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Archive for December, 2008

a-long-ride-for-a-pie1I couldn’t put this book down during the Christmas cycling break.  I thought I’d read about it, instead of doing it. 

 

It is fascinating account of Tim Mulliner’s  cycling adventures through 22 countries.  A New Zealander, homesick for a typical New Zealand pie.  He’s so fed up with living in London, he decides to travel all the way to New Zealand by bike to eat a mouthwatering typical Kiwi pie!

 24,115 kilometres, 428 days, 22 countries, 1 objective to get a typical New Zealand pie!

He sets off on his 27-speed bike to head across western Europe, eastern Europe, Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan, Tibet, China, South-East Asia and Australia, and finally home to New Zealand.

I especially loved his accounts of  hallucinations and raging sandstorms in the  Taklamakan Desert, his physical hardships, visa tantrums, bike problems, language and cultural problems, the diverse cultures he meets along the way, the loneliness and depression.

If  travelling independently for months on end and cycling are your things then this book is for you.  But there’s not really a lot about cycling. Its more about his adventure travel. However there is one question about his experiences. I wonder if his experience would be same if he was a woman.

What else can I do during this break? I miss cycling.

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women-cyclingjpegHooray!! I passed Level 2.

Wrapped up warmly with my new thermals, thick jumper, overcoat, two pairs of socks, boots, scarf and a hat under my helmet, I turned up at Cycle Training, the last week before Christmas.  I was the only one, alone at Christmas, the last lesson before the holidays, and guess what? I got to choose what to do.  Jumping around like an excited pupppy, I asked to go on the Thames  riverfront. I was delighted and I had three, yes three instructors all to myself!

I lead the way! Behind me, Jake shouting out instructions as usual. We set off along the dual carriageway in the cycle lane, pass the speeding cars, then along the High Street pass the parked cars, stopping in the correct position at the traffic lights, to the right of the buses, cycled straight ahead (hey, I can cycle in a straight line!) pass the roundabout and up a slight hill but then, I had to stop as I was getting very hot and tired. What a lack of stamina! 

I made an excuse that my gears wouldn’t change to a lower gear so I could have a rest.  I took off my jumper and hat and Jake put it in his panniers.  This week was not as cold as the week before. You can never tell what the weather is going to be like!  Cycling certainly warms you up.

We cycled for what felt like miles, came across a huge roundabout where I was supposed to signal right but for some reason my hands were stuck to the handlebars.  Jake then took the lead and we passed industrial looking buildings and came upon the path for the riverfront. 

I was knackered.  I had to dismount and push the bike up the short slope to get to the riverfront.  Get on the bike. Come on. You can do. They encouraged me but it was to no avail, I determinedly pushed the bike up the slope. 

Jake then said I was cycling too fast about 13 mph along the main roads. What I should have done is cycle about 10 mph and then I would be able to cycle longer and not get so tired until I build up my stamina.  But cycling on the major roads was quite nerve wrecking. Although I felt both excited at the element of danger (!) and thrilled, there, I didn’t want to hold the cars up so I tried to cycle quickly.

Along the riverfront was definitely more relaxing.  It was the first time I had been out that way. I could slow down, enjoy the view, enjoy cycling, enjoy exploring. No traffic, just one or two joggers and other cyclists along the gravel and then tarmaced paths. Jake laughed when I said it was a long way – about eight miles in total.  That’s absolutely nothing to him but anyway I was knackered and elated to have passed Level 2! Hooray.  Can you believe that? Now its time to get a bike but where shall I put it?  I know I’ll miss cycling until next year.

What To Do When You’re Depressed

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women-riding-a-bicycle1I’m not cycling on a major road I thought to myself when I met the Level 3 trainees who were getting ready to go on the dual carriageway. That’s what I thought since my very first lesson.

 But now, the structure of the lessons meant that I hardly noticed the progressive build up of skills.  As we passed Level 1 and became more confident, we started off on a cul-de-sac and then very quiet back streets until today he said “We’re going on the dual carriageway up to the High Street.”   OMG!  The dual carriageway is extremely busy with cars, buses and all sorts thundering along at speed and then there is the bus station with about three sets of traffic lights as the buses go one way, the cars another and then there’s a sharp left to the station to get to the High Street. OMG! That’s dangerous.

Well, considerably nervous, we followed Jake.  Other instructors rode along side and in between us, giving commands, instructions and pointers. On the left turn out of the minor road pedestrianised area onto the dual carriageway was a Cycle Path.  Thank God!  I was so glad to see the green cycle path, it felt safe and I felt no one could bother me!  But it was shared with the buses so we had to use our ‘look behind’ skills on the left before moving out to the right to avoid the parked buses and crashing into passing cars. 

It felt very dangerous but exciting at the same time, quite thrilling.  Adrenalin rose and pumped through my body. Cycle assertively, the instructors told us.  We have every right to be on the road. Let them see you. Make choices. Stop or slow down if need be. It’s your safety. Don’t go behind parked cars.

I got stuck on a slight slope once pass the High Street.  I should have changed gears in time.  On another slope I had to dismount and walk up, I couldn’t manage it.  (Its very hilly around here). Come on, you can do it. Its only a slight incline. No, its a hill!!  They encouraged me but I was too tired and pushed the bike up.  How embarrassing! 

We had to turn right from a minor road into a major road, practise peeping and creeping, accelerating, avoiding parked cars, doing a U-turn on the major road and left back into the minor road- an ‘L’ shape. It started to rain and it was a hill at the junction with the major. We preserved but getting pedal ready at the junction in time to turn right quick enough to avoid oncoming cars on both sides of the major road was quite difficult.  Jake made it look so easy.

Anyway pass the high street we went down quiet back streets for more skills teaching, learning how to turn left and right and then cycling a roundabout.  But the instructors were very good ensuring our safety by spreading out and directing us and the other traffic.  Then I suddenly remembered my time with my friend down the Jurassic Coast, my confidence boosted, I cycled assertively around the roundabout gaining compliments from the instructions. I felt great. I wanted more but I would have to wait until the next lesson.

Alone At Christmas

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Journey Planner

Chatting to Leon, one of the instructors during lesson break, I learned about the Transport for London’s cycle routes. So I eagerly tinkered around with TFL website after class to find out more about our previous Thames riverside cycle paths and was amazed to see that their cycle route included a  bicycle moving, actually cycling along the route after I clicked on the ‘cycle only’ and ‘wizard’ options.

Such fun! I watched it studiously, enjoying the vicarious cycling and plan to use it when I’m more confident and experienced and with bike! Its soooo funny!  This goes in my ‘Thing To Do When Not Cycling’ category. I’m really impressed! Seems like London is really promoting cycling. Enjoy virtual cycling!

Cycling major roads

 

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