* Prices may differ from that shown
The crowds at the Olympics have certainly not been as multicultural as that opening ceremony, very much white and middle-class, tickets awarded on post code and salary levels by the looks, the velodrome very much in that category. But it has been bloody amazing in there and produced some of the best Olympic stories so far.
'The Medal Factory', as some hack in the Mail called it, has been the place to be and history making all the way, Team GB medaling in all but one of the events and taking a record seven gold's. Chris Hoys British Olympian record six gold's and the shambling Victoria Pendleton provided most of the high drama and the Olympic retirees foolishly didn't mention anyone shooting them if they go anywhere near a bike again. I think 35-year-old Hoy is done and will pretend he will go on to help promote the Commonwealth Games in Scotland two years from now but back of gracefully, whereas Pendleton needs the sport to keep herself together as she is that shambolic and scatty off the bike and so the road race may beckon in sexy Rio for Sexy Victoria as its all she knows. The rest of the team looks in rude health and the World Cycling Federation will have to chip off most of the events in 2016 to stop GB dominating again in the velodrome. We are simply invincible.
It was all about Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins in Olympic cycling from day one, Hoy chasing Redgrave's five gold's and Wiggins looking to set the all time Olympic medal haul record for British Olympians.
The men's road race was the first big free show of the Games as hundreds of thousands of people lined the nine lap route in N. West London, many to see the new Tour de France winner. But it was not to be and team SKY GB didn't have enough to reel back the final breakaway on the last but one circuit and an athlete from Kazakhstan took the gold, a man who had failed a drug test and served a long drug ban for his indiscretion, a Sydney 2000 bronze medalists, not unusual in cycling of course. Talk about a mood killer. All the countries were clearly working against Team Sky and so we had this unforeseen winner. The road race is unique in that it's a 100% team effort to set up an individual and the other team members don't get a medal when their guy does make the top three and so you have to work for and with other nations to place your man with little reward, which often means helping the opposition out if your person or even country can't win. The other teams simply didn't want to help Team GB drag the peloton back to set up the sprinters and so Mark Cavendish dead in the water. Cavendish has already talked about leaving Team Sky after losing the limelight in the Tour de France and I can't see him riding another Olympics because of that. Bradley Wiggins is the man now and almost nailed on for the BBC Sports Personality of the year. Bradley likes his beer and the occasionally cigar and if he wasn't cycle racing he would be on his beloved Lambretta or in the pub, a true Mod, those sideburns and all.
The boys couldn't deliver in the road race but the girls did, pretty Lizzie Armistead latching on to a three girl breakaway on 27k and securing the first medal of the games for Team GB as the three girls kept that gap from the peloton, the incentive to work hard to secure a medal each. The Dutch favorite Marianne Voss won the sprint from Armistead but a brilliant ride by the British girl never-the-less in driving rain to get silver. She took the opportunity of the publicity of the medal to criticize the lack of funding for women's sports and cycling. But if women don't pay to watch women's sport then there will be no money babe. What we do know is thousands of little girls will be dreaming of emulating her and not Paris Hilton now, which has to be a good thing.
Bradley Wiggins (actually born in Belgium) delivered in the time trial some three days later, his specialist race, 42 seconds ahead of the second place man Tony Martin from America to take gold, wing man Froome (born in Kenya) of Britain again in the shadows for bronze. It was an amazing day to witness, me and my brother driving down to West London at the last to take in the majesty of Wiggins, a true working-class hero. Wiggins is now our most decorated British Olympian after passing Redgrave's six medals (he got a forgotten bronze) and the only man to hold both the Tour de France and the Olympic Time Trial title at the same time. If he wins in Rio four years from now then he will be a true Olympic great.
So on to the Velodrome and those super streamlined bikes, 25 grand a pop no less. Sexy and loveable oddball Victoria Pendleton was first up in the team sprint, but a catastrophic technical rules error seeing the British trio disqualified. She is a bit flakey and this was a bad error. Her dad Mick was almost an Olympic cyclist and like Agassi, Victoria admits she doesn't really like her sport and living her dad's career vicariously. But the five times World Champion and two times Olympian gold medalist is a class act and gutsy rider and always performs. Falling in love with her Team GB cycling coach hasn't helped things in the British cycling team, a strict 'no no' rule in cycling by all-accounts, getting her ostracized from the team for a while.
Chris Hoy, on the other hand, did not muck up under pressure and blasted his trio in the same event to gold number five with a world record in front of an amazing crowd. There was more controversy when team member Phil Hyndes, who is more German than British, seemed to suggest he had deliberately fell off his bike to force a restart. Jason Kenny was the other team member and taking the place of Hoy for individual gold in the singles event.
The velodrome is a brand new and stunning bespoke arena and very fast and the British team were soon dominating, Dani King, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott earning the 3,000m WR of 3.15.669 seconds, and that just the semi-final.
It was soon gold for Pendleton in the Kieran (the one with the funny man on the motorbike) and gold for the men's pursuit four of Ed Clancy, Geraint Thomas, Steven Burke and Peter Kennaugh, who chipped another second of their world record in the final that they set in qualifying. After Beijing the IOC tried to stop GB dominating the cycling by dropping certain sprint events as they have a policy of not letting countries dominate events. It didn't work, team GB's tech boys and girls getting to work with every pair and four braking a timed world record so far.
Gold again in the velodrome, Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell clocking their sixth straight WR to win the Team Pursuit, gold number five for team GB. Its technology that gives us the edge but the athletes our super fit and prepared. These medalists were not drug cheats but athletes delirious with their medals for those four long years of training. The night was lightly tarred by Paul McCartney having his Cliff Richard moment. He cuts a sad figure now.
Ed Clancy picked up a bronze on Sunday in the Omnimun race, the pentathlon for cyclist, a surprisingly quiet day in the velodrome for team GB as far as medals go.
Jason Kenny has serious pressure on his young soldiers after the great Chris Hoy was dropped to hand him the sprint event. Now the events have been trimmed it means just one national rider per event, like asking America to drop Phelps for Lochte or Wiggins for Froome. Kenny blasted one nil up against world champion Burgas for a 2-0 victor in the best of three, the Olympic champion in the blue ribbon sprint. It was gold number 6 in the velodrome. The medal factory delivers again.
An outstanding Omnimun by little Laura Trott delivered another gold medal number on the final day, and a sensational one too, coming from third to first in the final event of the 500m sprint, the defending world champion to. She is cute and nearly didn't come to be, born with a collapsed lung and now double Olympic champion, surely taking over from Pendleton as the new glamour girl of the sport.
Chris Hoy does it again, the greatest Olympian ever with 6 gold's! He was brilliant in the Kieren but for a moment he didn't look like he would get it but passed Levi on the final straight as the place erupted, holding the sprinters line at the critical moment. It would be gold number seven for Team GB in the Velodrome to surpass Beijing. I wouldn't ant to meet this guy in the cycle lane in your local town.
It was Mears V Pendleton again, the Aussie bulldog v the cute kitten, a huge rivalry here. Pendleton won race one by 1000th of a second, the difference between these two. Vic had called her an old cow in the media. Mears is all muscle whilst Victoria is all determination and grace. But Viccy was disqualified from race one for a sprinter lane violation, clearly elbowed by the Aussie into reacting to cause the infringement in the first place. World cycling is not happy with Team GBs dominance and this was their chance to snatch a gold medal back, Mears winning race two and so that gold after Pendleton folded. Viccy has very bad skin and so maybe cosmetic commercials to come in her retirement. No ones perfect.
It's hard to fault the last week and apart from the ticket sales issues and who was getting them it's been in the top three sports of the Games for me. I like cycling as it's not too posh and even though Hoy went to public school most of the racers are from regular backgrounds and so allowed to do great things with their lives through the sport. I read somewhere that Eton won more medals than the whole of India in Beijing because of the dominance of sit down sports medals in team GB, where the public schools excel. I also read that Yorkshire is tenth in the medals table with five gold's. Millfield School in Somerset has its own equestrian centre! But cycling is cool and role models like Wiggins and the giggly Laura Trott are great for the health of the nation and so lets have a velodrome in every city and town across the land! Now where are my cycling clips?
Final Medal Table
1 - Great Britain --- 9 medals
(7) Gold (1) Silver (1) Bronze
2 - Australia --- 5 medals
(1) Gold (1) Silver (3) Bronze
3 - Germany --- 3 Medals
(1) Gold (1) Silver (1) Bronze
As a child I was always out on my bicycle with my friends playing The Famous Five. I was usually Anne but sometimes I would happily take on the role of George but my dog had to be of the stuffed kind. My bike was very heavy and chunky with big wheels. It had three gears and a basket on the front on which I placed my sandwiches, but not peanut butter yuk. We were lucky in those days to be able to cycle off for miles without an adult, leaving in the morning and returning for my evening meal.
On getting married and having children my cycle frenzy continued. This time I had upgraded to five gears, but still the bike was heavy and cumbersome. Instead of a basket on the front I now had a big plastic yellow seat on the back with a small child sitting in it. My husband and I cycled for miles on our big bikes with big plastic yellow seats and small children, it was a great way to keep fit and the children always enjoyed themselves. As soon as they were old enough they were riding alongside us on their own bikes. We were lucky to be living in Germany and thus the cycle paths and cycle routes made it a most enjoyable time for us all. Unfortunately these children grew to be teenagers and no longer wanted to be seen cycling with Mum and Dad.
But in all honesty I had also moved on and was learning to ride a motorbike, on which I passed my test and funnily enough our children were back sitting behind us on our bikes. It was obviously cool to be seen on the back of a motorbike with your Mum and Dad in the driving seat.
Motor biking is great fun but not the best way to get fit and not so good for the environment. My children eventually left home, they are now both well in their 20's and they both own decent bicycles on which they have travelled miles. So, eighteen months ago I went online and ordered myself a birthday present from Wiggle!
I bought a Kona Deluxe which cost me about £400, I bought it on an interest free buy now pay in 12 months scheme with Wiggle just having to pay a 10% deposit at the time and I think I paid an arrangement fee of about £25. I remember informing my daughter of my purchase and I think she was a wee bit jealous as her reaction was "That's a bit expensive, you had better us it" .............YES MUM! She has since had to eat her words, it's the best thing I have bought in a long time and I use it a lot.
It is a ladies Hybrid bike which is designed for general purpose or commuting on roads or paths which are paved or unpaved and certain trails. The hybrid takes its features from both a road bike and a mountain bike making them great for both commuting and leisure use. The tyres are wider than a road bike, but are still built for speed nevertheless the wider rim allows them to work effectively on trails and gravel paths. My friend has a road bike which is fantastic for speed and she flies uphill ahead of me but she is terrified going downhill as she feels her bike wobbling, and if the surface isn't smooth she really struggles.
My bike has 24 gears which I am still fully trying to master. I am not going to explain the technical aspects of the bike because I don't understand them myself but apparently the type of disc brakes and other little technical nicnacs attached to this bike are viewed favourably by those in the know.
I remember riding my bike one day and a teenage boy shouted "cool, that's a Kona" I felt really hip and trendy but didn't really know why. I have had a look on a couple of websites and found this information about the company who made my bike on Wikipedia.
Kona Bikes is a bicycle company in Ferndale, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. They specialise in high-performance mountain bikes, road racing and touring bicycles. The company name comes from the owners' love of Kailua-Kona in Hawaii. The company was founded in 1988 by Jacob Heilbron, Dan Gerhard and early MTB champion Joe Murray.
Due to their love of Hawaii they started out by naming the bikes with Hawaiian and volcanic names like the Cinder Cone, Explosif Hei Hei (Hawaiian for "race"), Hahannah (Hawaiian for "hot"), Fire Mountain, Hot, Lava Dome and Kilauea (released in 1993 and named after the Hawaiian volcano). Kona also started to use tongue-in-cheek humour in their names, such as Stinky and Coiler. Some of the earliest full suspension bikes were named the Sex One and Sex Two. Those names were apparently discontinued after complaints. However, when nobody complained about bikes called Stab and Shred, Kona joked that violence was more acceptable than sex.
Kona have a great philosophy of listening to their riders and building bikes on need rather than what the market dictates. I must say I am delighted with mine, it is light easy to manoeuvre and comfortable the only problem I do have is with the gear change on my left hand it is quite stiff and I do get a sore thumb if I have to change frequently.
It is really important if you purchase a bike you also purchase a helmet. Having worked as a nurse I have witnessed the results of cyclists not wearing helmets. My son has come a cropper on his bike a number of times and thankfully he always wears a helmet or I think he would be in a sorry state. I know they don't do much for your hair but believe me I would rather have flattened hair than a flattened head!
Other equipment I have found useful are a pair of glasses. I received a free pair with my bike but gave them to my daughter as I thought they were only for the young, hip and trendy not an oldie like me. Two weeks later I bought myself a pair of DHB triple lens glasses which as they say have three different lenses; grey for sunny conditions, pink for overcast and blue for cloudy conditions or if you are like me it depends on the colour scheme of my outfit. The glasses are wrap around and sit comfortably on your head the only thing I am now finding is they can be a wee bit sore on your nose if you wear them for long periods. The glasses are fantastic for keeping dust and bugs out of your eyes. I bought them from Wiggle and I see they still have them for about £25.
Gloves are another great must have again to protect your hands from flying gravel but also from the cold. I have both winter and summer gloves, neither was too expensive.
I have also purchased a cycle jacket and trousers from the Altura Range which are both wind and shower proof. You don't have to buy special jacket and trousers as long as you can be seen. My clothing has night vision reflectors however when I bought the jacket they only had it in light grey which I didn't feel stood out enough. I now have a bright raspberry jacket and my husband wears a high visibility yellow jacket so we can be seen for miles.
My final handy purchase is a camelbak, a hands free hydration system. It is small rucksack which holds a bladder which you fill with water or juice, a drinking tube is attached to the bladder and you place it in a handy position so you can sip away and keep hydrated. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and cost but a lot easier than struggling with a bottle. One tip, do not clean with bleach like my son did and was then violently sick when he next used it. You can buy cleaning products from all cycle accessory shops or I just use Milton.
We also carry a small bag with handy tools and a spare inner tube to be well prepared. I very rarely cycle on my own, I don't commute, it is mainly a leisure activity I do with my family. If I was out on my own and had to change my inner tube I wouldn't have a clue. All my bike care and maintenance is carried out by my husband or son I just jump on and ride it, naughty I know I really should take an interest.
I am thoroughly enjoying cycling again after so many years. I honestly thought I was probably too old and not being the most stable of people (I mean balancing and unsteady not of mind) I thought I would not manage to stay upright. I have been cycling for 18 months and covered hundreds of miles and haven't fallen off once (now I've done it). We take our bikes everywhere. I have cycled in the North of Scotland on roads and trails and down to the Lake District. We bought a trailer for the car so our bikes are a permanent attachment on holiday. I do not cycle in busy cities but some of the roads in the Lake District were quite hairy. Not all car and lorry drivers slow down when they see a cyclist and I have wobbled a bit when they speed past you, I was once nudged by a lorry and couldn't believe that I managed to stay upright. Nonetheless, most of the time it is really enjoyable and there are some fantastic cycle routes around the country. It keeps me so fit, I get lots of fresh air and see the countryside, and you miss so much when you are in the car.
I would love to cycle some longer routes, over a couple of days, such as the coast to coast route from Whitehaven to Sunderland (approx 140 miles). It is something which is in the planning stage at present but I will
definitely do it and might write a review afterwards.
I want to encourage all you guys and girls out there who consider yourself to old to take up a new challenge. Cycling is for anyone, if you feel comfortable with your bike and your equipment, and can stay upright, get out there and enjoy yourselves. I know certain road users do not respect cyclists but then many cyclists do not respect the road. I use the same principles when cycling as I do in my car. I stop at traffic lights, I indicate my manoeuvres, I ride sensibly etc. It's all about respect and having lots of fun!
There are a number of handy websites which I have used for not only my bike purchase but also many accessories.
*****Get on your bikes and enjoy.*****
Thanks for reading
There's a lot to be said for cycling, lots of it by lard-arsed motorists unfortunately.
I'll nail my colours firmly to the mast now. I'm an accredited cycling instructor working for one of the outer London Boroughs, but before you raise an eyebrow and give one of those 'Oh one of THOSE!' looks, I don't mind you knowing that I own two cars and drive a modest 10,000 miles a year. I'd love to travel by train on long journeys but the fares? Who seriously thinks that I'd be prepared to pay £40 for a single from Waterloo to Crewkerne when I can get there and back on half a tank of diesel, oh yes, and take four people with me?
Since the "July Seven" bombings, there has been a sudden and sustained upsurge in interest in cycling, especially in the London area. It's already bad enough in The Underground in summer without the perceived risk of being blown apart or maimed too, and firms like Brompton, makers of, in my opinion, just about the best folding bike have never looked back. Of course, I'm biased; I've got one, and it stays in my car boot for all those occasions when I really can't get all or part of the way to work that day by bike.
The one thing I hear time and time again as a reason for not cycling in cities is that it's "so dangerous". It isn't. I've been hurt worse in a car crash than any vehicular contact I've ever had in 40-odd years of on-road cycling, and no, I've only just recently started wearing a helmet, and then partly because it's expected of me. Sure, I've fallen off in "one vehicle accidents", but you can't learn to ride a bike, or ski or skate for that matter without falling - if you're not prepared to take a knock, don't even start. Even joggers trip over.
As well as being able to ride a good line slowly*, you need to be able to look behind you, largely over your right shoulder, although both directions are eventually needed. You also need to be able to signal, or 'ride one-handed' as it might be viewed by the nervous. If I had to choose between signalling (looks like you know what you're doing), and looking back (impresses no-one), I'd opt for the latter every time. After all, if you look back and there's no-one there, to whom were you going to signal? If you signal and just 'do it', how do you know it was safe to do so?
*Any fool can ride quickly and steadily. Riding smoothly whilst at low speed is a skill needed in traffic if you are ever going to reap the full advantage of riding something 'thin' and get to the front of the queue every time, and on approach to such things as Give Way lines if you are not to keep on being brought to a dead stop.
You need a bike that fits. There are various theories here, mostly relating to how, or even if, you can touch the ground with your feet, and how much of your foot should be touching. My own preference for commuting is 'toes of both feet on the ground' whilst seated. However, some bikes have pedals situated further off the ground, notably off-road bikes with their need for more clearance, so these may leave you with legs not fully deployed when pedalling if you adopt my stance. This is very tiring and will convince you that you are just not 'up to it'. All I can say is, try out a lot before getting one, and don't depend on large chain stores to advise you properly; they've got a truck load out-back to shift. There's no real need to be afraid of second-hand bikes, they don't rust through like cars, especially aluminium ones, but take a cyclist with you. Check that the diamond-symmetry of the frame is still a diamond, not a trapezium! If you push a bike straight and vertical by the saddle, check that the steering doesn't keep flopping to the same side. These are both signs that it's taken a bash.
Another measurement often forgotten is how far you sit from the handlebars and whether this suits you. Too near can encourage your knees to hit the bars when steering sharply, forcing you to freewheel round corners with one leg splayed out. As with a car, you don't want to be too far removed from the steering, so a balance is needed. Most people are aware that saddle height can be adjusted, but look also for any scope to move the saddle backwards and forwards. Most are on two rails these days, and have a modicum of adjustment.
My own preference for handlebar height is to be level with the saddle. This isn't always achievable, especially with 'ladies' models' which are frequently built with a lower saddle to cater for the generally lower average height of the rider and higher handlebars, giving a quite imperious pose to the rider.
As for handlebars themselves, I don't like the racing 'dropped' design for traffic use. To my mind, they encourage me not to look where I'm going. Either that or give me neck-ache like 'ladies who've just had their hair done', doing lengths of breaststroke!
It really depends on how far you're prepared to walk if you get a problem, (doesn't it Kate?) notably a puncture. If you only ride a mile or two each way, then you probably don't need to carry anything much. My Brompton folder is a case in point - I carry a 10-way 'box spanner', a set of hexagonal drive 'Allen Keys' masquerading as a kind of pen-knife affair, with built in screwdrivers and that's about it. Notably, I don't intend fixing a flat when out on my Brompton - I've only ever had one, and then I came home on the bus! For my 'main bike', I add a spare inner tube (preferable to doing a road-side repair), although I do carry a repair outfit too as this gives me the tools to lever a tyre off. I also have a small stock of those electrician's cable ties, useful for securing recalcitrant mudguards, making citizen's arrests and such like. This selection I contain in a tool roll along with all the 'proper' spanners, screwdrivers and wrenches needed when presenting myself for work at a school.
Oh yes and don't forget a decent pump for the type of valves your bike uses. There are generally two types in current use, the Schrader (car type) or Presta - more suited to higher pressures and leaves a daintier hole in the rim which is important if they are already slim.
CYCLING IN TRAFFIC
Personally I have less of a problem with this than what you might perceive as an idyll, a 'nice quiet ride in the country'. Bear in mind that country roads often have 60 mph speed limits, quite often impaired vision thanks to hedgerows, bends aping the feudal system of field boundaries and plenty of opportunities for having to swerve around pedestrians at no notice at all. To cap this all the locals exceed the speed limit, except when dragging the muck-spreader out of one field and a mile down the road to the next and the roads are generally quite narrow.
Compare this to cities. Wider roads, traffic crawling with an average speed of 12 mph (30 limit? The chance to go that fast would be a fine thing!), and lots of ways to get to the front of the queue. Hell, there might even be a bike lane, but only 'might'. Sod's Law clearly states that it WILL disappear just where it's most needed.
The novice venturing out for the first time ever, or perhaps for the first time in years will probably try to ride about one foot out from the kerb, in some vain effort to keep out of everyone's way. Wrong. The closer you ride to the kerb, the closer motorists come to you. For some reason, and it works, (I've tested the theory myself when driving), the further out from the kerb you ride, the more room you get given. Riding at least a yard/meter from the kerb has two effects. One, the driver behind has to wait for a proper opportunity to overtake, and then two, they leave you the same margin again because it's then safe for them to straddle the central white line. OK, some drivers don't but as a rule, I find it works. Curiously, the better protected you are in terms of hi-viz jackets, helmets etc, the closer they come to you. If I were you, I'd wobble a lot - that'll keep them away a sure as shark-repellent in Birmingham.
The current wisdom is that a cyclist should adopt the dominant position in a traffic lane, especially at junctions (stop, give-way lines what have you). Your own safety is something you need to be selfish with, and not feel you need to apologise for. It can be highly dangerous to let another vehicle share your lane at the lights, and getting trapped beneath the wheels of a left-turning 'artic' is a well-documented way of getting yourself killed. This might sound gruesome, but it's so easily avoided. If you see a big truck signalling left (or just looking like that's where it's going next), just don't get next to it, hold back. Simples!
As an adjunct to this 'dominant position' advice, I would however make one plea. For crying out loud, get a move on. Look like you mean business. You'll be a lot steadier too as your speed increases.
DOING A TURN
For obvious reasons, left turns are easier, especially turning into a side road - here there's no obligation to stop except for a pedestrian already committed to crossing the road. This of course includes those going the same direction as you, and therefore with their back to you, texting as they go, or with their 'hoody' fully deployed, neither of which encourage them to look back and wait on the kerb!
In the run up to such a left turn, it's important to check behind, signal, and then as you turn make what we're calling a 'Life-Saver Look', a term borrowed from the days of motorcycles having no mirrors. If there is a long vehicle making the turn with you, it's better to know about it than have it cut you off as you turn. Of course, if you're approaching a Stop or Give Way line as you turn INTO a main road, you need to look off to your right just as you would when crossing on foot. You can't look too much but if you apply everything you know from being a pedestrian and/or a driver, then looking for 'where the traffic's coming from' shouldn't come as any real surprise.
In the case of right turns, it's especially important to position your bike so that 'body language' gives away your next move. Unlike a car, you can't signal forever - little things like needing both brakes and having to steer get in the way! A position more towards the centre of the road, but still dominating the lane is what's needed here, unless of course, it's a multi-lane road, in which case, it's reasonable to expect other road users to be passing you on the left. Despite a growing feeling of agoraphobia, this is the right place to be; showing what you're going to do next and wearing hi-viz just where people can see you are always best. Please, please, NEVER turn right from a left-hand kerb. If you find yourself in this position from sheer weight of traffic and/or cowardice, find a crossing, or somewhere else to do a U-turn and come back to make a left instead. After all, if the road is that busy, there's also going to be somewhere for pedestrians to cross. Sink your pride, get off and be a pedestrian for two minutes. No-one said you've got to do everything a car driver can. I try to, but then I'm out to make a point!
If like many cyclists, your preference is for quieter side roads, watch out for the proliferation of parked cars. Irrespective of who's behind you and how impatient they sound, always leave room for a carelessly-opened car door as you pass stationary vehicles. Don't weave in and out of cars parked quite close together, but do pull over a bit when you get the chance to let the person behind you past. After all, they're bound to be much more important than you if their apparent hurry is anything to go by! Anyway, life is so much nicer without someone blipping their gas-pedal behind you.
NEVER MIND THE BUZZCOCKS
When you are out on your bike, you are in control, we hope, of a bona fide road vehicle. Income Tax and Council Tax pay for roads, contrary to what many motorists will opine in that "At least I PAY for the bloody roads" tone of voice.
It's a speech that I love to give when I get given that old flannel. If you really want to complete the set and counter the old "Well at least I'm insured!" riposte, it only costs less than £40 a year to be a member of The Cycle Touring Club, which bestows upon you a good deal of third party insurance and legal protection. You also get a nice magazine several times a year!
To be fair, your road vehicle status does also behove you to meet certain regulations. A red rear reflector is needed to comply with the minimum requirements - something to do with showing which way you are facing in the dark. Lighting is only needed if you venture out when lighting is required. However, it's sensible to have some as in winter especially, this can include during heavy rain at mid-day, or even around school-chucking-out time with or without the optional rain. You are now allowed flashing lights to be fitted to your bike. Previously you could festoon your own body or rucksack as you saw fit, but your bike's lights had to be non-flashing. Now, as long as the brilliance complies with the law, flashing is back with a vengeance. LED lighting has revolutionised this area, with as little a 3 watts being all that's needed even to see where you're going in unlit streets. With this comes a huge improvement in battery life, so dynamos are not anywhere near as popular as they used to be.
Unless you ride a 'fixy', a fixed wheel bike with only one gear ratio and no freewheel, you must have 'two means of stopping', normally taken to mean 'two brakes'. It's quite alarming how many kids turn up for our courses on a BMX bike where some genius has actually REMOVED the front brake. Scary.
Your tyres have to meet wear and tear rules, but as far as I'm aware there's no mention of tread depth, or even tread at all, which explains the existence of 'slicks' for cycling. I've had these for a while. Excellent though they were in transforming my bike into something much easier to pedal, wet roundabouts became quite 'interesting'.
LOCK IT OR LOSE IT
Simple enough I guess. Now's not the time to recommend or denigrate any particular kind of bike lock. Pad Lock? Combination Lock? Both better than No Lock! The rigid D-shaped locks look the part, but their rigidity brings with them one salient problem - you can only lock one part of the bike, probably the frame if you've got any sense, to a lamp post, leaving your quick-release wheels to be...errrr....quickly released, just not by you though.
A chain or sturdy cable, whilst possible not as sturdy as the D-Lock, enables you to protect both wheels and frame, making a complete illicit strip-down of your bike less likely.
ALL THE GEAR
Firstly clothing; assume you're going to get rained on, and then you won't be disappointed! Full waterproofs don't need to be expensive or indeed bulky and can easily be carried for when the weather takes a nasty turn. Bring back the cape, that's what I say! Helmets needn't cost the earth either. I buy an £8.95 job from Tescos EVERY year. Jeans are hopeless. They're heavy, and get even heavier with the application of any moisture from whatever source. Some kind of trousers turn-up restraint is needed, either as a clip or in my case, a Velcro cuff pressed into service around my ankle. Whatever you wear, make sure it includes a substantial part of that yucky hi-viz colour, and preferably some silver striping for being seen at night. Likewise, there's no point in going to all this hi-viz trouble just to put a black rucksack on your back. If your budget runs to it, fit a pannier rack and panniers. These frequently double as shoulder bags once removed, and keep the payload down low where it can't affect your balance.
ALL THE GEARS
Yeah, yeah, I know. You've got 27 gears and I've only got 21. Most bikes on sale these days use a ratio system called 'dérailleur' because it's French for de-railer, which is exactly how they change gear, by applying sideways pressure to the chain, making it take the hint and jump off its current track onto another cog. A typical layout would be to have three ratios 'at the front' on the main chain wheel, and seven, eight or nine at the back wheel, hence 21, 24 or 27 gears. However, this is not the same as having 27 gears in the accepted sense. For a start some of the permutations of front-to-back ratios are indiscernible from each other. Also, it's bad news to adopt the lefthand-most* front gear and the righthand-most rear gear (or the other way round). This causes the chain to be well out of line, and in any case gives a similar final ratio as adopting a 'medium gear at both ends'.
*Is that a word? It is now!
I did sit down once and compute all 21 of my gear ratios. In the end I concluded that there are about 9 meaningfully different ones!
Pros? Cheaper to buy. More ratios that you'd need to climb a wall!
Cons? Frequent maintenance needed to keep them clean and adjusted. Can't be changed standing still (quite a bad failing really).
All of which brings me neatly to the subject of hub gears. These don't actually appear to be there at all, there being nothing to see but an enlarged rear axle hub. All of your ratios are what they say they do 'on the tin'. Generally speaking, nine speeds are the most you'll get in the real world of budget cycling; although a German firm called Rohloff does make a fourteen gear hub, with a bomb-proof reputation but a wallet-busting addition to the price of your bike of £695!
Pros? Beyond the odd drip of oil, hub gears are largely maintenance free, which is just as well really because anyone taking one apart is likely to be met with what the Monty Python team described as 'Spring Surprise' when comparing chocolates. Their major advantage is that you can change them standing still, freewheeling or pedalling. Only the latter activity requires you to ease off the pedals a bit. This might not sounds like a huge advantage, but if you ever get brought to a halt abruptly on an uphill stretch whilst in a highish gear, you'll see that it is.
Cons? Make the bike tail-heavy and may be heavier overall. Possibly not as efficient as well-maintained dérailleurs, although anything's better than dirty rusty ones! Some make removing the rear wheel fiddlier.
SUMMONING UP THE NERVE
I can't speak for other authorities, but my own employer runs evening classes for adults who either live or work in the borough, and at three sessions for £15, jolly good value they are too. Here, complete beginners and people who just want their 'hand held' to go round a roundabout can pick and mix what they want from the course. We also take individuals out for specific rides and are getting into after-school clubs at senior schools. Our borough has a second-to-none track record for inviting EVERY year 6 child for on the road training - unless of course they don't turn up for whatever reason.
Your own area may also do something similar. I was surprised to see that my home borough (not my employers) have a comprehensive road safety programme for children and adults, although I think the school sessions are charged for. This is a shame as there's no correlation between ability to pay and road sense!
If you really don't know where to turn for tuition or advice, the CTC web-site (www.ctc.org.uk) lists not only local authority activity but also independent accredited cycling instructors, area by area. I'm not on that list as I get all the work I need from my employer!
In the London area, you can contact the Transport for London web-site www.tfl.org.uk to get maps showing the various preferred ways for cyclists to get around. Up to 9 maps will be sent post-free on request.
Good luck and see you around Hyde Park Corner some time!
THE SAME TIRED OLD DISCLAIMER
None of the opinions expressed here are endorsed specifically by either my employer (good job I didn't mention them!) or the CTC (whoops, I just mentioned them). Some of what I've written is the official party line, some of it is modifed with my own take on the subject.
If you have ever had the misfortune of trying to get a South West Train into London from Clapham Junction (busiest junction in Europe) in the mornings, then you may have an idea of where I am coming from.
For a few years I was a lemming, crammed on to an already overcrowded train. Once I got to Waterloo, I had the pleasure of heading Underground to experience more of the same torture on the Jubilee line.
Once you get into June/July, you can look forward to stifling conditions that an independent watchdog has already confirmed as being unsuitable for animals. People may moan about Britain not having a summer, believe me when you are on a Tube train it is already plenty hot enough.
I haven't even mentioned the delays, the cancellations, the wrong kind of leaves on the track, the signal faliures, the "we're sorry to announce..." etc etc.
Anyhow, I digress. 2 years ago I decided that enough was enough and there had to be a better way of getting to work. I had always been put off cycling as an option as I was convinced that I would become road kill within 500 yards.
However, with a new found bravery and Mayor Boris singing the praises of pedal power, I bit the bullet and bought myself a bike. Outlay of around £350 (Evans cycles - Ridgeback Velocity Hybrid) or the equivalent of 3 and a half monthly travelcards.
My decision to cycle was threefold:
1. I was tired of the daily rat race on the trains
2. I wanted to get in shape
3. I wanted to save money
This promised to be all 3 birds with one stone.
Now, if you are thinking of cycling, then you must not only have a bike but the following as well:
A Helmet - (you're crazy not to wear one of these even though it is not required by law
A Lock - you don't want someone riding away with your transport
A set of Lights - Be safe, Be seen
A puncture repair kit - otherwise its a long walk home.
Armed with all the above, I began to cycle daily from my flat in Clapham Junction over to Canary Wharf - a distance of approximately 10 miles. This took me around 45 minutes (actually quicker than the train).
Within a couple of weeks I already felt healthier, I'd lost a bit of weight, and the muscles in my legs were really starting to develop. I certainly did not miss the trains and was saving £100 per month in travel costs as well!
There is a certain freedom that I loved about cycling, whilst people around you were stuck in traffic jams or heading down into Tube Stations, my journey to work was really only down to me. I could go pretty hard at it, or take it more leisurely depending on how much time I had given myself. There was also a real cameraderie between me and my fellow cyclists. We would stop and say hello, whereas on a train you'd be carted away in a straitjacket for even trying to make eye contact with your fellow commuters.
Yes motorists would cut you up every now and then, motorcyclists would throw the occassional insult, but really the joke was on them. I was merely going too and from work, like they were, but it was costing me nothing and I was enjoying the exercise - especially in the summer.
There were a few blackspots on the route (elephant and castle roundabouts - more on this later) but my route was generally on the scenic side, taking in Clapham Common and crossing the River over Tower Bridge.
I consider the cyclist you are to be very much like the driver - or person in general - that you are. Some are aggressive, some are speed freaks, I was more passive. I knew I was never going to be considered for the Tour de Fance, but I did get up a fair speed most days.
My costs were fairly low as well, I only got 2 punctures in all that time, which is very lucky and most people can expect more. I think I had to change the batteries in my lights once but that was about it. I resented having to ever use the train and pay £7 per day for the privilege - I longed for the freedom of my bike.
There are some things to consider should you be thinking about trying it yourself. I was fortunate in 2 aspects.
1. My company has an underground secure car park with a bike rack. This meant I had peace of mind throughout the day that some rapscallion wasn't making off with my wheels.
2. My company has 3 showers in the building. 2 degrees or 32 degrees, I never failed to sweat like it was going out of fashion. I NEEDED that shower every morning, for the benefit of my colleagues as much as anything else.
I saw a few people cycling in their work clothes on a daily basis...they must be either very slow cyclists, have no sweat glands or just own very powerful anti-perspirant!
So have a think about where you will store your bike during the day and also whether or not a shower is something you will need.
Now, having no doubt whetted a few appetites to the way of the wheels, I must conclude that the latest chapter in my story is not so positive.
In November last year, I was cycling round the roundabout at Elephant and Castle when a private hire taxi came straight on to the roundabout without looking and ploughed straight into me. Despite my front and back lights and luminous jacket, he didn't even brake. As I bounced off the car and down hard into the tarmac, I wondered whether this was it for me.
Luckily, despite not being able to walk or sit without immense pain for about 3 weeks, there was nothing broken. The large backpack full of my work clothes helped break my fall (another reason, albeit circumstantial, not to cycle in work clothes).
I have pretty much made a full recovery, although having not yet got the bike repaired, the 50p-shaped back wheel is a daily reminder of the lucky escape I had.
Another cyclist last year was not so lucky and died on the very same roundabout - a sobering thought.
Nevertheless, having now recovered, I will be getting the bike fixed and returning to the roads in the near future. Statistics show that cycling is becoming safer, and you really can't let one idiot put you off something you love doing. Hell, you could be run over by a bus while walking to the train station.
Now, if anyone is still considering cycling to work, you have my thorough recommendation. As I said before, I was always put off by the safety aspect, and the fears sadly were justified last year. But this was one careless driver in 2 years and even despite what happened, the pros for me still far outweigh the cons. Even in the past 3 months I have longed to be back in the saddle, travelling to work under my own steam. If you are on the Clapham - Canary Wharf route then say hi to me at the lights. I will be the fella with the big rucksack/airbag :-)
Thanks for reading.
I've been cycling around London since the 26th March 2009 (I know this, because I have the receipt for my precious bike). I love it. It's my absolute favourite thing. This is a little bit about why I started cycling, why I love it, and my advice to those who think they might like to take it up too. The description of this discussion shows you the health benefits, and there's plenty more people better qualified than I am to tell you about that, so I won't be telling you about that sorry. I can say that I am more 'slender' since I have taken it up, so if that's an indication for you, great. I hope you find this a useful read.
***Why I started cycling***
There are several reasons why I started cycling:
1) My pesky bf bought himself a beautiful road bike, which made me very envious. I wanted one of those and the fun he was having on it.
2) I was fed up of spending £30 a week on a Travelcard
3) I wanted something I could use to do my weekend 'chores' on, things like popping to the bank, post office, library etc. Walking was too slow and if you spend all week on public transport, the last thing you want to do is use it at the weekend.
4) I wanted to eat more cake. Cycling everywhere meant I could do that without piling on the pounds.
***What I love about it***
Some mornings, I wake up with that nasty groggy feeling and do the whole drag-self-out-of-bed-shower-dress-breakfast routine. Then I get on my trusty bike. And I'm magicked awake. It's brilliant, the wind gets in my face and I feel brilliant. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation for this, I just call it the Magic of the Bike.
It's the same after a rough day at work, it's (I'm not lying), as good if not better than wine!
I love the freedom it gives me, I have discovered parts of London and routes I don't think I would have found without my bike.
I love summer evenings taken rambling routes home from work and making the day last longer, popping to a park on it and sitting with my book in the fading sunshine.
You don't really do that when you get the bus home...
My bike is made by Specialized and is a ladies hybrid. On hybrid cycles, Evans Cycles say:
"Hybrids combine all the sexy bits of mountain bike construction with a more practical road set-up for easier cycling."
My bike is upright so I don't get a bad back and has wide tyres that mean I feel really safe (my bf has skinny tyres, I feel wobbly on his bike). I chose a ladies model as there's no cross bar so it's easier to ride in a skirt (I am a girlie girl, I cycle in skirts).
The best advice I can give on choosing a bike is that you should go in a shop and try lots out before you find one that fits. And ask the assistants, they don't mind giving advice. I would then go and check the web to find the best deal on the one you like. 'Hardcore' cyclists will often say that you need to spend over £1000 for a decent bike. I say, like everything, buy the best you can afford, if you are a leisure cyclist like me, it really shouldn't make a difference.
***The rest of the kit you need to start***
Some might tell you you need special clothes to cycle in. I prefer to be able to hop off my bike and carry on my business as usual. My business as usual does not involve me wearing lots of lycra. I will occasionally wear leggings or joggers, but rarely. Girls will find that as long as you wear shoes with laces, a strap (my 'cycling shoes' are a comfy bashed up pair of mary janes) or boots, you'll be just fine.
The kit I WOULD buy, and did buy is listed below along with a guide on how much you should expect to pay. As always shopping around on the web helps you find bargains, so read the reviews and get the best you can afford. As a guide, I usually end up spending £20 - £30 on most accessories
1) Helmet. Imperative. Buy it with the bike. Evans have them for about £30. You might think you look silly, but really...
2) Lights. A decent front and rear light is important as it gets dark pretty quickly. I have been caught out a lot of times. Again, a decent set will cost a bit
3) Hi Viz vest. I know these are hideous but I'd rather be seen! DON'T go and buy a special cycling one, they're a rip off. You can get them from Amazon in the DIY section. I managed to get me a pink one from an ebay shop (put 'pink hi viz' into the search box - loads come up) and it cost about £8. Bargain. And it's pink.
4) Mudguards. I discovered to my annoyance that if you cycle on wet roads, without a mudguard, you get an unnattractive wet line up your bottom. Yum. I got a pair of mudguards cheaply from Argos and they were really easy to attach.
5) Lock. VERY important. Worth spending more on this as it's the line of defence between you and theives.
6) Waterproof coat. Definitely worth it in this country! I don't cycle in torrential rain by choice, but, well, sometimes bad things happen. I got a decent one in TK Maxx for £25, the specialist bike ones are really expensive.
There's loads of other stuff you could buy, I have a basket but have joined dooyoo so I can get Amazon vouchers to buy a better one. It's up to you really.
Contrary to scare stories, cycling is pretty safe, provided you keep your wits about you and stay away from road users you do not feel comfortable around. Beware pedestrians walking out in front of you.
I've not had to spend much on maintenance really. I have bought a manual to teach myself but for big things (like major tyre trauma), I pop into Evans and they do it for me! They charge £15 per service, which I don't mind.
Cycling is brilliant, I love the freedom it gives me and the money it has saved me. You don't have to spend much on kit and it's really good, healthy fun. Anything that means I can eat more cake gets the thumbs up from me!
Thanks for reading this mammoth review.
How many of you drive or take the bus to work? How many of you complain about being stuck in traffic during "rush hour"?
Have you considered cycling as a cheaper & quicker alternative?
I live around 3 - 4 miles away from where I work &, as I don't drive, have the options of either walking, cycling or taking the bus into work.
The bus fare costs £2.10 for a day return of £8.00 for a week. So, if I take my alloted holidays as well as some flexi-time let's say that I work the equivalent of a 45 week year. £8.00 x 45 weeks means a cost to me of £360 per year. On top of that there's the time you spend waiting around for buses to turn up as well as the travel time for my journey which, would, in general, take in excess of 30 minutes.
In contrast, the cycling costs are minimal. You may need a new tyre, inner tube, puncture repair outfit or some lubricating oil from time to time but this is small change compared to the costs of travelling by bus.
Cycling to & from work gives you the freedom to leave as & when you want ~ no waiting around for the next bicycle to turn up! My journey to work takes anything from 15 - 25 minutes depending on:-
+ how many traffic lights I get stopped at
+ whether I get stopped at the railway crossing
+ which way the wind is blowing!
So, even if the cycle journey takes the maximum amount of time I'd save 10 minutes on the minimum amount of time that the bus journey takes. In weekly terms that's a minimum of 50 minutes & over a working year of 45 weeks it's over 37 hours saved on travelling time. Of course, this figure is even higher if you add in the amount of time taking walking from home to the bus stop, from the bus stop to work and vice versa. Then there's the bus waiting time as well.
So, here are my cycling tips.
+ Wear a cycling helmet at all times
+ Ensure tyres are fully pumped up, brakes work & that the chain is well oiled.
+ Don't use mobile phones or ipods
+ Wear bright clothing & ensure bike lights are switched on in darkness or fog.
+ use cycle clips if wearing trousers.
+ wear trainers or flat shoes (no stilettoes for you ladies!)
There's a bit more about cycling in my "What's In Your Bag?" review.
Cycling to work
How many of you out there own a bike?
Has it been for a ride lately?
How far from work do you live?
Leave the car at home!
I have been cycling to work for about five years now and it not only keeps me fit; it saves me money. I save approximately £520 per year. I arrive at work awake and I have much more energy. I am also helping the planet and just wish a few more would join in.
I must admit I was scared at first because of the volume of traffic and have heard some awful stories of accidents, but I consider the risk small if you follow the following checks: -
1. Wear a bright jacket - the illumines yellow are great and cheap to buy
2. Wear a quality helmet
3. Wear wrap around glasses (stops insects getting in the eyes)
4. Wear sensible shoes or trainers
5. Carry a drink (don't let yourself dehydrate)
6. Check your tyres and brakes
7. Don't listen to your ipod
8. Keep close to the kerb
9. Don't ride two abreast
10. Bright lights needed if dusk or dark
If you follow the above you should be safe. If you need to gain confidence take your bike to the park. If more and more people start riding to work maybe the government will get cycle lanes sorted out for us.
If you are on the school run why not all go by bike. Most schools are less than 5 miles from home. This would take about 20 mins on the flat. If you live in London most people who cycle arrive before those who take their car or use public transport (within a 5 miles radius of course).
Anyway, think about it!!!
Thanks for reading my review.
Cycling is great and it's something I am going to get into again after problems with insurance.
I use to cycle everywhere, as you don't need a license, insurance, tax, M.O.T. petrol or any major serving. Just the cost of the bike.
Before you go:
What you need: Bike (in good condition and road worthy), a helmet (not needed but recommended), lights (if dark), a pump, puncture repair kit, water and will power.
If you are a long distance cycler, you will need lots of motivation and maybe something to eat on the way, a map (or sat nav with cycle routes and setting on), water and maybe a first aid kit and hi-viz jacket.
Cycling is great for you and the environment, site such as sustains help you with this on planning trips. It is great exercise and keeps you fit.
As you now have to use the road cycling is a lot more dangerous and you do need some idea of driving and the highway code as well, sometimes a driving license helps, so you know what other people are doing.
Cycling is different to driving, in the sense that you always stick to the left, and stick the outside of a roundabout, you can also use bus lanes and contraflow one way systems.
Cycling can also be used for general leisure and tracks and racing tracks, altho this required a mountain or hybrid bike.
So get cycling from the cost of nothing in some counties as they offer free bikes.
I was seven years old when I first attempted to ride a bicycle. I had been lucky enough to have received one for Christmas, which was totally unexpected, because, despite my constant nagging and being as troublesome as possible in an attempt to appeal to my parents sensitive side, I was led to believe that there was going to be no bicycle being brought down the chimney that year!
Of course, on that particular Christmas Day, there it was, all wrapped up, with the unmistakeable outline of a bike despite my parent's futile attempts in trying to disguise it. So, to the exclusion of all other presents, I hastily tore away the wrapping to reveal the most beautiful white, two wheeled conveyance I had ever had the pleasure of clapping my wide green eyes upon.
Riding the bicycle at this point was easy, as it had stabilizers on either side to prevent the bike from toppling to the sides. However, my friends seemed to be able to ride their cycles without this 'babyish' addition, and of course I too wanted to be similar to them and therefore lost no time in asking my parents to teach me how to ride and balance on my bike without the stabilisers playing their part.
Despite me thinking this was going to be easy - it proved to be extremely difficult. My father would gently hold the back of the seat, keeping it upright, while I would try to gain some sort of balance, and gingerly and nervously pedal forward until, satisfied I had proper control and balance, I would urge my father to leave go of the saddle, which more often than not resulted in me parting unceremoniously with my cycle and slumping to the ground in wails of anguish and frustration.
Over the weeks I gained in confidence, and my balance seemed to have improved enough for a further attempt at manoeuvring this contraption forwards without the aid of my father holding onto the back of the saddle. So, with dad holding the seat, I pushed forward and sat on the seat and began to pedal, fully expecting to be catapulted to the ground as soon as dad left go of the seat. I was in full flow and turned around apprehensively with the intention of telling dad to let go when I suddenly realised that dad wasn't even holding onto the seat. It suddenly dawned on me that I had actually rode the bike totally unaided.
The sheer joy and elation I felt was immense. I had finally tamed this beast, and more importantly, had joined that exclusive club that only the young know about - The bike riders without stabilisers club!
Becoming ever more confident and assured in my bike riding skills, I would now be able to join my friends and, with my shiny white steed, everything now seemed possible. I could explore the world.. which for so long had seemed unreachable.
My first bicycle ride of any importance was going to be the colliery where my father worked. I had often been to the colliery canteen on a bus with my older sister. As a treat during the summer holidays we would visit the canteen every Friday to have our dinner. Although for the miners, the kindly dinner ladies would also serve children as well. I used to have beans and chips and a large fizzy mug of orange 'Corona' pop. I would greedily tuck into this wonderful fare while watching in amazement as the colliers arose from the surface with their blackened faces, and sometimes even with their white safety helmets, Davy Lamps and torches, and enter the canteen for their food.
So, the first Friday during the summer holidays, and now free from the restraints of my sister and that bone shaker of a bus with the wooden slatted seats, a group of young boys, myself included, could be seen cycling over fields, tracks and meadows, showing off by swerving in and out of cow pats and talking about conkers and comics, gradually eating up the ground on our trusty bikes until the colliery canteen came into clear view.
We were young and fearless, and now, through our bikes, we had total control as to where we could venture in this world of ours, confined only by our imagination (and the warning from mother to be home for tea).
Sitting at the canteen table having safely ordered our beans, chips, and mug of fizzy orange pop, we would excitedly discuss the next planned route of our wonderful bike journey. Over a mug of pop, I suggested we ride around the colliery, looking for conkers and maybe even catch some butterflies at the same time.
With our bellies full to bursting (more from the fizzy orange pop than the actual food) we left the canteen hurriedly, striding our 'mounts' like a posse from a John Wayne film, and ventured around the back of the canteen towards the colliery itself - our very own Wild West!
We stared up in awe at the massive winding shaft, and its huge wheel and thick steel cable that would carry the miner's deep down into the belly of the earth. I visualized my very own father being lowered down to the coal seams in this cage and it filled me with utter dread at the very thought of it.
Anxious not to waste to much time because we had a lot of exploring still to do, we rode our bikes around the colliery, weaving in and out of huge wooden reels that once held steel cable, and rode in between concrete pillars, dodging the bewildered sheep at the same time. We ducked, weaved and spun our respective cycles all around the area until we were satisfied that we had given our bikes a thorough testing to which they had successfully passed.
Content with our days cycling, and with mother's warning to be back home in time for tea, we decided it would be wise to make the journey back home. So now with sore backsides due to the uncomfortable seating, and legs starting to turn into clumps of lead, we reluctantly cycled our way back home to civilisation, leaving behind our adventurous playground, but satisfying ourselves with the thought that we would be back soon enough, once again to weave our way through hill and cow pat like surfers on waves of metal!
Since those innocent and fun loving days a lot of water (and various bicycles)
have gone under the bridge.
Nowadays, long gone is the white bicycle that once was my pride and joy, reduced, I suspect, to rust and rubble, and lying wounded and pitiful in a scrap heap or some sort of rubbish dump, unloved and uncared for, cast aside without so much as an afterthought as I grew out of it, and had love affairs with various other cycles ranging from BMX, Choppers and Mountain bikes right up to my current bicycle of choice, my beloved racing bike with twenty speed Shimano Dérailleur gears.
This beauty is designed purely for speed. It has a lightweight frame which can easily be lifted with one finger, although ashamedly I have added powerful headlights, water bottles, pumps, various tool kits, bicycle locks and various other 'necessities' to its frame, so now even Geoff Capes would have great difficulty in lifting it off the ground.
It also has dropped handlebars which allow for better aerodynamic riding positions, and narrow high-pressure tires for minimal rolling resistance and faster speeds. Interestingly enough, it never ceases to amaze me when I am cycling around, the astounded and bewildered looks I get from children, dumbfounded by its wafer thin tyres and oddly shaped handle bars. I guess that most children these days probably have a thick wheeled mountain bike of some sort and have probably never seen a road bike!
Riding this sort of bike can be an extreme pleasure, although on a blustery and rainy day, and with a steep hill to contend with, the pleasure can soon fade away, being swiftly replaced with feelings of pure dread and exhaustion.
Riding along, accompanied by bright sun and blue skies, with a warm and pleasant breeze gently caressing my face, I cycle the countryside around me, leaving behind the theatre of the real world, and focus my attentions on the sights that pass me by on my journey of discovery, mentally far away from civilisation, which, just for today, is causing other people misery.
Onwards I go, and dogs seem just like dogs once more. They are not the savage and snarling beasts that seem to bay for my blood should I be irresponsible enough to try and pass them on foot.
Potholes, and other bumps and dents in the road, which otherwise seemed invisible or insignificant now take on a personal form, and I am continually aware of that thin edge of danger that constantly keeps me alert and observant.
I push myself on, cycling uphill, lifting myself off the seat and standing on the pedals to gain more power for the final onslaught, sinews and muscles stretching to their very limits as inch by inch I gradually conquer the hill and can now look forward to the free-wheeling joy of coasting on the downhill journey, giving my wearying legs and lungs a well needed break. The effort of pedalling up and down these hills and roads ensures that I have a reasonable knowledge of the contours and lay of the land. (After all, passing through in a car going uphill will hardly excite or impress you, but the sheer exertion on your body as you attempt a steep incline on your bicycle tends to ensure that you have accurate memories of the peaks and troughs through which you have cycled).
I finally reach the road which has traffic in abundance. Up ahead is a slow moving lorry. With the precision of a mathematical genius I calculate the clearance I need and swing wide, outflanking it, leaving myself maybe a hundred yards of paradise before I encounter the next obstacle.
I have fed myself to the traffic and felt the gentle whisper of death on my shoulders, but have come out unscathed. I have inhaled lungfuls of exhaust fumes and almost been side swiped by huge articulated lorries which rattle past me, sending my cycle almost into an uncontrollable wobble, yet, head down, I continue on my journey, gripping the handlebars ever tighter, feeling the road vibrating in their very structure.
I swing off the road and follow a track which was known to me since my childhood, although I am probably going about ten times as fast as I did in those days. In the corner of my eye I spot an old rusty white child's bicycle lying in the gutter, unloved and wounded. As I reach the top of the track, a beautiful green landscape comes to greet me. Now covered in lush green grass and with a pleasant scattering of shrubs and oak trees, this picturesque and charming vision was once the colliery pit where I spent many happy days cycling around and eating from the canteen.
I cycle closer, somehow feeling the urge to meander in and out of the cow pats, as I finally reach the point where once stood those awesome shafts and that huge winding wheel which I so held in admiration as a child. Only now it is no longer there. In its place is a concrete plinth on which proudly sits the enormous iron wheel which once spun around, slowly lowering my father and other miners deeper and deeper underground.
I quickly glance down at my watch thinking that mother is going to be awfully mad if I'm not home for tea, and just as quickly I remember that I am a married man now and of course my mother certainly isn't expecting me to be home by tea time!
I reluctantly swing my racing bike around and begin the journey homewards, turning back only once when I was almost sure I had heard some children giggling and laughing out loud, without a care in the world. I guess it was just the wind playing tricks with me.
I arrive home safely, albeit, with a sore bum from the saddle, and tired, heavy legs from those arduous exertions of those steep hills. My seven year old son is there to greet me with outstretched arms. On seeing my racing bike he begins to plead with me if he can have one for Christmas................
I have been in love with cycling for the majority of my life. I still remember the thrill it gave me and the feeling of independence when I climbed astride the purple monstrosity with the white tyres that was given to me as my first bike. I remember it had no gears, but I would push one of four bolts sticking up from the stem in the pretence that doing so would change gear! I would thunder about the pavements near my house, steadily daring to go further and further until I was convinced that I knew the back alleys and thoroughfares of the urban jungle better than anyone else alive.
As I grew older I caught wind of the phenomenon that is Mountain Biking. Mountain Biking was in its formative years as I grew up and certainly wasn't the accepted Olympic sport it is now. This sounded like an absolutely brilliant idea to me, it combined my love of hills (my father had taken me hill walking on many an occasion) with my love of cycling. Only trouble was I live in a very flat part of the country, was too young to have my own transport, and I knew nobody else who wanted to join me. So my love of Mountain Biking was stillborn to my great regret.
I did however find a branch of the sport that I could perform in my urban jungle, and this was 'Trials'. This is where you have to hop and skip over a series of impossible looking objects, rocks, oil drums, cars, benches. I spent countless hours in the back garden practicing 'track stands' - keeping dead still on the bike and maintaining my balance and,'Bunny Hops' - raising the bike off the ground so that I could leap onto or over objects. I was never able to get myself to a standard that I could be competitive at this, and I believe that this is partly because I was always on my own. Again I had no friends that were interested in it, and never saw anybody on the streets doing this. I reached a standard where I could impress most people, for example I could leap onto the top of a picnic bench and down the other side, and had I had a willing car owner I'm certain I could have got on top of a car. Of course now it is a common sight to see teenagers trying to do trials on the streets, it seems that I was just too much of a pioneer and got there a few years early!
Fast forward a few years and I found my second incarnation as a cyclist, I am now a commuter (boo, hiss). I had just bought a house and money was looking quite tight, so I desperately scoured my expenses for any cutbacks. I was spending an outrageous £100+ a month on transport to work, which seemed particularly painful because I was paying money to go and earn money, I was almost working the first hour of each day for nothing!
So I bought my shiny new steed, a bright red slick-shod road bike from Halfords. I have since learnt from considerable forum reading that Halfords staff generally know as much about bikes as I know about the surface of Pluto, so of course the bike was set up very badly. I have since used a small local bike shop for my servicing, and they have done a superb job. So my piece of advice would be that although Halfords bikes are very good value for money, if you know nothing about bike servicing you need to have it checked out by a competent bike shop, because it will most likely disintegrate whilst you are flying down a hill at 30mph and leave ashphalt embedded in your face.
The round trip I cycle is 23 miles, at first this was incredibly hard as you may imagine. At the time I was doing no cardiovascular exercise of any sort, although I was not overweight at the time which certainly helped. My first few trips took me roughly 1hour 15minutes to cover one leg of the journey, I had to stop several times to stretch my legs and catch my breath, I pushed the bike up the hills. Basically I was a wreck, and a sorry sight when I got home. I would lie on the sofa thanking God that I had made it home and that the pain had ended. The body is a remarkable thing, and extremely adaptable, so this torture steadily lessened as time passed. Eventually I reached a stage where I had the journey down to 32mins one way and 40 the other.
My greatest thrill I get from cycling is from racing other commuters. This idea might baffle some of you, because of course there is no 'race', we bicycle commuters are just making our own way to our destination in our own time, are we not? Well let me tell you, the competitive fire burns deep within the average cyclist, particularly those who have road bikes and are kitted out in lycra. One of the only methods by which to make the tedium of the commute seem worthwhile is to add a competitive edge. If there is no one about to 'race' this means timing yourself or looking at your speed and beating previous performances. If there is a fellow cyclist travelling your way this means passing them, and not letting them back past you.
For the majority of people I pass, this 'race' I am engaged in goes unnoticed, however occasionally I have been challenged and have engaged in a titanic battle in which we overtake, reovertake, rereovertake and so on until one of us has either burst a lung or reached our destination. Despite the fact that I am commuting I take enormous pride in the fact that I have never been beaten!
Why don't I partake in some real bike races? Several reasons really, firstly my bike is a heap of junk and I would be quite embarrassed to put it amongst the carbon fibre steeds that I know are the norm at a race. Secondly it is ruddy expensive to race, not only do you need to pay the entry fee but there are also race licenses that need to be held, plus travel expenses. I am still not in a position to afford all of that.
Overall my experience of cycling is that it has enriched my life greatly and I would not be without it. When you look at what cyling is from a logical vantage point it is quite bizarre that anyone could be in love with it, after all it's just moving along under your own locomotion, no one loves walking do they? Oh hang on, people do like to walk, well there goes my argument! I'll shut up now.
i have just got back from a long and tiring bike ride with the family, this my dad calls 'family time', i call it pedalling for dear life while some idiot in a large 4x4 over takes on a blind bend narrowly missing your front wheel and some frightened old lady in a ford fiesta!
Well, to start off with, the seat is the most uncomfortable thing i have ever placed my dainty behind on, i am not a fan of gyrating around on a peice of metal with a thin layer of foam thrown in as an attempt to soften the blow shall we say. oh and do not wear a thong while cycling girls, i'm sure you can imagine my inconvenience upon arriving home, hope thats not too much detail.
I have also concluded upon arriving home that it must exercise your quadriceps, this i know because there is a very definite 'your going to feel that in the morning' wobble going on when i walk, which by the way is rather strange after cycling because your legs feel like jelly on a plate (the temptation to go around singing 'jelly on a plate, jelly on a plate, wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble, jelly on a plate is soooooo high!).
In my experience, first timers should definitely start off with a small bike ride, maybe round your local area due to the fact that although you may not feel it at the time, your muscles will ache in the morning, also if your not careful you will, as my dad says, 'bit hit with the man with the hammer' half way up a hill and before you know it you'll be passing those sheep you saw on the way up , in other words your muscles will cramp.
My dad is an avid cyclist who spends many of his weekends away in cumbria cycling with his old uni friends and has a bike with carbon tubing which apparently means its lighter and easier to ride, however its a racing bike with slim wheels and clip-on- clip-off pedals. Personally, i'm going to stick to my mountain bike. the seat is a lot less comfortable (despite the muntain bike having an uncomfortable seat too) and the pedals can be quite scary as i've known of many times when my brother has failed to 'clip-off' at traffic lights and has almost ended up on the underside of a car. Also, the handle bars are quite low which means your leaning very far forward which can be quite scary too, hence why for a first time cyclist i think buying a mountain bike would be better.
Although, cycling is not all that bad as it is quite a leisurely sport and going round the country side is quite relaxing, sort of like listening to the archers on radio 4. And theres always racing for the extreme sport lovers among us. Its also an excellent way to tone up the legs and gets your heart pumping that lovely oxygen round your body.
I love cycling, I cycle everywhere, where ever bus route goes I will cycle it faster than the bus, unless its like a one stop motorway bus.
I cycle everywhere possible, including a 7 miles each was commute to college, also I cycle to my grandparents rather than catching a bus.
I am a pretty fast cyclist and now very strong leg muscles, and that's from many year of cycling up steep hills aswel.
I find it quicker than a bus, and on some journeys quicker than a car, as you don't have to worry about traffic and there are also shorter cycle routes. But you do have to bear in mind if you will have to go up hill and also the wind and direction.
If you were to catch a bus on a journey such as for me college it would cost me £3 for a day ticket which also would mean I can not catch the other bus company to get right outside and would have to walk across a shopping centre to get to college. But with a bike its free and quicker, also taking me right into the college grounds.
The only thing is with cycling is security, even of you have the best and biggest locks if someone wants your bike they will get it.
Using the title as a running gag opposing the statutory mid evening news on BBC1, Not The Nine oclock News, favoured as funnier, topical viewing at the same time on BBC2. Chancing their livelihoods on the 17th of October 1979, the first show was broadcast, but not in the politically incorrect style that it was supposed to have first hit our screens. Sworn in by the legendary Basil Fawlty at the end of the final Fawlty Towers, the cast of Not The Nine.. appeared young, arrogant and opinionated, or at least, in very much the same manner as Python was heralded a decade before.
After more line up changes than a heavy metal band, the crew was finally set as Rowan Atkinson, Mel Smith, Pamela Stevenson (who replaced Victoria Wood who had turned the venture down and balancing out an all male cast,) and Griff Rhys Jones (who, in turn, replaced Chris Langham who decided on other pursuits.)
After a shaky will they or wont they start in regards to broadcasting fixtures, the first series seemed to go down a storm. Whilst taking on the tried and tested formula of open house to any comedy writer theme from Python, the world of the written joke/sketch was at last, fair game. This alternative approach to comedy writing of an even more alternative style of television comedy brought great wealth of new, hidden talent to the fore. Names started to creep into view and themselves, became permanent fixtures in the BBC vaults of the written word. Unheard of scribblers were Clive Anderson and Richard Curtis (the latter itching to flex his muscles before embarking on the future years of successful Blackadders.) The years rolled by eclipsing the team in a cocoon of comic genius that lived for three years, four series and two directors. Eventually giving us Billy Connollys wife, Blackadder himself and one of the greatest British comedy double acts since Morecombe and Wise .. Not bad for another low budget gag show ?
The art of the alternative comedy era was firstly, one of excitement and anti establishment. Hardly a ground breaking prospect when you think about it in todays terms, yet a show like Not The Nine oclock News, was floodlit in its forward thinking, surrealism in the same light as Python in the Sixties and The Goons further back in the Fifties. Young comics were suddenly given the full park to charge around in. They could think, act and perform in every way or shape possible. Since making social comment a joke had been something only left to the domestic absurdities through situation comedy in Father, Dear Father, or Bless This House, now, all at once, the man in the street or the blind woman crossing the road was open to ventfulls of ridicule. Young talents could create comedy out of every day life, far from the comforting surroundings of behind the front door.
It wasnt just left to write silly songs about The Prince Of Wales or misrepresent serious television interviewers; no, past kings, queens and figures of religious authority were open to offers of fun also. From the same country that only a hundred years before, would have experienced heads literally rolling for such personal poking, suddenly, it was here, for all to laugh at, on mankinds biggest medium, ever.
If the breaking moment had been the first glimpse of David Frost in a suit applauding the failing works of MPs and the class system in his newly built brand of satire, then aspects of Not The Nine, should have been seen as coming from several miles away. Alternative, was the new little black number and it gave good reason for shattering taboos, black comedy and anything observational. Ad libbing or improvisation, as we professionally term it, was enough at one point, to put the look of fear in the Controller of Light Entertainments eyes, so what all of a sudden made this approach to visual and play on words comedy so approving? It was the way forward. Radio was dying a death, and especially since the untimely death of Kenneth Horne, one of British radios long serving and most loved shows; Round The Horne, ceased to exist and Sellers had found Hollywood, it was time to drive on. Move over the wireless - the telly is coming through .
Since shows like Not The Nine, had come exploding onto our goggle boxes without warning, to the humble knotted hankie man, it was still teetering on the brink of mainstream - a word that such young, innovative talents dread to hear. Rebellious to the bone, these young movements of comedy writers ploughed their way into our minds and for this show in particular, the word cult was one that was not just used for strange groups of Americans living in one large house in the middle of nowhere. Kids at school were no rein acting sketches in the playground like their fathers had mimicked voices from The Goons two decades before. Yet the latter was audible, and the other, visual, that same quick fire approach to comedy brought to us speed for gags. It was a sure thing to rely on in those early days of British alternatives; if the audience didnt like it or at least, didnt get the joke, they wouldnt have time to think about it before being plunged into the next sketch. Young writers could test the water quickly to see what worked and what didnt without having the trauma of dying, literally, on stage.
The system had vastly changed since the days of nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more, when Idle donned a tweed suit and sat in a middle class public house swigging an equally middle class pint. Through Not The Nine we are presented with street figures from our daily society. Mods, punks and social outcasts; for example, politicians, were on show for topical humour. The sketches more troublesome, and aggressive in their approach to observational comedy. It wasnt hard to find a sketch knocking the Catholic Church or ethnic minorities - puns that couldnt possibly be broadcast on todays screens for fear of starting a riot or a tube train being blown up. Yet, it appears to us now, that the world must have been a far more relaxed place if we have programmes such as Not The Nine to reflect back on. We were, as a nation, stronger from post war in our daily society. Unlike today, when the sturdy back bone that was once post war Britain, has now crumbled away into the sea like West Pier in Brighton. We cant even laugh at ourselves anymore.
One thing that the team of Not The Nine did successfully conceive was the remarkable parodies of our own lives. Looking back, it is surprising how much the team attacked the church. Not just the Catholic, but the Christian and Anglican also. Parallels were focused on through current adverts from ITV and the advert of the time Made In Wales, was given up for comical moments in sketches titled; Laid In Wales, and Made From Whales, Nothing was safe from the claws of the lesser spotted alternative comedians.
Even if Rowan Atkinson dressed up as a six foot gorilla being accompanied by Professor Mel Smith, on a television interview about evolution wasnt enough to tickle your ribs, it still has to be noted as one of the turning points in British television comedy. Not for just catapulting certain careers into mainstream, but for unleashing the inner humour of us all. The formats were copied to the hilt and still can be seen in the highly successful and more recent, Little Britain, or The Fast Show, and even, A Bit Of Fry And Laurie, from a few years before. Again, not to everyones taste, but when a style of format is still trusted nearly thirty years on, it cant be knocked.
Although Monty Python had been groundbreaking for its day from the old school ties of the young establishment rebels, it was Not The Nine that gave us working class humour. As surreal as Python was from a bunch of highly talented University students, Not The Nine was from a level that the rest of us could tune in to. It appeared to be cold humour, and sometimes, bad taste, but always true to the life that it represented - our lives, and the world we lived in.
Comedy sketch shows had not been formatted before to add some sort of musical anecdote as the final scene and also to over run the credits. Perhaps the one video clips that we remember the most was the song entitled, I Love Truckin, which controversially showed a flat hedgehog on the front of a trucks grill. Such songs recorded on external film, then run along side video tape from inside a studio included songs about the Royal family, the Church again and other political figures, all given double the amount of ridicule only to music. Albums were made to run in the shops at the same time as the programme schedule. Three albums even made the top ten, an unusual achievement.
To the humble young and very impressionable viewer, Not The Nine oclock News, was effortless rude, impertinent and close to the mark. Our parents tutted loudly at it, much the same as their parents before had, at The Beatles. The world was changing and the days had died when the whole family, all three generations could sit and enjoy a comedy show - all inoffensive and above board. Now the ever widening valley in society was growing fast, breaking the generations in two. Kids could snigger at Not The Nine Not like Python, when your dad would join the mimicking with you
Nowadays, humour has taken a turn once more. If were not giggling at Little Britain, we are sinking heavily into the deep waters of satirical panel game shows like QI, and Mock The Week, Suddenly to be up to the moment, topical and simply poke fun at the news or the newspapers is about as creative as we can get.
Gone are the days of imagination in the comedy script writers world. Writers can only sit down now with a bunch of todays new papers and think up jolly good gags, from doing just that. Hardly a qualification for a BAFTA is it ? Cleverer with the spoken word rather than with the visual concept is the new in thing.
It would be nice to go back to the days of comedy when we didnt have to our wit each other with quirky anecdotes of plays on words using historical figures. If they are still lost as to what it was all about and what the rise of British Comedy was like before the great fall, then I shall leave you with this
A series of scenes were shot and featured across the four series of Not The Nine in which Rowan Atkinson is filmed, walking down a street, when after a short time, he spots the camera from the other side of the road. He side glances at it in a smug way and smiles. In a moment of being so transfixed on the camera focusing on him, he walks straight into a lamppost, (the clever bit here being that the lamppost doesnt come into view until the last second.)
On the second piece of filming, Atkinson spots the camera again, but this time notices the lamppost in front of him, he points, acknowledges the camera on his intelligent discovery then drops promptly down a man hole ..
The whole sequence lasted only a few seconds ..
Not The Nine oclock News were;
Mel Smith - (now a highly acclaimed director.)
Griff Rhys Jones - (now gathers huge amounts of money to stop old buildings from being knocked down..)
Pamela Stevenson - (Married to Billy Connolly. She is a Doctor in that stuff about psyches and brains.)
Rowan Atkinson - (After a mile run of Blackadders, whiles away his time by racing vintage cars at Goodwood at the same time campaigning to the government to keep comedians employed and material of any subject open as fair game. Here, here!)
First shown on BBC2 between October 1979 and March 1982.
On DVD - The Best of Vol One (2003) BBC Shop at £12.99
The Best of .Vol Two (2004) BBC Shop £13.99
Ciao and dooyoo
Ok - this probably shouldn't be listed here, but I can't find anywhere else to put it. I am about to have a rant about drivers. Not any particular class of driver - just drivers of cars. Does anybody else find that they go out for a nice quiet ride on their bike, but unfortunatly due to the distinct lack of government funding for cycle-paths are forced to ride on the road? I do. And it's on the road that we meet all sorts of dangers, the most common of which are cars. They cut you up left right and centre, they honk their horns at you, and flash their headlights, and make hand-gestures towards you as well. And why do drivers nearly always try to pass the blame to us? - "You came from nowhere!" What a load of Bull?£$#! They probably just overtook you! Now my faithful readers, it be story time. I hope you're sitting (un)comfortably (if you're one of the offenders.) I cycle from Huntingdon to Ely on a regualar basis. And Along the the ring-road in huntingdon is a lane, that is clearly marked straight on and turn left. I cycle in this lane, because it is normally too dangerous to cross over into the lane that is straight on only. A few weeks ago, I was forced to turn left here, because some rather stupid driver wanted to turn left here, and guess who was in the way. She honked her horn, and made the usual hand gesture, and added 'Look where you're bloody cycling!' Well, I'm sorry, but we cyclists have just as much right to use that lane to carry on over as cars, buses, lorries, etc! (I was riding my black racing bike then - just incase you are thinking, was that me.) The second incident happened tonight, in the Tesco Car-park. Being 17, I don't drive a car, yet I still have to go and do the occasional bit of shopping. It was dark. I have a Cateye Stadium III headlight. (The enthusiasts will know what I'm talking about) So it's not likely that I'm not going to ge
t seen from the front. A driver in a dark green Rover 416 moved towards the right of the lane. I accelerated to go past, admitidly on the nearside. He swerved left, into a car parking spot. I was still far enough behind to whack my brakes on, which fortunatly are very good. IF the driver had indicated, and used his mirrors, he WOULD have seen me, and I would have known his intentions. But no... The "You came from nowhere" line was used. I pointed out that I was quite easy to see, and had followed him up from the entrance to the car-park, and he should have indicated that he was going to turn into the parking space. A simple "tut" from him told me that it really wasn't worth arguing the point. (And I was on my Yellow and Blue MTB this time... start sqirming!) My final note on this, is that the majority of road users are perfectly respectful people. It's just when they're rushed, or stressed that the become a danger to cyclists. If you are one of these people, please remember that cyclists don't have the benifits of a SIPS system, just a rib-cage, and many don't even have a lid. And please, please tell cyclists to 'get a light on their bike, or ride on the pavement' (I know it's illegal) if they are riding on the road in the dark with no lights. The rest of the drivers shouldn't be on the road, if they haven't already been removed. And, in response to a comment I have had, I know that cyclists are often bloody awful when it comes to their antics on the road, weaving in and out of traffic, not indicating, etcetera. Those actions are actually illegal, and you should point out to them that the highway code applies just as much to them as it does you. Ah - that's better. Rant over. Safe cycling! (And driving...!)
I saw the most amazing thing today. A woman with the following notice pinned to her back: “BABY IN TUMMY ON BOARD” What worried me was the fact that this was rush hour in central London and the woman was on a bike without a helmet. She was wearing a day-glo top but how she thought that a note on her back telling the world that she was pregnant was going to save her goodness only knows! Cycling seems to be becoming more and more popular in the City these days. I applaud anyone who can get on their bike in the midst of such heavy and unpredictable traffic to make the journey to and from work. There is no question that cycling is one of the most environmentally friendly ways of travelling and it should be encouraged and not dismissed as a transportation option. The problem I have is that society and, more importantly, our roads are not geared up for cyclists. It is true that many councils are introducing designated cycle routes, Woking, where I live is one such council. The problem is that cycle paths seem to end where they are most needed, at busy junctions, or where a road narrows, forcing vulnerable cyclists onto the road or worse, the pavement. The simple fact is, society is not ready to embrace the cyclist. I am a recreational cyclist. I possess an average bike which comes out at weekends for jaunts in the country. I am lucky, I do not need to get in the car to find the “country”. I do not use my cycle as a means of transportation, however. There are a number of reasons for this, some poor excuses (such as the fact that I have to work in a suit and have you ever tried cycling in a suit skirt?!), others more genuine, there is no cycle path between my house and the station and I do not feel that the roads are a safe place to be on a bike in the rush hour(s). I do, however, recognise the benefits that would ensue if more of us took to our bikes. I feel that one of the hurdles t
hat cycling has to jump in order to become fully acceptable in today’s world is one of ignorance. That is not the ignorance of the damage that the car is causing or even ignorance that cycling is only for “greenies” – it is the ignorance of the cyclist. The same cyclist that is saving the environment (and a few quid to boot) is also the same cyclist that thinks that they do not have to stop at a red traffic light. It is the same cyclist who thinks nothing of weaving in and out of the traffic trying to dodge the queues (it is in this way that the lady at the start of my opinion grabbed my attention – she was duelling with a double decker bus and a transit van!). I have a right to feel hard done by cyclists. I have the curious claim to fame that I was mown down by a bicycle and knocked unconscious. One minute I was walking, the next I was in hospital with the college chaplain by my bedside. Where was I? On a pedestrian path just down from a humped back bridge. The cyclist had no chance, he could not stop, I had no chance, there was nowhere to go. The jewel in the crown? It was a private road and the cyclist gave a false name and address – to this day I still don’t know what really happened! Cycling is undeniably good for you, giving you a complete aerobic workout, and for the environment, giving it a breather from all those nasty car fumes. Why then does it not promote itself? It is like asking governments to give money to support terrorists – if you don’t play by the rules you can’t expect support. Finally, if the woman that I talk of at the start is reading, please, think of your child a little more. If you really must then continue to cycle in London but please, for your child’s sake, wear a helmet.
Cycling makes use of the largest muscles in the body (the Gluteus Maximus and Quadriceps) so it is good for people who are trying to lose body fat. Exercising at low intensity is better for people who want to lose weight as the body doesn't have the chance to burn fat at high work rates and will burn glycogen instead (although the body will replace the burnt glycogen by metabolising body fat as soon as it can - see Krebs cycle). The most popular types of bicycle in the western world, where cycling for recreation is more common, are mountain bikes and road bicycles. The latter tend to have a more upright shape and a shorter wheelbase, which make the bike more mobile but harder to ride slowly. The design, when coupled with low or dropped handlebars, requires the rider to bend forward more, which reduces air resistance as speeds increase.