Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Extreme nose blowing and a new invention - the "third sock"

This is a compilation of odd observations: 

* Up til this morning, I have never seen a person blow their nose on a leaf.

* In the park, I saw a couple - on two bikes - holding hands as they biked along. Dangerous, but nice.

* And strangest of all. I saw a police car flagging down a car which had gone late through red lights. Fancy that - the police actually stopping a car for a minor traffic infringement.

~ I also have a tricky question. A certain rather delicate part of me got pretty much frozen on my way in this morning. I'm wondering if anyone has yet invented a ... "third sock"?~

Monday, 22 November 2010

Give your paniers a pit-stop. Cycling tip du jour, Monday

My bicycle paniers were a disgrace. "Stuff" gets shoved in at the beginning and end of every day. I'm good at removing clothes and food, but bits of paper, batteries, lights, old puncture repair bits, inner tubes, remnants of burst sweet packets, plastic bags, coins, straps, nuts and bolts - you name it - remains in there from week to week.

Can anyone else claim to have more "rubbish" in their
paniers? Source: karmacycle
I eventually got driven to distraction and grasped the nettle. I simply tipped everything out on my desk (sorry, colleagues), emptied any nasty bits straight into the bin, and sorted through it all.

In reality it only took about 15 minutes and was quite satisfying. Among my finds was a £45 credit note with E Chamberlain bikes, so I made a profit too.

Come on cyclists of the world. You owe it to yourself to empty your paniers too.  Does anyone have more stuff in their paniers than me?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Who's been struck in the head by a pigeon, while biking? It happened to me this morning

I can't resist telling you this one - perhaps it's a common occurrence for cyclists.

I was cycling gently through Victoria Park this morning, near the lake by the Pavilion. My 3 year-old daughter was in the child-seat behind me.

Suddenly a flock of pigeons flew across the path - towards the water. I was right in the middle of the flock. Normally you'd expect them to avoid you. That's what birds do, isn't it?

Lovely photo by professional photographer
Simon de Glanville - Source
Well, one came thwacking into my head. Luckily I was wearing my helmet, which took the brunt of the hit. It didn't really hurt, but was pretty shocking. And unusual, I would have thought.

A quick query on Twitter was inconclusive about whether people get hit reguarly.

But this was revealing:

almacdSE1 @karmacycle I get pigeoned a lot in east London. Round Aldgate. Odd.
Anyway, if you have anything to add about the subject of being hit by birds while biking, please add to this blog by hitting the comment button!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Don't bother changing your cycle clothes - cycling tip du jour, Tuesday

Nicole Jackson at the office in her cycling clothes
Photograph: Martin Godwin/
Source - article about forgetting clothes

I've done this by mistake today, but quite like it. If you're not too stinky and not too wet from your ride into work, why not just keep your cycling clothes on all day? Today I had a few informal meetings and no-one seemed to mind my get-up. In fact it triggered off a few conversations about cycling and how we should set a work-place trend to wear cycling gear. Make all those people in smart clothes look out of place!

If nothing else, the impression you leave is that you're rather sporty. Useful for closing that deal?

The creators of this blog accept no liability in the event of employee dismissal, clients deciding to go with alternative offers, being laughed at during meetings, having noses held during workplace encounters, or generally any other ill effects associated with wearing of aforementioned clothes in the workplace.

But go on - give it a go. And tell us how you get on.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Monday. How to stay warm on your bike

Any soldier will tell you that the sure way to demoralise an army is for the men and women of the forces to have cold, wet feet.

Cyclists and soldiers need
dry warm feet. Source
Personally, I'm a complete wimp about my hands - the moment they start getting cold, I'm misery.

And the final part of the anatomy - ears. I once arrived in Canada in the midwinter with boots and a coat, but nothing around my ears. I practically passed out with ear-pain before I'd gone a block.

So, cyclists, now that it's getting "proper cold", the key bits of gear, in my view, are:

- some combination on your feet to keep warm - thermal socks, tough shoes/boots and ideally waterproofing
- good gloves (I've got my eye now on some Sealskinz, said to be fully waterproof too)
- ear cover. I've got a tube of material which normally goes round my neck, but can be lifted up to the head to go around the old lug-holes.

There you go. The rest of the body generally can get pretty warm just by the effort of cycling, assuming you've got something half decent to stop the wind.

May I recommend that for a nice reminder of how cycling in the winter can actually be possibly more saitsfying than in the summer, have a look at ibikelondon's excellent article "Are you ready to cycle through winter?"

Friday, 12 November 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Friday. How to calm down after a near miss or angry incident

They should be our friends! Source
Motorcycle News
I needn't dwell on the details, but I had a terrifying moment yesterday - a little bit of politeness on my part - allowing a fellow cyclist to go ahead of me - with me slowing right down - nearly saw me mown down by a motorbike rider who'd shot off from nearby lights at full throttle. Of course he swore at me because as far as he was concerned I was a xxxxing idiot in his way and hadn't got out of the road.

OK, we can talk about blame and whether I shouldn't have done the polite thing, whether the design of the road is right, whether motorbikes should take more care etc etc. But the issue for me is - how can I prevent something like that eating away at me, and stop me simmering with resentment....? How should you calm down after an incident like that?

A few responses from friends on Twitter certainly helped:

muppixdotnet @karmacycle learn to ride a motorcycle yourself, then surround yourself by typical cyclists. Guarantee you'll learn a lot.

lardychap @thefixedfactor @karmacycle zen. Works for me. That and the knowledge that being angry doesn't bother the other person at all. Fixed helps

moriati23 @karmacycle Several days of bitter resentment and fantasising about 'Great Escape' style motorcycle + wire revenge is the only way to go.

thefixedfactor @karmacycle Zen. There are a million near misses in London every day. There are two million angry people. You don't have to be one of them.

sussexlad @karmacycle ah, motorcyclists. always surprising how they are not our side isn't it?
It's so darn difficult to stop yourself getting angry, but I think the Zen answer - or, as I've recently put it - calm-a-cycle - is the only way to go. Somehow, to remember that you are not alone, that it does not help to get angry, that there is nothing you can usefully do, all helps. In a slightly defeatist way.
I've also wondered, on a more constructive note, if us cyclists should in some clever way join forces with motorbike folks - online of course - and share a few experiences and thoughts (in a nice way) so we get a better understanding of needs/priorities/fears.
Does anyone know if a such a forum/place exists? Would us cyclists be welcome on a motorbike board?
Anyway, I'm feeling much more zen-like this morning after a nice ride in today - so have a good weekend all, and remember - calm-a-cycle

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Thursday. Spotting and dealing with sudden gusts

The UK is currently being battered by high winds. In the cities, the wind is barreling through the streets, then eddying in unexpected directions when it hits a brick wall or enormous building. It comes in waves and can be frightening - especially if you're on a bike and being blown around the road in traffic.

On my journey this morning, I realised that I could to some extent anticipate the arrival of a sudden gust. On the canal it was easy as you can see the water rippling darkly as the wind approaches. On the roads you can do it a bit too.

Look for "tells" - the trees and bushes suddenly coming to life. Pedestrians nearby being blown suddenly, umbrellas exploding inside out. Puddles can give clues - they'll ripple too as the wind gets close.

How to cope ...

The key thing is to use the warning to take evasive action. I don't necessarily mean avoiding the gust, but making sure you've got plenty of room on the road around you. This is because if you do actually get blown to one side, it won't be too dangerous as you are in space, not right next to a car.

Also - remember that you can actually stop! A lot of cyclists seem to think it's beneath their pride to stop and wait for a bit - but if the wind is horrendous and the traffic is terrible, why not pull over and wait for a bit - or walk along the pavement and take a quieter route?

I suspect that if you're clever you can chose roads where you know the wind will be consistent rather than gusty - e.g. a long thin corridor type road. But I'm not that clever.

Generally, when the weather's like this, I would go for the smaller roads where possible and be even more careful about giving yourself plenty of time - and plenty of room from other vehicles.

If all else fails. attach a sail to your bike:

I blogged about sail bikes
in Sept last year ...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Wednesday: Never trust people to give-way

This means: give way to traffic
on major road. A full guide can be
found on the Highway Code
Had a nasty little scare on the journey in this morning. I was cycling along George Street just West of Marylebone High Street. Manchester Street was coming up on my left, where there's a set of give-way markings - meaning, of course, that anything coming out of Manchester Street should give way or "cede" to those on George Street. Taking the sign at its word, I cycled past it.

But to my horror, a pretty enormous truck, clearly belting down Manchester Street, appeared on my left, and seemed not to be stopping. I started shouting and waving my hand, and he did actually come to a rest, but with the cab of his truck about 2-3 feet extended beyond the give-way sign. He did nearly hit me, and I'm still not clear whether he actually intended to stop, or just habitually stops beyond the dotted line.

Whatever happens, it led me to think that a good cyclist should not go close to the curb, and indeed should be aiming wherever possible to cycle in the middle of the road so if a car or truck doesn't stop properly, you've a fighting chance of being seen.

And the other thing I learned - just because there's a give-way marking, it doesn't mean they're going to stop. Assume the worst.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Tuesday. How to arrive at a set of traffic lights.

This is kind of light-hearted but I suspect there's more than a grain of truth in it.

First of all, ask yourself: are you a slow, medium or fast cyclist? Are you expecting to pull away from the lights quickly or slowly?

If you are in the medium or slow category, and there's a fellow cyclist ahead of you waiting at a light - and he or she looks like they might be quick - don't edge in front of them. They were there first and will be annoyed at having to get around you.

Now of course it's not a hard and fast rule, and you can't judge a book by its cover. Someone wearing lycra head to toe might still be slow. And what if you're medium and the other person looks medium too? Or both slow?

But anyway, it is worth thinking about. And there's a serious point too - if someone is having to pull around you, they may be in the path of a car coming from behind.

I would also add:

- don't try to sneak down beside a bus or lorry, especially if you don't know how soon the lights will change
- it's generally polite not to hover right in front of a motorbike, especially if there's room elsewhere for you

Monday, 8 November 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Monday: post-ride bike care

Most of us are so relieved to get to our destination - not to mention probably being late for something - that we lock up the trusty bike and rush off.

The poor old bike, meanwhile, sits there, perhaps pining for its owner, while the water from the rain (especially on a day such as today) slowly seeps into every possible joint, opening, corner, nut, bolt, etc etc.

A trusty rag. Source - Bike Radar which has an excellent 
guide to cleaning bikes

Solution - spend just 4 minutes with an old rag (I have an old T-shirt of my wife's which does sterling service) wiping off the worst of the water, paying particular attention to the chain area. It's mucky work, but will pay off when you don't get squeaky rusting parts down there.

Then, hang up rag to dry, and you're off to work or wherever feeling vaguely smug.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Tuesday. How to stick out your hand and indicate

Bicycle indication appears to be a dying art. Yet if ever I'm driving a car, I find it incredibly useful to know if:

1) a bike's suddenly going to turn right
2) which exit they're planning on getting off the roundabout on
3) if the cyclist is planning on nipping round a slowing down bus or lorry
4) generally, any information is gold dust in terms of knowing what they're about to do

Well, I was thinking about this quite a bit today as I biked across London, and was again struck by how many cyclists don't bother. It's actually quite easy once you've practiced a bit, so a few ideas:

Looking back and signalling: Source
 - in a car we're told "mirror, signal, manoeuvre". We don't normally have the mirror bit, so I'd generally advocate: "glance back, signal, manoeuvre".
- indicate giving the maximum notice
- stick that arm out boldly and with confidence, don't do it half-heartedly
- if you're sure the car behind you has clocked you and knows what you're about to do, start your turn with confidence
- there's always a tricky bit when you start turning - this is the moment to grab both handle-bars. You DO NOT want to start your manoeuvre with only one hand!

When I'm doing a little nip around a stationary bus or something, I try to incorporate a friendly wave at the driver behind me too - though arguably this is taking things too far. But it's good to acknowledge that a driver has often slowed down to let you pull out.

I'm often also heard to mutter "thanks for not killing me" but I tend to keep that to myself.

Good luck. KC

PS there's a good site Montgomery Bicycle Class which gives some good tips on this

Beautiful London morning in autumn; cycling through leaves in Victoria Park

Nuff said?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Monday: look behind you!

On my ride in this morning, I was struck by how few cyclists seem to know what's going on behind them. On a personal note it's irritating because fellow cyclists might not know that you're trying to overtake - and they're taking up half the road because of their position.

On a safety note, it's important to know how many monstrous trucks or impatient vans are revving up behind you, so you can be prepared to take the necessary action.

Cars, motorbikes, vans and trucks find it reassuring to know that you the cyclist are aware of their presence behind you.

And I've seen it argued that if a car or truck can see your face occasionally, they recognise you as a human being not just a bicycle, and may behave better.

Don't take this to extremes. Looking forwards is important too. I'm talking occasional but regular glances back, not riding with your head pointing the wrong way ...

Useful links:

Rather pompous sounding article but good tips on "Vehicular Cycling" at Wikipedia
There's a fear-inducing American site called Bicycle Safe, worth a read
Very long but decent article about bike safety by Myra VanInwegen