Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The day I beat a semi-pro

My team is doing woefully in the TfL cycle challenge but I have a redeeming member in the form of J. She's an ironwoman triathlon winner and regularly competes in some scarily hardcore events.

She often completes 100 miles in a weekend and yesterday, for five minutes, I pulled to the top and was ahead of her for mileage on my team's leaderboard. It was wonderful and, being the lady she is, she even refrained from putting her new miles on the board until I'd taken a screengrab for posterity.

It didn't last long and J has now overtaken me again by nearly 200 miles because of her training on the weekend but it felt fabulous all the same. Apart from her, I'm the leading lady in my company of 2,000 people when it comes to cycle miles and that's massive. I don't care that she's overtaken me again, to be beaten by the best is nothing to be ashamed of.

In further news I bought a bottle cage and some tyre levers today for the big ride. I'm planning to put the cage on myself. Even though it' a case of allen keys and will take two minutes I'm absurdly proud to be doing the 'upgrade' myself.

Too bad I still find the whole tyre changing thing a mystery...

** Update: Bottle cage fiddly but easy to out on. And, being a girl for a moment, it matches my bike!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Safe at last!

Swine flu Weenie is no more and to my incredible disappointment I've been declared safe to work in the office. Sigh.

I'm pleased though as it means my Friday ride to Brighton is not in jeopardy. It would have been gutting to miss it after all this planning. I'm still super excited about it all and after last week's massive mileage I'm gaining confidence that I'll be able to stay the course.

Moomin and I cycled to teaching on Saturday again. It's way fun and we always laugh at the guilty faces peering out from people carriers as we pull in. This week we went past a big group of friends so gaily binged them as we barged through. Soon dad'll be able to join us. He's been using his new bike a bit and, after three months of not being able to drive, he enjoys the experience and freedom. I've already picked out a nice pub we can cycle to when we're both free.....

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Swine flu in Weenieland

So, it turns out that I've been exposed to someone who has it.

Company policy dictates that I have to let my boss know so HR can decide whether I have to be quarantined from the office for the week.

That'll mean few blog posts as our home computer's pretty much the sole domain of Mr Weenie. With no symptoms I'm hoping I'll still in tip top condition for Friday's Brighton odyssey. I'm so excited I might actually squeal.

Reg and I are taking a rest day today and I'll be stocking up on kit this week.


Friday, 26 June 2009

The importance of eating

Yesterday I cycled 40 miles. The combined total for the week is 200. It's double what I normally do and although my legs are a bit sore my overall feeling is just exhaustion. I cycled 15 miles home very late last night after performing at the Barbican and got home at around 11.15pm, which didn't help.

But I've learnt some important lessons. Food is so important. I already knew to drink water but yesterday, having cycled around 20 miles across the morning I arrived at work dizzy and feeling really odd. I hadn't eaten since breakfast and hadn't really taken on enough water. I was late so I shoved my lock on and ran in.

At 5.30pm when I left a very angry member of the company cycling network was striding around the car park in his jersey, shorts and cleats. 'Is that your bike?!' 'Ummmmm yes....' 'Well why have you locked it to mine?!?!?!?!?!'

I was so ashamed. In my daze I'd put my D-Lock through the bodies of both bikes. I know this can happen accidentally but I've never done it before as I'm usually very careful and it was obviously through both. I was hugely embarrassed and apologised profusely. Luckily the network member in question is very very nice and when it became clear how sorry I was he reassured me it was fine and was incredibly civilised. If it had been me I would have been livid.

I'm sure my error was the result of not eating enough. As soon as I had lunch I felt like a new woman. The same happened in the evening. I got up to Barbican in time to go for a Wagamama before the concert. I had a chicken ramen: chicken, leafy green veg and noodles in stock. My mood, muscle strength and exhaustion levels all stabilised once I'd eaten and I'm sure it helped that it was something nutritious. I'm glad I know this before the Brighton trip as it means I'll be packing serious calories in the panniers.

Oh and another top lesson learned: Sudocrem and saddle sores, a match made in heaven!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Celebrity spotting on two wheels

On Tuesday it was Princess Anne and a prince, last night it was David Cameron (on a bike in his helmet going through Hyde Park), then the Prime Minister Gordon Brown (in a jag with four police outriders and bodyguards in a Range Rover behind). It was all very exciting, but made me wonder.....

It seems likely that David Cameron will probably be the next person in the top job and as I headed to the Victoria Embankment I wondered how fat he'd get and how quickly once he was forced to sit in a chauffeur-driven car to get everywhere. He looked quite trim on his bike, not for long...

Today has been less glamorous. Thanks to a rehearsal in Barbican and coming back to work, then the concert in the evening it's 2.53pm, I've already cycled 20 miles and I'll be cycling another 20 before the day is out. I'm already knackered and, thanks to the unusually summery weather, really sweaty. Eugh.

Thank God there are showers at work.

**Update: Oh God I love the showers, thank you for the showers, the wonderful refreshing and cleansing showers.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Smug smug smug

So last night I was rehearsing on Bishopsgate, near Liverpool Street station and I made a promise to myself that I would cycle home if we were released by 8pm. The rehearsal started at 6.30pm and the maestro was attending so in all probability we'd limp out at 10pm, or so I thought....

On the way there I crossed the river twice to avoid the mess of the Strand and Holborn. I went past the Houses of Parliament to cross at Westminster. On my way I was stopped TWICE for royalty. Princess Anne went through Hyde Park and then an unidentified royal, possibly one of the princes, stopped me near Buckingham Palace. How very British. I then went parallel to the South Bank and crossed London Bridge and tootled up to Bishopsgate.

Turns out we've got a very nice maestro and, as the piece was so short, he left at 7.30pm. I changed, researched my route options in my AtoZ and got ready to ride, setting off at at about 7.50pm. My iPod had run out of battery that morning but I didn't mind as it was a beautiful evening and I've never been that way before so wouldn't have had it on for the first half anyway.

I sailed up Bishopsgate, turned left towards Old Street (if you want to see some insane cycling outfits and bikes go near Shoreditch at night), went straight through Farringdon to Holborn and was then in familiar territory through Oxford Street, on to Lancaster Gate, Shepherd's Bush then home. It was gorgeous and took me 1hr 20mins.

Wehn I worked in Liverpool Street several years ago it took me a good two hours each way to get to work and back. A lot of it involved sitting on the tube. When the two-day tube strike was on it took me three hours each way. Little did I know I could've done it so much quicker by bike.

But better than all of this was the massive feeling of smug that settled over me on the last two miles. It cooled my burning muscles, put a smile on my face and made the homeward stretch seem that much quicker. It's around 15 miles from Liverpool Street to my house and the best moment of the journey came when I walked through the door, announced my achievement to Mr Weenie and he said: 'But you don't even look out of breath.'

And I wasn't.

** Update: just checked gmap pedometer. I cycled 31.5 miles yesterday!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Bike shops - get to know a good one

Bike shops are one of the scariest things about being a new cyclist.

Full of weird and wonderful gadgets, insanely expensive bikes and kinky-looking clothing they can be incredibly intimidating. And if you don't get the right sales assistant it can be a disaster. There's a lot on the web about lady cyclists and how to encourage them, better bike shop assistance is a frequent plea on forums and blogs.

But I don't think it's an issue of sexism. Don't get me wrong, if you're a girl you often get the old raised eyebrow, but I think it's more about elitism.

Women have it worse because there are a lot fewer of them on the roads so many shops will assume you don't cycle or are new to it but men who don't know what they're doing get the same treatment. When I first walked into my local bike shop I was, frankly, terrified. It's dark, the windows are full of equipment and, when you walk in from the sunshine, the sudden blackness means you can't see where you're going. It's a serious bike shop, it does repairs, orders in specialist kit, and does very reasonably priced services.

The first time I went in I bought a gel seat cover and then scuttled out, too embarrassed to ask for anything. But then Roger needed a brake service. As I work six days a week and they're always closed when I'm free I had to ring in advance to see if I could lock him outside the shop, drop the keys through and pick him up in the evening. I got a very nice guy on the phone who giggled a bit when I called Roger by name but was otherwise very helpful. He expressed surprise at my then total miles a week (60) and agreed a service was needed.

I dropped Roger off and waited. The guy then rang to explain exactly what he was planning to do and the costs, I agreed and for a very low fee all was completed. I then picked up Roger in the evening.

I now use that bike shop regularly and it will be the source for my kit when I do the Brighton run. The owner refers to my bikes by the names Roger and Reg, asks after my cycling development, recommends products of use and is generally fantastic. I had one issue when I had a problem after a service and it was dealt with admirably, he even offered to come to my house to rectify the fault.

I let my own fear stop me from using that shop for ages and I don't think I'm alone. Maybe women should just stop expecting to be treated with contempt. Maybe we should pull our shoulders back and expect to be treated with respect. Maybe we should actually research what we want and not expect to be led by the hand and told what to buy. Come on girls, learn to shop!

Officially an athlete

I knew yesterday was a bit weird. Having set off from home at 8am on the dot I walked through my office doors at 8.50am. Then, when I cycled home I left at 5.20pm and arrived home just after 6pm.

Now I often tell people it's around 45mins on my bike to get to work and it normally is: 45 minutes of actual cycling and at least 10-15mins sitting at traffic lights. So if I got home in exactly 45mins it means I actually did around 10 miles in half an hour. I feel sooooooooo smug.

This morning I was a bit slower at 50mins but it's still hugely encouraging. When I started to come all the way it took me over an hour once I was actually on my bike. I'm not ashamed to say that when I realised how quick I was last night I actually hissed 'Yes!' as I swung into the drive.

It's also encouraged me hugely with regards to the Brighton ride next week. I'm still a bit nervous but I think I'll be ok. Talking to my sister about it I had an epiphany. I've never succeeded at anything using my legs.... ever. My hip meant I wasn't allowed to run long distances and I never tried anything that involved foot and leg co-ordination as it was a hiding to nothing. Having spent a big chunk of my life in hospitals, being tested, having physio, changing painkillers and being X-rayed I can't believe I've actually discovered a sport I can actually do well.

If I get all the way to Brighton I'm actually a bit worried I'll actually cry.

Gosh, it's almost Oscar-worthy in it's sob-storyness isn't it!

Monday, 22 June 2009

A new terror on London's roads

Dad's new bike has arrived. And it's very pretty.

It's a deep racing green with subtle sparkles and has been tricked out with mud guards, rack and a kick stand. Yesterday for fathers' day I popped round and we adjusted the seat, straightened the handlebars and stood around saying mmmmmm a lot.

On a more general women in sport topic what on earth is going on?

When the men's cricket team won the Ashes they got a parade and royal recognition. The women's cricket team has won the 20-20, the world cup AND the Ashes and the news was tagged on to the end of the daily bulletin. How rubbish is that?

Our women's football team does far better than the men and gets no coverage and, worse still, many of them work day jobs to pay the bills whereas the boys get paid an obscene amount.

Perhaps women athletes are just not socially acceptable. That's one explanation for the dearth of lady cyclists out there anyway.

Friday, 19 June 2009

A beautiful moment

I cycled into central London for a rehearsal last night and decided to follow the little blue bicycle route signs to see if I could avoid some of the nastier traffic routes.

There was a crossing in front of me as I went through Grosvenor Square and, as there were people on it, I stopped. I then waited for all said people to step off the crossing before continuing on my merry way.

Well, Mr Blue Van Driver next to me did not like this at all. He revved menacingly at me for not moving, swore a bit and, as soon as the people had passed his van, he sped across the crossing. Importantly he did not wait until they'd left the crossing. I felt a little smug when he got flashed and pulled over by the traffic police that were sitting right in front of the crossing. I felt completely smug when I heard one say 'If a cyclist can wait, so can you... ' as I sped away. Mwahahahahahaha

The only other comedy moment of note was also courtesy of the police and came this morning. When the police came to work as part of the company bike day they handed out rape alarms to several ladies, including myself, and I have mine on my handlebars. You never know when someone might take your bike or try and rob you. I'd kind of forgotten it was there until I hit a particularly deep pothole this morning and it went off, really loudly. Oops.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Happy to sad in four short miles

Halfway home I was in a fabulous mood, having climbed to the top of the hill in Acton broadway I looked around and realised I was one of three lady cyclists at the lights.


It deserves capitals because it never happens. Ever. I giggled, looked round and exclaimed 'Three women?!' The other two giggled as well and, when a man pulled up, one remarked 'Nothing good lasts forever' before we three pedalled off on our separate journeys home.

Although it lasted a brief couple of minutes it was so nice not to be the only girl who cycled properly. All three of us had road-worthy bikes, lights and helmets. Going up the hill we'd all stopped for red traffic lights, signalled when changing lanes and paced ourselves on the steep and winding hilly bit. I know it sounds horribly sexist but most of the men I encounter on my daily commute don't do those things. Sigh.

My mood was ruined by an idiot pedestrian a couple of miles later in Hanwell. He had his back to me, didn't look round and stepped out in front of my bike. I actually screamed because I came so close to hitting him. I turned sharply and had to put my left foot down to stop completely and avoid going right into him. Shaking with nerves I shouted after him that I'd been going 15 miles an hour and could have broken his legs. And then he did what annoyed me the most. He laughed.

If I hadn't been in a bus lane I would've been hit by a car when I swerved, as it was I came damn close to going into the traffic. I could have hit the kerb and gone over the handlebars, my bike could have been written off. And, if I'd hit him and seriously injured him I would have had to live with it. As it is I've jarred my left knee badly and it hurts a lot.

Yeah, really f***ing funny.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Keep your legs looking young.....

My previous post was repeated on the company intranet so doesn't really count.

I've just been discussing legs with a colleague, he knows someone with calves fatter than their thighs, and as we were giggling about it, it made me look down at mine as I'm in a skirt today.

I'm wearing a plain knee-length floaty skirt, canvas low-top trainers and white socks folded at the ankle. As I scanned the area I saw bruises from when my pedals have smacked into my calves on wet days and being hit by my bike falling over while locking it, scars from the cuts caused by glass in my canal fall in April and various grazes and scrapes sustained while out and about. And that's when I realised. I have the same legs I did when I was 10 years old. They're just a bit longer.


** Update: I now also have a bruise on my forehead after hitting my head on the roof of my company's shiny new bike racks. The racks I campaigned for for months. Fail.


After this morning's cycle, I'm inspired to write an open plea to cyclists everywhere. I'm sick of having my morning's ride ruined by other cyclists. Cars are rubbish but we should at least stick together as pedallers surely.

Why whizz past five millimeters from my handlebars when there's the whole bus lane to use? Please don't glide up like silent death and nearly take me off my bike. As a cyclist I'm sure you know there are faults in the road that I may need to swerve around without warning. Perhaps a courtesy bing on your legally required bell if circumstances force you to come close? I don't want to hit you, it might damage my bike.

If you're on a rickety three-speed and wearing normal clothes, please don't get in front of lycra-clad long distance commuters at junctions and lights. If someone is wearing lycra it's normally because they're going far and fast enough to get sweaty and you being in front of them on a hill could ruin their journey. At the same time, please don't overtake me on my 24-gear road bike that I use for an average of 20 miles a day just because I'm a girl and even though you're on a rusty mountain bike that goes a maximum of 10 miles an hour.

Please don't try and harrass me into breaking the law at red lights. I don't like going through them, a lot of them are there for a reason. I don't swear at you for running them, so please don't swear at me because I don't. If you hit my back wheel because you're impatient language may be issued that causes offence or upset so please avoid at all costs.

The same with going up the inside of lorries. I try and leave enough space for you to cheat death if you wish to do so but I don't like overtaking enormous smoky lorries on the inside where they can't see me. I quite like life, please don't expect me to risk mine just because you like to be careless with yours.


Oh and this is my 50th post, how exciting!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Pink bikes and torrential rain

Yesterday I met the Princess. She's a Pashley Poppy in blush pink and was bought recently by CC.

She's gorgeous and, when I had a go, was surprisingly comfy to ride. I love Reg and Roger but I have to admit that I was envious as CC and Princess wound their way up to High Street Ken. She got many an admiring look and CC said that she was mightily fussed over in the shop when she picked her up. Reg got leaned against a counter and I had to beg for assistance. Sigh.

Then after work I got completely soaked. It was a downpour of biblical proportions that lasted all the way from Hammersmith to Ealing. Thank God for waterproof panniers. I threw on my jacket and pedalled on but then the sun came out and was scorchingly hot meaning I had to pack up my wet jacket and brave the now slick streets that the suns rays had turned to a blinding gold colour. Not only that but then the wind started in my face.

I got to my parents' and had to change my socks but my shoes were so wet that it made bugger all difference. They're at home drying today.

I often wonder why the proportion of female cyclists is so low. I mean, it's just so damn glamorous.

Monday, 15 June 2009

The good, the bad and the puncture

I had a bit of a rubbish weekend.

Dad had to be taken to hospital because he had a nose bleed. The blood thinners he takes post-stroke meant it wouldn't stop bleeding and in a monumental bottom-covering exercise he had to be taken in. It meant mum and dad missed the play we'd gone to see (at the Globe) while my sisters and I watched our God-brothers.

Then when I cycled to Paddington the Strand was closed and it took me ages to get round. I took the last train home at 11.40pm and, although I managed to bag the cycle storage spot on the train, I hate taking the last train home while sober. I was asked 'Where do I get off?' by one rather wobbly-looking guy. I said I wasn't sure. I got home at 12.40am.

On Saturday I taught the children while exhausted then stayed in with Mr Weenie.

On Sunday Mr Weenie's laptop broke, with all his work on it and the PC shop refused to take responsibility despite it being the second time it had happened in two months and they had replaced it last time. Grrrrrrr.

Then the cat peed on the bed. AGAIN.

I decided to get in some mileage on Reg as Pete was out trying to get his data recovered and I was upset and angry. Cycling off rage is very effective. I planned out a local circuit and en route I saw a new-born foal, the sun was out and I made excellent time. So I decided to do it again. But as I came up the last hill, I realised I could feel the road a little too closely. My front tire was totally flat.

I'd decided to bring my pump and repair kit with me just in case but I realised my pump didn't fit my new tire valves. I unhooked my pannier and prepared to wheel Reg the three miles home. I was practically in tears. As I prepared to head home, an older gentleman on a well-worn but quality touring bike stopped next to me.

'Puncture?' 'Yep, I've got a pump and repair kit but I'm not sure the pump fits my new valves.' At this point he got off his bike, rubbed his hands together and said a magical thing. 'Well lets get that wheel off and check shall we?'

I stood in shock as he showed me how to get the wheel off, got out his tire levers, whipped out the inner tube, reversed my pump so it would fit the valve, helped me patch the hole, found the glass embedded in the tire that had caused the problem, put it all back together again and gave me lots of advice on my trip to Brighton and which tire levers I should buy. Apparently he's helped many a stranded cyclist in his time. He informed me he started cycling when the dead sea was merely ill. But he'll only help those who have taken the time to put a pump and repair kit in their bag as it shows they've thought about it.

I stammered thanks throughout but all he said was that I should help if I saw someone in the same situation. What a star. My faith in humanity was restored and the good feeling lasted me all through the night to this morning as I gaily pedalled to work.

Pity I hit that pothole and got smacked in the love button by my saddle. It took the shine off my good mood somewhat.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Nature, the highs and lows

So, having agreed to cycle overnight to Brighton on 3 July (am so excited) Cyclechick and I wisely decided to meet up at Kew and do a circuit of Richmond Park as 'training'. The last time we planned the same outing we ended up watching the cricket on Kew Green from the pub and we both got sunburn and had lots of beer. Oops.

This time I was determined and, although CC tried desperately to keep us in the pub, we had one beer and were off. Now, I had been warned that Richmond Park was 'a bit hilly' but my God, the pain. It was an uphill struggle to get to the park and within a few hundred yards I'd hit nearly 50kph going down the first hill!

Then we went up, then down, then up. There can't have been more than 50 yards of flat terrain. On the worst hill I actually got off and walked for the steepest five yards and thought I was going to die. CC managed to stay on her bike to the top but confessed to feeling like her legs were going to fall off and that she nearly threw up. We weren't the only ones having trouble but I felt it was a bit mean of the guy in yellow to lap us quite so obviously.

On the plus side we whizzed past huge herds of deer, babies and those with antlers, I nearly crashed while squealing 'Look, it's a bunny!' as one hopped gaily around and, as you're relatively quiet on a bike, nothing runs away at your approach like they would with a car.

We then cycled back to Kew for pizza before heading home. CC is an hour from Kew and had to cycle in this morning so sensibly took the train part of the way but I'm only 40 minutes from there so cycled. It was around 10pm and nature was out in force. Moths the size of bats bounced off my helmet and the bugs of the night were begging to be swallowed. But by far the weirdest experience was hearing the low-level buzzing of what sounded like a bomber coming into land. I then had to swerve as something the size of a plum was suspended at face level in the air.

It was a stag beetle. Flying. Near my face. It was amazing, and f***ing enormous. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Biking the strike

Luckily I'm off work tomorrow because I can honestly say that this morning was one of the worst commutes by bike I've ever had.

At junctions where I usually see two other cyclists there were between 10 and 15 and it was clear that a lot of them had never cycled on road before or usually used their bikes in races on the weekends. If it wasn't a basketed beauty weaving across the lane in front of you it was a lycra loonie whizzing past like silent death, or it was the plucky first-timer on the wrong gear - legs going like the clappers but actual speed is approximately two miles an hour.

The sheer volume and the fact that so many of them expected you to skip red lights meant I was forced to go through a couple, something I avoid doing if at all possible. At one point when I refused at a junction a cyclist behind me hit my back wheel because she was following so close.

Not only that but there was also a lot of angry drivers on the road. Overtaking too close, swearing at cyclists because they're actually angry about the gridlock making them late and the fact we can sail past it all on bikes, bus drivers cutting people up ruthlessly and swerving into cycle lanes.

What was so disappointing to me was that for a lot of people, it was their first experience of cycling on the road in London and it's so not like this most of the time. There is always the occasional bad driver and crap cyclist but the numbers today were unprecedented. I really hope people aren't put off long-term by the chaos of today.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

If you give free maintenance, they will come........

So the company has held two bike days for the different sites after the cycle network (I'm an admin) lobbied for them and I nagged all and sundry to attend.

Thankfully both days went well (even with today's rubbish weather) and Reg was one of many bikes that got their brakes tweaked, tires pumped and chains oiled. Thank God people actually attended, thank the Lord above in heaven as I was truly panicky about it all! Why does no one ever email you back or post saying they'll attend?????

And it turns out people actually read my weird cycle newsletter emails, who'd 'a thunk it? Loads of people came up and were like 'Are you Rachael? Oh my God thanks so much for setting it all up'. I felt a bit like a movie star, a bit of a twee one in my high-vis yellow and one with big Chris Hoy thighs, but a star nonetheless.

It also turns out that people have been checking out my posters and stuff as at least one colleague is planning to take the London Cycling Campaign 'Bike Tube' into central London for a conference o Thursday. It's beautifully simple, supervised mass rides into London, picking people up at set points along the way.

I know it shouldn't be but the strike is an important cycling event, how bizarre!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Tube strike? What tube strike?

So, apparently there might be a tube strike this week. This piece of news had almost entirely passed me by until someone mentioned it. And I won't lie, I don't really care if they strike (well I care in terms of the many people hugely inconvenienced but in terms of the effect on me I don't).

I think the tube is over-unionised and has lost sight of the commuters who rely on the service. Tube drivers are paid incredibly well with massive benefits and perhaps this is why there is a lack of maintenance that they claim justifies their constant threatening of strike action. They are powerful because people need them to get to work. But you can beat the strike by using your bike (no rhyme intended).

I'm sure there are some valid safety concerns on the tube and these should be addressed but, frankly, Bob Crow is so universally disliked that no-one cares anymore. No-one listens to his interviews, they just assume it's about money and turn over.

It may rain in the coming days, but I will cycle in anyway because I refuse to allow the RMT to frighten me. They can shove their rubbish service. I'm better off by bike.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Cycle Tourette's and Moomin care

Last night I was singing in a concert with, among other people, M the cycling hero (she of the giggling at padded shorts).

Some of us went for a drink before the concert and, as a group of motorcylists and pedallers, we soon started bitching about bad drivers, those in cars and those on two wheels. We shared stories of awful drivers and cyclists, including one particular driver who, at some traffic lights, tipped his ashtray contents out of his car window and all over M and her bike. She daintily scooped it off herself and through his sunroof pointing out that he was littering.

We also talked about cycling Tourette's. This is the involuntary and very crude swearing that comes with being nearly run over while on a bike. My response, or tic if you will, seems to be 'You motherf***ing c***'. I tend to swear a lot anyway (although rarely AT people) so I've never really been surprised by the severity of my tic but even mild-mannered M confessed to the same phenomenon of intense swearing when one's life is at risk on two wheels. I wonder if it should be registered as a condition.

The only other cycling incident of note was the Moomin care I undertook last week before Rome. Moomin (my mum) got a bike before I did but, like me, has found dad's illness is a great motivator and is now often seen gaily gliding around Ealing in her bright yellow vest and helmet. However, she came acropper after a trip to France.

She drove to Portsmouth before taking her bike on the ferry and cycling the 20 or so miles the other end to her destination and, at the end of the holiday, cycled back to the ferry. All of this in driving rain, thunder, mud and wind. This caused an alarming grinding and ticking noise everytime she took her bike out. So on Thursday when I had the day off I went round armed with my bike brushes, scouring pads, white spirit, oil and rag bag. After pulling a field's worth of dead grass from her derailleur, cleaning the gears and chain to within and inch of their lives, white spiriting, rinsing, drying and oiling, the grinding was gone and a beautiful purring sound emanated.

My Moomin is once again, in her own words, 'silent death on two wheels'.

I shall be forever grateful to the various people who, as experienced cyclists, helped me out when I was a complete novice. It makes me sad that not everyone has that kind of help.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Back from Rrrrrrrrrroma!

I was in Rome for the weekend and it was lurvely, but I'm ashamed to say I quite missed my bikes. I've not taken public transport for more than one tiny journey every so often in some time and it was really weird.

I spent ages waiting for buses and barging past people on the metro. I had no idea how the traffic would affect my travelling times and there was no opportunity to change route if things got sticky. Quite frankly it was pants.

Ironically the Giro d'Italia (a massive road bike race) was going on in town while I was there but, unfortunately, Roger and Reg have no travel cases.

I decided to go with the flow and just chilled out. Good job too as when I met an old friend for dinner she took me to the best pizza place in Rome, a place reknowned for the 'authentic Italian experience'...... This means that the waiters may take your order at some point and may then, at some point, bring you some food. But, don't bother them with timings, they're very busy. They have stuff to do.

I can think of many people who should never go to a place like that as it would stress them out but I loved it. The pizza was spectacularly delicious and has ruined me for all other pizza, we drank wine, but not too much, caught up on five years of gossip and spent much of the time giggling. Bliss.

But, much as I loved it all, I jumped at the opportunity to take Reg to Bond Street yesterday and sailed through the streets serenely. Gosh I missed that boy.

And Mr Weenie obviously.....