Thursday, 27 September 2012

Life is good to be honest

Today is another one of those beautiful Autumn days.  It’s not that warm but the skies are clear and there is minimal wind, so the cycling is excellent.

I just took a lazy spin from one of our client’s offices back to headquarters, taking in one of the city’s largest parks.  On the way, just for the sake of it, I snapped a few pictures for the blog:

It's a tough life when your cycling route looks like this.

A nice bit of greenery in a city.

I could have a bit of a whine about the state of the bike lane but at
least there is one and when the scenery is this good, little else matters!

I sometimes moan about my job but to be honest, when I get to do this as part of it (or at least transportation between parts of it) life is pretty good really!  Winter, schminter – bring it on I say!

In other news, I fitted some new bar-ends to the Dahon over the weekend. 

The previous ones were a manky set of cheap steel ones which used to be on my fixie MTB beater but I wanted to see if I would use them on my folder.  Long story short, I find bar-ends most useful as the variety of nahd positions the bars allow take the load of an old elbow injury I seem plagued with.  This old set were pretty long though and interfered slightly with folding the bike.  They were also extremely scruffy and more suited to life aboard my fixie, whose bars they will soon, once again grace.  So I stumped up the princely sum of £6 for a new set of snazzy alloy ones on eBay:

Et voila - £6 well spent

These are shorter, smarter looking set and complement the rest of my bike nicely (I think).  It folds better with them in place, too.  I’m also pleased to report that they are supremely comfortable and therefore an all-round top bargain!  Quite why anyone would need to pay over the odds for a set of bar-ends, given the function they fulfil, is beyond me. 

We do like our toys though, don’t we, so maybe that explains it?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

A good point well made

I came across a great post on Bicycle Bug's blog today. Kind of what I've tried to express myself a couple of times but more nicely written.

It's a great blog - you should take a look HERE.

Cheers :-)

Monday, 24 September 2012

I blame Bradley Wiggins!

I do love to see another cycle-commuter out there on my way to work.  If little else it means one car fewer to clutter things up but it's nice to have that sense of kindred spirit so lacking in car-commuters.

Over the summer I've noticed a huge increase in the number of bikes out there.  Both on the train in the morning and locked up at work when I get there.  I have joked, though I do also believe, that the upturn is due in no small part to the fantastic achievements of our Olympic cycling team and a certain Mr. Wiggins in "Le Tour".  In general, I think that this is a brilliant thing though it does have a couple of downsides.

Our small commuter train has a bespoke space to carry two full sized bikes and for ages it was only another lad and I storing their bikes in it.  Now however, there can be as many as seven bikes (including my folder) packed into both the storage space and the doorways at either end of the carriage.  To the train company's credit, they do get as many on as they can, and I've never known them to leave a cyclist behind, but it is somewhat congested at times!  Of course I have the advantage of being able to fold the Dahon which opens up another couple of places on the train that it will fit in comfort.  The lady who gets on with a Brompton from time to time has it even better.  I cannot believe how small those things fold up - a fully functional and very capable bike which will fit in the smallest of luggage spaces.  A versatile combination and (fingers in your ears please Dahon) very tempting when the Cycle Scheme comes back around.

There's also the issue of more bodies waiting to use the only shower at work once I get there.  Again, we've gone from one or two regulars to a gang of about five or six all wanting to shower in the morning.  I get on well with many of my workmates, but draw the line at cramming into a single shower cubicle with them.  Eurgh!  Pass the mind-bleach!

Inevitably, once summer turns to autumn (as it now seems to have done) then numbers will drop off.  In one way that is a shame but will make the experience more comfortable for the rest of us.  On a more serious note though, it just goes to show that if the government and employers want us to make greener choices in our transportation arrangements, the infrastructure needs to be improved to make that possible.  Unfortunately, the way the system works at the moment, it is reliant on more people using an overstretched system in the hope that some of th eprofits get diverted into making those services better for all.

On the whole probably a bit much to lay entirely at Wiggo's doorstep, he is an awesome athlete and all round hero after all.  But it is something that needs to be thought about in order that more people can make cycle commuting a practical reality.

Having just won the TdF and an Olympic gold,
he deserves a sit down, I'd say!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Mileage to date

I am planning to do a decent review of my Dahon Vitesse D3HG at some point along with a host of other blog posts. Time, the old enemy...

Anyway, just time to do a mileage update:

Week 24 - 116 miles
Week 25 - 64 miles
Week 26 - 69 miles
Week 27 - 81.5 miles

Total mileage - 1,826.5 miles

So the next big milestone of 2,000 miles cycled edges near. This week looks like being a big one as well so that barrier should be broken shortly.

Also worth noting is that I've passed the six-month mark and in all that time, only used a car on a handful of occasions. This time last year that would have seemed laughable. Now, anything is possible. The cold, dark half of the year has yet to come though I'm sure I'll cope. At least there might be more room for bikes on the train!


We are having utterly awesome weather here at the moment! There's definitely a chill in the air each morning but the lung-boosting power of cold, crisp air and bright, golden sunshine more than make up for it. When I look back over my shoulder to see dawn breaking through the mist in the fields behind me, it feels great to be alive and part of that scene! It also takes much longer to warm up than at the peak of summer so although I get a sweat up, being the air-cooled creature that I am, I never feel overheated. It's lovely weather in which to cycle. :-)

Not a bad place to have to commute!  This is looking back from the top of the first hill of the morning.
At this point, my legs are usually feeling somewhat shocked and I am very definitely awake!

All of the schools are back in full swing now after their summer break which means much more traffic in the city. I did think this would be an issue but to be honest, as most of the cars are generally stationary, they don't pose much of a threat, ha ha! I travelled in to work about an hour later than usual today which meant I hit town at the peak of the rush. The queues of cars waiting at traffic lights were enormous. One of them must have been a full my long and I cruised past the whole thing, straight to the front in perfect time to hit the green light. Sweet!

I know it's going to get colder and darker before long but for now I'll take this autumn weather with thanks. The memories will keep me going through the short days until spring.

Happy travels all! :-)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

All in the mind

The mornings are getting noticeably colder now although the damp Autumn air is also wonderfully fresh. There is a golden quality to Autumn sunlight that you just don't get at other times of year. Nevertheless I've not been feeing too well this week and it's been a bit of a mental battle to get on my bike in the morning. I have managed it though and the fresh air has been sorting out my rough chest quite nicely.

With cycling, as with many sports and activities, an awful lot depends on the mind. There is the obvious battle with oneself to get out and ride in the first place but recently I have been experiencing another.

I find that, geared as it is, my Dahon is good for an average speed of 12-13 mph. However, "pub wisdom" from fellow, generally lycra-clad, cyclists has it that 15 mph is the benchmark of acceptable average speed. This sums up the obsession with speed that many of us have with cycling. Any cyclist in front of us is a target to be overtaken, whereas when we are overtaken it's time to bring out the excuse book!

I myself find the latter situation the one to battle with. If a much faster cyclist on a racing bike passes me, my first instinct is to think about what I need to do to get that fast. Maybe a faster bike or a lighter load? Maybe my Dahon needs re-gearing? Maybe I should be using my hybrid (obviously with slimmer, faster tyres) etc, etc, etc...

Then mercifully, common sense kicks in and I realise that:

1. My bike has other, big advantages that a racing bike does not, especially for its primary purpose of commuting
2. "Pub wisdom" could just be a crock of bull
3. The other rider could well just be much fresher, faster and fitter than me and...
3. I don't really care that much that I've been overtaken!

It just goes to show though that mind games are an easy trap to fall into! Just ride the bike you have in the way you want to as often as you can and simply enjoy it. Life's too short for anything else!

My Dahon, chilling while waiting for the train. 
Those bar-ends are an absolute God-send!