Friday, 13 December 2013

Angry man in an Audi

I appreciate it must be frustrating when a cyclist is ahead of you on a narrow road. Perhaps you're in a rush and need to get somewhere. However...

Sitting on your horn and making patronising wafting gestures while laughing at your own cleverness is not a good look.

When the cyclist then overtakes and is in the bike box in front of you at a red light and sets off at a (perhaps deliberately) slow pace but at a wide junction at which you could easily overtake her, it is perhaps inadvisable to pull up alongside her, and, while still driving across the cross-hatched junction, lean across the passenger seat looking through the side window and not at the road and shout that she's something along the lines of a f***ing bitch and that you hope she is knocked off her bike and killed.

This is particularly not nice when your child is in the passenger seat and looks terrified and more than a little embarrassed at your behaviour.

My only consolation is that, following your appalling behaviour, I followed at a distance as we were going down the same rat run. Watching you nearly take your rear bumper off as you went far too fast over the speed bumps in an attempt to leave me in your wake was quite something and I was perfectly placed to enjoy the view.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The new commute on a new ride

My company has moved us all to Teddington. Excellent. It's a good 8.5 miles by bike and nigh on impossible by public transport.

The purchase of Rupert (the new bike) was mainly motivated by the increased distance and the fact that I can no longer hop on a train if the weather's bad.

He was definitely worth the investment. The wider Marathon Plus tyres (32mm) may be heavier, but they grip the road and are completely unfazed by the wet weather of the past few days. Hopping down curbs is done with ease and the potholes going through Twickenham centre are never a problem. 

The disc brakes are a revelation. Who knew you could perform an emergency stop in the rain?! I certainly didn't. I feel far more confident as I negotiate the Chertsey Road roundabouts that I would have with V-brakes. 

Commuting from Ealing to Teddington is, by and large, a lot more civilised. Fewer sets of lights and better road surfaces are coupled with a good variety of routes available for exploration. 

At the moment I'm averaging about 40mins on the commute and I regularly arrive at the same time as a colleague whose son is at nursery with Eenie. She is normally leaving as I drop Eenie off and drives. If that's not an argument for cycling, I don't know what is. 

Oh, and the showers here work. Every day. With hot water. *Sobs a little with joy*

Having already accosted the company CEO on the lack of extra bike racks to accommodate the extra staff and been assured they're on their way, the future is looking bright...

Thursday, 14 November 2013

A dark week for cyclists

This week in London, four cyclists have dies and another three have been seriously injured on London's roads.

I won't pretend to know the full details of each incident, nor am I stupid enough to apportion blame.

However, I do think that the numbers have now crossed the line from tragic coincidence to proof that something has to be done to improve cycling infrastructure in London. No longer do I feel irritated at the chorus of 'please be careful' from loved ones as I head off on my bike, now I understand why they worry and feel bad for being the cause of their concern.

Although I disagree with those around me who have decided that cycling in London means certain death, I'll admit there are problems to be addressed.

The cycle lanes that do exist need some serious work. The ones I regularly use in Ealing, Shepherd's Bush and west London generally are pretty poor. There are potholes galore, they stop and start at will and many are completely illogical. In addition, the problems identified with the Bow roundabout, and the recent deaths there, prove that paint on the road is not enough.

Separate cycle paths have their place but, in a city established hundreds of years ago, it is completely impractical to suggest we can build a comprehensive network from scratch.

I think we need to be looking at both cyclists and motorised vehicles to address some of the situation. Both are legitimate road users and should be respected and held accountable as such.

We need more access to awareness campaigns on the sight limitations of lorries, for example. Chatting to friends, very few were aware of just how little lorry drivers can see around their cab. The many cyclists I see creeping up the inside of immense articulated lorries are surely unaware of just how invisible they are.

Drivers should also be made aware of a cyclists' eye view when they come to close. Cars are meant to give a three feet of clearance when overtaking a bike, but few do. I've been brushed by wing mirrors or done emergency stops many times when cars, buses and lorries have come too close. I honestly believe most drivers would give more space if they experienced the feeling of a near miss.

what really gets me angryu, however, is that the laws already exist to make everyone safer, but they are not being enforced.

Since returning to commuting I have been horrified by some of the behaviour on the roads, cyclists and drivers alike have demonstrated reckless and dangerous disregard for one another and themselves. For every cyclist I see jump a red light, I see a car do the same. For every car that swerves into the cycle lane without looking, I see a cyclist cutting into traffic without any indication of their intentions.

I could go on, but the point is that there are dicks that drive and dicks that cycle. Their behaviour has to be addressed. There needs to be a campaign to clamp down on dangerous behaviour on both sides. Prosecute for light jumps, take on drivers that creep in ASL boxes, just bloody enforce the law. Bikes are required to have lights, so why are so many cyclists allowed to go on the road without them unchallenged. They are risking not only themselves, but everyone around them. It's not acceptable. Why are so many drivers allowed to get away with being on their mobiles phones? It's not acceptable.

Until we take road behaviour seriously as the issue it is and those in authority start enforcing the laws in place for our safety (and that of pedestrians), all the cycle lanes in the world won't be enough.

Cycling is on the up, with more people unable to afford the exhorbitant costs of owning and driving a car, it's only going to increase.

It's about time that those in charge stopped ignoring the problem and dealt with it.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

New Bike!!!!!!

He's arrived!

I'm very happy to announce that Rupert has now joined the family.

He's Dawes Galaxy Plus with disc brakes and mudguards.


Monday, 28 October 2013

Women's cycle clothing... it's rubbish.

The Ride to Work voucher has arrived!

I am shopping furiously and working out the exciting new bits and bobs I will get. What depresses me, though is the dearth of women's clothing.

Yes, there is some but, on Wiggle for example, I was idly browsing clipless shoes (purely for giggles, obviously) and 84 options came up for men, in comparison to around 20 for women. In addition, while I love pink and wear it with abandon, not every woman does so why is it THE colour to denote the clothing was aimed at women?

And when it comes to sizes, are the designers aware that women have breasts? I'm a strapping size 16, so I expect to wear XL in sports wear, but even a size 18 in Muddy Fox stuff can't get over my boobs comfortably. Yes, I have boobs, that's why I picked a woman's jersey, I thought it might accommodate them.

Pearl Izumi jerseys I have from way back fit comfortably at XL, but most brands are obscenely tight. I am pretty top heavy but I would have thought a size above the rest of me would accommodate that, surely?

I'm also shocked that women's jerseys are so short. Again, when dealing with boobs, one has to factor in extra length in the front and back to accommodate them, it's not just about expanding the chest area width wise.

I think I will keep my Ride to Work voucher for the bike, panniers, lights and a lock. The clothing I'll have to work out when the sales hit and I can find stuff that actually fits. Sigh...

Friday, 25 October 2013

A possible new bike: the grandad special

So, the Ride to Work scheme is on again at work and the whole company is moving to a new location soon. The commute by public transport is a nightmare for me, but I reckon the cycle would be well under an hour.

Reg, my trusty Sirrus is ready to be put out to pasture. His odometer is showing a hideously high number that's gone above 8,000km (5,000 miles) and a friend's husband who worked as a bike mechanic visibly blanched at the state of him when he checked him over for me.

He will be kept as a second and I have a huge soft spot for him. He and I have done wonderful things together.

The problem with Ride to Work is that, suddenly, all those tasty looking numbers you passed by are available. But what to choose?

My grandad is a proper cyclist. He is now well into his eighties and only gave up two wheels in the past couple of years when he physically wasn't able to cycle any more. Bicycles have bridged the generation gap and it's what we talk about most of the time when we're together. He and 'uncle' Steve toured together often and it was the cycle to work in a rhubarb field where grandad and my grandma first courted.

On my 30th birthday he apologised when he 'only' gave me his bicycle tools. There was no 'only' about it, I was hugely touched and they're something I treasure.

Grandad's bike of choice was his Dawes tourer. He's always loved the brand and it was a bike he loved to ride. It was natural, therefore, that when I decided a tourer would be my next bike, I looked to Dawes.

Unfortunately, the classic Galaxy models are HIDEOUS. They're an insipid and ugly green. They're also very heavy and just not elegant at all. I generally fit men's frames better than women's, but I don't want anything so obviously and chunkily masculine.

But then I saw him, a flash of a vintage-style paint job, carbon forks, leather-look grips and seat. I have a serious bike crush, he's a Dawes Clubman and I'm desperate to try one to see if he's The One.

Of course if he is, the next problem is the name...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Three years - a baby, two weddings, a new job and yet the potholes haven't changed...

So I have returned to my old company in west London. My cycle commute is once again along the Uxbridge Road and, while many things have changed in the three years since I was last a regular on the road, the potholed hideousness that is the road surface hasn't.

In the summer of 2010 I was at the peak of my cycling. I travelled everywhere by bike, I was the fittest I've ever been, I was just happy. Then breaking my wrist was the first in a chain of lifestyle altering changes. I was sold to another company that was nearly two hours' commute from home under TUPE (boo), I discovered I was pregnant (hooray), my sister got engaged (hooray), my parents moved to France (initially boo, then hooray), I had Eenie (hooray), sister got married (hooray), I got married on the quiet (hooray), I couldn't go back to work (boo), I filled my time helping with a local parents' group (hooray), I got a new job (hooray). And that brings us to now, today.

Suffice to say, much has happened, it's been three bloody years after all, so why the hell is the Uxbridge Road still a pothole addled mess of a road? Muscle memory means I routinely pull round certain stretches of road out of habit and what shocks me is that in many instances the problem spots from three years ago are still a problem now. Why are there routinely 5cm or deeper holes all over the place? Why has no one rectified the hideously bumpy stretch of bus lane just before Shepherd's Bush? Why has no one addressed the melted tarmaccy mess of lumps in the eastbound lead up to the bike box on the junction with Gunnersbury lane?

I can't help noticing that the particularly bad stretch of cycle lane heading west from Ealing Broadway towards west Ealing is dominated by new developments. There are several new office blocks, hotels and residential flat blocks being thrown up on that section and nearly every one of them seems to need the road drilled. That I can understand, but who is responsible for checking the road has been put back in a state befitting its use? I can't use that section as the bumps put me at risk of coming off my bike.

I'd use the A4 off-road cycleway but that's another hideous mess worthy of a post all its own.

I am not impressed. I may, in fact, write to my local paper (oh dear God, I AM that person now)...

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Back in the saddle

It's been nearly three years since a baby, work woes and various life and technological crises got in the way of my blogging.

I'm back, I'm on my bike and Eeenie Weenie is now a strapping toddler. The rage has also returned.... Watch this space.