Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Sportive Training 101 - Lesson 1 - Just WHY?

Having within a matter of weeks entered into both Etape Caledonia 2016 and just the other day Etape Loch Ness 2016 I am putting myself forward to discuss the ins and outs of sportive training as I understand it.  Having done this for ooooh since 2011 (REALLY?!?!?!? Christ!) I flatter myself in thinking I know a thing or two about cycling, training and a few other aspects of saddle wanking the New Kids on the Block may have missed or anyone else for that matter.  And often I have found myself getting it wrong -  but consider that I have got it wrong so's youse don't have too.

I don't pretend to understand the psychology of deciding to undertake an extreme physical challenge. It is an extreme physical challenge - don't kid yourself it's anything less.  Sixty odd miles on the bike might be on the lower end of the Sportive/Public participant cycle event, but you can't do it comfortably straight off the bat.  Most regular cyclists - those 5/10 mile a day commuters - would struggle to get to the end of it without sustaining some sort of bum damage at the very least, so to go from a swing round the park with the kids a couple of times in the summer to a training sportive participant is a big thing. It's the cycling equivalent of running a marathon.  But I often find that the decision to do so involves hiding your ego behind a virtuous aim.  For example there are easier, cheaper and far less extreme ways to increase your mental or physical health, more civilised ways of getting to know your peers, and easier less time consuming ways of raising money for charity.  But I do know none of these are accompanied by a vague sense of eternal glory standing at the finish line, holding your medal aloft, back lit and in soft focus, with your fellow participants weeping softly into their merino base layers* because they just can't manage your supreme level of cycling majesty.



...we all wish tho' don't we... admit it.
Be aware though, the decision to partake in your first sportive might not be the same answer to the question 'Why?'  In the first year you will ask yourself 'Why?' Allot. In many forms. 'Why am I going out for three hours training after a full days work?' Or the 'Why am I up this early on a Sunday?' and of course my particular favourites, 'Why does it feel like I have horns growing out of the underside of my groin.',  the befuddled  'Why won't this hill end?' and the angry 'WHY DOES THIS WIND HATE ME'.

Your seat will feel like this..
Sometimes the answer to these questions will be that vision of you standing at the end on the podium holding your medal aloft, other times sudocreme (but more likely lack there of).  But be aware there are times when that vision will allude you, when it won't seem worth it and you're just too damn tired  or gritty to feel the health benefits, so sod the knickerless donkeys, kids without wigs, teapotless old folk and eternal glory.  Just Why?  I'm not going to tell you why.  What I am going to do is ask you to keep going.  I'm going to say that if you can complain about it you can still push your foot down.  You can still pedal. Hell, if you need to - and since this is your first year - get off that bike and walk**. Because at the end of your first sportive when you cross that finish line, when you feel like you've welded yourself to that bike, where your hands are cramped and your feet are ice, and the rest of you is just plain cold and crusty, a fresh faced army cadet will tentatively approach with a medal in their hands and you will snatch that medal and you will feel like that vision on the podium, back lit, in soft focus, only  perhaps weeping softly to yourself over your own cycling majesty.

Behold! My Own Cycling Majesty!!!
Jx
* Ahh merino - you will come to understand
** Only in your first year mind.

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Things cycling has taught me No.1 ....

....I like sitting down.   Sitting down is ace, and less work than standing.  I generally don't like to stand, and if I am I much prefer to lean onto something but I digress.

Sitting down is far more elegant and civilised, so why wouldn't one want to travel sitting down.  And as far as I can see there are two instances where sitting down would not be favourable.  One, where the mechanism for sitting down is disrepair, (e.g. saddle sores) or two, when ones view is restricted by the act of sitting down.  Pedaling whilst sitting down is an inconvienence I admit, but sitting down with the wind through your hair and the world whizzing by is well worth it.  It's one of the reasons why I like cycling so much.  The sitting down is marvelous.  And who doesn't want a seat?

Sunday, 11 October 2015

A toast to the cosiness...just perhaps don't take the bike.

It's dark.  The rain is falling from the sky like a suicide from a high rise.  I may or may not have had more than my fair share of a cloudy amber substance served in half litre glasses (by my calculation I've had about 8).  And I've nearly lost a shoe, which if left to the Gids would have been a casualty of war if I had not decided to salmon across a wide 8 lane Munchen junction, screetching 'LEAVE NO MAN BEHIND.'*  The way to our hotel, basically a mile long straight line from Theresienwiese (the Oktoberfest park) to Brudermuhlstrabe, is incomprehensible to us and we seem to be locked in a labyrinth of modern shops and ornate Italian style architecture.  Every ten seconds I have to stop, and check the mighty Google.  Every twelve seconds, I hear the awkward clang and thud of a slow fall of shame, and I turn to see the 6 ft 5' Gids and his bike lying prone on the ground hands still clutching the handlebars wondering how I got so tall.  His head is still up right, his eyes locked on mine and his feet still on the pedals.  The dulcet tones of chiseled well meaning Germans fill the air: 'You should walk' they say, 'the police will have issue' they say.  'Nahh, I'm fine...' he says, '...as long as we're still moving' he says.  We stop at a corner, my bike is slowly scrapping down my own legs and I'm suddenly not strong enough to hold it up.   Why is this happening??!  Both my feet are planted firmly on the ground, I am standing, and I haven't fallen once!  I turn round. My boyfriend is still by all accounts on his bike, but he's rammed it right into the back of mine and doesn't seem to realise this has stopped him and his position is going achingly slow from vertical to horizontal, dragging my bike down with him.  Indeed he 'winks and smiles' in a cheery manner at me with a joi de vive of someone living his best if slightly intoxicated life, to the sound of metal bike spokes twanging.  For myself, I don't realise I'm intoxicated until the thoughts, 'If I tie up one of the bikes, I'm sure I can drag him by the ankles home'.


NOMMMMM!
Needless to say we're lucky we're both alive, not in the jail, or in therapy. And Munich is an excellent place to visit and cycle.  Just don't go to the Oktoberfest at noon, before lunch, intend to have a quick beer before absconding round to see the sights, but in fact, stay in a cosy little corner sandwiched between other friendly welcoming German couples all laderhosen and drindl, toasting you every 5 minutes for the next 8 hours.

The bike I was riding:



An Electra Townie low rider with a killingly wide seat and fat tyres.Turning a corner was like trying to stuff a half inflated mattress into a bag for life.



We'd got them from Mikes Bike Hire, having the previous day done Mikes Bike Tour round Munich - lead by cheery American Bobby (not Robert), whom for the rest of the holiday caused my boyfriend to shake his head mournfully and murmur 'a degree in Entreprenualship'.

The city itself is like visiting an elegant old aunt - there's no rush in her company as there's a twinkle in her eye and a talent for comfortable hospitality.  The area where we stayed was equally lovely.  Two stops to Marienplatz on the underground and less than ten minutes on the bike.  There was plenty of bakeries for a coffee and a thickly buttered pretzel in the morning, with local pubs and restaurants for dinner at night. Riding by the River Isar we'd be led to The English Garden where local surfers would ride the man made rapids piped into the parks streams, and on hot days the students would dip fully clothed in those streams to be swept along to shallower shores.


Lets hear it for the girls!**
We were there the first weekend of Oktoberfest. Which is the last weekend in September and we appeared to catch the last couple of weeks of the summer (if you're going during June-October time make sure you get a hotel room with an air conditioner, not worth going otherwise) so blistering sunshine with the exception of that night.  Though if you want a concise list of things to do and know here it is now:

  • Do Mikes Bike Tours and hire yourself a bike.  Even if you're not normally a biker it is perfectly safe and easy to cycle, they have designated bike lanes in their busiest of street and you will miss odd little sights going from Underground to Underground (not that that's a knock against their public transport, it is of course, better than ours.)
  • They don't do half pints.  A small is a half litre and a large is a stein.
  • If you're veggie expect cream and a dumpling on everything. 
  • Respect the Oktoberfest.  The area it's held in is surrounded by residential flats so leave quietly, don't park your bike on their garden railings, and for pity's sake know your limits.  If you 'think' you're going to be alright, you're probably not.  Leave the bike behind and use public transport.  The bikes' will be perfectly alright provided they're locked up properly and you can always wander back in the morning.

Just say no, kids.  Just say No!

Do you have any tips for cycling in Munich?  Where would you guys recommend as a good holiday destination?  Leave your cycling holiday tips below!

Wishing you a safer but just as brilliant holiday.

Prosit!
Jx

*Which is better than 'Don't Mention the War'.

** Sharing that board she's on with what I assumed may have been her mother (or sister), that little girl didn't always jump far enough forward to catch that permanent wave, but when she did she kicked the arse of most of the blokes out there.   

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Monday, 7 September 2015

Dinae Cast yer Cloot...

ava' this year.

The weather in Scotland is like living next to a wild but well meaning neighbour.  Occasionally they're good fun and they mean you no real harm, but there are times where you need to hide in the house and ignore the banging at the door, on the window, or shouting down the chimney.   And considering this is now September and officially Autumn', there has been a lot of banging at the door and shouting down the chimney. None the less I find myself in a typical British quandary over what to wear.  Despite it being very mild in temperature up here, no-one in their right mind would go out without a coat, or some form of outerwear.  If you cycle, this of course means that it's both too warm to wear a coat, but not dry enough to leave without one which leads me onto the first point of this post. What to wear.

The second one is I read an article last year in a broad sheet Sunday news paper that listed 10 essential items for commuting on the bike.  Not only was there a whole bunch of electronics listed but there was also a crap load of technical gear - and besides the bike, nothing there was essential.  Don't get me wrong.  There are longer commutes, I know folk that regularly do 15 - 20 miles out and then the same back, and yes, I doubt anyone could do that comfortably in jeans.  Those kind of folks are usually hard core gnarled saddle wankers who don't know that heals were originally worn by men for stirrups, and have long forgotten how to wear underwear.  But for the not so serious, for folk like myself, who neither want to wait or pay for a bus to take us 15 minutes down the road, and generally too lazy to walk the mile to the post office...  What do we need to consider, and what do we actually need?

Now you're ready!
1.  A Mac. Rain, whilst not the worst thing on the bike, can be uncomfortable,  A damp set of jeans or trousers can be chaffing. Wearing a mac won't stop you getting wet in random places but it will negate sticky dampness in the most particular of places. 

Bring the Rain!
 I think this one was £20 out of Millets (or somewhere like that) two years ago, and is technically a Jack in a Pack.  I lost my previous one on a bus to T in the Park and we ended up getting this one at New Year whilst in Edinburgh.  A word of warning -  make sure you are buying ones that say 'waterproof.'  There are a lot of cheaper nylon weave versions that aren't waterproof that look like they should be but aren't.  They even come with hoods though what for I'm not sure.... *shakes head disparagingly*.



 2. Gloves.

*Jazz Hands to Self*
 Being cold on the bike is far worse I find.  Numb chilled hands are dangerous, they can over compensate on the breaks, over or under click on gears and just be plain painful.  The rain with just a slight wind can chill your hands, on a cool summers evenings your hands can be surprisingly painful.  And yes, the weather proof ones are nice, but if you don't want or have the £30 quid to spend - or like me you're always loosing them - plain woolly ones are fine.  You can double them up if  you buy a couple of pairs for when it's particularly chilly,  they're light enough to make you comfortable during the cooler summer evenings, they're easily replaceable, and if you get into habit of having them with you at all times, you'll be the envy of all at Scone Rewind when it starts hail stoning in July.   Mine are from Primark, I buy about 6 packs of two for a pound when they show up in the shops.  I put them everywhere.

3. Scarfs are particularly handy.

I'm invisible, but naked, except for the scarf.

Do not use a woolly scarf. The scarf has to be thin enough to wear under your helmet and wrap around your neck without being constrictive to head movement, and to fold down into nothing, but also long enough to be useful.  I'd think you'd be stretching the usefulness of a buff so I wouldn't recommend those.   Even if you're a bloke, consider venturing into the ladies accessories bit of any of the bigger department stores and asking if they've got any large light wraps or jersey material scarves in plain colours (or bright ones if that's what you like). The kind of material  you want is the same kind that t-shirts are made of.  And there's absolutely nothing wrong cutting across an old t-shirt just under arms.  This would make an infinity scarf.  These are scarves sewed into an '8' shape, and very easy to wear loose on the neck but at the same time can be wrapped tight leaving no ends that bunch up uncomfortably, or dangle precariously at wheels or pedals.   It'll keep your ears, neck, and chest warm.  It will go aways to keeping you dry if you're out without your mac or it's not practical to put a hood up.  It will wipe the rain off your seat,  the sweat off your face, and keep you warm if you find yourself cold when you've got to your destination.  Hell you can even tie it round your neck and pretend your flying on your bike if you like!    The one pictured I made myself.  It's an infinity scarf.  I sewed it up using some very thin jersey material I found in John Lewis on sale.

What do you wear whilst on the short commute?  When do you not get all lycra'd up?  I myself refuse to put the lycra on for anything under 10 mile return... what's your magic number of miles? Let me know in the comments!

Jx

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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Le Tour!!!!

Why I have really enjoyed Le Tour De France this year.


In no particular order (at least not consciously) :-

1. Tony Martin - watching him time trial the third stage after being milliseconds behind the course leader.

2. Tony Martin again - watching him do a slow awkward and painful fall of shame in the fourth stage, break his collarbone, finish the race, congratulate his team mate, do interviews about the crash, raise a glass to his team in general then go to hospital to get checked out. SERIOUSLY?!?!  Show me a footballer that would do that.

3. Peter Sagan - Always the bridesmaid never the bride, but still putting on a show - going for it in the breakaway and giving his best stab at climbing - and watching him fly like green swift down the descents!! If I had testicles, they'd be up in my abdomen. His finishing time and time again in second place yet still turning up for his interviews like he's having the best time of his life (which he probably is) is just... wow.

4.  Nairo Quintana - Here's to the short arses!  Making it difficult for Froome every step of the way and not doing things by halves.  Watching him sling shot on stage 18 (I think?) then power his way up the Alps just to get second place.

5.  Froome - I'm warming to him.  I'm more inclined to see him as a genetic freak with overly large lungs that a doper, and even with all that aside I did like to see him break a sweat over Nairo getting to the top before him (I know it's not a simple than that -  but some time it is).

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JkTQTIo0_4c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Jx

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Friday, 29 May 2015

Running Vs Cycling

Myself and a friend have signed up for 5K on the Major Series in Stirling a week on Saturday.  Now I am definitely not a natural runner.  I went out with the Gids last night and my flat out run (or shince to be more accurate) was a swift stroll for him, and for the first time ever - despite previous forays into running - I have shin splints.  These difficulties are not the biggest difference from running to cycling.

Pavement Slappers
The biggest thing is the lack of camaraderie. In cycling, if you see a cyclist coming the other way on the road or the path you nod acknowledgement, a civilised hello from one self propelled traveller to another and a spot of human contract.  The same if there two cyclists passed each other on a hill - there would be a few words of encouragement to the slower, or a share in commiserations  If someone happens to be standing on a corner, or at the side of the road, off their bike there is a general given you'd ask  'You ok mate?' and check out their tires or their chain - do they have a puncture or have they bonked. Now whilst certainly you'd do this on a country road - Aberdeen has the happy situation of having a high road cycling population - five minutes can still be a long time if you're stuck in the middle of no-where a mile or so from any kind of civilisation, and even if you're stuck in the middle of busy Union Street, if there was a cyclist with a flat tyre I'd like to think most other cyclists with a puncture kit would offer to help.

Not so with running.  Yesterday whilst doing my massive 2.7miles I tried a couple of nods to a few fellow pavement pounders (sounds rude) and the most I got back was an odd look from the corner of their eyes. To be fair, about a third of these folk were in their own personal hell and had my sympathies, but there was a riding in the lift-esk 'Pretend there's no one else here.'  I mentioned this to the Gids who was power walking along side me and he agreed.  Then I began to notice other things as well.  Couples running with one or both listening on their phones/music devices. Several different runners channelling their spirit animal 'The Whippet' passed us going one way, would look down at the ground when we nodded hello on the way back.

Do you think those two are ignoring each other?
Was it just us?  I have to admit we did look a bit odd, my foot slapping bounce and him in the sweaty mince of someone caught short of a loo.  But I then we don't look any less strange out on the bikes, him with his German commanders helmet and me with all the gear and only a vague idea.

Why is this?  Was this just our experience?   Is it different during an event?

Which sports do you do where the camaraderie is different to cycling?  Is the bon-homme experienced in cycling singular to cycling?

Jx

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Monday, 25 May 2015

Funcy!

If you remember last year I briefly mentioned that I had taken a big trip 'Abroad'.  This Vanmoof you see below was found waiting outside in the sunshine whilst we waited for the ferry to go see the Statue of Liberty - and being all the way from Amsterdam it, like us, was pretty far from home. I like it's dadaist utility* and am strangely drawn to it's walled tyres.  Are they wrong?


Vanmoof - an Amsterdam company - make electric bikes but I think I'm right in saying that this is not one of those.  There were a couple of touches for convenience stylishly executed such as the easy access red back light.   The breadbox at the top seems to be a customisation from the owner as apposed to a company add on which is something I always like to see, especially on a bike whose  chunky functional looks could put people off. 


What do you guys think?  Is this kind of thing right up your street or is it a dark alley best left untrod?

Jx

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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

So.... did you go?

I would like to say that I was there the day about 75 people showed up at Hazelhead Park to ride through Aberdeen to raise awareness of cleaner air and safer roads.


I'd like to say I was there the day that the sun shone on the quietly rolling Fairy Booters as they cycled through a city happy to see them out. 


I would like to say I was there at Marishal College with 150 other people who agree that air pollution, road infrastructure, and more healthier ways of travel are important.




 I instead have to say that as people made their way from Hazelhead to Marischal, I was in Glendoebeg, climbing a 5 mile hill and being snowed on. In April.  That was pretty glorious too.

Were you at Loch Ness this weekend?  Did you join the Pedal on Parliament in Edinburgh or Aberdeen?  What was the best thing about the day?

Jx

Photos have been provided by the pretty excellent Ruth Wolfe of the Aberdeen Cycle Forum.

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Monday, 30 March 2015

POP Aberdeen *****Update****** - 25th April 2015

*****UPDATE*****

Hi All,

A couple of extra points before Saturday kicks off:


  1. If you're planning on getting to Hazelhead Park (the meeting is near the running track) volunteers Matt, Dave, Henri, Gavin and Ruth will be there to help co-ordinate the ride.
    • There will be two sets of lines per wave (depending on the numbers that show up).  One will be for those comfortable going round round-a-bouts the other will be for those more comfortable using the pedestrian crossings. 
    • The route will be available for a looksee, and answer any questions you may have. 
  2. If you can't make it to Hazelhead Park, Jyll - another volunteer - will be waiting at Albyn Place at 12.15 near the fountain for those who want to join from there.  
  3. Feel free to cycle from anywhere in the city at all - riders from Hazelhead should start to arrive at Marischal College from 12.30 onwards so if you'd rather come from elsewhere it's not a bother, you can still be where the action is if you'd rather come from another part of town.
  4. Don't have a bike? Not able to take part in the ride?  Feel free to be at Marischal College from 12.30 to cheer the arriving cyclists.  It'll be a great place to find out a bit more about the organisations that campaign for fresher air and safer roads.
As to why you should be interested in non-motorised modes of transport, see under this update!

Jx

****END OF UPDATE****



Things you've got to know:

There have been 86 deaths (that's eighty-six caskets with bodies in them) directly attributed to the poor air quality in Aberdeen City alone. Air Pollution - even low levels - reduces the birth weight of babies by as much as 18% .   This is caused by you, me, and our neighbours getting into our cars, and on our buses and going about our motorised days, creating what the World Health Organisation calls a Carcinogenic fug*.   

In Cities with a high cycling population , every journey taken by bike instead of motorised vehicles, saves a yearly average of £1,610,000 (One Million, Six Hundred and ten thousand pounds) of road damage. If we relate this figure - which comes from a city with 700K inhabitants - to Aberdeen's population of 200K and if the same percentage of people cycled, we find a year on year saving of £466K (four hundred and sixty six thousand pounds, per year - plus all that time not looking at road works, and going to unnecessary funerals and all those babies being born hale and healthy).

The Communities, Housing and Infrastructures Department, in charge of the Cycling, Walking, Safer Streets budget -  is taking part of the £570K budget, which is the budget designated from Transport Scotland to Aberdeen City Council specifically for cycling,  on 'No Parking' signage in industrial areas.   Transport Scotland have been informed of this and they don't care.  There is a separate £20 million budget in Aberdeen 'to improve our roads', but obviously not the industrial bit where 'No Parking' Signs are needed. 

Why are Aberdeen City Council waiting two years to plant cycle rack when they have been provided (through the ACF) a comprehensive list of places that not only pin point opportune places but also request more where the current provision is not enough? 

To be fair these last two instances are pretty small cuts - I don't know exactly how much of the Safer Streets budget is being spent on No Parking, though I would wager a couple of thousand pounds at least, nor do I know exactly why cycle racks are waiting to be put out - planning permission? They just keep asking the same question over and over again.    But there are other small cuts like refusing to salt major cycle roads, unticketed parking in mandatory cycle lanes, 'advisory cycle lanes', the odd arsey driver, and a thousand other little stings that nip the little bud that is cycling in Aberdeen.  Don't get me wrong, Aberdeen is a pretty great place to live in.  I know, I live here.  Indeed I didn't begin to cycle properly until I began living here. But it can be better and cycling does that, and not just for the cyclist. 

So what can we do?  Well, the Aberdeen Cycle Forum are taking a leaf out of the original Pedal on Parliament and have organised a route to be cycled on the 25th of April 2015. 


Starting at Hazelhead Park at 12pm, next to the running track, it's intended (depending on the amount of participants) that this peaceful protest will finish 12.30pm at Marishal College where Aberdeen City Councillors will be available to answer questions (like, 'So, how much of the Safer Streets budget have you allocated to industrial areas? And what is the deal with the not salting the cycleways? What's wrong with the list of places ACF have given you for the cycle racks you supposedly have sitting waiting?  What is the point of 'Advisory Cycle Lanes?  Why aren't you making it much easier to cycle when the option of not doing so kills people and damages unborn children? And... How did you get here?)

This event will be run by volunteers so if it is busy a little patience at Hazelhead will be required, though you could join at any point on the route. Also whilst this is a formal protest, it is not a serviced event (neither food nor drink will be provided) and feel free to get off your bike and use pedestrian crossings if doing round-a-bouts aren't your thing.  You can of course, equally as useful,  cycle your way to Marishal College by any route and any side of the city to partake in end event. 

I shall update this when I find out more information, but if you have anything to add please don't hesitate to leave a comment as I'll reply to all that are left.

Jx

**I paraphrase, the WHO would never stoop so low as to use the word 'fug.'



Thursday, 5 March 2015

Once you've seen something...

...you can't unsee it.  Can you?



He looks as surprised as I am. 

Jx

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

I've been at it again...

...yes I've been at it again.  I have a dirty dirty habit of taking pictures of other peoples bikes.  This one's something of comfort over fashion, because let's face it style is always comfortable.


I mustache your handlebars a question....


... what comfort has won over your sense of fashion? An extra wide seat on your Carbon Venge*?  Sports socks over your clipless pedal shoes?  Asda bag over your aerodynamic bike hat?

Jx

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*Funny story: when I first started getting into cycling, there was a story in Cycling Weekly about Mark Cavendish, and it was full of sayings like 'Since getting The Venge, I've been more focused... it's been a point of which I've been channeling my energies through...'  I thought it was an illness.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

I scowl superiorly from my corner....

I'm kind of judgemental, but I'm also very cowardly, so the chances of me being judged as judgemental are very slim since I hardly ever say anything that I'm judging people for.   Don't get me wrong, I am heartily aware that people judge me too but probably no where near half as much as I think they do, but they do.  And then they think about cake, or crossing the road, or how chickens are just little dinosaurs.  None the less, I am aware that I am judgemental, not particularly negatively judgemental I don't think, but I do and try to curb my judgementalness but sometimes find it difficult. I could of course spend more time curbing my cowardliness but that would just make me shouty.  

Rather pertinent to this blog I judge other cyclists a lot.  I look at them and judge if they're wearing appropriate attire for the climate for the day, if I can tell from how they ride if they're drivers or not (hint: if I see you do a roundabout I think yes, you drive a car).  Generally my judgeyness is not necessarily negative, but being pure of thought is not something people will say about me.  I know this, so I try to not be so negative, but there are some instances where it is difficult. For example:



Now, it's not the electric bike thing that gets me. A cyclist is a cyclist is a cyclist, batteries or no (and I was in the car when I took this.)   It's not the ear phones, which usually get me (but then I think what about all the deaf cyclists).  Or the lack of bike hat (straight up Darwinism).  It's the hand in the back pocket.  



I mean really??!?!  Would you!?!?!?!  On a busy Saturday afternoon on one of the busiest streets in the town?!  Would you?!?  In the bus lane, with half a dozen light stops, pedestrians, potholes and the rest?!  One handed?!  Fer Fecks Sake!!! Where's the sense in this world?!?!

Have you seen anything on the road worthy of ridicule?  Would it be worthy of ridicule by others? What do you see that you would never do?  Let's let it all off our chest now!

Jx

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Friday, 13 February 2015

Dinna' Cast Yer Clout' Just Yet!

My mate Tricia mentioned that this year would be her year of resurrecting her commute to work. Considering that clear cold nights are making for heavily frosted mornings I asked her if she wasn't worried about the ice in the earlier hours of the day? But then the belt and braces kind of gal my pal is goes and mentions she's already got those having being told by The Dutchy (her blokie) that if the Russians can cycle in the winter so can she. and needs to fit them on her own town style pootler.  OOooo, says me, gees a shot?!  And she does.

Now, the third thing on my list things I hate about cycling, besides the wind (number one) and mountain biking (number two) is Ice.  Snow itself isn't too bad to cycle in, but ice - the kind you can see or no - is a nasty little fecker that wants to whip the table cloth off your formal cream tea of life just so it can laugh as scones go flying.

Greasy, black icy horrible cobbles!
It is with this in mind I have often wondered if studdED tyres would be useful.  My pootling bike at the moment is the Brompton, and Brompton being purveyors of very fine and high end bikes, are also purveyors of very fine prices I mean seriously £30 for one (1) tyre?  The expense isn't something I can justify right now, at least not to 'just see' if I like them or not. Further to this I have often assumed they'd be a faff, besides the fitting could I have left them on all year or would I have to change them back on wet or warm mornings so this all in all was the perfect opportunity to find out. 

By happenstance Tricias' house is one of the coldest streets in Aberdeen,  indeed, at 10 am on a fine crisp morning there was still a great deal of sheet ice and snow when everywhere else has come over slushily patchy.  Our arrangement was that I'd come round for a shot to give her the incentive of fitting the tyres, which after we'd switched to teaspoons instead of a lone flat head screw driver, was a doddle.

Tricias' replacement horse



Her Burgundy Ridgeback Town Bike sits' you up so high you feel a mixture of Pope-like in his Pope mobile and vertigo.  The large seat and wide tyre base is definitely more for comfort and safety than speed (not that I go very fast on any of my bikes) and it does take a wee while to get over yourself parading like the Queen to pedestrians who think you 'a mental'.  By the time we'd had our coffees, got the tyres on, and I'd stopped waving at folk there was still spots of ice and snow on the road.  Pen face at the ready, I got down to some serious 'in the interests of blogging' trialing.

The White Stuffs the Ice and snow*


Things I learnt about Studded Tyres:

1.  It's spelled StuddED, not StuddIED.

2. They can go on both tarmac and icy roads - in fact, they need to be 'worn in' for 40km before their optimum grip on the roads can be reached. So say the icy roads have put a damper on your commute, this year, if you get them in August/September, they'll be good to go by mid October!




3.  They have the same wear as normal tyres so you could infact leave them on all year round. 

4. They do make a noise on normal tarmac.  I didn't find it too distressing but then Trish's bike is so high I might not have been close enough to appreciate the sound in it's full annoying glory.

5.  They do work.  And you can feel it.  On snow you can feel the tyre slide then suddenly grip faster than you are used to.  Now, I've cycled where the snow has lain so thick, it's shaved off by mudguards as the tyres have gone round, I've cycled on ice where tyre wheels have stopped turning and I've only got the camber of the road and my own procarious ballance holding me up, I've felt my back wheel go from under me round a secluded corner and had to do the counter-intuitive thing of going faster - and squealled when doing it.  So I know when my wheels have gone from under me, to somewhere else, but what was interesting is that I felt the wheels slip and then latch on.  It's quite odd and not what I expected.  It's different from normal tyre grip - that's something you don't really notice until you don't have it any more - because you feel like you're going to fall but you don't.

Having had a shot, I would now consider investing in studded tyres.  I think, however, if I was doing a spectacuarly wintery sportive/race I'd feel better off with some knobbly treaded ones, but for the day to day commute they'd be perfect.

Have you tried studded tyres, and how did you get on?  Do you prefer knobbly tires?  Are they an investment you plan to make, and what other items do you plan to add to your winter to spring commute?

Jx

*To protect privacy I blacked out a lot of the street detail, I may have got a bit splash happy.

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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A call to Peleton!

I'm not really a 'joiner'.  I'm like a strip of hairy sellotape, I'd like to join things, I want to join things, I feel like I should but when it comes down to it I just can't.   Especially when it comes to cycling.  I never returned to the Deeside Divas (well, not yet anyway).  I went to one CTC meet, and I've yet to return a book I've taken from the library.  So, not a joiner*.





This attitude of mine is particularly prevalent when it comes to campaigning in cycling.  I know the importance of cycling.  First and foremost the impact it's had on my health and thusly my life is far from immeasurable.  Due to the exercise as a result of my cycling, sleeping well, eating better, writing,  the ability to meet friends and being able to enjoy their company are all achievable.  I don't internalise things as much, I have more patience with others, my repetitive thought syndrome is more controllable and I'm able to articulate more of what I want to say. The ability to get out on a more cycle friendly safer road is very important to me.  And yet I've been reluctant to stick my oar in, to put my shoulder to the metal, on any sort of campaign.

Why is this?  Well, as I've already said, try as I might I'm not a natural partaker in things.  But there's also a polemic in a lot of cycling campaigning which sounds like complaining for the sake of complaining.  For example, several months ago there was a cycling advert which likened cyclists to horses, not in that we eat hay but that when cars are over taking we need a wide berth (which was the actual 'joke' in the Ad).

(This One)

This ad was eventually banned, and then after a kick up, un-banned but not seen since for a bunch of completely different reasons other than the moaning I found online but to be fair, we all know about how brave folk get hiding behind a computer screen (I for one feel very bolshy).

None the less ,it's this kind of attitude which has put me off, as it is the awful shouty ones screeching about how whatever is done (whether it's a 'concession' or not) is not right because it's not what they said, that get the most notice, and I've never met a cyclist who constantly ran red lights who didn't complain that we're not like Copenhagen (I've yet to meet one who's actually been).  It's like the taxi driver who accuses me of being that same red light running cyclist, but then gets all affronted when I tell him does that mean he's the Blue van man who called me a 'Stupid Bitch Cunt' whilst riding on the wrong side of the road because he didn't have enough space to over take me?  I digress.

'Whaaa!!!'

The point is, to me, cycle campaigning had always seemed to come through the medium of a sort of lycra clad UKIP. And whilst this has been going on, the 'MAN' (aka. the Government and thus councils) is making a lot of noise about Sustainable transport, leaving the car at home, introducing more cycle lanes, government sponsored ride-a-longs and all sorts of stuff.  Don't get me wrong, I have a healthy mistrust of the government and councils alike.  I was brought up during the Thatcher era and have seen her gone from something that's put on top of a bonfire, to being described as 'Great' (I always want to add '...but terrible, like Voldemort'). Indeed,  the lack of satire in Scottish politics is not due to the inability of comedians to find Scottish politics funny, it's that the politicians are laughable and such stereotypes themselves there's very little else to be said.

But I care about cycling, having cycled more on than off these past 20 years , it is getting better.  I want it to get even better. I want to know the government and councils are doing what they say they are, as well as being in a position to be aware of real life changes to roads and neighbourhoods that affect me and others like me.  How does someone like me, who's neither a saddle wanking militant hater nor a government sycophant, find their place in cyclings' civic duties?

This Way Only
A quick search on the Google for Cycling Aberdeen resulted in the Aberdeen Cycle Forum, a volunteer group 'seeking to encourage and develop cycling within Aberdeen'.   It meets monthly in the Town Hall - the section opened by The Queen none the less - and it was an eye opener.   The first meeting of the year concerned an introduction by Nestrans Development Officer (or Rep) Catherine Mackay, and then a run down of the various road works involving either improving or creating new cycle paths.   It's this last bit which really surprised me.  Aberdeen City Council and various other surrounding councils have, like councils all across the country, been making loud noises with regards to making cycling an everyday travel-useful pursuit.  Several areas were under discussion including to my surprise Riverside Drive and Ellon Road.  Both roads I use regularly (though to be fair I use the pavement of Ellon Road regularly, you'd have to be off your nut to use the road).  I had no idea that the council had undertaken the improvement of the cycleable aspect of these roads.  Not only was what they were doing under discussion but also if they'd started it (Riverside Drive they had), how much had been completed and if there were any issues (for example a cumbersome sign going through the Riverside developments telling 'Cyclists Dismount'  on a cycle path).  There was also discussion on what of the Cycle friendly budget was being used, how it was being used, and where else it was being allocated to (there are a lot of 'No Waiting' and 'No Parking' signs going up).

What was interesting was that all of the participants were volunteers (with the exception of Ms Catherine, the Nestrans rep development officer).  The conference room itself was provided by the city council, and there were several other cycling clubs and organisation in a sort of unofficial representation. There was the impression on the whole that not everything would be listened to, but, that day-to-day change could measured by those that used the roads.  Indeed, remember this guy:




He was there and reported that since his fall(s) the cycle path has since been gritted!

I'm glad I went.  It was interesting, because Councils and Governments are known for promising so many things to a point it's very difficult to know if they've delivered what they're supposed to unless it's a particular promise that directly affects you.  Even at that, there's such a malaise that any sort of contention that your average member of the public may have is expected to be ignored. 

So if you're interested in what's going on in your area do a quick online search. See what comes up and go for a nosey.  Best thing that could happen is you might find a bunch of reasonable niceys trying to make the roads a little safer, getting the council and government to keep their word, and if the worst thing happens and they turn out to be lycra clad mentals, well, you never have to see any of them ever again.

What puts you off getting involved in civil and government issues?  What involvement do you have and why do you take part?

Jx

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*I can put up some lovely shelving though,

Friday, 30 January 2015

More Creepy Pictures of Other People's Bikes

Yeh, yeh, I know... I'm not really doing well to hide my geekage but I couldn't help myself.  This vintage lovely was parked out in the damp cold, cheerfully racing green with it's little red/burgundy mud-guards, and pristine white bar tape.


I particularly love the old fashioned dynamo lamp (when it's this senior it's not a light it's a lamp)....


and the new bell with the bright red/orange toggle - it just screams 'In Emergency Only'.


Jx




Monday, 26 January 2015

Out of 52 Mondays of this year...This one has a colour

I started to write this post like this:

It's nearly the end of January and I'm thinking of how we've all done.  I have managed three weeks out of a six week programme and today I'm finding it a struggle today.  It's more than likely due to a Hen weekend with a cracking group of girls and all that prosecco, fried eggs, and hoola hooping has gone to my head.  Pinterest, particularly of the Health and Fitness threads with all those Fitsperation (a mash up of Fitness and inspiration, eugh), are getting on my nerves.  

Then I find out today is Blue Monday.  The thing is, I like blue (only as a colour, not as a band).  The sky is blue today. The colour of the coverlet I have on the bench at my window is blue, my living room is blue, my Brompton whilst officially Turkish Green, really wants to be blue and does a damn fine job of it.
What cake would be if it could be today.

It's wrong to call today blue, Shitty Mustardy Nappy Monday would be better.  Or even Black Monday would do but I think Baby Cheesus might have already seconded that one.  

I don't know why I'm taking today soo bad either.  I haven't made any resolutions, so I've really got none to drop.  The programme thing I'm doing no one would know if I said I did it or not.  It also doesn't really matter to any one else, the gids doesn't care what I do with my time as long as it doesn't make me miserable.  Not doing the exercises today wouldn't make me miserable, it'd just compound the mood I'm in.
Way more arsed than I am

I'd be annoyed less if everyone else in the world (well, all those with a lot of first world problems) wasn't having such a hard time of it.  Not because I want everyone else to be happier but because with us all in it together, it means I can't even be original.  Perhaps I should just embrace my basicness, get myself a pumpkin latte and some uggs whilst complaining that my I-Phone's all bendy.  Oh god. Perhaps this is the beginning of the wall of careful alternativeness I've been cultivating all these years crumbling down.  I'll have to quit the cycling, join Jazzercise classes, watch Eastenders, and before I know it I'll be decking a woman in tescos over a cheap giant tv that'll show the ravaged contours of Phil Mitchells face just so (Is he even in 'enders any more?)  I'll have to stop fancying Keanu Reeves and David Grohl and fantasize over Brad Pitt (meh) and Ryan Gosling (he's not really very interesting to look at, is he? Be honest.) I'll have to grow my hair, get fake tan, and all my clothes will have to be from Superydry and I'll have to  pretend I don't know the Japanese style writing is gibberish (we actually asked a japanese person).  I'll have to trade in the bike for a Quigo, and read the Daily Mail and not vote.



Oh well.  It might not be all bad.  I suppose there'll be a comfort in knowing why everyone's talking about Danny Dyer, and what a pumpkin spiced latte actually tastes like.  Perhaps, even Mr Gosling's interesting to talk to, you know, perhaps there are finer points of his personality I've missed.  I doubt it, but gotta give the guy a chance.  

Jx

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Chilly Willy!

One of the joys of living in Scotland is that there is weather. Proper weather.  The kind of weather that does something, demands to be noticed and given it's due respect regardless of the season.  This can be anything from gale force winds in spring, hailstones in the summer, trampoline blowing storms in the Autumn, and minusy looking temperatures in the winter.

A singular joy of living in Aberdeen is that generally, if it's raining in the rest of Scotland, guaranteed Aberdeen will be having it's driest week ever.  Same as we could be having to moor the house to the land due to torrential rain whilst everyone else is being sung to by the sun.

In this particular instance we're being frozen out whilst the rest of the country is thawing.


And you have to agree, sheet ice is difficult to cycle on.  The proof is here:


I am perhaps a little more resigned to the lack of gritting in Aberdeen than others.  In Glasgow, the gritters were usually out before the temperature dropped, and it is certainly anti-intuitive to grit the busiest roads but not their cycle paths.  



It's pretty much an ice rink in my street, so I've been hitting the turbo trainer.  A strange phenomena is occurring though.  Usually I hate HIIT training - which is generally wanky sports person talk for going really hard and then slowing down for what doesn't seem long enough before going hell for leather again (it's supposed to be good for you) - but recently the reps for my sessions have been going past pretty quickly.  I do 1 minute on it, 30 secs rest for 13 reps but I seem to be eating them up at the mo'.  My garmin's been out of cync (truth: I've been lazy in making sure it's charged and it keeps shutting down on me) so I can't say exactly what's going on.  It could be that I'm not working hard enough, though I am concentrating on getting my pedal cadence up, and I've always got a burn in my legs when I'm on my minute.  

What's the weather like in your neck of the woods?  How have you been coping?  If you're training/keeping fit, is there anything that's surprised you?

Don't forget you can join me on bloglovin'Twitter, and Pinterest, if you so wish.  And if I don't see you through the window, I'll see you out cycling! *

Jx

*I agree this is awfully naff.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

How to Cycle in Heels...

...and not break your neck.


Now,  it has been known for some time that I haven't exactly done more than a pootle on the Brompton recently, and in this there has been a conflict in reasoning in that I've wanted to look more stylish but rather not wanting to break my neck. Stylish is one of my favourite women to look at Lucy Liu, perticuarly as Dr Watson in Elementary.  She quite simply wears the most gorgeous stuff in that show, all low waisted tunics, tights and clumpy high heeled boots.  She looks elegant, and slender and she inspires oddly creepy feelings that I only have about Cheryl Baker - who incidently is not only a pop princess but also a philosphy for life: Cake or a scone? Left or right? Another drink? Just ask yourself WWCBD*?  She'd do them all!

So, after asking myself that very thing, I purchased these:


Which are both high and clumpy and something Dr Joan Watson would wear.  They area alot more comfy than they look - I managed to wear them all day on Thursday without feeling that awful pressure on the balls on my feet - and after much deliberation I set out on the Brompton. 


POINT 1. - You don't need your seat as high as you think you do.  

I had to fiddle with the seat.  Alot.  First of all I had the seat so far up my arse it was pulling faces at my  belly button.  Then after lowering it my knees thought we'd joined the ministry of silly cycling and protested in earnest.  After that it was every forty yards out of a mile of  Not Quite Rightness.  But eventually I found my optimum seat hight and got underway.  It was actually only a couple of inches higher than normal, which considering these are 5 inch heels isn't as much as I thought. 

POINT 2. - Wear close fitting shoes.

I have mostly come a cropper when my feet slip inside my shoes and I end up getting a cross bar in the crotch.  This always and without fail has happened when the lights have gone green, there are people everywhere, and I have the quintessential Angry Middle aged in either a giant 4x4 or his (and occasionally her) natty little roadster that they bought for showing off.  Give your feet a wiggle in your shoes, and test the boundaries of movement.  All shoes expand and stretch as they are 'worn in'  and it's best to be careful.  Trust me, this is one of those times (or one of many of those times) where I've made an arse of myself so you don't have to. 

POINT 3. - Find your optimum foot position.

I felt mostly fine in this position:


But then wanted to go up hills in this position:


Note that the pedal is tucked into the arch area, and considering that high heels were originally worn by horse riders when they horse rode (is that the right phrase?), so that the stirrups would sit nicely on the foot and not slip off it shouldn't be a surprise that this is comfortable.  But be aware, that did this to my heels:


Now, I'm not going to let that stop me, these were only £20 from of the T'interweb so it's not a big deal on these shoes.  However,  have a pair of black suede Carvela heels I shan't be wearing when I cycle because of this.  

POINT 4. - Take it easy, do a trial and error if you're unsure.

I went round the glorious Seaton park to see how I got on first.  I didn't want the rush of traffic, or a particularly large audience if I ended up kissing the tarmac or breaking an ankle.  I also threw my foot around my pedal, wiggled it and tested the grip of the shoe.  Obviously you don't have to do any of this if you're comfortable.  If not, a quick run up and down the roads of your neighbourhood - practising mounting and dismounting (not in the carnal sense obviously) - wouldn't be a bad thing if you felt the need.  

It was easier than I thought it would be.  I had envisioned broken foot tendons and apocalyptic carnage but at worst I got a chunk taken out of the side of one heel.  I think you certainly have to be aware of how you put your foot down,  taking time to make sure it is planted firmly on the ground but my ability to do that isn't really down to the type of shoe I wear.  

Have you thought there's anything you can't wear when cycling?  What is it and why have you not worn it particularly.  

If you've enjoyed this feel free to join me on bloglovin', Twitter, and Pinterest for posts and anything else that tickles me in these realms (I'd use the word 'Platforms' but it makes me sick, like 'incentivise', and 'touching base' which sounds creepy).

Jx

*WWCBD - What Would Cheryl Baker Do

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