. He's thinking about getting a bike to help his recovery and because he can't drive. I hope he will when he's ready.

If dad likes Reg then he's definitely a naughty piece of boy equipment.

Unfortunately, because Reg is such a honey I refuse to take him on the road nearest my house. they're resurfacing it, and while I gaily threw Roger over such obstacles without a thought, Reg just isn't built for that kind of abuse. It means that I actually walk him 100 yards so he can go on proper road. There is something fundamentally wrong with that surely.

Sigh, if only he wasn't so damn pretty.

I still think I made the right decision in bike choice though as I bumped into a fellow admin of the company's cycling network yesterday while we were both riding into work. He admired Roger and thought he was a good purchase. He rides a similarly roadie hybrid that cost nearly double what I paid for Reg and that was five years ago!

There's love and there's obsession.........

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The new arrival

So last night I picked up Reg, my God it was exciting.

He's got paper thin wheels and is in another league from Roger. He whizzes along, has grip shifts instead of thumb and has toe clips (which I'm slowly getting used to). He's incredibly light (panniers haven't arrived yet) and in the wind it can get a bit dicey.

The wheels being so thin was a bit of a worry at first but I actually feel quite stable even when going slowly and going over speed bumps is not the harrowing experience I anticipated.

That said I wasn't expecting such a radical change. Reg was listed as a hybrid but only his flat handlebars allude to this description. He goes so fast that it can be a bit disconcerting and with a less experienced rider could cause problems.

Joyfully it also means that I'll definitely be using Roger periodically as there are some instances in which Reg will not be a good fit for. Seriously wet roads, high winds and anything remotely off-road will be his domain still.

I love both my boys and although Reg is hugely handsome in a sexy and sleek way, Roger is still my rugged and rough round the edges sweetheart.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Preparation for handover

On Saturday Roger took me to music school. Then I bought a new cycle cleaning brush set, and did the full job of soapy water, rinsing, white spirit, drying etc and he looks fabulous. It was with great pride that I noted the complete lack of rust on his chain and gears (I often see other people who cannot claim this honour), I used expensive water-repellent lubricant and buffed his frame. I cleaned his tires and picked out any grit. In short, I gave him the bicycle equivalent of a spa day.

Then I locked him up and he remains where I put him. Ready for Mr Weenie to use him whenever he wants to.

This morning I took public transport as I'm planning (and hoping) to pick up the new bike this evening. I'm still undecided on what to call him. I may just call all my bicycles Roger, I like the name and my friends and family are now fully accustomed to the phrase 'I'll take Roger' as an indication that I'll be cycling. But I'm still slightly inclined to call the next one Reg as Roger has a very special place in my heart. To be honest I don't think I'll know until the handover has taken place. Sigh.

In other news a friend has bought a Pashley Poppy. It's bright pink, single gear and it's gorgeous. I may be committed to practicality, but my God I'm jealous. I've been promised a viewing when it arrives. Obviously she's not going to RIDE it. Heavens no, a bike such as this one is to be admired, polished and fussed over. Proof if proof was needed that cycling can bring out the lady in all of us.

Friday, 8 May 2009

It's all in a name

You know what, forget this Reg business, I think I may just call my new bike Roger as well. None of this Roger two business, just Roger. After all it's a good name for an inanimate object and I like it, screw it!

It is done.

I've ordered Roger's replacement and I feel wretched.

I am a horrible person for loving the new one so much even though he's not yet arrived. Emily was unavailable so Reg made the cut. He's a gorgeous black Specialized Sirrus and I feel like I've abandoned a plodding but reliable lover for someone dangerous but exciting.

Reg is another hybrid but has thinner tires and is a bit racier than Roger so he's the stepping stone to a road bike. I decided that a road bike is just unachievable given the road surfaces near my house. Unlike Roger, however, Reg will have a rack and panniers on top of the legal requirement of lights and a bell , I'll also be buying some winter tights (thank you Ride 2 Work, possibly one of the government's most underrated and fabulous schemes ever).

Although I'm super excited about the new addition to the family I'm also worried about bringing him home. The official line is that Roger is going into semi-retirement as Mr Weenie plans to use him occasionally and I expect I'll also want to from time to time. I worry he'll be left behind, but I'm hoping he'll be ok and enjoy hanging out at home.

I have to pull myself together, walking back from the shop Guns and Roses' 'Don't You Cry Tonight' came on my shuffle and I actually listened to it. And now I'm demolishing a whole pack of cookies.

Sheesh, get a grip girl!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The new bike, the saga continues....

After loudly asserting my need for a road bike I think I'm going to get a hybrid. Roger's wheels are no longer the even round shape they once were because of the awful roads near me and, frankly, he's comfy and solid with no finicky demands.

He runs better after a good clean but will happily continue his loyalty if I leave him all muddy and neglected. He shrugs off deep potholes and nasty speedbumps and he loves the occasional foray onto grass. That's the kind of bike I want. Not only that but I'm actually considering a lady bike as there's a nippy hybrid that comes in a ladies' extra large. She's pretty but sturdy and would look good with a rack on and possibly some butterfly bars.

I think she'd be a good compromise and a welcome addition to the family. We shall have to see if she's the right fit though. I shall call her emily if she makes the cut.

Roger and I are going into London again tonight. We may cycle all the way home, we may take the train part of the way but whatever we do it'll be quicker than only taking the tube. Every time I ride him now I feel guilty. He doesn't even know what's coming. Sigh.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Finally, cycle stuff in florals!

I want those panniers and I want them now!

The tiny world of central London

I live in zone 4. This means it takes me around an hour and a half to get into central London by public transport. Yesterday though, the scales dropped from my eyes. The big secret is that once you're in central London, nowhere's very far away!

Roger and I have taken the overland train to Paddington before (he likes trains) and bobbed across Hyde Park to Victoria but this time we went to Oxford Street to check out the Cyclodelic gear being sold in Topshop.*

It was crazy traffic heavy but also crazy fun and took about 10 minutes from Paddington to Oxford Street if you take out me getting a bit lost on the way. Who knew that central London was so tiny?! I was scooting around like nobody's business and the most shocking thing is that I then cycled all the way home.

It took nearly an hour and a half but, frankly, it was nicer than barging my way through bank holiday tube crowds and now I feel all self-righteous. I've been converted, I love cycling in central London.

What I hate is the parking. Once you're off the main drag there's bugger all in terms of official cycle racks. Street furniture's lovely but I was lucky I carried two loops AND a D-lock.

*Cyclodelic stuff was quite trendy and far sexier than most ladies' cycle gear but at those prices and a range as wide as a gnat's knee-cap it's a huge missed opportunity. Good for birthday pressies though... hint hint.