Monday, 30 November 2009

A minor landmark for Karmacycle

Just a note of thanks to users of this blog - my page impression counter tells me I've reached the giddy heights of 2000 since I put it in.  A drop in the ocean for a lot of websites, but I feel quite chuffed.

The downside is that most people who come to the site leave pretty much straight away (!) so perhaps I'm not doing everything right. Anyhow, I'll keep trying to spread good cycling karma around the streets of London (and anywhere else in the world you may be reading this) and perhaps in a few weeks I'll be celebrating ... well, 3000 ... thank you.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The vulnerable alien - an update

I know you've all been hopping with curiosity to see what my broken light referred to in previous entries actually looks like. Do you think it has a bit of vulnerable alien to it?

Maybe it's just when it blinks a bit pathetically that it's more like a living being ...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

My bike started going down the drain ... literally

I don't like to alarm folk unduly but I have another hazard to add to the list of adversities us cyclists face. Drains.

I was leaving work in all innocence last night, just coming out of the exit and on to the main road. I pushed to go off and suddenly, clunk! I was stuck and had suffered a really painful blow to the parts of me which don't want a painful blow. I looked down, suspecting I must have fallen into an enormous pot-hole. But no - I was stuck in the drain!

Light of day

I went back to the scene of the crime this morning to provide documentary evidence for you, dear readers. Although in the cold light of day the drain looks quite innocent, you can quite clearly see that there's a gap in it almost specifically designed to take a bike wheel:

And of course I had to prove a wheel fits in, so here's the evidence:

So on the scale of human suffering, it's not a big deal - but do watch out, fellow cyclists, the drains want to eat you!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Houston, it looks like you're breaking up ...

On my ride home yesterday I discovered I've got a rather reckless side to me. I was cycling fast down the Bayswater Road. I've been getting fairly angry with my main front light for about 2 months. Every time I go over a bump, it kind of shakes and rattles and almost always the light goes out. It's got a dodgy connection. As I'm cycling, I have to kind of hold it a bit and push it back into place and about 50% of the time the light goes on again.

Space shuttle

But yesterday, the light refused to go back on. I pushed it around a bit, but nothing. Then suddenly, a bit like the space shuttle coming back into the atmosphere, the outer casing holding the batteries in place flew off behind me into the night. "Ha ha, I don't care, I hate you!". I was laughing like a maniac. I carried on at speed. Suddenly, the casing which holds the front bulbs in place also flew off behind me. "I hate you too!".

A vulnerable alien

This kind of sated my hatred for the light and my sensible side kicked back in. I don't want to lose the batteries, after all, no matter how much I hate the light. So in a quiet street I was able to take the wretched thing off, still blinking occasionally, and put it in my pocket. It looked a bit like one of those aliens which, when stripped of its horrible outer metallic shell, actually looks quite cute and vulnerable inside.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the story of my light. Am I actually certifiable or do others have love/hate relationships with their gear?

By the way, in case anyone is worried - I do have two other lights on the front ...

Monday, 23 November 2009

A machine to dispense inner tubes ... cool or what?

This is just outside a bike shop near the Truman Brewery area off Brick Lane in London

New bags please!

Right. That's it. I know my panier bags are not waterproof. That's why I carefully wrapped up my clothes in a Sainsbury's bag. Clever, I know.

Had my shower. Lovely. Reach for bag. Open bag. Somehow, enormous amounts of rain have gone through my paniers, penetrated the plastic bag, and ... my shirt is soaked across my chest. My trousers are soaked across my ... well, the bits that trousers cover. I'll have to dry off au naturel. Kind of.

Anyone know any good waterproof rear paniers? (!).

My increasingly sad bags - one of them

Note - hole at bottom of bag so you can quickly lose stuff. And what was once a fiercely waterproof  bag has become more like a sponge.

PS sorry about the extended absence. It's been tough at work and busy at home. I'll try to sneak in a few more updates.

Monday, 16 November 2009

What to do in a puddle?

And while I'm on - as it were - I'm never quite sure what to do when you have no option but to go through an enormous puddle. This one is not from these parts (New Zealand in fact) but gives the idea:

I supect the only thing to do is:

- slow down
- try to keep your feet as far away from the water as possible (so your peddles are parallel with the ground)
- go back to being a kid and stick your feet out in front of you
- or just get wet

Of course the big extra danger here is that if you haven't got a rear mudguard, the water will go all over your back and your bags, if you have them. The answer? Sadly inevitable - get a rear mudguard. Although I've singularly failed to take my own advice so far.

What the hell do you wear on a bike in this London weather?

I spent about half the journey this morning wishing I had worn just a T-Shirt (and shorts of course), then the rest wondering why on earth I didn't put on more waterproofs. It's always a bad sign when you're cycling along, clad in full winter regalia (waterproof jacket, several layers, a wooly neck thing to stop the wind getting in etc) and you spot a large group of travellers wearing shorts and T-Shirts and looking very comfortable. Then you notice that you're sweating rather more than you expected.

Then, as I approached Notting Hill Gate, the heavens opened and I was glad of my heavy wear, but wishing I had a bit more of it.

I'm not sure quite what the answer is. There's a secret part of me that actually rather likes getting a good soaking (I think it must be related to my days running around school playing fields in my youth) so I'm the type who likes wearing less as getting too hot is about my worst state.  I suspect there are some "miracle" materials which allow you to wear the minimum yet stay dry and warm. And I suspect that a few of you out there are going to recommend some of them. And I suspect I'll be quite pleased and really want to buy them but then be put off by the price.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The joy of gloves

Aren't gloves fantastic? And isn't it nearly the end of the world when you can't find them and it's bitterly cold outside? I think I might soon be in the market for a more heavy duty pair than I currently have. I must confess I bang on my old skiing gloves when it gets really cold, but somehow they ... well ... get a bit sticky inside.

Actually I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible to dress up for a bike ride wearing clothes made up from other "disciplines" ... e.g.:

- hat from horse riding
- gloves from skiing
- boots from hiking
- jacket from ... canooing (?)
- trousers/pants from ... rafting (?)
- lights from ... pot-holing (?)
- A-Z from ... getting lost in London


Monday, 9 November 2009

How to tackle a new route on your bike

Today I had to go to a different venue for my work - Millbank to be precise. Here's what I think you're supposed to do when you are going somewhere different on your bike:

1. Study route the night before
2. programme route into iPhone, and place iPhone in handy iPhone strap-on device on handle-bars
3. If you don't have an iPhone, print off map
4. stop every now and then to look at by now crinkly map
5. Go back to old fashioned techniques - ask people where to go

Being me, here's what I did:

1. Hurriedly check address as I try to leave house, failing to print map
2. Go on normal commute route, hoping I'll recognise a few landmarks
3. Get lost around Trafalgar Square
4. Suddenly spot Big Ben
5. Find venue just in time.

I suspect that many people are more organised ... but is a cool iPhone the only answer?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Slow down the pace little darling ...

I think that's the Gregory Isaacs classic, is it not? Sometimes you've got to do that on your bike too. I was feeling pretty full of cold, a bit low, and took the tube a few times. Then yesterday and today I've been doing shorter rides at a very moderate pace and it's been great! I don't know about the rest of you, but I have an inbuilt need to push myself as far as I can - trying to build up speed, get past people, and yes, I admit it, outpace other cyclists (sometimes).

Proof that Gregory Isaacs has been near a bike - but it's not
clear if "slow down the pace" is about cycling
So how nice to deliberately slow down the pace, travel behind people and stay behind them, not really even break a sweat. I'm getting ready to jump on my bike soon, and I'm really looking foward to taking it slow. But I still promise not to position myself right in front of someone at a traffic lights who looks much faster than me ... (see previous entries)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Depressed by cycling ...

Cycling adds time on to my journey, not least because I have to shower and change when I get to work. I don't spend enough time at work, I don't spend enough time at home. Sometimes I worry that cycling is the only thing with any flexibility and I should stop, or decrease. Two hours a day... too much? Can anyone give me a pep talk?

Monday, 2 November 2009

Every now and then, stop ... it'll make your commute much better

I've been meaning for a few days to stop and take a photo of Hyde Park. There's a particular spot where you just catch a glimpse into it and it looks like a paradise on earth, especially on a clear crisp day like today. Anyway - in spite of the fact that the bit where you have to pull over is tricky because it's on a fast road - and also annoying because it's right at the bottom of a hill so you have to start from scratch when you get going again, I did stop, and I did take a picture. It probably doesn't do it justice, but see what you think:

Note - saddle showing clear signs of wear and tear - see previous entries 
And while we're on interesting news - I spotted another person wearing a riding hat today. This time I'm pretty sure it was a real riding hat being used for cycling, rather than a fashionable cycling hat. And I spotted one of those really trendy hats I've talked about before. If you're wondering what the hell I'm on about, here's a link to previous entries on the topic.