Archive for November, 2008

Well, I just knew it!  I was born in the wrong country!  Surfing for information about bikes came across loads of stuff, including Copenhagen Cycle Chic  and Copenhagenize.com blogs about bike culture and social commentary in Copenhagen. What wonderful sites.  For someone like me, new to riding a bicycle, it’s amazing! I’ve learnt that I don’t have to wear lyrca cycling gear from head to toe after all. I notice that most of their cyclists don’t wear a helmet either!  They say up to 39% of the population travel by bicycle in their normal clothes including high heels, fashionable clothes and all sorts in Copenhagen. 

I was so excited when I found another site called Amsterdaize and.. get this… its logo is 100% Lycra-Free, Guaranteed. Browsing also through London Cycle Chic shows how to Look Good and Cycle. Their blog says

This site offers tips and advice on how to combine safety, practicality and style to acheive true urban cycle chic.

Great, isn’t it!

I now feel more confident and certain that you can look good riding a bicycle and/or wear what you normally wear even in cold weather.   

My instructors wear all the Gore stuff.  When I looked it up  it was sooooo expensive. The total cost of buying the gear, costs more than what I would spend on a bike itself!  I don’t have that sort of money. But then they are professionals and I just want to pursue fun, freedom and fitness.

Now I can say with confidence to my instructors that I can learn in clothes that I normally wear when they laugh at my heeled boots!  The culture of bike riding is amazing in those countries.  We should definitely follow their example.  I wish I was born there

Can you imagine, though that in the USA (where I lived for a while) a bike culture! Maybe its possibly impractical in some places in the States. Definitely car culture rules.  Now I’m thinking about it, I never saw cyclist all the time I was in the States!  In my opinion, perhaps there wouldn’t be so many obese people if cycling replaced cars!

Well, Scandinavian countries, I’m booking my flight! (when I’m more experienced, of course). 

Virtual cycling?


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You can only get more experience if you buy a bike. Once a week riding is not enough now you’ve passed Level 1 the instructors reminded me.  Spurred and encouraged by this I asked if I could buy the bike I’d been learning and riding on.  I felt confident with that particular bike and it looked alright. Its a Turismo.

I rationalised that I knew it, I don’t need a fancy bike and I don’t want to spend a lot of money.  They said they would sell it to me for £180. But insisted we go to bike shops and look around.

So after the lesson, they took two of us to the local bike shop, rather a small shop, can’t remember the name, to look at a Sarasaracen-venturer-1-ladies-2008cen Venturer 1 Ladies 2008.  They sold it for £250 but later on I found out that on the internet its selling for £179. 

Then I found this whole new cycling world and stumbled upon Why Cycle  website which I found so informative and interesting.  It lists the reasons to cycle as being

Good for you…

  • Regular cyclists enjoy a fitness level equal to that of a person ten years younger. (Source: National Forum for Coronary Heart Disease Foundation, Sharp) …

Good For Your Wallet…

  • Bicycles require no road tax, no MOT, no insurance, no licensing, no breakdown recovery services, and above all no fuel bills…

Good For Your World…

  • Twenty bicycles can be parked in the same space taken up by one car.
  • To make a bicycle requires only a fraction of the materials and energy needed to make a car.
  • Bicycles produce absolutely no pollution – they are a lot quieter too. When was the last time you saw a rusting, burnt-out bicycle?
  • Cars kill and maim thousands of people every year – bicycles don’t.

So right!

Then I went through the WhyCycle menu that focused on styles of bikes. It seems as though the type of bike I buy depends upon the type of cycling.  Interesting…. it seems I need a Hybrid or Trekking bike. Now I know what I looking for when I go in a shop but can I get a Hybrid bike in my car? How would I transport it around until I’m more confident on the road? I would have to wait till next lesson to ask the instructors.

Born In The Wrong Country

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You need to buy a bicycle to practise the instructors advised. You can ride what-bikenow. That was a compliment I’d been waiting for considering I’d never set foot on a bike before. 



However, I was still in two minds whether to buy one of their bikes. I don’t need a fancy bike or one that is too expensive. Jake told us to go into a few bike shops first before buying to get an idea of what we want.

Halfords was mentioned and quickly dismissed! The website Whycycle has excellent advice in their Buying Your Bike Section and as an newbie confirmed the instructors advice.   Anyway I’m not in a hurry. I need more cycling experience first!

I went into another recommended shop by myself, Evans, but I needn’t have worried because the assistant was so knowledgeable, patient and helpful and explained everything to me. I learnt what frames are, that the lighter they are the better they cycle (?). Can’t remember if the aluminium or steel ones are lighter. Can’t remember the sizes either.  That sizes are measured from the chain thing to the top the seat/saddle (?). I learnt about panniers and other things as well.  So many cycling accessories are needed.  The costs mounts up. I especially like the way the wheel comes off  the bike because it would fit in my car.  But maybe it would be easier to steal.  The assistant said I would need two locks.  That seems like a load of hassle to me! 

Or perhaps I should by a folding bike  but they look a bit small or maybe I could get an ordinary bike and buy a car rack  to transport it.  But then my problem is where shall I put the bike?  But first of all, looking at the Whycycle website, it depends upon what type of cycling I intend to do.

what type of cycling

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j0289291When are you going to get a bike asked the instructors. Oh dear. Still in two minds whether to buy the bike I’ve been learning on or a new one. I don’t know a thing about bikes. 


My first problem is where to put the bike that I do eventually want to buy. Just having recently redecorated my house, not liking a lot of things or clutter around the place and not wanting to wheel it through the house to the back garden (no garage or back entrance), I thought I kill two birds with one stone and get a porch built at the front of the house 1) for the bike 2) stop draughts from the front door. Seemed like the perfect solution until I found out the cost.  So that’s not an immediate solution.

Hang it up advised the instructors. What!  Where? On the wall!! Really who hangs a bike up? I do. I have loads of bikes hanging on the walls and  from the ceiling, the instructors told me. Well, I’ve never heard of such a thing. Who really hangs their bike on their walls? 

Another instructor informed me that he stores all his bikes in a bicycle storage shed on his front drive.  Ahha! This sounds like a good idea because I have a front drive.  The shed on the website looks OK but will it look OK at the front of  my house but not really sure if thats appropriate. 

Another thing  I have to think about is that it  seems to depend upon what type of cycling I want to do. So I’m still wondering researching and thinking about this. So where do most people without garages put their bikes?  As I don’t know many people (any?) with bikes except my friend and the instructors, I’m interested to know about other people. Take the poll.

Buy A Bike

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trainingLeft turn – position properly, if there’s noone behind you, you don’t have to signal.  Right turn, prepare as early as possible, look three times position, edge out to the middle of the road slowly, ride straight across to the other side and then turn right. Phew!  This cycle training is quite demanding!  I couldn’t get enough looks behind before I moved out to turn right.

A big group today. Quite a few of us turned up but it was damn cold although I thought I had wrapped up quite well, especially with my new cycling gloves, my fingers were absolutely freezing off. I had to stop cycling. Luckily the instructors seemed to carry everything in their vans and gave me another pair to wear under my gloves so I wore two sets.

Before I started cycling, I often looked at cyclists whilst driving on the way to work and wondered to myself why. Yes, why/what are they doing? Maybe they must all be mad, cold, students or fanatical!! How wrong was I. 

No, they not all mad. I knew they weren’t really because it can be done for pleasure and leisure activities but cycling in the rush hour! Very dangerous to my mind. You’d never get me on the high street in the middle of the rush hour. Its bad enough driving in the rush hour in a car!

Cold/Rain!  Well that myth has dispelled.  I actually get quite warm when I cycle.  I never realised that before. Even when the weather is freezing, you do warm up. But you still need the right clothes my instructor says.  Where from we asked. He suggested a place called wiggle dot com which I made a mental note to investigate later.

Students! I’ve seen all types of people at cycle training and yes there are the fanatical ones – or those who are into the sport of it and collect bikes like women collect shoes, spend thousands of pounds on a bike, hang them on their walls and from the ceilings in their houses like my instructors do.

I’m getting used to this cycling. It seems as though the more you ride, the better you become. Well of course, that’s logical!! Still a bit wobbly but I’m quite pleased with myself this week. I’ve attended every single week so far, whilst others have dropped in and out. To my mind you can’t beat the free training that we’re getting. Sometimes up to four instructors at a time which makes for an excellent ratio. They’re really patient and encouraging. Can’t wait for next week.

Where To Put A Bike

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Visiting my long time friend, along the Jurassic Coast, I was very excited at the thought of riding together. I hired a bike for the day. Knowing how experienced she was I knew I was in good hands. I’ve always admired her confidence and guts in cycling all around London, up the West End and everywhere in God-awful traffic, like it was a piece of cake.  But she comes from a cycling family and has been riding since a child. I’ve never seen my friend with a helmet or lycra cycling gear.  She always wears her own clothes.  Although it was absolutely freezing, her motto is ‘there’s no bad weather only bad clothing’.

I was alright until I actually had to get on the bike outside the shop. My friend had never seen me cycle before. Yes, I’ve had a few lessons, I assured her.  I got on the bike but no, she told me to swing my leg like I was getting on a horse! Mmmmm. OK….. As soon as I started  to pedal we had to turn right into a busy country lane. 

I was sooo nervous inside that all my adrenalin turned to resignation. I had to ride this bike no matter what.  So I pretended to be confident, pretended that I had been riding for ever and followed her down the country lane as cars whizzed pass. At least now I can cycle in a straight line!

Turned into a country lane, cycling through a lovely park, gained momentum up a slope, but I had to dismount because I was damn exhausted! My thighs couldn’t take any more!!  From the top of the slope, my friend encouraged me to get on the bike.  No, no. You don’t understand. I pleaded with her.  I pretended to fix my boots, got a few minutes reprieve and continued.

trad-cottagesWe cycled around mainly on flat ground as my friend showed me the sights of South West England. We  went to Chesil Beach, West Bay, Lyme Regis and the Hardy Monument and visited a musuem where I was attracted to and brought a strange photo of a Victorian woman on an odd looking huge tricycle.

The road to Lyme Regis Beach was long.  Again my thighs were getting tired.  Can I stop? Can I stop? I shouted out to her, as she was riding behind me.  No. No. Just keep going and I had to. There was no pavement anyway to stop along these country lanes. Suddenly the road turned into three lanes approaching a very large roundabout.  She got in front of me and shouted, just follow me.  OMG!  She was so fast. I cycled behind her all the way round the 3rd exit off the roundabout, swinging my arms out to signal and trying to catch up with her.  She was fast! I was pumped up and just got on with it because I had no choice.  I remember my instructors comments.  Be assertive. Don’t let cars bully you.  Be seen, be aware. Keep looking behind. 

We didn’t stop too long at the beach because it was absolutely freezing but rode up and down the promenade, brought lunch and climbed up a cliff. Or rather, she climbed up the cliff , I stopped half  way to admire the view and give my legs a rest. I didn’t realise how unfit I am.

west-bayThe museum was on a busy high street.  My friend rode in front, directing the way.  She was so fast, she left me behind and I was alone on a high street with loads of cars and parked vehicles.  Still pretending like I knew what I was doing, I remembered my training and cycled a metre from the parked cars, regardless of  the cars behind me, did not swerve into the gaps, looked behind me regularly and tried to catch her up whilst silently cursing her under my breath but simultaneously enjoying the thrill and danger of it all.  And yes.  My confidence grew. After all that I felt great!   If only Jake could see me now! 

Yes, you can ride, my friend told me.  All you need to do is change gears more often.  And thats a compliment.  Thanks for my wonderful short holiday break. Now I can tackle my next lesson with more confidence, I hope.

Turn Left Turn Right

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women-riding-a-bicycle1Today was definitely pressure driven even though there was hardly any traffic at all on this minor road! In the first part of the lesson I felt calm. It was a small cul de sac side road adjacent to the pedestrianised area. We rode in line or snake as they called it, following each other, doing U turns in an ‘L’ shape, taking turns to lead the group. The instructors placed themselves in various positions along the road, calling out things or stopping us to make a point. 

However, it became more nerve wrecking on another stretch of road further down because there were cars. Not a lot, mind you, but the dustbin men, white van man, pizza delivery guys, removal vans had to drive on this particular road – just to test our skills!  I preferred it when the road was empty!  My confidence dived,every time I stopped to let a vehicle pass, I couldn’t get started off quick enough, still stumbling and wobbling.

But after a morning of looking behind three times before signalling to do a U turn, (that is looking properly not just glancing) manoeuvring the bike so as not to end up in the layby, doing a left signal whilst turning by leaning the bike slightly to the left, knowing where to position the bike when turning left, crossing the road in a straight line to the other side to turn right,  looking down all minor side roads and cycling a  metre from the pavement,  I had a huge grin on my face. I really enjoyed it and felt much better about my day’s achievements.

It was such fun!  My nervousness went. I felt excited.   The instructors really know their stuff.  I wanted to go on and on without stopping but they had to stop for teaching points. Secretly though, stopping did give a rest to my weary thighs. I  definitely need more exercise. My resolve to become more experienced and confident strengthened.

Its all about your safety they drummed into us. Make choices. Stop and wait, eye contact with the drivers, gesture/signal, manoeuvre around parked cars.  It sounds so easy but once out there, in practice,  its a lot harder than it looks for a newbie like me.

Bring gloves for next week, were their parting words.  I brought a £9.99 pair of cycling gloves from Argos but still couldn’t find waterproof trousers.  Went to all the sports shops but had difficulty distinguishing what ‘real’ waterproof trousers were. The sales assistants knew as much as me. Still, I had my gloves for next week.

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