Thursday, 27 February 2014

Isle of Wight Holiday - Of Towers and Ferries and Sandy Promenades (Day 8)

Welcome to new readers! I have been posting a photo-diary of our cycling holiday last August on the Isle of Wight -- in serial / instalment form.  This one covers our last day, before catching a ferry back to the mainland. 

If you wish to 'catch up', here are links to previous instalments: 

The Sunshine Trail - sign outside Shanklin train station

Our 'goal' for today was simply to pack up and get ourselves back to Ryde to catch the ferry to Portsmouth and from there get a train home. We cycled to Shanklin and caught the island train to Ryde, arriving with loads of time to wander around and have a proper look at Ryde before departure.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Review: VULPINE Mid-Calf Merino Socks

I bought a pair of Vulpine's merino socks from Velovixen at the London Bike Show a few weeks ago.

Sure, I already own more than my fair share of merino socks -- by De Feet, Smartwool, dhb and Icebreaker. But knowing what I know about how Vulpine's merino clothing is just so much softer and silkier than those of other brands, I had to give these a try.

They are, in a word, wonderful. Taller than any other "mid-calf" socks (of merino or any other persuasion) so I have no issues with a potential gap forming between the socks and my knee warmers. The soles are slightly thicker than the rest of the sock, especially under the heels, which gives a nice cushion when walking. The narrow red and navy stripes are made of a finer, tighter knit and contribute to a bit of shaping and a sense of support around the calves and the arches.

I adore them and fully intend to get another pair, perhaps next time in the knee-high polka dot version!

* Any perceived asymmetry can be blamed on my feet and/or how I put the socks on, not on the socks themselves! I really should learn how to line up the stripes...

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Sneak Peak: THE NUTTER Bicycle Multi-Tool from Full Windsor

There's a new kid on the block:  Full Windsor. This is a cycle accessory brand with such an particular aesthetic that I'd have to also call it an aspirant lifestyle brand. Think urban hipster with a dash of steampunk. From that angle, it should hit the spot with a lot of Londoners! 

According to its website, Full Windsor is "the brainchild of Mark Windsor, a Kiwi product designer. He’s passionate about three things: riding bikes, designing imaginative bike products, and riding more bikes. You might say he’s a bit of a bike nut. And, along with a few other bike nuts, he started Full Windsor – a bicycle accessory design company led by innovation, hard work and a hell of a lot of mucking about on bikes. Full Windsor is based in a converted warehouse in the creative hub of Hackney Wick, right next to the Olympic stadium in east London."  

So what do they do? "Essentially they come up with new product ideas from behind the handle bars. The products are not your run of the mill, and that’s what they are all about - designing creative, functional products that users enjoy, which step outside the norm."

The key products in the range, to start with, have been easy fit mudguards, like this Foldnfix Mudguard

Full Windsor recently launched a new bicycle multi-tool kit called The Nutter and approached me asking me to review it. The product has been provided to me free of charge for review purposes. In line with my Product Review Policy, I have offered to return the product after testing but have not yet received Mark's reply on that. 

What Full Windsor say about The Nutter tool: 
"Featuring all the essentials for fixing your most common bike headaches. The Nutter combines all the tools you need when out riding into one simple unit. Its unique design and distinctive form turns the tool into a handle, giving you more leverage than other multi tools on the market. The tool weighs just 110g or 3.9oz."

The Nutter consists of a leather pouch (available in either 'burnt brown' or 'jet black') containing a range of separate tools (bits and drivers), each stored in a pocket made from recycled inner tube. Each bit or driver can be fitted into the side of a large metal handle, which itself incorporates a number of other tools and is designed for use as a tyre lever. The various tools included in the entire kit include: 
  • Nylon tyre lever
  • 15mm box head spanner
  • Spoke key
  • 3,4,5,6,8mm hex tool bits
  • Philips head screw driver
  • Flat head screw driver
  • T25 torx bit
  • Magnetic tool bit extender
  • Bottle opener
The product arrived in the post today. My first impression is that this is a high-quality piece of kit. Whether it warrants its asking price of £39.99 (slightly cheaper on sites such as Wiggle) remains to be seen.

I will be fitting The Nutter to the Brooks saddle on my Cross Check for general duties. Additionally, I will lend it to Adam to try out during his Dr. Bike sessions this coming week.

So watch this space for a full review coming soon.

** Photos above courtesy Full Windsor's website.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Inspirational Touring Blogs, Shout Out #1: Give A Bike

I've been looking for blogs written by people who've done some cycle touring. You may already be familiar with a few via the Crazy Guy On A Bike website -- a massive collection of ride journals. It would take years of doing nothing but sitting in front of your computer to read all of them. 

But I've stumbled across a few that perhaps you haven't seen yet. So I'm starting a series of posts myself, to shine a spotlight on some exceptional ones that I've found. 

First up is: 

Adam and Christy toured for a whole year, to help give bikes to those in need. They wrote a fantastic account of their travels here

Aren't they cute? :)

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Grumpy Knee 2, Velovoice 0

via Google Images

I’ve been having problems again with my arthritis. Dealing with this has been a life-long project (starting at approx. age 11) and very much a matter of good management: knowing my limitations and pacing myself, appropriate exercise, and watching my diet. Over the years, I've gradually learned what to do and how, and also what not to do! So just a few weeks ago, I was feeling grateful that I haven't had acute knee pain since late spring last year.

On Wednesday however, I was forced to turn back for home on my way to a club ride, with my left knee feeling tight and stiff with a kind of burning sensation. Massage seemed to help and that afternoon I found an old (expired!) stash of Diclofenac at the back of the storage cupboard.

On Thursday, my knee felt much better, still creaking but not hurting. On Friday, I cycled into Dunstable and back without much complaint from the knee ‑ it felt a bit 'weak' or unstable but functional and not hurting.

However, last night it was feeling a bit stiff and creaky again so I dosed up on Diclofenac plus a short measure of (medicinal) Bicardi ‑ and had a really good night's sleep. I woke up this morning with the left knee not feeling much better and now with the right knee also complaining a bit. After some massage and stretching and more Diclofenac, I suited up for a road ride because it is such a gorgeous day for a ride, and the opportunity to join in on a joint Breeze Network Luton & Bedfordshire + (i)vinghoe Velos ride seemed too good to miss!

I made it to the village sign on the other side of Caddington before I was forced by pain to turn back.

Stupid stupid blasted knee. Now what?!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Velorution The Magazine - Issue 1 Out Now

Now here's some good news you may have missed. The renowned Velorution cycle shop in London has launched its own magazine! Velorution is a very special sort of bike store in the UK -- one of the very few focusing exclusively on practical urban car-free living. We're not talking hipsters and fixies. No, it's all about Bakfiets, Retrovelo and other beautifully-designed low-maintenance beauties... plus every accessory you may need or desire to make cycling the most comfortable and convenient mode of transport.

The first issue is a juicy 72-pages long, featuring drool-worthy photography by Urban Cycling, factory visits, brand stories and interviews with a range of cycling celebrities such as Kate Silverton, Jo Wood, Sebastian Conran and Derren Brown. Plus, Andrew Gilligan makes more noise about the future of cycling in London.

Issue 1 of the Velorution magazine is available now for £4.99 at the Velorution store at 88 Great Portland Street, London W1; or by Internet mail order; or even, if you prefer, as a digital download for both Apple and Android devices - subscribe to get quarterly issues and get the first issue free.

Monday, 17 February 2014

HELLO Fellow Cycling Bugs!


The new online cycling community called The Cycling Bug goes live today!  I will be one of several Bug Bloggers and can't wait to engage in conversations with more people about anything and everything bike-related.

I came back to cycling as an adult in July 2009 at the age of 40 -- and totally fell in love with it! (I've linked to my tale of taking up cycling but there's a lot more to that story so do watch this space!)

My bikes are a well-maintained fleet of 6-and-a-half -- the half being the back of a tandem! For commuting and errands, I ride Bridget the black Surly Cross Check... unless it involves a trip into London, in which case Lucy the 8-speed Brompton gets the gig. For pleasure and fitness, I adore getting in long happy miles on my custom Enigma Etape touring bike, Riley.

Some of the topics I've covered in my blog:  ride reportsmessenger bag reviews, an overwhelmingly popular review of Carradice’s new Stockport bag for the Brompton S-type bicycle, musings on health issues and bike fit, not to mention a momentous decision to get a custom bike.

In the coming months, I will be sharing a lot about our preparations to go cycle touring in Scotland in June. I've already begun talking about our Itinerary and my cycle training and fitness plans - just follow the hashtag #ScotTourTrain both here and on Twitter (@Velovoice) to follow our journey!

Oh yes, and... I am often forced to reach around a cat to get to my keyboard to write these posts. Any typos are hers, not mine!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Adam's Super Power

Adam has the magic touch. After a month of heavy rains and gale-force winds -- with much less hope for an actual glimpse of the sun -- he seems to have done it again: ordered in some sunshine for a Luton & Dunstable Cycle Forum ride and yet again it arrived on time and lasted all day. No threat of rain and mercifully only a light breeze!

Friday, 14 February 2014

London Bike Show 2014: Best of the Best

I am just surfacing from the information-overload that is the London Bike Show. So much to see! So many lovely people to talk to!

I arrived at 1.30pm and was shocked when it was suddenly 5.10pm and I realised I hadn't eaten anything and was due to meet fellow Velovixen Ride ladies at 5.30pm! Salad duly inhaled while tweeting madly... and badly. Phew!

Last year, my aim was to find out what the latest innovations were and spot any new offerings for women. This year, the second goal carried forward but I already knew of so many exciting developments over the past year and more in the pipeline, so perhaps this didn't feel as urgent a mission.

My #1 goal though was to meet people! I've "met" so many lovely people via the Internet this past year -- bloggers, readers, riders, bike designers and builders -- all full of passion and dreams. I wanted to meet as many of them in person as I could. And so I did. A few that I had spoken to beforehand in the hopes of meeting up couldn't in fact be there on Thursday, but I did meet one heroine of mine, and discovered several others. 

So! Where to start?! I set off an a general wander when I first arrived, with no real agenda other than to get a feel for what was there. I looked at a lot of bikes -- surprise surprise! As the afternoon went on, my attention shifted more to people in the industry as I struck up conversations with new start-ups and retailers who are really excited with the explosion of interest in cycling -- not just in London but all over the country, with amazing things happening in Bristol, Cambridge, Manchester and Edinburgh, to name just a few burgeoning Cycle Cities. Then, I met up with friends and talked rides and bikes and more rides. And then we all went on to the climax of the day: the inaugural Total Women's Cycling Annual Awards Night. 

So let's get started!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Right Tool For The Job

Until these floods and mud go away, I've decided to swap which cycling boots I wear. 

Above on the left are the Northwave Fahrenheit GTX (Gore-Tex) boots I've been using this year. On the right are the Shimano MW81 boots I wore last winter. 

Both are fabulous boots -- warm and waterproof and both fit well.

So why the switch?

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

My At-Home Work-Outs -- or, what I do OFF the bike to feel good ON the bike (#ScotTourTrain)

Feeling Good and Fit For Anything!

In preparation for my first multi-day cycle tour in June, I've put together a "training plan" to get me fit enough. (Hence the #ScotTourTrain hashtag used here and on Twitter!)

In addition to my cycling plan, I'm doing a number of things OFF the bike to improve my general conditioning. My priority is to be strong and comfortable on my bike so that I enjoy every mile of our tour and can focus on scenery not pain! My off-bike regime includes exercises and activities to help my body better cope with being on the bike for long periods. My aim is two-pronged: improve my ability to do what cycling demands, and reduce/prevent 'damage' that those demands can inflict! My regime is correspondingly two-fold: stretching and strengthening.

Monday, 10 February 2014

A Beautiful Day

... and a beautiful bicycle. Or at least I think so! 

I was coming down the hill fairly fast but spotted a "gateway to a view" and had to stop. 

Image: Google Street View

This is the view westwards across the valley to Markyate, taken from footpath opposite High Winds Farm on Hicks Road.  

Friday, 7 February 2014

Rural Ramble

I was "supposed" to be #ScotTourTraining today but couldn't quite find my get-up-and-go. To be honest, I just didn't fancy donning all the gear for a serious ride.

So I got the mixte out for a pootle round the neighbourhood.

The road heading south out of the village is still flooded in the dip.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Why I Cycle For Transport, Part I -- or, The Elephant In The Room

off to the recycling centre

This article has been lurking in the back of my mind since before I started this blog. While I've written here about bikes, bike rides and things I've seen while out on my bike, essentially my aim is to show a life where most, if not all, of the getting from one place to another is done by bike. Somehow I haven't expressly said that anywhere. By now, I should have.

This post is first in what I expect to become a series of three. In its entirety, the series will serve as, dare I say it, a kind of mission statement, indeed a raison d'être for the vélovoice blog itself. 


Sometimes I feel as if Lovely Bicycle walks just a half-step ahead of me. Yet again, she has posted on a subject that I've been mulling over but which hadn't progressed beyond a few half-written drafts. Well, she's opened the door and I'm going in. 

The subject is rural transportational cycling.

Here's the "problem": you live in the countryside and, just like everybody else, need to get from A to B for a variety of necessary journeys and, by chance or by choice, you don't have a car.

A number of different possible solutions may be available. For one thing, the UK has a fairly decent spread of public transport options -- although rural bus services are shockingly limited these days.

But if your solution happens to be The Bicycle, a raft of further questions arise, in particular "why?" and "how?"

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Of Mud, Floods, Rainbows and Gales

My qualms about the wind today were largely unfounded. It did begin to be hard work after lunch but I made it home before 4pm. Hope the group made it to Harpenden without being blown off the road!

Adam and I met our friend Jane's group from London at Harpenden train station. The planned route was more or less this: 

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