Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Riding into the Sunset

Due to a change in circumstances, Trusty and I will no longer be blogging about our London cyling adventures (though to be sure we will still be having them). I have loved writing and sharing with you fellow enthusiasts of bicycles and beauty, and I ring my cheery bell to say goodbye.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Rites of Spring

It is warming up again- it may be another false alarm, or maybe, just maybe, spring has arrived. Predictably, several phenomena can once more be spotted on our city's streets:

1) People who have overestimated the temperature and gone out without their coats, shivering at traffic lights and rubbing their blue, goose pimpled legs.
2) Van drivers singing along to 80s pop with their windows down.
3) Women cycling in utterly inappropriate shoes. Today's sighting were red leather cutaway kitten heel ankle boots with a leopard print trim. Absurd, but kind of wonderful.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Cars vs Bikes

A few things in the last few days have made me very thankful not to own a car. One was a story on MoneyBox on BBC Radio 4 over the weekend which exposed the culture of referral fees and kickbacks between garages, tow-trucks, insurance companies and claims lawyers. Once you've had an accident your details become like gold dust, and huge amounts of money changes hands. Apparently that is why car insurance gets increasingly extortionate even as accident rates go down. This makes me angry on so many different levels, the key one being- you might have died. You have experienced a major trauma. And then every time you pick up the phone it is a weasly cold-calling lawyer type pouring poison in your ear and encouraging you to sue someone. Eugh.

And on a lighter note this photo, from Howies, is the other one. 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Cycling in Croatia

Just back from a wonderful five day trip to sunny (but chilly) Croatia. We spent a few days in Dubrovnik which is beautiful and well worth a visit, and then hopped on a ferry in search of a bit more wilderness and, crucially, some bikes. Reluctantly, having given more than 3 seconds thought to the practicalities I'd left Trusty locked in his bleak London garage-he's not a folder after all- so I was soon feeling the craving to be on two wheels. There are apparently good trails on the mainland, and some islands which can be reached on a day trip from the city, but we wanted to go further afield and so boarded the Nona Anna once-a-day catamaran for the island of Mljet. Despite the fact that Time Magazine apparently ranks it as one of the ten most beautiful islands in the world, Mljet is not a major tourist hub in high season, and in March it was utterly deserted. The handful of locals were visibly shocked to see us, but sprang into hospitable action once they were made to believe that yes, we had come to stay, and yes, we would like to cycle please. The bike hire places (and everything else in fact) was closed, but the owner of the apartment we'd managed to find happily lent us her two mountain bikes. 

I've not got a lot of experience in the world of MBX- I was always put off by a)fat tires=less speed and b)the likelihood of coming off going over a root and concussing myself on a boulder. I'm pretty clumsy. But Mljet is hilly and well, beggars can't be choosers, so we saddled up....and it was amazing. Pine forests, coastal paths and incredible, green-blue inland lakes. We rode for hours, picnicking on shore lines and whooping down the hills. We had the whole place to ourselves- the only encounter with another human being was with a head-scarved, raisin faced old women who thought we were disturbing her goats. Or at least, that is what we inferred from the tirade of angry Croatian. In the evenings a guy called Djuro opened up his restaurant specially, cooked us whatever fish he had caught that day and plied us with local grappa until we could barely walk. Wonderful medicine for sore thighs.

If you're looking for a DIY cycling trip somewhere near(ish) cheap(ish) and extraordinarily beautiful, Croatia is your place. Say hi to Djuro (at the Stella Marin) from Trusty and I.

Monday, 28 February 2011

We're out of the Office...

Or out of the city at least. Trusty and I are off for some well earned holiday cyling in Croatia. Normal service will resume on our return.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cycle Tribes: BMX Boys

Not all BMX-ers are 17, clearly
Yesterday I cycled all the way down the (very potholed) Walworth  Road in a tag-team race with a 17 year old on a BMX. It was possibly the highlight of my day. You will have seen this tribe, but only rarely in our great capital- his typical habitat is suburban backroads, car parks, skate parks and woodland. He has not evolved to effectively deal with the longer distances of London roads, or indeed, buses and taxis. The BMX boy will most likely have collar length hair, a hoodie, baggy trousers (or conversely and horrifyingly, jeggings) and a black cap pulled down low- and crucially, no lights. . He will sit way back, low down on his tiny little saddle pedalling leisurely with his knees occasionally hitting his chin. Most at home when standing up on the pedals, he can get some speed up pulling away from traffic lights, but his thick tyres and small wheels hinder any real pace.

These facts of physics were not immediately obvious to the young lad I was cycling beside last night. Waiting at a red light, he looked sideways at me, taking in my pretty pannier, basket, skirt and bell. All these clearly equalled some kind of gauntlet being laid down. When the lights changed he raced away, standing but bent double to stay in contact with the handlebars, the top of his boxers wafting in the breeze. Trusty doesn't exactly go 0-60 in seconds (especially with a pannier full of books) so it took me a minute or so to catch him up, but when I did I quickly needed to overtake. I may be ten years older, but I do have full sized wheels, and the capacity to fully extend my legs. I'm not naturally competitive, but neither do I have the patience to stay behind someone slower than me.

BMX boy was not happy. At the next lights the same thing happened, he shot into the distance but I quickly caught up and overtook. This happened six or seven times, until it had become a bit of a game. By the time our ways parted at Camberwell Green we felt like old friends. As I turned I looked back over my shoulder,  he doffed his cap at me in an archaically chivalrous gesture, exposing greasy hair and a cheeky smile. So I saluted. A moment of cyclist solidarity across the tribes. It made me smile.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Occasions To Avoid Cycling Part 1: Valentine's Date

Almost always, cycling is the best choice of transport. Very occasionally though, it is most definitely not.

I have discovered that when you are meeting someone for a Valentines' breakfast, and you are specially wearing, instead of the usual cycling gear, a pretty (wool) dress, tights, scarf, socks, boots, a very unbreathable and highly unreflective coat and slightly more make up than usual, cycling might still, possibly be the right choice. If you cycle slowly. This will, however, be  complicated if 1) you are late, or 2) it is a beautiful sunny day which makes you want to go as fast as humanly possible. If these two circumstances combine you are absolutely guaranteed to arrive on said date with a bright red face, sweating profusely, and take half an hour sitting in a well heated restaurant to cool down. You may in fact need to mop your face with your napkin.

Not. Sexy.

Sorry Trusty, thou art forever by my side, but next romantic rendezvous with the other man in my life, you're staying at home.