Friday, 31 July 2009

Oh my God it's here!!!!!!


My new girly pannier has arrived and it's more than I could've dreamed!!!!!!!!!

It has outside pockets, a zipped inner pocker, it's waterproof and even has a zipped-up pocket that hides the clips.

I'm actually on the verge of weeping with joy.

Gloves and arm warmers

I've splashed out and bought some cycle mitts. I've never been a fan as they look a bit posey to me but I'm starting to develop calluses just below my fingers on both hands so I decided to take the plunge.

I bought gel padded ones and they're actually quite comfy. They do look weird but I'm learning to live with it. What surprises me the most is that my hands don't get too hot. I hate having hot sweaty hands and that's prevented me buying gloves in the past but I'm converted. Roll on the return of baby-bottom-like smooth palms.

I also bought some arm warmers. I found on the last midnight ride that my forearms got cold going through the mist but there wasn't time at the rest stop to do a big change of top so I suffered in silence til the sun came up. The arm warmers are like cut-off tights for your arms with a super stretchy bit over the elbow. They're super comfy and I was chuffed with them. Roll on Bognor.

Wait a minute.... something's happening, I feel weird....

My God, it's happening, I'm a NERD!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

What a diva

For the third time since April I think Reg has a puncture.

And again I yearn for the plodding Roger, his fuss-free approach, his accepting nature (you want to go on that bumpy towpath? Let's go!), and most of all his tyres.

Reg's road slicks may be fast but they eat glass. I picked four pieces out of his back tyre this morning as I was checking whether the pressure had gone down. I don't think they'd gone all the way through but God only knows. I'll be doing a full inspection at lunch time. I wouldn't mind if it was just that, but his shudders when we go over bumpy surfaces, his abject refusal to do anything as crude as a towpath, his grumpy slides over wet manhole covers. He's just such a diva.

Good job he's so handsome.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


Last night I got perved on by a van driver. Rather than be offended I was cheered, quite frankly it's about bloody time.

So I was waiting at a junction and the guys were making mock bets on which of the three cyclists at the lights would get across the junction first and whether the van would beat them all. I tried to ignore it but I could feel my heart thumping as my eyes focused on the amber light. Come on baby turn!

As soon as it was lit I stood up on the pedals and bombed across. If I'm honest I don't think I went particularly fast and I often bomb across that particular spot as it's a very wide junction and the lights change quickly. What shocked me was that I beat the van. They looked sheepish as they caught up but the passenger had the good grace to shout 'You're quite fast, well done mate!' before they turned off. I was on a high and for that reason I tackled the horrible steep hill near my parents rather than use the workaround route. I managed to get up it with two gear changes and some heavy breathing and glided down the hill to their house.

I made dad's dinner, washed up, did some ironing, met the lovely bass player who will be playing fr me at a mate's wedding and got down to more ironing (mum was out or she never would have allowed me to do her housework).

I prepared to set off home at about 9.15pm and, because I was in a good mood I decided to go the more difficult route home. Again, a big hill is involved. Halfway up the hill is a set of traffic lights. I pulled up and prepared for the steeper second leg. Two young men on nice-looking roadies pulled up behind as the lights changed and without stopping nosed ahead. I snapped.

I don't know if the van race earlier on had galvanised me but I went off like a shot and even though I stopped at the second light* I still beat them to the top and remained in front all the way home. I was going at least 20mph on the flat it felt fantastic to hear 'Oh God mate, we're having the s*** beaten out of us by a girl!' floating on the breeze. I never got terribly far ahead and we were all giggling about it when we stopped at the roundabout near my house and we both shouted a friendly 'Night' when I turned off into my street.

I wasn't going very far and they'd probably been at the pub all night but it felt good all the same. When I first got a road bike a friend nodded knowingly and said 'Soon you'll be visualising yourself in the yellow jersey.' A couple of months later not only do I know what that means but sadly enough I can visualise it. Tour de Ealing here I come.

*They didn't stop at the light and asked why I didn't just run it. They were shocked when I told then they could get fined for running them.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The bumblebee men

Imagine a David Attenborough voice.......

There are many varieties of cyclist that populate London and no more so than here, on the Uxbridge Road. In fact, so numerous are they that space is at a premium and competing for females can be quite vicious.

And here's just such an example.

A female is commuting in. Her bright pink top and ponytail signal her gender and, although her bike looks male, that's just a cunning ruse to put off males. And here's one now, a bumblebee man. His yellow jersey aims to emulate stronger, fitter species such as Lancearmstronginus but gives no real indication of speed or agility, while his black shorts are an attempt to play down his enormous bottom. To signal his intention he swings out in front of her, demonstrating his speed, then cuts back in front of her nearly causing a collision and therefore signalling his high level of testosterone. She is not impressed, but his tactic forces her to follow him as every time she tries to flee he swings right to prevent her from doing so.

But the battle is not won. Another yellow-jerseyed bumblebee man comes up from behind, also demonstrating his prowess by cutting up the female. He then attempts to assert his dominance over the first male. They tussle, over- and undertaking and leaving no more than six inches between their front wheel and the bike in front.

The battle for dominace reaches its peak, one of them is nearly hit by a bus as he attempts a last overtaking manouvre but he takes the lead. The traffic lights go to red. The second male and the female are left waiting as the winner signals victory by clicking his gears down the hill. The female will mate with neither.

Monday, 27 July 2009


I'm up to nine official followers!

Someone bring me some trail mix with only blue M&Ms and any peanuts with the shells on picked out because I am a STAR.

* Update: I'm on 11!!!!

The perils of a single pannier

I had one of those fabulous days on Saturday.

It was sunny and Mr Weenie was working so I decided to bite the bullet and shop for a wedding outfit. I HATE clothes shopping. Although I've lost some weight I still hate buying clothes and because I've lost the weight I'm still working on finding things that suit my shape. Plus, for this wedding I'll be singing at the reception so need something I can stand up in front of many people in. Plus plus, I need something with a high back as I hate having my back out, dunno why.

So all in all it was heading for a horrible day but then, I walked into Monsoon. I know I fit into their styles and most of the formal dresses I own are from there. Not only that, but there was a massive sale on. I flipped through the racks and came across a beautiful silk number with a high back, plunge front and nice length. One was a size 16 and £28, one was a size 14 and £48. I tried both and to my delight and dismay I'm a size 14 for the first time in many years. I trooped out of the changing room and the lovely sales assistant asked if I wanted to buy either one. I explained my dilemma of sack-like and cheap or slinky and expensive and she beamed. Apparently the size 14 hadn't been labelled correctly and was also £28. I grabbed it.

I skipped out of the shop in a cloud of happiness, I'm slimmer and I found a gorgeous dress for very little cash. I was so thrilled in fact that I decided to get a new sports bra. Again, I hate bra shopping but having nearly given myself a black eye going over a pothole in my old and saggy boulder holder, it was time for change. I got a fabulous sales assistant who strapped me into a slinky black number that held me in comfortably. So inspired was I that I decided to spend the money saved on the dress on ANOTHER bra, this one to fit the new dress.

I then went for a quick latte before whizzing through M&S and getting something tasty to reward Mr Weenie for working so hard on such a nice day.

Then I prepared to head home, with a dress, two bras, dinner stuff and ONE pannier. Bollocks.

It was tight but I managed to squeeze it all in along with the stuff I always carry (puncture kit, pump and waterproof jacket). Reg then nearly fell over when loaded up. It was a precarious journey home and I took it gently, all the time leaning the opposite way to counter the weight. Oops.

Oh well, at least I'm slim!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Coffee on the go and stalking

If someone could invent a way to carry a coffee on your bike they'd make a fortune. Wheeling a bike while carrying a hot beverage is just no fun and really quite difficult. The problem is that a strong, hot coffee is the ideal recovery drink after a commute cycle. So surely someone could think of a carrier? Any ideas are welcome.

After my fun cycling in with A yesterday I picked a pace person this morning. He had cleats but they were for shoes you could walk in as well as cycle, he was in proper lycra shorts but his t-shirt wasn't too flash and he was carrying a pannier. And off we went. And we really went.

I got in in 40 minutes this morning, much quicker than my usual 45-50 minute time. And aiming to keep up with someone really kept me going on hills and inclines. As far as I know he didn't see my ardent following and probably didn't clock what I was up to but it was useful to have a benchmark, especially as it looks like I'll be doing another midnight ride soon.

Me, a bike nerd. Naaaaaaaaaah!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

First aiding

A while ago there was a car crash two cars ahead of me on a major road. It was loud and more than a little scary, I got out of the way and continued on my merry way but regretted that I couldn't stop and help.

Last week a seriously injured man was lying on the pavement being tended by paramedics and it was obvious that a cyclist had stopped to help. Again I felt a bit useless.

I did a bit of first aid many years ago as a teen but nothing since. But all that is about to change. Work are making me a first aider. I have to do four full days of training, and it started today. It's quite intense and we get a full assessment to get the certificate declaring our competence.

It's all a bit scary and blowing into the doll for the first time is weirdly realistic. You start to get sweaty and a bit panicked, it's easy to lose count of the compressions. Even after day one though I feel a bit more confident. As a cyclist when I've witnessed accidents it would have been so easy for me to pull over and help. Now I can.

Cycling in convoy

It's an interesting phenomenon that when you cycle with someone you go faster and further. I first noticed this last year when I bumped into A, who follows the same route as me. He's a serious bike-porn reading cyclist and tends to go super quickly.

He dutifully slowed down and we went in together. I said he could overtake and I wouldn't be offended but he generously mentioned it was nice to go at a sedate pace for once. We got to work and as soon as he'd gone round the corner I sat on the floor as my legs went to jelly and tried desperately not to throw up.


I'd cut 10 minutes off my usual time.

On the midnight ride I attempted and conquered hills I'd never have usually gone for because I was in a group. The combination of pride and distraction while you chat means you fail to notice it hurts or that you're exhausted.

I bumped into A again this morning and in we went. It's been a while since the last time and I'm noticably quicker now. It makes the journey go much quicker and is way more fun so from now on I'm going to target strangers and, unbeknownst to them, attempt to be their pace buddy.

If you see a blonde cycle stalking you it may well be me so try not to go too quickly!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Do we need men?

I did it, I replaced Reg's rear brakes and tightened the front ones. I am woman, hear me roar.

It took me an hour and was incredibly fiddly because my rack obscured the relevant allen key bit but I did it. Mr Weenie brought me Ribena and encouragement at regular intervals with tentative enquiries of 'Need any help?' but I was determined to go it alone. I was covered in oil off the floor when I'd finished but I felt hugely smug. Reg's braking is vastly improved and I did it all by myself. I even realigned the rear wheel to make the braking more even while I was at it.

I, Ms Weenie, had eliminated the need for men.

I announced this to Mr Weenie as I strode in victorious. He gave a wry smile and asked how to fix a derailleur. Oh well, one step at a time....

I feel 'empowered' by it all. I hate that word, it's just so twee and rubbish but nothing else really sums it up frankly. I feel so much safer on the roads knowing that I can do minor maintenance and repairs, I feel less of an imposter as well. Who knew two wheels and some metal tubing could change your life.

Silence please for Blue Bike, a tribute

CC's Blue Bike has passed to the dirt-track in the sky. A snap in his derailleur proved fatal and the decision was made not to attempt repair.

Blue Bike, or BB to his friends, may have looked like any old scruffy MTB but he was a good bike. Not for him were the annoying regular breakdowns that plague so many owners, he believed in reliability. He introduced CC into a new world of cycling and faithfully carried her to work across many mornings an in all weathers without complaint. BB was as comfortable powering up kerbs as he was nipping to High Street Ken for coffee, and this was typical of his devotion to his owner.

We salute you BB and our loss will be felt for some time.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Further DIY and a tandem

I think I may have to change Reg's brakes. Although he's fairly new I go quite quickly on him, for quite long distances and I stop at traffic lights. All of this equals lots of braking. The question is, do I attempt to change them myself?

Following my sterling efforts to replace my rear inner tube after a nasty puncture I feel emboldened and ready to attempt a brake change. I also resent that if I take Reg to anywhere but my trusty local bike shop I'll be charged the earth for the labour (about 10 minutes). I think I'm going to do it and I shall let you know how it goes.

In other news I've found someone who owns, not one, not two but THREE tandems! I'm intrigued. CC and I quite fancy a tandem ride and I may have to ask this gentleman if I can borrow one. When I mentioned it to my dad he said it was lots of fun. Surely, I replied, you haven't had a go on one?!

It turns out that dad and his best childhood friend frequently took tandem rides through the local countryside. His friend had a cousin who was blind and they'd take it in turns to go on the tandem with him while the other person was on a regular bike. Apparently the only issue was shouting 'Stop pedalling!' when braking as otherwise he would keep going when you were trying to stop, and shouting 'Lean left!' and 'Lean right!'. What a marvellous idea for helping those with sight problems have fun on bikes. It's now a paralympic sport with the blind athlete at the front and a sighted assistant telling them direction in the back seat. Perhaps dad and his mate were ahead of their time.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Bing bing! The lion of Ealing

Last night I was whizzing home when I came to Ealing Broadway. There's a central junction and people often try and nip across when the lights are green. This time a good 30 people attempted to cross as I approached, not only that but a group of about five lads obviously hadn't seen each other in a while, caught sight of each other as the crossed and decided to have a little chat and a backslap in the middle of the road.

I was going a good 20mph and the light was green so I used my legally required bell and I binged the bastards. I binged until the crossing was clear and then binged some more. In fact, I binged continually until I'd gone through the crossing. There's something deeply weird about a girly sounding bing being able to strike terror into pedestrians.

When I first binged they all looked up like meercats and looked everywhere but at me. Where was that noise coming from? Then they caught sight of me and word started to spread. Someone's coming and we're in the road! Then the swearing started. Oh s*** she's really close and going quite fast. Then the mad dash as a group to the pavement.

It was vaguely reminiscent of a David Attenborough documentary looking at the wildebeest of the savannah when a lion causes a stampede. Odd.

Then, to add to the weirdness, a lovely HGV driver not only indicated correctly this morning but, when I hung back to let him pull out rather than whizz past his left side and risk death, he leant out of the window to check I wasn't coming, gave me a thumbs up in thanks and then pulled out. Sweet.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Hiding new purchases

I've never been a girl to hide her new purchases. Mr Weenie and I have a similar view when it comes to clothes. When they wear out you replace them. I very rarely splurge and when I do it's generally for special occasions, not any more.

Yesterday I received an Evans Cycles voucher worth £20 so I bought myself a swanky track pump with a twin head so it fits all valves without having to mess with it, a nice clear pressure gauge and it's considered the best on the market. It's around £30 so I spent just over a tenner. My last track pump cost me about £12 and doesn't fit Reg's Presta valve properly. Plus it's a bit pants frankly.

So I managed to get the new pump home (it was sticking up out of my pannier and swinging my leg over the bike nearly ended in accidental penetration of a sexual nature) and I tucked it into the corner of the living room.

Mr Weenie returned and I told him about the pump while trying to cut off the tag. The tag that showed the price. He clocked it and was incredulous. I realised I'd been subconsciously trying to hide it from him.

Maybe I'm a normal girl after all, although I reckon the item in question is normally shoes.....

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

All grown up...

Today I got a puncture in my back tire. I was far from work and my first instinct was to cry. My second was to ring Andy the superhero at work. He's a seasoned and serious cyclist and together we got the wheel off.

Luckily cycling seems to be a sport in which a lot of people will help you out so I've been helped out often in the past by the samaritan, Mr Weenie, and now Andy. A lot of what I need was to be told 'No, you're not going to break it', 'Yes push that bit forward', 'No, you're not being pathetic'.

In the end I had to use my spare inner tube as I couldn't for the life of me find the hole. I did, however, find the glass that caused it and removed it from my tire. Once I'd released Andy I kept hearing everyone's advice in my ears, 'Inflate the inner a bit so you know it's not twisted', 'When getting the tire back on your hands are the best tool you have', 'Don't panic, be methodical' and it was all good stuff.

I nearly forgot to put my back brake back together afterwards and it's still not right but that's what lunchtimes are for right?

It took ages and I struggled a lot but I feel quite pleased that it's finally happened and I coped. I've been dreading a solo puncture repair/wheel removal for ages and now I know I can do it the road's a bit less scary.

*Update: It's so easy to find a hole when you've got a sink full of water! All repaired, hurray!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

A disgusting revelation

I'm sure I'm not the only person who wears pants under lycra. Seriously, I'm not, right?

I'm no longer so sure. Apparently men just don't wear anything, I discovered this yesterday after following a thread on a cycling forum about a man's lycra malfunction. Yes, you've guessed it, his testicle made a surprise appearance at his in-laws after his shorts ripped on the way over.

This led me to ask, in all innocence, whether his pants had ripped as well only to be laughed off the forum for thinking men wore anything underneath their lycra.

But what about the hair? What about the humanity?

It meant that last night's cycle was made all the more difficult as I tried desperately not to look at any man passing me in lycra. It was a morbid curiosity akin to that of seeing a train crash, it's awful but you just can't drag your eyes away. It meant also that a lot of polite murmurs of 'Evening' were met with me looking at the floor while bright pink rather than my usual cheery return greeting. There are many distractions on the road, I can live without this one.

I, for one, will continue wearing my Bridget Jones pants thank you very much!

*Update: Apparently it's 'amateur' to be wearing pants under cycling shorts and it's against etiquette. Hmmmmm I'll let you know my decision when I've calmed down and gone slightly less pink!

Monday, 13 July 2009

The bus driver from hell....

On Sunday Mr Weenie had to work so it was agreed that I would pop to the massive Tesco nearby and by two panniers worth of shopping rather than do our usual Sunday shop together. I hate having that much weight in the panniers and the road surface on the route's a bit rubbish but off I popped for the 10-minute ride to Tesco.

On my way I passed a bus. There's nothing unusual about this, one of the local routes goes past the Tesco in both directions so people who don't have bicycles or cars can do their shopping in comfort. I myself have used the route several times. It's a narrow road and there was a bit of frog-leaping between me and the bus as he was ahead, then I would be ahead as he was at a stop and then he'd be ahead etc.

He got a bit aggressive, his engine was revved but I ignored it and continued on my merry way. Then we got to the section in the photograph. As you can see it's quite narrow and I can't even squeeze through with a car safely, let alone a bus. Surely everyone can see that, surely it's obvious, surely?

Apparently not.

Said bus driver overtook me and swung in front as I reached the crossing island. I was going a good 15-20mph so he must have been going at a fair lick. I would estimate that the space between the front of the bus and the kerb was about two inches and I was halfway down the bus. If I had carried on I would have been crushed against the kerb as the back of the bus swung in and possibly dragged under the wheels. I braked. Hard.

I nearly went over the handlebars, the driver behind nearly hit me and swore at me, the bus carried on. I waited until the shaking had stopped and carried on. I caught up with Mr Bus at the aforementioned Tesco stop (hmmmm surely this proves I was going fast enough that he didn't actually need to overtake me....). As the bus was stopped I remonstrated with the driver asking in no polite terms if he was the driver who had just nearly killed me. He laughed and put two thumbs up. Obviously it was f***ing hilarious.

This morning I rang the bus company and made a full and detailed complaint, I had taken the individual bus ID number and recorded the time of the incident.

Unfortunately there are many bad bus drivers but I try and believe that, like cyclists, the evil few make the good majority look bad. He nearly killed me and laughed about it, but what made me complain was that I nearly didn't get on my bike this morning. I've never been scared enough that I've thought about not using my bike and I'll be damned if I let some idiot with a bus achieve that particular honour.

Top tips for complaining about bus drivers:
Get the bus id number if you can. It'll normally be a combination of letters and numbers and will be prominently displayed. The route number is also important.

Get a description of the driver.

Get the name of the road where the incident happened. If it's a long road look for identifying buildings etc.

Don't suffer in silence. Bus companies don't want bad drivers, they want to know if there are dangerous people in their vehicles.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The race is on....

We've all been there. The traffic light's on red, there's a cyclist next to you eyeing up the road ahead, you're both waiting for that flash of amber and, you're off!

Your legs pump madly as you struggle to gain enough speed to change gear, both of you are cycling too fast to drop behind the other and too slowly for one to overtake, cars whizz past oblivious to the silent battle of wills.

With both of you in the wide expanse of the bus lane neither is willing to drop back. Other cyclists are overtaken in smooth curved trajectories and the road just keeps going.

Potholes add a new dimension to the challenge and you silently curse the weight of your panniers and apologise to your trusty bike as your back wheel thumps heavily into a depressed manhole cover. Pedestrians wander out without looking, the road becomes an obstacle course, and all the time you're checking discreetly to see if he's managed to pass you. There's a hill, you both stand up on the pedals to avoid changing down, you're going hard, both getting a good rhythm and pushing for the line. You're ahead, he's ahead, you're ahead, he's ahead, but then, there's a red light. You both come to an abrupt halt. Suddenly it's over.... and a weaselly little bastard on a rickety BMX with the seat so low his knees go up round his ears sails illegally through the light past both of you.

The person you've been racing against looks at you and winks, 'A**hole' he murmurs. You agree and giggle in a moment of shared animosity. Then the light changes and it's on again.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Fame, and the power of pink

Having originally set up this blog to combat the problem of having no Facebook at work and to keep friends and family abreast of my hugely exciting life I'm very flattered and excited that others are reading it. So hello to all of you.

Anyhoo, this morning I took the power ranger leggings out for the first time on a normal commute. Unfortunately their outing coincided with me losing my cashcard and having to go to the bank first thing. And the bank opened late. Cue me standing in a full length wet-look legs condom in black and high-vis yellow for what seemed like forever outside the bank on a busy high street. On the midnight ride I was one of many but this morning it was lonely out there.

Lycra is comfy and apart from this morning I don't mind wearing it when I'm going to work but I often yearn to look more of a lady when I'm out socially. Reg looks very racy and I love him but CC's Pashley Poppy is just so much more civilised and I believe a large part of that is its colour: Pink.

My lycra fits with my mean-looking black paint job on Reg, if he was pink maybe I'd feel better about wearing something less aggressive. I've worn a smocky top/dress with leggings to ride him around town before but it always looks like I'm borrowing my boyfriend's bike as he's just so masculine. I need Reg's speed and agility but not his manly look.

Why don't maufacturers think about this when building bikes. They always come in boring and bland colours unless they're single speeds and those just aen't practical when you do the distances I do.

Hmmmmmm, maybe instead of buying a new bike next year I could get him resprayed....... oh so tempting.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Woman's Hour, what a disappointment

Today's Woman's Hour looked at women cyclists and lorries. A promising idea... or maybe not.

It's true that six of the seven cyclists killed this year by HGVs have been women but that's not representative of statistics over the past few years. There was some very interesting information from a woman whose daughter was killed nine years ago in an HGV collision. She's worked with the lorry company whose driver killed her daughter to find new ways to protect vulnerable road users and has been instrumental in getting the company to fit proximity sensors, modified mirrors and give drivers more training.

But that's where my interest faded. There was mention of headphones and helmets, with the suggestion that women fear helmet hair (sigh) and the mention that a couple of the women killed had felt 'vulnerable' on the road. But no one discussed why they felt vulnerable or if they had put themselves in danger by undertaking said lorries.

Men will take to the roads more readily than a lot of women, but it shouldn't feel like such a big risk. Why don't we have better protected cycle lanes, better maintained roads and the support of the police?

The other thing that has to change is attitude. When I first took to the roads I let myself be bullied into going through red lights by cyclists and drivers alike. I allowed impatient cyclists to make me feel like I had to go up the sides of lorries to get to the front of the junction even if I didn't feel safe doing so. Not any more.

As head of the company cycling network I've been approached by several women thinking of taking to the road. All of them were worried about safety but my answer was the same: there's no law that says you have to get to the front at junctions, no one can force you to be unsafe, if you don't want to nip through traffic, don't. If someone behind you gets cross and impatient it's their problem not yours.

When it comes to red traffic lights and creeping past lorries, no means no.

Draw the line at lightning

As many of you will know, yesterday it tipped down with rain and thunder and lightning were the order of the day.

As I went to step out of the office building the heavens opened and I, along with two other lady cyclists watched in dismay as several metric tons of water fell from the sky. We decided to wait for a bit. One ventured out but soon dashed back in exclaiming 'I don't do lightning.'

Neither do I. Someone once argued the point that the rubber tires are ideal to protect you but I don't care. Lightning is where I draw the line.

We waited a few more minutes and the rain had almost completely stopped. It spat a bit nearer home but apart from the unattractive bikers' stripe I got because of my lack of mudguards it was fine. Rain is so not that bad.

The midnight ride - part three

On leaving Gatwick.......

By this time the sun was up because of our various delays so we sailed along being able to see all around us for the first time. Unfortunately Reg's chain came off at the bottom of Turner's Hill and his ensuing jumping around and misbehaving meant I walked the last bit. CC had managed to put it back on but he was clicky and irritable for a few miles afterwards. At this point it was all quiet country roads and was stunning scenery when you're used to the tarmac and concrete boredom of London. There was a lot of wildlife but, unfortunately, much of it was squashed and a bit gross on the road.

CC and I kept a steady but fairly good pace throughout and remained in about the middle of the pack. We had time to chat and giggle about bottoms enveloped in lycra as we went but were starting to get a bit tired. Then the signs for Ditchling began to appear.

Ditchling. Everyone tells you it's crap and they're not wrong. We stopped before it and could set off when we wanted. Knowing I'd probably have to walk it CC and I set off early. CC was a machine and powered up but my knee went click about 20 yards in. Even walking was difficult but I walked a bit, cycled a bit, walked a bit, cycled a bit and then walked the end. A lot of people did the same and I was never made to feel ashamed. CC went all the way and I was almost more proud of her than she was.

Every person was welcomed to the top like an old friend and a particular cheer was made for the last lady up. She was a newbie but had nearly made it until her chain snapped. We worried it was a problem but, of course, several boys gathered round with multitools and had her ready to go in no time.

A teenager went up and down the hill three times while we waited for the last man but I've been assured he's a freak of nature and a fabulous cyclist so I'm not too insulted

At this stage it was hot enough for me to strip to my shorts and it was in blazing sunshine that we swept down to the sea. There were fields of purple, yellow and green, poppies everywhere and then, suddenly, cars. It felt bizarre to be back in a town. There were traffic lights for the first time in hours and they were on a hill that made stopping a hazardous venture.

We pedalled down to the beachfront feeling victorious (and a little emotional in my case) before devouring a fry-up that helped replace the sleep we'd lost. We then climbed onto the train and headed back.

Why are people so narky about taking bikes on trains? It's permitted, get over it. I take time to research when I can take my bikes on trains an I obey the rules so a big raspberry in your direction. It felt utterly surreal to be heading back in the morning after cycling all night but even the disgruntled mumblings of train passengers didn't bother me as I floated in a deliriously happy cloud of exhaustion and smug.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The midnight ride - part two

Finally, a description of what actually happened.

Having fought my way through Blur fans departing the concert in Hyde Park it became increasingly easy to see where the FNRttC participants were. A beacon of flashing red and white lights grew steadily at Hyde Park Corner and I decided to saunter over. I'd spent many minutes deciding whether the power ranger tights were too much, but on arrival it was clear I was among friends.

CC arrived shortly afterwards and we were given a safety briefing. I's a CTC ride so we were told to signal and communicate clearly on turns, stop for red lights/old ladies in the road and generally behave ourselves. All our names were taken and we had given our mobile numbers in when registering. We were also required to have the leader's number in our phones, it became apparent why later on.

We set off just after midnight and it was like cycling through London at any other time apart from the absence of sunlight. There were lorries, lots of black cabs and rolling wayfinders directing the group through the tangled web of streets. As we came through Croydon it became more raucous. It was club chucking out time and we got many a shout and/or giggle from drunken revellers. They were mainly in good fun and it ws a bit like being on a tipsy Tour de France wth crowds cheering us on.

We then had to climb a massive hill. Fairly shallow but it went on forever and then for a bit more. It was here that the first disaster struck. CC and I both commented at the next rest stop that a chap on a mountain bike looked like he was in trouble. His back wheel was wobbling and there was a regular hiss as his brake hit the tire on each revolution. Our worst fears were confirmed when an organiser swept down to tell us that what looked like a tire split was holding the group up. One of the leaders actually cycled home for a replacement tire and we all waited for news. After a while we were sent up the next hill to wait. It was horribly steep and it was here that I realised the advantage of group riding. I would've normally given up, but stubborn pride kept me climbing.

We then waited a bit more while several male weenies disappeared into the woods for what I hope was some nocturnal weeing. We then carried on until it became clear that some weenies had gone the wrong way! A few phone calls brought them back to us and we continued.

We swept on and eventually found ourselves in dark and misty country lanes. The streetlights became fewer and more far between until they ended completely. CC and I stuck together and admitted to only each other that it was a bit weird and spooky. The wayfinders stand on corners and wait for the last person before moving so even when we spread out we knew to stay on the same road unless directed. Good job too as we were alone for a good half an hour at one point. It was pitch black and mist left us with about six feet of visibility. It was bizarrely liberating not to know whether you were climbing or descending. I looked at one side, CC looked at the other and we followed the road's line markings to know when to turn.

You'd think it would be scary but knowing how well organised it all was we felt completely safe. We started off giggling but it was wonderful to see the red lights emerge at the next rest stop. We had another hang around as a lady had lost her spoke light and jammed her front wheel and then began heading to Gatwick.

Once there we carried our bikes into the departure lounge and the Costa staff were overwhelmed by hungry and thirsty bikers. Several tourists and passengers asked what on earth we were doing there. The rest in the warmth brought the sleep demons with it but massive amounts of caffeine helped, as did a much needed wee stop. The guy with the split tire was forced onto a train home at this point as his wheel had completely buckled. The rest of us climbed back into the saddle and prepared for the second leg..........

Midnight Ride - pictures

Confusion at Gatwick at 4am as 50 bikers invade the Costa coffee bar.

The glowing bottom enabled by my power ranger leggings had to be documented!

This was the wait while a member had his tire repaired and it was at about 1.30am.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The midnight ride - part one

Ok, so I completed the Friday Night Ride to the Coast and, frankly, it was f***king amazing!

There'll probably be many posts about it as I learnt a huge amount about my cycling and cycling in a group etc but amazing sums it up.

I had to walk up most of the last hill and my chain came off on another one but I stayed in about the middle of the group for most of the ride and CC and I stayed together a lot of the time. I managed hills I never dreamed I could climb, cycled through six-foot visibility mist in the pitch black, ate some truly disgusting energy bars and, along with the rest of the group, caused quite a spectacle at Gatwick at 4am.

We were delayed as a fellow bike had serious tire problems and there were a few other incidents so we didn't actually get into Brighton until 8am but when we did it was wonderful. Because of the delays we missed the sunrise and by the time we hit the beacon it was fully daylight and scorching hot. We winged our way down into town in streaming sunlight and a full fry up went some way to helping us recover.

I was hugely impressed by the professionalism of the organisers. No one was left behind and it was incredibly easy to navigate the route even when we were spread out because of rolling wayfinders. I felt completely safe and supported and when the last person crested the beacon (broken chain poor girl) there were genuine cheers for her and within 20 minutes her chain was fixed and she was back on the road. The vast majority of the group were really friendly and even though we were new CC and I were made to feel like hardened lycra loonies.

I'll definitely be going again!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

A new cycle buddy and new tights

The last few days I've bumped into a fellow cyclist several times. He cycles a nice-looking Dawes (all the good old touring bikes seem to be Dawes) and he actually cycles most of my route home.

We got chatting the other day about the heat and yesterday we took turns leading all the way home. I was glad of the company when I nearly got hit by a tinted out BMW. The windows were so black you couldn't see anything and I'm fairly sure that's why he didn't see me when he turned left suddenly. He glanced off my pannier and I sped on.

I didn't actually realise how close it came until Buddy caught up with me at the next lights and asked if I was ok. Apparently it was abundantly clear that it was the BMW's fault. It was comforting as I often wonder if it was my fault when I get close to cars. I'm fairly sure it isn't the vast majority of the time, but having a witness was nice. It also helped with the last big hill. It makes me even more certain the Brighton ride will be good as I work better when I'm with other people. I think it's because I relax and get chatty so I can go for longer. Buddy even said I set a 'punishing pace'.

The bottle cage (now with a bottle) is a vast improvement. Being able to gulp water whenever I'm getting dry makes a massive difference. No headache for me last night, instead I went to see Transformers II and it was hugely exciting. More metal machinery obsession, just what I need.

Yesterday I also went shopping for cycle clothes. Having decided that most cycle clothes are hugely overpriced I hunted in a sports discount/jumble sale shop near work. And it came up trumps. A base layer for £6 and some tights marked down from £30 to £10. Both of them are good purchase but the tights are just that: tight.

They look sprayed on and the colours of high-vis yellow and black make me feel a bit like a Power Ranger. Worrying.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Oh God the heat

Anyone else sweaty? Because I'm experiencing the joys of actually being quite fit and cycling long-distance. Being more fit means you sweat more as your body becomes more adept at cooling itself, cycling long-distance means your body has lots of time to demonstrate its new abilities. Unfortunately this means I spend every cycle coated in a film of water and salt.

When you're moving it's totally fine but every stop at traffic lights brings a wave of horror, realisation at the grossness and heat. Last night I fitted my bottle cage and promptly forgot my bottle of water. I got home with a thumping headache, spots in front of my eyes and feeling so hot I thought my head would explode. Won't be doing that again. After a cold shower and a lie-down I felt considerably better. I then drank a lot of water over the course of the evening.

I'm pleased I'll be dong the trip to Brighton in the evening away from the heat, although rain is now a distinct possibility. How annoying.

Yesterday I brought chocolates in for colleagues to celebrate my official standing as the second most prolific female cyclist in my company, losing out only to J the triathlete. I'm still ridiculously excited by it all, what a loser. But a loser who can cycle Godammit!