Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The tandem: Pictures

At the top of Ditchling it was beautiful. Well worth the climb (almost)

Those of us who were already at the top took a well-earned rest waiting for the other riders.

The pink avengers on the sea front, proof that CC is always photogenic as no one should look that good after a ride of that magnitude.

The tandem: Ditchling, the final frontier

Refreshed and full of KitKatty goodness, CC and I decided to go for it.

CC hates getting off her bike and has an amazingly stubborn attitude about hills, she successfully conquered Ditchling on her first go in June last year. I just wanted to prove the doubters wrong but, secretly, was terrified I'd let CC down. On the same ride that she'd mastered it, I'd had to give up before I'd even seriously begun because my knee hurt and I just didn't think I could do it.

As we began the ascent we passed a group who had stopped at a layby before the hill began, we could have stopped there but decided an uphill start on the tandem was just not a good idea. A few of the bystanders cheered as we passed before the trees either side of the road closed in and we were encased in a steep green tunnel.

Although alone to begin with, there were others on the journey, to our shock we passed a couple and then we saw some walkers. Ditchling curves so you can't see where it ends and each corner is a fresh mini-hill. You can start off optimistic and quickly lose hope. I was a walker last year so steered clear of them, and would never have mocked. CC and I were forced to call out to one walker though as she veered in front of us as we climbed. We had announced our presence but had to call repeatedly for her to move.

If one of us flagged the other would encourage and that's how it went for the whole climb. As more people abandoned their bikes to walk we start to overtake larger clumps of people and many of them cheered us on and shouted encouragement.

At this point I felt like someone had thrown a cup of brine in my face as the sweat was so heavy, sexy in the extreme, I'm sure you'd agree.

There's a sign with a horse on it on the last curve and we kept our eyes glued to the horizon willing it to appear. When it finally did I nearly cried. That last corner was murder and it was only a shout of 'It's the tandem! And they're still on!!' that kept my legs going. As we crested the hill it was all too tempting to just stop dead in the road but I was determined that we would glide to a stop in style. A gorgeous dog was ahead as his owner was chatting to some of the riders. My aim was that we would stop near it so I could pet it.

We had made it. After CC and I had laid Miranda gently down and hugged in an overly emotional manner I rang my mum, who had texted to check I was ok. I proudly announced that CC, the tandem and I were at the top of Ditchling, 'Did you push it?' was the reply.

After Ditchling there are a few more dips and swells before the descent into Brighton and it didn't take long for the adrenaline high to wear off. Yes, we were nearly there, but we were also exhausted. Talk was of breakfasts and we spent the last half hour detailing what exactly we would eat. It was the smell of the sea that enlivened us and, as we swept onto the sea front, CC even took her hands of her handlebars to do jazz hands as we came to rest at the Madeira cafe. We stuffed ourselves with fried tasties and regaled our experience to Charles, owner of Miranda.

As we prepared to leave we went to say goodbye and thank you to Mr Fabulous for yet another great FNRttC. It's a bit like getting an audience with the king as there's always a queue. We thanked him and received the highest honour possible:

'I underestimated you girls, I thought it would be a disaster and didn't think you could do it. You've proved me wrong, I've never seen such commitment.'

With the equivalent of a cycling knighthood ringing in our ears we headed for the station, CC on Reg and Charles and I back on Miranda. We thanked Charles profusely for lending us his fabulous machine and got on the train home. We ended up with bicycleslut (owner of the penny farthing) and J (a fellow Uxbridge Roader). They own a tandem and a prior conversation with them was part of my inspiration.

What better way to end such a weird experience than to sit next to a penny farthing?

I got home and showered before settling down for a nap with Mr Handsome. As I dozed off I reflected on our achievement and sent CC a text:

We are actually certifiably mad.

Then I slept and dreamt of Miranda.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The tandem: The magical KitKat

CC and I had arrived at the halfway scout hut against many people's expectations and the surreal nature of the challenge started to sink in.

I didn't mention it in the first post but joining us on the ride were a full-size penny farthing and a double height bike. I shall endeavor to find pictures!

Having decided to name our trusty steed Miranda we had begun to talk about her as if she were another person on the journey. Even more surprising was the realisation that we were nowhere near the back of the pack, and we watched those arriving after us join the food queue with a growing sense of pride.

Climbing back aboard we faced the problem that plagued us throughout the ride, namely that people refused to let us on the road and we were cut up mercilessly and repeatedly.

We tootled without incident until we hit Turner's Hill. It's a nasty and sharp shock that's steep and vicious but short. We got a decent run up and went for it. We passed several people as we made the ascent and, at the top, were rewarded with Mr Fabulous's comment that he knew experienced tandem riders who wouldn't have made it. It was just a comment but I was greatly cheered by it and we led the cheers as the guy on the double height bike made it up.

It should have been a great stretch after this but we finally hit problems. The claustrophobia of the stoker position started to tell as CC became convinced we were on a tilt and suffered something a lot like vertigo. Having already decided to be sensible on downhills we went at a snail's pace and stopped a couple of times to ensure she felt able to continue. Then, as we re-established our rhythm the pannier rack went weird and the pannier caught on the rear wheel. We had to stop and, for the first and only time, needed the assistance of the rear riders to get going. The pannier was put in the sag wagon and we were ever more determined to finish.

What we failed to realise was that the pannier contained all of our emergency rations and, as we approached Ditchling Beacon, this came as a nasty shock.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ditchling, it's horrendous. Around a mile of solid uphill that never seems to end. CC had managed it solo before but I hadn't and was dreading it. Even experienced riders often fail to get up it on-bike and many believe doing it on a tandem is even more difficult.

Exhausted and with Cathy still suffering vertigo-like symptoms, it looked bleak. Then a realisation dawned: I had a KitKat in my jersey pocket. I straightened in my saddle at the thought and an ill-sounding CC enquired as to my shift in position. When I told her we both near-wept with joy. It sound ridiculous but it's true.

At the last stop before the ascent we pulled over and shared the four-finger bar. Our spirits lifted and, suddenly, we knew that we could do it. We set off with purpose and decided we going to get up that hill even if it killed us.....

Monday, 29 March 2010

The tandem: An inauspicious start

Eleven pm on Friday night saw a nervous weenie standing alone at Hyde Park Corner.

I was waiting for the tandem to arrive. Charles had agreed to lend it to CC and me and we were going to attempt the Brighton FNRttC on it. With only an hour to practice, I knew we were pushing it, but the contingency planning was in place. If we really didn't get the hang of it Charles would ride it with us taking turns as his partner, he would be on the ride (on Reg) the whole way so would be on hand in case anything went wrong and, as he was riding Reg, I knew we had all the repair kit for both bikes.
This ride involved a LOT of novices who were raising money for their local hospice so the pace was fairly light. Plus we had a 'sag wagon' in case of disaster. All good.

More importantly, we both had our matching pink jerseys on.

Disaster struck early on, he was late (trains, eugh). He arrived at about 11.20pm and we got to work. I tried both positions but I had already decided in my head that I wanted to go on the front (the term is 'be the captain'). It was, however, good to give the back (or 'stoker' position) a go so that I could help Cathy when she arrived. She got there at 11.30pm and we did a couple of circuits.

Then ride leader Mr Fabulous arrived, and he was NOT happy. He thought it would be a disaster and we were treated to stern words and a glare as we headed to sign up. CC and I were determined that we would not cause him problems.

The hardest part of the ride for me is getting off Hyde Park Corner. On this ride there were close to 100 cyclists and I hate pack cycling. This, combined with the turning circle of a boat on an unfamiliar machine, was a challenge. We smacked it. We held our nerve and sailed through. Keeping up communication with 'stopping', 'braking' and 'changing gear' being shouted frequently, we set off into the night, establishing a good rhythm from early on.

We headed through London and were soon feeling like pros. Aside from a hairy moment while squeezing through a small gap to get onto the road off Mitcham Common, we were fine. And this was lucky as we soon hit the first on the hills. It's not a steep one but it goes on FOREVER.

Hilariously, we overtook several riders on out way to the top. Once there, we discovered part of why Mr Fabulous was sceptical. What goes up must come down, and down and down. Reigate Hill is very steep and the combined weight of two people on a tandem means you pick up speed VERY fast. Again, CC and I were of a similar mind: we'll ride the brakes, life is better than speed.

We cautiously made our way down. On the front I could see everything and knew we were fine but CC was the brave one as, riding blind, she completely trusted my instincts and we reached the bottom intact and still friends.

After this excitement the rest of the ride seemed uneventful. Our main problem was being cut up by other riders and, at the rest stops, no one would let us out so we were often left battling to get back to the middle from the back.

The halfway point was a scout hut in Horley where sandwiches, hot tea and cake were on hand to greet us. We ate, drank and felt refreshed. At the last minute, a tray of KitKats was passed round. Despite being full and having food in our pannier I tucked one into my jersey pocket. Little did I know that this decision was the difference between success and failure.....


I didn't announce in advance in case we backed out but, on Friday, Cathy and I attempted a Friday Night Ride to the Coast on a tandem.

It was the Brighton run (the hilliest one) and neither of us had ever been on one before. I will blog about it at length but it'll take time to find the right words to describe what was a bizarre but amazing ride.

Keep your eyes on the skies.....

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Smiling happy people

The last two days have seen a definite increase in smile occurrence. I even got a little wave yesterday, marvellous!

Everyone from van drivers to pedestrians seems willing to give me a grin as I whoosh past. I often smile at drivers and pedestrians in order to say thank you or, on occasion, to reinforce my moral superiority if they've acted nob-like. In the past though, I have rarely got a smile back.

Perhaps it's the fact that spring is at last looking sprung and the flowers are out or perhaps it's just that all the miserable people have sought help... and Prozac. Whatever it is, it makes a nice change from the usual grumpy faces I see every day.

My current theory is that my vibrant pink tops are finally out after a winter shrouded in a yellow jacket. The weenie butterfly is emerging from her winter cocoon. Yes, the improved mood is definitely all down to me. Weenie's plan for world peace, one postcode at a time.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Mr Mercedes

Hello Mr Mercedes,

I do hope you're having a lovely morning. No doubt you've forgotten all about our near collision yesterday. I really do think you were in the wrong.

See my fabulous illustration (I am, of course, the pink blob):This is the junction where it happened. I had plenty of time to cross car one as it turned left, get behind car two after it had turned and be well out of your way. The car behind me (the blue box) was certainly in agreement as he was following me across when you made your move.

Your decision to change lanes without indicating, nearly hit car two when squeezing past it and then roaring across was not a good one.

If I hadn't squealed and you hadn't stopped you would have hit me side-on straight into the path of the big van.

Thank goodness you have big expensive brakes on your big expensive car. You should be ashamed of yourself you horrible person.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Froggies everywhere!

I live practically in a park. It's lovely in many ways. Foxes sometimes run alongside my bike when it's dark, I often hear owls and woodpeckers as I cycle home and now that the daffodils are finally starting to come out it's obscenely pretty.


Occasionally nature collides with man. There are a lot of froggies in the road. Flat froggies. I've already run over two of them and been SERIOUSLY grossed out. They were flat before I hit them but eugh. Not nice.

It was nice, therefore, to find one hopping around in the rain on Friday night. He was at the end of the path to my front door and as he was relatively far from the road and obviously enjoying the rain I took a photo and left him to it.

I do like froggies.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Forced to wash my towel

I have a nice blue towel at work. It's my cycling towel and it normally hangs off a cupboard next to my desk every day so it can dry out and be reused the next day. Of course I do take it home to be washed occasionally but my towel is treated with reverence and respect, not like the slimy specimen's hung in the showers and left there all week.

Observant readers will have noticed a distinct lack of proper posting yesterday morning. I had a biomechanical assessment and now have funny new insoles for my shoes. I therefore only cycled halfway in normalish clothes and didn't need to shower.

I was a little worried when I arrived at work to find an empty space where my beloved towel usually hangs. I was livid, a towel thief!

Then I realised I had probably just left it in the shower the day before. I nipped up to get it. I had not used my towel in two days and was horrified to find it was damp. Really damp. Damp with the dampness of being pressed against someone's damp body. And it hadn't been mine! Someone else's bits had been rubbed all over MY towel.


I took it home and beloved blue towel now smells of Bold's Silk and Jasmine. Order has been restored to the universe.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Hurrah, A2 has a blog!

The lovely and super-helpful to novice cyclists who fall into canals A2 has started his own cycling blog.
He's a proper cyclist but we love him anyway and Aero Profile is a good read (although obviously only nearly as good as MY blog).

It's even got maps on it.... ooooooooooh.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The scenic route

I started this morning in a foul mood. On my way to pick up S a motorist pulled over, rolled down her window and let rip about me 'cycling in the middle of the road'. I was going 18mph, was turning right at the upcoming T-junction and, frankly, have the legal right to cycle where I damn well please.

I was so angry I was shaking. There was just no need to be so abusive and I'm embarrassed to say I swore. When I've made a genuine error I'm mentally prepared for a tirade of abuse, but not when I'm just getting on with my day.

Anyhoo. I picked up S, still very angry, and I tried to let it go. Luckily, fate intervened. The traffic was HORRENDOUS. It was too tight even to filter past. Other cyclists were hopping onto the pavement or attempting silly things but I made an executive decision and we took the 'scenic route'. On a bike, this means getting off the main road, pointing Reg in vaguely the right direction and weaving through backstreets until you know where you are.

We ended up back on the main drag a couple of times and got off again but I'm still certain it was quicker than attempting to negotiate the gridlock. Not only that but as I arrived at work I realised my mood had lifted and I no longer cared about little miss middle class, whose husband probably doesn't love her anymore and whose children are probably spoilt brats.

I hope she got to work on time and sorted out whatever was bothering her. As S pointed out, she'll probably look up the Highway Code, realise I was right and feel really silly.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A satsuma Mr Suave style....

The company has started providing boxes of fruit for the office. Although I was initially sceptical I'm definitely getting more vitamins. I'm crap at peeling satsumas though so asked Mr Suave to peel mine for me. Normally unhelpful, he seemed unusually enthusiastic in his willingness to help. And here's the reason why:


Divine retribution and why spring sucks

Ha! After laughing at my lack of memory skills yesterday, my younger sister left her trousers at home when she went riding before work! Mwahahahahhahahahaha.

Anyhoo, everyone at work is loving the sunshine. 'Isn't it pretty', 'The sky is sooooo blue', 'Gosh, it's almost summery', blah blah blah.

Yes it's less rainy, but right now the sun is eye level on both legs of my commute and I arrive sweaty and unkempt while those on the tube aren't yet hot enough to get gross. Roll on the dry heat of summer, where, although I'll arrive sweaty, I'll get to my desk fresh and alert post-shower, surrounded by hot and grumpy colleagues who have been crammed into sardine cans on rails.

Come on sun, get going!

Monday, 15 March 2010


It's a beautiful day, what could ruin it.

Perhaps having to sit in the office in a retina-searingly pink jersey because you've forgotten your t-shirt. Hmmmmmmm

I was starting to feel really silly when S hurried over. 'I've forgotten my trousers!' she exclaimed. 'I'm off to M&S, oh, why are you wearing your jersey?'

I replied, it's the weather for it. Here's a tenner, size 14 t-shirt please. Oops.

**Update: Am now in a pastel blue cotton t-shirt. Bliss.

Friday, 12 March 2010

One incident, two perspectives....

Petronella Wyatt-style:

This morning a woman was nearly hit by cyclist in Shpeherd's Bush.

She was innocently crossing the road when a lycra-clad lout going at reckless speed appeared from nowhere and nearly mowed her down. She barely stopped before shouting abuse and pedalling away with absolutely no regard for the trauma of the victim.

Now, I tried cycling in London and was rubbish at it so know that it's dangerous. We must ban these mentalists!

What actually happened:

The wind finally died down this morning and I had a great commute. The lights were in my favour, there were few bad motorists around and the cloud cover meant there were no nasty surprise sunbeams blinding me.

In fact, I was at top speed today and, once past Acton, barely dipped below 20mph as the bus lane was clear nearly all the way. Coming up to Shepherd's Bush the traffic in the main lane was stationary as there are nasty roadworks, with no buses about and precious few cyclists, I was able to make excellent time. But, about a mile short of Shepherd's Bush, disaster nearly struck.

A woman stepped out from behind a stationary lorry, nowhere near a crossing, right in front of me.

I pulled the brakes and, with some mega-fishtailing, managed to stop in time. I pulled over to catch my breath and the woman ran over. 'I'm so sorry!' was all I heard. Still in shock I told her how fast I'd been going and to please be more careful in future. Secretly I was hugely impressed that she hadn't dropped the catering tray she was carrying.

She was shocked at how fast I'd been going, apologised again and skipped merrily off, obviously in a rush. I got back up to speed and headed to work. In the lift I was praised by a fellow employee who'd seen me stop at a red light at a crossing by the office. We both grumbled about cyclists who jump the light before I got off on my floor.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Ride theme tunes

I have a weird memory for music.

I sing and teach music to small children and I can generally recall a song if I hear a few bars. Once it's in there I can't get it out and cars with loud music are the worst for planting 'ear worms'. Lately it's meant that I've had an eclectic mix of tunes in my head on rides home:
  • P.I.M.P, Fifty Cent
  • Dog Days Are Over, Florence and the Machine
  • The Candyman Can, Dunno which version
  • Spiralling, Keane
  • Just a Ride, Jem
  • You Got the Love, Candistation
  • Candy, Paulo Nutini
  • Requiem, Verdi
It doesn't seem to affect my cycling style, but singing 'I'm a motherf***ing P.I.M.P.' in a posh accent under your breath as you pass stationary traffic does get you some choice looks.

In other news:
To the guy who nearly hit me as I crossed a junction because he ran a red light, I stand by my words last night, you're a t**t.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Stop throwing children at me

This morning I had three close encounters of the baby/toddler kind. All took place at crossing where I had a clear green light and they had a red man. All of them involved adults pushing prams into my path or looking on and encouraging as small children stepped out in front of me or, in one case, scooted across.

None of these were zebra crossings. When a pedestrian puts their foot on one of those babies, you stop and let them across. Fairy Nuff.

These were all on crossings at junctions or those regulated by traffic lights. TRAFFIC LIGHTS.

You know, those things that tell people when the cars are coming.

All of those children were with seemingly 'sensible' adults, 'responsible' ones who care for them. How long would it take to teach them how to cross the road? Think about it.

Monday, 8 March 2010



When your alarm doesn't go off and you're running round attempting to get ready you don't want to get a text reminding you you were meant to pick up your bike buddy five minutes ago. Oops.

S was back on her bike today and despite my alarm malfunction, a lack of road surface on part of my journey and heavy traffic we still managed to get in 10 minutes before go time at work. Phew!

Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, well it would have been if I'd remembered my normal bra.....

Friday, 5 March 2010

A good mood despite the odds

If you'd asked me last night what I would blog about today I would have said that life is rubbish and I would blog about the a*sehole cyclists who continually cut me up on the way to work, swerve in front of me and then get smug about pulling ahead when the only way they've done so is to skip a red light.

Yes, I had a bad day yesterday and was full of the rage.

But that's all changed this morning.

Last night I burned off the rage by cycling hard all the way home. I whizzed through the streets and made fabulous time. Adding to my joy I shared part of my journey with a rather nice young man on a swanky drop-bar bike. He was behind me for part of the journey and overtook at some traffic lights where I was unwilling to filter because of my panniers (they're just too wide).

I was then behind him for a short span and we crept up to a red light together. And he really crept. I sat behind but he saw and pushed himself forward. It was only when we were side by side in the advance bike box that I realised his reluctance to completely stop. He was single speed(they're harder to get going).

I apologised saying if I'd realised I'd have hung back farther. He laughed and said I was welcome to overtake as he'd been trying to keep up with me for ages because I was going so fast.

That combined with the beautiful sunshine today have combined to make me a much happier weenie. Marvellous.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

When potholes go bad

'Come out, come out wherever you are!'

This is the call being made to my lady bits this morning. They have retreated after I hit the mother of all potholes last night.
I don't know if it was the angle or depth but I h
ad turned to check on the cars behind me, turned back and SMACK!

The car driver behind apologised profusely after hearing
my gentle words floating on the breeze....


I tried to indicate that the fault was not his but was in no state to gesticulate accurately. Reg seems ok and I managed to get home but as soon as I could I got into the living room and lay down on the floor. Mr Weenie was very supportive... once he'd stopped laughing anyway. I may never let him near me again AND I was wearing padded leggings. I can't bear the thought of the damage had I been wearing unpadded.

Free and effective contraception thanks to the road authorities. Lovely.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Hurrah, it's finally here!

Last night I set off in what looked almost like daylight and arrived home in a balmy dusk. Glorious.

I have to admit that with the continual rain of recent weeks and not being well last week I was starting to worry that the bloom was off the rose and I was losing the love. It's not the case though and lastnight reawakened my passion. This was especially important given that I had the headwind from hell this morning so needed the rosy glow of last night to keep me going.

The bike racks at work are steadily filling and, this afternoon, I have to man the Ride to Work stall at Employee Wellbeing Day to recruit more people to the cause.

Colleagues are starting to give me envious looks as I head off into the evening breeze and I have a feeling the sudden arrival of spring will have a beneficial effect on getting people involved in cycling.


Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The downside of sunshine

I came in obscenely early this morning and it was lovely.

The sky was a hazy blue, the traffic was fairly light and I was in short leggings for the first time in what seems like an age.

The sun came up and WHAM!

I had actually forgotten just how bright the sun can be. Right in the eyes going over the hill in Acton.

The weather's been so bad in the last couple of months I'd completely forgotten about the perils of the sun. Luckily my new contacts mean I can put the smoked lenses into my cycling glasses and be fine but I was, of course, in my normal glasses this morning. Sigh.

Monday, 1 March 2010

A polite 'excuse me' would not have gone amiss


This morning I was sailing in having finally recovered from whatever hideous bug I managed to catch last week. I heard the unmistakable sound of sirens at high speed somewhere behind me.

I was near a junction but stationary cars were quite close in on the cycle lane leading to the advance stop line and I decided to quickly stop and check the emergency vehicle wasn't in my lane. If so I reckoned the cars ahead would want to pull into the cycle lane to get out of the way. I stopped and looked.

It was a police car at high speed but wasn't in my lane. There were a couple of cyclists behind me and, as I resaddled to pull away one of them pushed past me. The car next to us was on the line demarcating the cycle lane and I have panniers so had to lean really far over. I was so shocked by his rudeness that I just gaped in horror.

He pulled into a side road about 100 yards later so I didn't have time to vocalise my anger. As it was all I would have done is point out that a polite 'excuse me' was all that was required.

I was about to move off anyway but would have let him through.

I know it sounds ridiculous but I'm still angry now. The lack of common courtesy on the road really gets my goat. I mean really. Harumph!