Posts Tagged ‘city cycling’


Really! Well, of course I didn’t mean to risk the life of my instructor!  Obviously I had no intention of risking anyone’s life at all! I just want to have fun, gain confidence and experience riding a bike.  If it’s in traffic, then that’s why I’m out with an instructor, exactly so I can learn and not risk anyone’s life.  You risked my life he said in no uncertain terms, putting a cloud over the whole experience.


To start off, we went a different route, to collect another trainee who lived not too far from me.  For the first time, we turned right instead of left up my street and went up the slope which I was pleased about because I managed it without any problems. But that didn’t last.  There was another long uphill slog. I couldn’t manage it. Got off the bike, walked up the hill whilst the instructor rode and waited for me at the top.  I don’t think he was pleased at all but he said nothing.


We collected the other trainee who was worried that her bike was too big for her. He showed her how to do the ‘M’ check and pumped up our tyres. We rode amongst very busy traffic, in fact it was the middle of rush hour and I wasn’t too pleased about that. 


We arrived at a beautiful park and rode around, trying to stand up and try out our different skills. It was somewhere else I could go to practise but I decided there and then not to cycle there in the rush hour again.


On the way back  there’s this very awkward junction in the middle of the road, much busier than this photo shows. In order to turn right you have to go in the middle of the cars who are waiting to turn left and right.  But there’s also other lanes for cars to drive straight on in both directions as well as cars waiting at the side roads to turn.


I managed to get in the middle of the junction between the cars but because its on a slope I slipped and fell on a car whilst creeping out.  I felt really bad about that and the driver wasn’t too pleased!  Cars were driving straight on and/or turning left whilst I was trying to turn left and I couldn’t see beyond because cars were there waiting to turn right while I was trying to see what was coming so I could turn right as well.


I decided to get off the bike when I fell on the car and walk the bike across the road when it was clear but there’s no pavement there. The instructor behind me shouted out you risked my life!  How?  How I wondered did I risk his life?  I just don’t know. I certainly didn’t mean to at all.

Cyclist Killed!


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hoorayI’m soooo elated. Guess what! Remember that terrible time I had with mhoorayy first uphill slog back in in January  Well… I managed to cycle up that same hill today without a problem!   I can’t believe it.  It wasn’t a struggle. I definitely surprised myself! 


Whether its the deep breathing (no more dizzy spells), changing into the right gears or the practise on that goddamn awful 5% gradient on Burbage Road last week, or maybe that one aerobiking class I took,  I didn’t struggle going up this particular hill!  You don’t need aerobiking classes the instructors said.  Waste of time.  Nah!  You don’t need it.  Just keep going uphill!  You need to get up those hills!


Well, looking back, I thought it was a hill but it’s not. It’s just a slope.   I must be getting fitter then.  After last week, I felt depressed, deflated and defeated.  But today I got up that hill   errr….slope.  Imagine what I could do with a few more aerobiking classes under my belt and/or just riding around as one commenter, Kate mentioned.


Today there was no separate skills lessons as such, but practise straight out onto the road all the way, on the mostly flat A206 with cycle paths, to Greenwich Town Centre.  Greenwich is such a historic and tourist area that its gets very crowded both with pedestrians and standstill traffic jams but most people know about Greenwich from the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and that its the Prime Meridian of the World (more about that in other posts).


I was well pleased with myself.  Got compliments from the instructors.  They, too, noticed the difference between today and my first attempt on that  hill slope.  They said that I found my element;  busy traffic whizzing past our ears, road works, multi lane roundabouts with loads of traffic lights!  And Yes!  The smile came back and beamed from my face.  No more contortions!  Yippee. I did enjoy today, up that slope and my first time down the A206!  Thank God for that!

Strapless Sandals in the Spring

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uphill2Today was awful.  We did a circuit that involved a very long and steep hill up Burbage Road!  Protestations did not matter as I was outvoted, I had no choice but it was deflating.


Burbage Road was very steep, about 5% they said which flattened out half way up and then became even steeper for the other half.   C‘mon, c’mon, you can do it, don’t stop, it’s all in the mind… was all I heard behind me from the instructor.  Great, but I found it hard to concentrate on traffic skills whilst trying to push and push those pedals round and round. 


It was a ‘B’ road busy with buses, parked cars, traffic and side roads at the junctions.  Wow..trying to signal, look behind, watch the traffic whilst my pedalling got slower and slower and slower up the hill was a nightmare.  Cycling uphill is sooooo depressing. 


It was not my intention when I started this journey, to cycle around with a face in contorted agony!


Look, we’re nearly there…  Keep going. You can do it.  Don’t stop!  You can’t stop now!  We’re near the top.  Yes I can and I don’t care how near the top is, I’m stopping and I did!! You’ll feel better afterwards, he encouraged, keep going.   How can I feel better afterwards?   How does knowing that its so damn hard now, make me feel any better afterwards??


Well, I stopped three or four times.  Although I got in the right gears, I was left behind as the others seemingly glided up the hill without much effort.  I tried to walk  for a bit to catch up with the others but the instructor blocked me with his bike, so I determindly pushed my bike on the pavement instead!


Then more pushing and thigh agony ensued.  Breath through your nose and out your mouth shouted the instructor – the opposite of what I was doing, catching gasps of air through my open mouth.  As soon as I took his advice, I felt dizzy!  Had to stop and then received a comprehensive account of why I should breath in through my nose……


Eventually got to the top, turned left onto another main road full of different sized hills and downs but none as much as that 5%  Burbage Road.  I would never have thought that South London was so damn hilly!  Certainly the area I came from originally wasn’t.


The descents were very scary. I held onto the brakes gently so that I didn’t fly through the air over the handlebars if the bike had to stop suddenly. Up another slope, not as steep thank God, which amazingly I didn’t struggle too much with that one and back to base via the High Street.


The High Street, by this time, was jam packed but as a group we couldn’t weave in and out of traffic as the instructors could.  Riding on the inside of traffic was OK except when the buses stopped and blocked our way!  Therefore we rode behind the cars in the middle of the lanes, blocking traffic from overtaking or undertaking but I really felt deflated and defeated. 


I was fed up.  Problems with hills weren’t in my concept base or topics of conversations or even occurred to me in any shape or form in my life until I started this journey.  But then, I suppose every journey has its downs as well as ups.  However, judging myself against the other learners I seem to be much more unfit than I originally thought I was. 


You’ll feel better afterwards, they encouraged Yeah!  Right!  Surely I can’t be the only one who dreads going uphill!

The Saga of Cycling Uphill 


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trainingToday was an excellent day. I took more account of the weather so I didn’t have to strip off  but I couldn’t wear my lovely hat that matched my jacket because of the helmet! Anyway neither were there any hills but more left and right turns from minor to major roads.  Thank God.  I bemoaned the hills last week but as ever they were very encouraging and said I was too hard on myself.  It was my first time, after all.


I felt so confident doing the ‘t’ loop;  that is moving out and positioning a metre from the middle lane, turning right, signalling right, making choices about the traffic, positioning correctly at the junction, accelerating, slowing down again to do a U turn and turning left. Then repeating the whole thing for hours. 


Sometimes I didn’t even stop at the junction, just went straight across because no traffic was coming. Even if traffic was coming, I’d judge how far/speed and do a U-turn and signal right before they caught up with me!  I even got an ‘excellent’ from the instructors. Wow and wow again!!


I told them about my knees and got a lesson in revolutions!  You have to demonstrate. You have to show me because I have no idea what you’re talking aboutSo one instructor held the bike steady, I got on and put one  foot on one pedal and he indicated that the knee and something on the bike(can’t remember what) should be horizontal or was that 90 degrees.  No, I think it was the knee and the ‘thing’ on the bike should be at 90 degree… that revolutions is how many full turns the pedal does (?).


They elaborated on pedalling by pushing downstroke or was it by pointing the toes forward and pushing back?  Also something about pedalling fast/slow in conjunction with gears. I should have (???) per minute revolutions!  Mmmm… Right… Okay.  That’s more research to do to fully understand the implications of what they were saying.


thames-pathThen we went for a ride through the back streets and back to the base via the Thames where I got up some speed for a few seconds (!) with the instructors and also managed to stand up over a sleeping policeman.  Well pleased with myself today!

Uphill Slog Part 2

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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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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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