Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cycling directions to LBS are up!

The cycling directions I wrote for London Business School are on their website now! I was pleased that they were so receptive, and they posted the blurb I sent virtually unchanged. May be a small thing, but I think I'll start offering to do this for others as well, and encourage my fellow activists to do the same.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Nice pre-dawn ride to Herts

Yesterday I was up at five and out the door by a quarter to six, heading north through Barnet.

I was hoping to get 50 miles in before ten via my usual straightforward route up the A1000 to the B158 - out 25 miles then back.

It was blissfully quiet on the roads at that hour, and neither as cold or as wer as I'd expected. I managed to turn off the A1000 after Potters Bar, but before the B158, which set me off on a nice tour of old manor houses an nouveaux riche McMansions, plus lots of horses, always a welcome sight.

The ride was a great success in the end thanks to the Ordnance Survey map I'd remembered to bring along. There were enough hills to keep it interesting too, but nothing too daunting. (And no hill ever seems as steep as the one between my place and the Spaniards Inn!)

I met the girls after music class after, and had a nice time at the playground.

When we got home, I borrowed the neighbour's hose and finally gave the bike a bath. It was nice to see it al cleaned up again, and I LOVE how easy it is to take the wheels off (to clean them, and inside the mudguards). I probably need to do a better (and more regular) job cleaning the drivetrain - must find out about that.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Route to Ware posted on Cycle Routes UK

What the creator of Cycle Routes UK lacks in web design skills, he certainly makes up for in PR prowess. Somehow this site has had press coverage in at least two of the magazines I read. It's a site dedicated to good cycling routes around the UK - a good idea!

I typed up my route to Ware and sent it in - it's now been posted at http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/cycleman/30mileleevalley.htm

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Good ride in South Herts!

But not exactly as planned...

It all started well enough. I found waypoint 19 from the station easily (I'm following offroad route number 3 from Nick Cottons book of rides north of London). and the riding was gorgeous, too - after a bit of busy road, it was all forest tracks with solid surface carpeted by freshly-fallen leaves. Couldn't have been better.

Then things took a turn for the muddy. After about a half hour, I started an interminable uphill on a surface of what seemed to be congealed motor oil. My Paselas are great for most terrain, but not this. After reaching the top of the climb, my mudguards were so crammed with the stuff that the wheels wouldn't even turn as I pushed the bike along!

No real choice then but to take the wheels off and scrape. Or as Gemma would say (more appropriately, even), scoop. Things definitely worked better after that, but I decided it would be wiser to stick to paved roads for a while.

I knew I wanted to head towards Bovington anyway, so I just followed signs along pleasant B roads and found my way there after a bit. Along the way, I noiced that my cyclometer seemed to be acting funny - must be the quarter inch of mud packed around it.

At Bovington, I went into a little shop for a sandwich, figuring that the police car parked out front would mean it was safe to leave my bike for a sec. Inside, the copper was watching the security video with one of the proprietors. I paid he other one for my sandwich with my last two pounds and asked where the cash machine was, and he said "it's nicked!"

I figured I'd better head back to my bike... And on the way out I heard them calling after me "let us know if you see it!"

It was getting colder then, and I didn't want to risk going wrong, so I took a reliable B road to the Grand Union Canal, which eventually took me back onto the planned route. Lovely riding along there, with lots of swans, anglers, and narrowboats with fires going inside.

I stopped along the canal after a while to eat my sandwich (I'd been fueled exclusively by peanut M&Ms for far too long at that point). Not too long after that, I saw the landmark I'd been looking for and popped off the canal right at King's Langley station.

So, while not exactly as planned, it was a beautiful ride on a less than beautiful day. The big question now is how I can clean my bike before taking it into the house!

Day off!

I'm on the platform @ Finchley Rd waiting for the Metropolitan line that will take me to Chalfont & Latimer for a nice 22 mile country ride. A train is due soon, but I'm not too optimistic.

At least the weather seems to be cooperating today - it's cold and overcast, but no real rain (or snow, as predicted) as yet.

I'm prepared for whatever comes my way, though: my Freestyle outfit, plus mid & base layers and overshoes on top of my cleats. Maybe overprepared for such a short ride, but I'd rather not be caught out!

I also have my new rear tyre, which I replaced without incident yesterday, and my new frame-fit Zefal pump. Worked great yesterday, let's hope I don't need it today!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Jacket repaired!

Hooray! My jacket was returned from Freestyle today, virtually good as new! Sure, there are still some dark stains that I incurred while patching my tyre, but that doesn't bother me. (And I didn't raise the issue with them anyway.)

They also mended my overtrousers, which are a couple years (and at least a couple thosand miles) old. They even fixed a seam I didn't know had a problem.

In each case, they sewed a matching Gore Tex patch over the tear and sealed it on the back. Absolutely remarkable service! I'll never buy bikey rainwear from anyone else.

I should also have a chance to test out their handiwork tomorrow, with snow and freezing rain predicted.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Be careful what you wish for

I always look forward to the new issue of Cycling Plus. It's a wonderful mass circulation magazine about road cycling published here in the UK by Future Publishing. I end up reading virtually all of each issue - it has industry news, gadgetry, sport, public policy, and great road tests.

Which is exactly how I used to feel about Rodale's Bicycling Magazine, the only remaining US offering. It's outlived all the other entries (like Bicycle Guide back in the 80s, which I also really liked), but it's really a shell of its former self. It hasn't been interesting since 1990 or so, when the format was changed to be more bite-sized and bullet-pointed. I don't even buy this one when I'm in the US any more. I don't quite understand how the UK can support Cycling Plus and several other cycling mags (including a weekly), when the huge US market can't even have one decent one.

In any case, I'm happy with C+ and VeloVision (which is only quarterly and definitely on the fringe), but I do still love the old Bicycling Mags from the 70s and 80s and I watch out for them on ebay. I have a had a few issues sent to me a while back, and they're really good fun. So the other day I came across the mother lode. A collection of 23 years, from 1978 to 2001 for sale by a guy in Pennsylvania. I bid and won, now I have 165 lbs of magazines on their way! Pure madness. I can't wait to get my hands on them, but it will be a while since it's ridiculous to have them sent here, so they'll be in storage in New York for a while.

Leafleting in Soutwark

After work in Southwark today, I found that my bike (and all the others on the street) had been leafleted with the Southwark Cyclist newsletter.

As much as I support the LCC, I think that this sort of thing is really not a good idea. Most of the leaflets will invariably end up on the street, which is wasteful and an eyesore. It also doesn't do the LCC's image any good when people see these leaflets blowing along the pavement along with day-old newspapers and unwanted take-away menus. I'm sure they could generate much more interest and goodwill by having a volunteer meet and greet cyclists around busy cycle routes - and handing out newsletters to anyone who's interested.

I've emailed the coordinator of the group and copied the LCC - we'll see what (if anything) they've got to say.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Improvements at Waitrose

Seems that I'm not the only dismayed about the ridiculous placement of the sheffield stands at Waitrose.

Yesterday I noticed that there were now stickers affixed to the ones along the Finchley Road reading:
Then today, I went by and found that they were in the process of uprooting and refitting all the racks on a diagonal. Still not ideal, perhaps, but definitely an improvement! Makes you wonder what they were thinking in the first place, though.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Lovely morning in All Saints Road

I finally got around to taking the Fahrrad in for a follow-up service this morning. On Saturdays, the Bicycle Workshop does a first-come, first-served thing - but only the first 10-12 people get lucky. So turning up early is a must.

I got there earlier than I needed to (queues are much shorter in the winter) and was on my own from 07.30 until 07.45, when I was joined by a nice bikey chap with a broken spoke. Turns out he's a Mercian owner and an ex-Thorn owner, so we had lots to talk about!

Ninon (the owner) turned up around 08.15 and assured me that they'd sort out the Fahrrad and sent me on my way. She also said that they'd be getting in the oil change bits for the Rolhoff hubs, which I'll need pretty soon.

Here she is checking in the rest of the bikes for today:

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

These motorbikes make me cough

How could this kind of thing be allowed on the road? It may look pretty boss to some, but the angle of these exhaust pipes points straight at the face of any unfortunate cyclist immediately behind. At least the cars & buses spew out their fumes at knee level, allowing them to dissipate a bit before I have to breathe them in.

Here's a quick snap I got near Tower Bridge today, showing how it looks from my point of view as a cyclist... note the tailpipes of the one on the right.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Waitrose parking as expected....

... crapola! Here's my bike locked as a normal person would here, unfortunately taking up three of the stands instead of one. And if they'd been installed correctly, each rack would take two bikes comfortably.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Baby bowl!

Today, I took a break from work to visit Andrea Casalotti's new shop, Velorution. It's a fantastical cornucopia of exotic utility bikes. Nice website & blog too - and our bit about the bobike is featured there!

What I really wanted to have a look at was the Christiania trike with the nice compartment for kids. Gorgeous! Made in Denmark to order, with whatever options you want. It's no rocket ship, but it would be great for muling two kids plus shopping around - year round.

I asked whether a car seat would fit inside, and it seems that it might, but most of them are so unwieldy there wouldn't be much room left for another passenger. So serendipitously, I was reading the new issue of the CTC magazine and came across report from the Eurobike trade show this year featuring exactly the right thing. It's the Babyschale from German company Weber. (Google claims that the translation is inelegantly "baby bowl".)

Here's a couple photos from the Weber website.

Wouldn't that be perfect for Gem and another?

An offer made to LBS

I've noticed that the website of London Business School provides directions via public transport and by car, but not by bike, so I've volunteered to write some directions that they can post on their "Getting to the School" page.

Here's the message, which I sent to the general inquiries address and the head of alumni relations; we'll see what they have to say!


I'm an LBS alumnus (EMBA96), and I use the library and other facilities at the school frequently. I'm also a cycling campaigner, and I generally cycle to the school.

First of all, I've been pleased to see how the number of cycles (and cycle parking) has grown since I was attending the programme here. I also notice, however, that your website (which has also become really very good since I was here!) does not include any directions for those arriving at the School by bike.

I think that including directions via cycle, including details of parking facilities at both buildings and proximity to official London Cycle Network routes, would be a real benefit to your visitors and students alike. It would also demonstrate LBS's dedication to sustainability.

I would be very happy to write a paragraph that you could include on your "Getting to the School" page if you're interested.

I look forward to hearing from you. And as I am on campus frequently, it wouldn't be a problem for me to pop in to have a chat about this.

Best regards,

Andrew Conway

Thursday, November 10, 2005

My nemesis

I was cycling home last night from Piccadilly Circus and I was joined by a girl cycling up Regent Street as I was. It was immediately clear, though, that we had entirely different philosophies. She took every opportunity to jump the light, ride through walk signals, and inch out into traffic where possible.

She wasn't aggressive like as messenger, just a careful commuter exercising what she believed to be her right as a cyclist to do whatever she wanted. I had a bit of energy, so I was riding fast from one light to the next, and had no trouble keeping up. Instead of saying something to her, though, I just made her life difficult where I could: blocking the space between the curb and car at a light, forcing her to wait behind me; or overtaking at times that might have been inconvenient for her.

Petty, sure - but it did make me feel a little better. Here's a photo of her waiting for a chance to sneak across the Marylebone Road into the park.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Where NOT to park at Waterloo International

You see signs on "private" railings all over London warning off cyclists, but this one at Waterloo International strikes me as a bit severe!

I only wish they were as strict in enforcing the motorbike parking around the corner, which always tends to encroach on the main cyle parking area...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ride to Windsor (okay, Weybridge)

A couple days ago, I sent a message to the CCC email list to see if anyone wanted to do a pre-dawn ride to Windsor today. I planned to follow the National Cycle Route 4 from Putney Bridge, through Richmond Park to Kingston, along the Thames past Hampton Court, to Weybridge, then through Windsor Great Park, and home on the train.

Surprisingly, I even got one taker, which was more than I'd expected. We met at South Hampstead station and set off to Putney via Hyde Park and Hammersmith. We maintained a good pace, and soon made up the time we'd lost due to a late (06.50 or so) start.

It was light by the time we got to Richmond Park, and it was a lovely ride through the park as usual. Not too many deer, though. It was a really chilly morning (45 degrees!), so our toes were pretty cold, but it was bright and the air was really fresh, so we didn't mind.

Everything was going really well until a dog ran out in front of me on the towpath near Walton. I've been trying to figure out whether he would have moved or not, but I'm quite sure that I would have run the little mongrel down if I hadn't slammed on the brakes. The path surface was hard packed gravel and normally pretty good, but I lost traction and the rear wheel slid to the right. My companion narrowly missed running into me but managed to stay upright, as did I.

Everybody heard the pop of my tire blowing but me, apparently - I was too busy trying not to crash and/or kill any dogs. The dog's owner was apologetic, and she went on her way. Then I noticed that my tire was completely flat. Which was really unfortunate and a big surprise, since the Panaracer Pasela Tourguard is regarded as one of the most durable tires around. From what I can gather, when I went sideways, a sharp rock poked its way right through the sidewall into the tube and that was that.

I had to think what to do just then since I'd never removed the rear wheel on this bike before. It's meant to be really easy with the Rolhoff hub, which may be the case, but I would have preferred figuring it out for myself with some time to spare - not on a muddy towpath two-thirds through an early morning ride.

So instead of taking the wheel off to replace the tube, I managed to patch it without taking the wheel off, but there was still the question of the slash in the sidewall. To prevent the inflated tube from popping out like a hernia, I sandwiched another patch between the tube and tire. Incredibly, that seemed to hold. Nevertheless, it seemed to make sense to cut our ride short and head back from Weybridge instead of venturing into Windsor Great Park, where any unrecoverable mishap would only result in walking out again.

It was still another seven or eight miles to Weybridge station (not in the centre of Weybridge, of course), but we took it easy and everything went fine. We got a cup of tea for the journey, then took the train back to Waterloo and arrived a half hour later.

I'd hoped to get some nice pictures in Windsor, but after the incident I lost my motivation. I did get a shot of the gash in my tire, though. The bit of the patch I stuck between the tube and tire is just visible.

Okay, not the ambitious ride to Windsor I'd hoped for, but it was a good ride nevertheless! Now the small matter of finding another Panaracer Tourguard and fitting it before my next ride.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Never deviate from chili chicken ramen

Had to ride down to Waterloo this morning to catch a train to Woking. For variety, I changed my route just a bit and endeed up spending an extra 20 minutes or so on my usual 40 minute journey.

This was due to the usual labyrinth of one-way streets combined with major road works around Covent Garden. Maddening! It took me over a year to optimize my two routes to the station (via Bloomsbury & Waterloo Bridge and via Parliament Square & Westminster Bridge), so I should know better.

Just like when I go to Wagamama and get something apart from Chili Chicken Ramen and am invariably disappointed.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Darkness falls in Regents Park

Today is the first weekday since the clocks went back, and it sure is noticeable on the ride home from nursery! It's pitch black by a six or so, which makes it a little scary in Regents Park in particular.

On the inside (counter-clockwise) side of the park has no streetlights at all, so a cyclist is only as visible as his lights and reflective wear - and there's also the question of seeing what's coming up on the road surface. So it looks like we'll be using another route home until springtime!

Fortunately, we've blazed a very nice new trail: Instead of going round the Outer Circle, we head up through Primrose Hill on Gloucester Avenue, down King Henry's Road to Elsworthy Road, which takes us straight over to Boundary Road again. Only a tiny bit longer, and much safer at this time of year.

Bobike in Holland

I got a nice email out of the blue from someone in the Netherlands who saw my article on the Bobike child seat we use:

Just saw your piece on the Bobike front seats, and could not agree more. We are avid cyclists, with young children, and like just about every Dutch family, we used Bobike seats (they are generally believed to be the best available in Holland). As you may not know, many Dutch mums ride their bikes with both a front and a rear Bobike seat... It can be done, but I have never liked it. For the same reason, several Dutch bike manufactures have now come out with special 'mum' bikes, with longer top tubes, heavily swept back handlebars, and beefed up frames.

We were very confident about the seats, and the side protection (plus thier helmets, of course) in particular perfectly protected our children on the few crashes they experienced (life is tough on the road).

Riding with the front seat in particular was a treat, since you are so close to the child. It is intimate, you can talk easily, and very safe since the child is largely surrounded by you and the handlebar. When they get older, however, and on balance, I prefer a trailer.

When we were living in Camnbridge, I had my 3.5 year old son in the front seat, and my then six year old daughter at the back of a Thorn Voyager Childback. It worked great for short trips up to about 5-7 miles, but your legs are spread out a bit, so it is hard on your knees. For longer urban trips we had a trailer, and for our holidays (cycle camping trips such as in the Ardennes see http://www.tandemclub.nl/Kinderen_verhalen.html) our younger would be at the back of my wife's solo bike, and my daughter would be at the back of the tandem, with a luggage trailer behind. By now, she rides her own bike, and it is my son who is on the back of the tandem.

Couldn't have said it better myself! Of course, now I'm all the more obsessed with a Thorn tandem!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Good news from Freestyle

I emailed Freestyle yesterday to see about repairing the little tear in my jacket, and here's the response I got:

We can repair the jacket and the cost is normally about £23.00 plus postage and packaging, I cannot envisage it costing any more than that, please forward it to us washed and clean, we will return it the following day.

Nice! Will do.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

South Hampstead to Ware

After a grueling week (including two days in Sweden and another two in Woking), I really was really hoping to get a good ride in on Saturday morning. I almost didn't make it, though - the later it got on Friday night at work, the more I started thinking I'd never have it in me to do anything interesting. For me, too, part of the fun is laying out all my kit the night before... and if I couldn't make it home before nine, there didn't seem to be any way I could plan my route and assemble all my stuff for a good adventure.

In the end, though, I did get home just before nine, and I had plenty of time to pull things together. I found my 3/4 length Enduro tights (got em last year: really durable and comfortable, and just right for this time of year); base layer and long-sleeve jersey. Plus my good new jacket, socks and shoes. I also dug up my rack pack and stocked it with a cable lock, a few tools, spare inner tube, and patching bits. I added some nourishment: several Frusili bars (bought by Kim that day at my request), a couple bananas, some raisins, and a pb&j on leftover baguette. Also my Ordnance Survey map and a couple Multimap printouts to set me off on the right track. Finally, I chucked a couple of my new bidons in the washer to try to get some of the plasticky smell out, then set the alarm for 06.00.

My goal was to ride up to Ware in eastern Hertfordshire via the Lee River Navigation. I'd ridden part of the way already, several times. The River Lee starts (or ends?) in East London somewhere, and the navigation intersects with the Grand Union Canal just east of Victoria Park, where I've ridden lots of times. That's the canal that goes very close to us, through Primrose Hill, and around the top of Regents Park. Most often, I've followed the canal past Victoria Park, then headed south to the Docklands and Greenwich via the foot tunnel under the Thames. I've ridden north along the River Lee, though, just a couple times to Waltham Abbey.

This would have been an ideal ride for my Raven, since it's classic tow path surfaces, ranging from nice smooth paving to hard packed gravel to mud and deep puddles. The last time I rode up there was on my Fahrrad, which did well with everything but the mud. I have to admit to some paranoia this time, since the southern-most part of the track goes through some pretty dodgy areas, and I've heard of various muggings and bike thefts around there.

So I decided to bypass the dodgiest bits by riding north through Finchley to Barnet, then east from there along the A110. This plan worked perfectly! I ended up leaving the house at around 06.30, thanks in large part to my night-before preparation and premature waking at around 05.45... I know this route well, since it's also the first part of my regular northern route. Up the Finchley Road to Hampstead Village, then to Kenwood House and The Bishop's Avenue until it dead ends at the A1000. I took that north to the A110, which was reasonable enough; I'd been a little concerned that it would be really busy, and it might have been if it hadn't been at dawn on a Saturday! It was solidly suburbia, though, with one giant eyesore of a semi-detached house after the next. Two displaced countryside features were the Trent Park Equestrian Centre where Kim and I had a hair raising gallop a few years back, and Enfield Town, which is just a cute little village. Otherwise, little of note until arriving at Lee Valley Park and the navigation.

It took a just a little ingenuity to identify how to get to the towpath from the road, which involved crossing the street and following an access road through a funny industrial estate to a giant pub (The Navigation, which seemed either derelict or just down at heel), and onto the path right next to it. The access point was at Ponders End Lock, which is four miles south of Waltham Abbey (according to the signposting, which also indicated that I was now on National Cycle Route 1).

So far, I'd ridden almost exactly 15 miles, which was about what I would have expected. And it was just past 07.30 then, so I was also maintaining a pretty good pace. It was properly light by this time, but still not many people around, except for the odd angler here and there. They tended to congregate in clumps because fishing is not allowed in many areas (most worryingly at the points where electrical wires are over the canal, and with signs indicating that the fish "may be affected"); in my experience, they pretty much tolerate cyclists and vice versa, but there's no cordial "good mornings" between us.

I have to admit that I've not explored all that much of Lee Valley Park; in fact, I've only once or twice strayed off the Navigation at all. Seems like a worthy pursuit, though; there's a great variety of sporting facilities, parkland, farms, and other stuff to explore. There's also the Lee Valley Cycle Circuit, which I've never actually seen, but seems like fun for the more velocity-minded. I believe that the area could be redeveloped for the Olympics, so it's probably worth having a look soon.

I know that some cycle tourists think riding endlessly along canal towpaths is monotonous, and I can understand that. But for the 15 or so miles from Ponders End to Ware, it was certainly enough to keep my interest. There were a dozen or so horses grazing along the first leg, and lots and lots of swans, geese, and ducks all along the way (which kept me thinking about bird flu, unfortunately). The locks are always interesting - Ponders End is number 14, and they count down to number 1 in Ware, so there were plenty of them too. Also some specific points of interest that I didn't stop to experience, like historical Waltham Abbey and the village, Broxborne Village, and other curiosities. It'd be great to do with the girls and do some real sight-seeing one of these days. It would also be nice to stop at one of the many pubs along the route like the Fish & Eel.

My only real mishap I can honestly put down to my own bravado, combined with what I believe to be a bottomless puddle. I was having great fun trucking along a stretch of hard-packed earth with lots of puddles when my front wheel somehow went out from under me and I went down hard. My left bar-end and pedal took the brunt of the impact from the bike's point of view; I broke the fall with my left hand/forearm and left hip. The sensation was similar to the one I experienced in the Alps this summer - mostly confusion and embarrassment (though no one witnessed this fall, fortunately), followed by regret over my irresponsibility. This fall is slightly more excusable, but I probably shouldn't have been going so fast (probably 17mph or so).

My bike was a little muddied up at the points of impact but otherwise unaffected; but there were two casualties: me and my brand new jacket. Interestingly, that was my first thought - did I tear my new £200 Gore Tex jacket? It was substantially muddy, and indeed, I did manage a little tear; but the rip-stop fabric seems to have lived up to its name, and I should be able to patch it with without too much trouble. My own injuries will also heal, of course, but I managed to do something pretty gruesome to my left pinky, trading much of the skin and a little of the nail for a bit of mud. I also took some skin off my elbow, but nothing nearly as severe as the last time. My fingers are a bit stiff (particularly at night when they haven't been moving), but I was lucky to make it out of that one more or less in tact.

So after 15 miles on the towpath I reached Ware. I'd set it as my destination because it's the last village within the bounds of the park, and also since it shares its name with the Massachusetts town where lots of my maternal relations lived. It's been so long since I've been to the US version (almost 20 years!) that I'd be hard pressed to make any real comparisons unfortunately. This one, though, for all of its touristy trappings, seems to be little more than another sweet old village desperately trying to cling to its small-town quaintness as the high street goes one-way and family-run shops are replaced by Boots and Dixons.

Maybe on my next visit I'll have to take a closer look. This time, though, I pedaled through town and on to the train station and waited a half hour for the service to London, which I took as far as Seven Sisters. I had intended to go all the way to Liverpool Street and ride home from there, but it occurred to me that the bike and I were both so muddy that it might be a good idea to banish it into our self-storage space in Holloway. Which is what I did, and in my day's only real cop-out, I took a taxi home (I was wearing my cleats, precluding any long walking, is how I rationalised the £10 I spent).

In addition to having a good ride and a moderate adventure (which I certainly did), my other goal was to scope out the route for a possible ride with Gem, and I believe it seems suitable. There are barriers positioned every few miles to keep motorbikes out, though, which nixes the trailer, but it would be fine with the bike seat - also more interesting for Gem. The real issue is how to get to the route from our house. There are a few possibilities. We could bike to a suitable train station and take the One line up to Waltham Abbey or one of the nice stops to the south; we could (shudder!) hire a car and drive to a good start-stop point; or we could do virtually the whole thing traffic-free if we were to ride out on the Grand Union Canal and head north from there. This does raise a safety issue, though I'm not convinced that the lower part of the Lee Navigation is really any less safe than any of the other bits. One thing's for sure: it wouldn't be a good idea to attempt a long ride like that (especially if we have a night at a B&B in Ware before coming back the way we came).

With the days shortening and weather on the decline, it will probably be next spring before we can manage it - so I'll need to find a suitable riding partner before then.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Cool new Triobike

I suppose that if any airline magazine was going to have an interesting cycling feature, it would be SAS (Scandinavian). Which is exactly where I saw a blurb about the new Danish Triobike. It seems exceedingly clever, with a child carrying pod between two front wheels and a regular bike on the back - but the really clever thing is that the child carrier can be used separately as a two-child pram, and a fork and single wheel put in its place to form a regular city bike! Looks like really nice design too, and at about €2500, it's not even as expensive as you'd think.

Of course, it appears to be on the drawing board still - not like others we've considered, like the Nihola Cigar Family and the Christiania.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

London Cycle Show 2005

The big London Cycle Show is on now. It's always pretty exciting, and this must be my fourth year in a row. For the first time, it was held in the Docklands at the Excel Centre instead of at the good old Business Design Centre in Islington. Not a bad venue, but I preferred the old one - much easier to get to, and the mezzanine level created lots of nice space for smaller traders (many of whom where notably absent this year). The real shame is that because I didn't have a lot of time today, I had to go on public transport instead of cycle there!

I did get there in good time, though, and was one of the first in line. (After negotiating the throngs of dermatologists and hangers-on at the acne conference next door, that is.) The big difference compared to last year was that it was one continuous space, allowing the try-out track to be in the middle instead of in the car park downstairs. That was nice, and they did a good job kitting it out with London props. Lots of good bikes to try, too, but the track seemed overrun with 14-year-olds practising their bunny hops.

There was the usual assortment of lighter and shinier racing bikes and mountain bikes, none of which grabbed much of my attention. There was a distinct lack of smaller stands, though, with a just a couple exceptions. Very little dedicated to touring, kids, or utility cycling, though, which was disappointing but not surprising.

There were a couple highlights, though. The first one was at the always exciting Thorn/SJS Cycles stand, where I spied a step-through Raven Tour, essentially a ladies' version of my own bike! It's a design I haven't seen before, and it was launched at the show. Sure, not a big head-turner, but it might be just what Kim needs! The one on display had a Klikfix wicker basket and a Blackburn rack. They also had a crazy superlight Rolhoff-equipped bike that's certainly out of my price range, but nice to see anyway. Nice time talking to the guys on the stand, of course.

I also had a nice time learning about all the new Like-a-Bikes and all the fun bits you can buy for them now. Saddle bags, baskets, trailers, and a whole new range. I can't wait for Gem to have one! They're good from about 2 years old, so that'll be perfect for her birthday in December.

Trek and Specialized had big stands as usual, but virtually nothing of interest, really. Decathlon also had lots of stuff there, including some rubbishy kids' bikes - and a trailer virtually identical to mine, though with a different sort of hitch.

The real surprise of the show, though, was Ride Low, a shop that imports the wackiest lowriders and choppers from Taiwan and sells them for virtually nothing! I don't know how road-worthy these things are, but the street cred you'd get in a week would be be worth twice the price!

I headed back home after a couple hours, including fifteen minutes watching the trials competition outside. No big revelations, but the Thorn stand really made it worthwhile - great to see the new stuff there.

See my .mac photo gallery for more pictures.

Cycle parking @ E&Y London

I had a couple days work with E&Y last week, and I cycled there as usual. The first day, I locked up on the street, no problem (it was pissing down with rain that day, incidentally, but my new jacket kept me warm and dry!).

The second day, I was a bit early, so I decided to see what would happen if asked where the cycle parking was. Their new UK HQ is this fabulous Thames-facing construction, part of the brand new MoreLondon complex, right next door to City Hall. So I figured the must have some facilities.

I left my bike just outside the main entrance so I could find out more, and I was stopped immediately by a friendly security guy, who directed me around the corner to Loading Bay D.

Once inside, finding E&Y's bit was pretty straightforward. And I was pleasantly surprised! There were probably 200 bikes there already (ar 9.00), and only room for another 50 or so. The racks were a bit bizarre, these upright contraptions requing me to lift my bike upright and slot the back wheel into a groove... The, it was hard to see how I could lock all the bits, but none else had, so I made do with locking the back wheel. Even for somebody moderately fit, a heavy, largish bike is pretty awkward!

There were also about 60 small lockers there. No Idea how they're allocated or managed.

All in all, pretty impressive! Clearly not for guests, though... I had no end of trouble without proper ID or a keycard! I'll lock up on the street next time.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I create another outrage on CCC

I've been known to cause some of the most active flurries of activity on the Camden Cycling Campaign mailing list with my inflamatory ideas. (My fave: proposing buying a Transit van and parking it on the street to store bikes in!)

Now, someone has sent a message to the group warning all of a sudden police presence in Primrose Hill. My response (predictably) was in support of that. I got a couple challenges right back, and here was my reply:

I know that many people don't agree with me on this one. But for me, it's all a slippery slope. I don't like people cycling on the narrow paths of Primrose Hill or on the bridges over Regents Canal because it's dangerous for pedestrians. And if I don't like that, I also can't like cycling down the Broad Walk.

Sure, you see lots of people cycling slowly and carefully, filtering through the dog walkers, old ladies, children, and pram-pushers - but it's hard to make a moral distinction between that and the less considerate who plow right through. For me, this also falls into the same quagmire as cycling on pavements, jumping lights, and going the wrong way down one-way streets. We can justify these all we want to ourselves, but in the end, it only helps to turn the tide of public opinion against us.

A surprising number of messages since this one have been supportive, which is very encouraging!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Terrible parking at Waitrose

Looks like the work is almost done in the forecourt at Waitrose Finchley Road. And it seems that my initial concerns were well-founded: As we can see here, though five sheffield stands have been installed, they are so close to the curb and so close to one another, we'll be lucky to get five bikes locked to them safely. Few people would want to lock up on the street side of the stands (being so close to the A-road traffic).

What a disaster! There's certainly enough room for them to do it correctly here. I'm not sure how the scheme squeaked by us at the CCC either. I'll post another photo when the rubbish is taken away...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Whenever we bike to nursery in the morning, we always look out for the troops riding out from the barracks in St John's Wood. I see them most frequently when going to work at an ungodly hour like 07.00, but today, Gem and I had a treat. It was just coming up to eight, and they were just emerging, along with their giant cannons! I suspect that they were heading up to Wormwood Scrubs to practice galloping around with them.

London's newest cycling instructor

Hooray! Kim has completed her training with Cycle Training UK, now she's a provisionally accredited cycling instructor! Before she solos, she'll need to observe some lessons and work with a mentor. She'll also be doing training in first aid and bike maintenance (does this mean no more "most expensive services ever?").

Congrats to Kim and the rest of her classmates!

Monday, October 03, 2005

LCN on foot

After Gem's swimming class yesterday, we went to Justin's for a fantastic lunch. The question was how to get from Friern Barnet to Crouch End...

The buses are infrequent around those parts, and TfL estimated about an hour to get us from there to there, and I really didn't want to risk interrupting Gem's naptime, which is exactly then, so we decided to walk it. For fun, we used Cycle Guide no 5 and tried to stick to the recommended routes. All in all, very successful, but it was a bit of a mess around New Southgate, which put us on to a dodgy bit that ran along the rail line, eventually spitting us out into a confusing but well-maintained set of segregated tracks near the shopping centre along the North Circular.

We made it to Crouch End in about 90 minutes, not bad considering the time it would have taken on the bus!

The fox and the rainbow

So after Gem's nap on Saturday, we set out for a ride to Kenwood via Hampstead Heath. On our walk last weekend, it occured to me how nice that might be, so this was our chance to give it a try.

The only trouble was that clouds seemed to be moving in all day long... but if we scheduled our lives around the whims of the British weather, we'd never go anywhere. So we set off around three, and by the time we'd reached the top of the hill in Hampstead, the skies opened up and we had to seek shelter under a tree for about 20 minutes. Fortunately, though, I'd worn my new waterproof, and I'd packed Gem's rain poncho, which she wears happily.

The rain finally cleared and we had a very nice ride across the Heath (mostly on official bike paths, though we got a little lost when it started raining again and I stopped paying attention). We had a lot of fun spottiing the squirrels and dogs. Then when we were humping up a steep hill in Fitzroy Park, we saw a fox! It trotted along in front of us for a while, as Gem pointed and shouted "fox! fox!" I suspect that she knows foxes from the Gruffalo, but she might have picked it up anywhere. Very exciting.

By the time we got to Kenwood, the rain had stopped, and the sun was out, which meant that the revelers from a wedding reception had spilled out onto the lawn, and many of them admired Gem, who was concerned with picking up good rocks to put in her pockets.

We went down to the bottom of the lawn and had a nice picnic before heading back.

It rained a little bit on our ride home, but it soon cleared up and a giant rainbow appeared! We noticed clumps of people in Hampstead folding up their umbrellas and pointing at the sky behind us, so we stopped and there it was. Gemma's first one.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Most expensive service ever

I've probably ridden my Fahrrad Manufaktur 3000 miles since I bought it 4 years ago, so I shouldn't be crying over an expensive service. But at about £200, that's half what I spent on it new!

But never mind. I booked it in at Bicycle Workshop almost three months ago, so I've been looking forward to today. During the wait, I've been unable to shift into gears 1 or 2, so certain hills have been off limits (and I don't think I've been doing my knees any favours either).

Turns out I needed a new rear tire (Schwalbe Marathon), a new crankset (since the teeth on the chainwheel were worn out and it isn't detachable), new pedals, brake shoes, and various cables. All in all, about a hundred pounds in bits and another hundred in labour. Considering the work they did, not bad.

Plus, they're so completely friendly there - and they remember my name too - it's actually fun to drop in there. Not like virtually every other bike shop I've been to in the past ten years! Worth every penny.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Gem's first solo ride

We turned up early to swimming class yesterday, and found a big empty playground with a bunch of really nice little three-wheeled contraptions! Gem was able to make two of them go under her own steam.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Kim becoming a cycle trainer!

Kim has just started a four-day course to become a certified cycle trainer! She's being trained by Cycle Training UK, the biggest provider of cycle training in the country. I've come across these guys lots of times, and they do a really good job - and I'm sure Kim will be a great trainer.

Cycle parking at the zoo

It's nice that there's a bank of cycle stands right across from the entrance to the London Zoo. It's in a tiny car park that never has many cars in it for some reason. The cycle stands are well enough designed, but not as efficient as plain old Sheffield stands.

On the nice sunny Saturday we came along, most of the stands were occupied - but with motorbikes and scooters, which were expressly not allowed. Where are the Community Support Officers when you need them?

Community support officers nick cyclists in Regents Park

Gem and I had a lovely pique nique in Regents Park today, and we were treated to the sight of a couple Community Support Officers staking out the Broad Walk. No cycling is allowed on the paths of Regents Park, and they were stopping cyclists and reading them the riot act.

I'm all for it! I know some of my cohorts from the Camden Cycling Campaign don't agree with me on this, but I always try to be completely law-abiding - so it drives me mad when bikers flout the rules.

We ran over to them and told one of them that we supported their work - he was completly humorless about it. He did say that they're explaining the rules to people now (I asked if he'd given anyone a ticket and he wouldn't tell!), but soon they'd start handing out £200 fines on the spot!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Great route to Crouch End - thanks TfL!

I had to ride up to Crouch End for a meeting the other day, and it was a great opportunity to try out the new cycle mapping utility on the Transport for London website. All in all, it works really well!

The tool itself is really clever; it's the same one we use to figure out routes on public transport - only choosing the "cycle only" option. It generates a nice PDF doc with an overview map, and then detailed pages with clear maps and step-by-step directions.

The route I tried is a tricky one, with Hampstead Heath between me and my destination. It ended up being about 2km longer than Multimap's route (for cars), but it sent me via the cycling paths through the Heath, and a long stretch along the lovely Parkland Walk from Highgate to Crouch End.

There were only a couple wierd bits in the route it came up with for me. First, it identified two cycle-only paths along the Finchley Road where no such things exist, and it recommended that I turn right at the Camden Arts Centre, when that's clearly not allowed.

And the only other problem was getting onto Parkland Walk in the first place, which is always a bit troublesome.... but I got there in the end!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Thames Festival 2005

Today we biked to the Thames Festival. It's a really fun extravaganza that stretches all the way from Westminster Bridge to Butler's Wharf. But the real fun was cycling there and back.

We loaded up just one panier with Gem's food and other bits, strapped the pram on the rack, put Gem on the front of my bike, and we were off. She was a complete angel all the way, attracting adoring fans everywhere as usual. We did our usual route down through St John's Wood to Regents Park, across Marylebone Road to Marylebone High Street, then across Oxford Street to Mayfair. From there, we followed the marked London Cycle Network path to St James', down Bond Street, across Piccadilly, to Pall Mall, and eventually to Parliament Square....

... where we walked our bikes. Just too treacherous going across all those lanes of traffic trying to turn left. But we hopped back on at the bridge, where we met a retired couple on Bromptons who also thought the square was a nightmare.

We were pretty hungry at this point, so we stopped at the Bagel Street just behind County Hall for a BLTCC, and Gem wanted a bagel too, of course. We ate them on the lawn behind the London Eye, but they were really not that good. All the fault of the bacon, of course. We locked up there and then enjoyed the festival on foot. Gem went to sleep soon after, and snoozed almost all the way to Tower Bridge.

Before heading back, we had a wonderful couple of Souvlaki and chips at the Real Greek. Gem had claimed not to be hungry before that, but then she ate up half the bowl of chips!

Our ride home was just as nice as the ride there, except that we have yet to find an equally pleasant route between Mayfair and Regents Park heading north (various one-way streets always get in the way). And for a real treat to top off the day, we saw the changing of the guard at St James' Palace!

Time to cycle

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Extreme -> Storm for 2005

I was wondering why my expensive cycling jacket wasn't showing up on the Freestyle website, so I emailed them to find out the scoop. Here's what Tony had to say:

The Extreme was a model for the season 2004/05, an excellent choice, the jacket has now become the Storm and available in the Yellow, hope you are enjoying the jacket, please let me know if we can be of any further assistance.
Here's a link to the jacket. It only took them a day to get back to me - not bad. I have their Gore Tex overtrousers too, and they've been great.

It's really rainy today and I biked Gem to nursery, and both of us were comfortable and dry the whole time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Flat tyre - Bikefix comes through (kind of)

On my way home from Condor yesterday, I got a flat. In the back, no less, which is really hard to repair because of the fiddly SRAM hub gear and non-QR spindle. Impossible, in fact, with no tools.

But since I was just around the corner from Bikefix and had some time to spare, I decided to drop it in and pick it up today. Now, I've had my problems with this place. The owner (Stuart) is generally helpful and friendly. At the Cycle Show two years ago, he was particularly chatty when Kim and I turned up on his stand. But he seems to have little influence over the workshop, where they're usually abrupt, condescending, and surly.

When I dropped off, the guy was friendly enough - he said they might have it done by 18.30, in which case, they'd ring me. Never happened, so I guess they didn't get to it until today.

So I picked it up today as planned, and everything was fine. £12 for a new tube and labor, not bad. The guys who were there today were the surliest of the lot - one of them I've heard berating other customers after they've left the shop. Not too impressive.

I'll stick to Bicycle Workshop when poss, where they seem more technically competent but infinitely more friendly. (In fact, it's only two weeks until my first major Fahrrad overhaul! I only had to book three months in advance...)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Thorn weighs in on dent

I sent off some pictures of the dent to Robin Thorn Saturday, and today he responded. Here's one.

He said it looked like he expected, and that I had three options:
  1. Have a framebuilder fill in the dent and respray
  2. Have a framebuilder replace the top tube and respray
  3. Return frame to Thorn for subsidized replacement
Not unexpected, I suppose... but even the subsidized cost is a bit much to spend for a conceit like this, as Robin says that it shouldn't affect the life of the frame. As he says, "Just to go back to why it dented, it's a bit like stilleto heels, the wooden floor in a car showroom can support the weight of truck, but the girl wearing stilleto heels still puts dents in as she walks across it."

I guess I'll have to learn to accept it...

New jacket!

I cycled to a meeting near Old Street yesterday, which gave me a good opportunity to browse Condor Cycles in Gray's Inn Road. I was looking for a waterproof cycling jacket to replace my old Gore Bikewear jackt, which I've effectively worn out. It's served me well, though - it's kept me dry through all sorts of rain and ice storms for the past two years.

This time (for my birthday - it was either this or an iPod!), I wanted something a bit harder-wearing than the PacLite fabric of the old one, so I was looking for XTR. Because I wound up wearing the other one so much, I also thought some pockets would be nice. Unfortunately, though, these two characteristics only seem to grace the top-of-line jackets...

But was my 40th, after all, so I figured I could splurge a bit and went for the Freestyle Extreme. I couldn't find it on Freestyle's website, so it may have been discontinued. That's all right, though. I wore it this morning taking Gem to nursery, and was great!

More after I get rained on...

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Nice easy sunday ride

For my first ride for over a month (because of holidays), I did a short (17 mile) jaunt through town. An absolutely autumn-like day, it was drizzly and coldish. I only got out in the afternoon, so I didn't have much time, thus I did my favourite touristy route.

I headed down to Hyde Park and then east towards Speakers Corner, but I had to turn around because of the throngs attending the BBC Proms outside in the park today. But no matter, it was clear around the Serpentine, so I made it to the bottom of the park that way, then I turned back East along the south side of the park to Hyde Park Corner. The road was closed, so it was a delight to ride. Lots of families out on bikes today - I took a picture of one woman and her passenger.

Then down to Buckingham Palace and up Pall Mall, and across Westminster Bridge. Not too much traffic, and lots of bikes out today. For my first ride for ages, I kept it slow, around 13mph on average, and just stuck to enjoying the ride.

Once on the south side, I followed Route 4 down to Southwark Cathedral, where I decided to turn around so I could make it to Waitrose before closing at five. Before heading back, though, I stopped into the bike shop there to check out their waterproof jackets. They didn't have the Gore one I'm looking for, it was all Altura and one Nike that I hadn't seen before. So I gave them a miss and headed on home.

My top tube dent didn't affect the ride, except for the niggling feeling it gives me while I wait for Robin Thorn's reply about how he wants to handle it.

I've finally decided to retire all my moldy old water bottles, so I used one of our Sigg bottles. Sure, the water tasted great, but the top of the bottle was a nuisance - having to pull it open with my teeth was a real hazard.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Raven suffers grievous dent

Off to America on holiday today. The big blow before heading off: discovering a big ding in the crossbar of the Raven. Seems it took a tumble inside and the crossbar hit the corner going up the stairs. Seems entirely unreasonable to have suffered such damage considering that it's meant to be a bomb-proof expedition bike.

I emailed Robin Thorn (proprietor of the shop that made it), who was reasonably encouraging. He replied right away, saying that it's almost certainly still safe to ride, and that if I send photos he'll let me know about repair or replacement.

I'm in favour of the latter, of course, and I hope they can do it for free! Not holding my breath on that one, though.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A lesson learned regarding the trailer

I love loading up my bike for utilitarian purposes. Whether I'm muling stuff to storage or taking cardboard to Westminster for recycling (because Camden won't do it at its neighbourhood recycling stations), I take great satisfaction in loading up my rack and/or trailer and heading off.

So today, I had a bunch of stuff to take away - the old telly (14 years, not bad! Samsung before they started to design their products), and months worth of paper to recycle. The telly had to go to the main recycling depot in Kentish town (where they do take cardboard, but it's usually not worth the trip), and the papers just down the street.

I started by taking the child enclosure off the trailer (I just hope I'll be able to get it back on again). Then I bungeed the tv and a broken vcr into it, and set off up the hill towards Kentinsh Town. Of course, I had to cross the Finchley Road at the top of the hill, which is where I ran into a little problem.

I've used the trailer lots of times, always being sure to leave enough room on either side. Not this time, though! I was crossing the busy road and my left tire hit the island, and over it went. Speaks well of the trailer that I stayed upright, but the tv was face down on the southbound side of one of the busiest roads in North London. With the help of a sympathetic passer by, I got the tv back in the trailer and dragged the whole assembly to the island. I had to make the hard choice between blocking the way for crossing peds and sticking out into traffic, and I chose the former, and was told off by an old lady for it.

Turned out that the power cord from the tv wound round one of my axles too, which complicated matters. In the end, I disconnected the trailer from the bike and took both pieces across the road, where I hooked back up and reloaded the trailer, and I was off again.

Taking it slow (and careful, this time), I was at the Regis Rd recycling place in about 20 minutes, having attracted lots of attention and comments along the way. Mostly incredulous and amused, except for at the dump itself, where people tended to be impressed and interested.

The papers got to our local recycling station without incident.