Saturday, 13 September 2014

Catching Up... And Moving On

Sorry for the lack of new posts in the past few weeks! It's been crazy busy at work, with our small team of 6 legal brains working flat out way past normal leaving times. I leave home at 7.45am and have been getting home around 9.30/10pm with nothing but dinner and sleep on my mind. We all agreed over drinks in the pub last night though that it feels we are over the hump of it now, so normal hours and a normal life should be possible again for the foreseeable future. 

So, I hope to finish my reports on our Scottish cycling holiday in June and have them up soon for your reading and viewing pleasure... a bit of inspiration for your own next cycling holiday, perhaps? 

Nonetheless -- the cycling here at home carries on!

I had a very enjoyable day out in Kent a few weekends ago, with Lewisham Cyclists, the local 'chapter' of the London Cycling Campaign. My friend Jane is very active with this group and invited me along. My journey to get to the ride was nearly 3 hours each way, but it was one of those Ideal Days in stunning countryside so well worth the effort.

Typical house, next to The Chequers pub in Smarden where we had lunch. 

Smarden High Street -- front of The Chequers on the left. 

Pond in the beer garden at the back of The Chequers.

Overrun with cyclists.

One of many traditional Oast Houses in this part of Kent.

Gypsy Trotters (here, pacing not trotting) out on a training 'ride'.
Harness racing is not at all common in the UK, so this was an exciting sighting!

Adam and I did a night ride last weekend, from London to Brighton. Unfortunately, the Grumpy Knee was not behaving very well in the days leading up to the ride and once again I willfully ignored the warning signs (stiff, achy) and ended up bailing after 30 miles. The bail-out point was very convenient however -- at Gatwick Airport! Adam and I hopped on the train and met our friends for breakfast in Brighton. (In fact, we found out that at least one other had also taken the Train Assist option just after we did. Have I mentioned before how useful trains can be? I am so grateful that, on the mainlines at least, they run right through the night, even if not at quite so frequent intervals as during the day.)

Adrian (with his Brompton) looking even more dapper than usual.... although he did say Ditchling Beacon
was hard work, as he had nowhere to stash his bowler hat and he got very hot!

The smooth ribbon of road that is Lonesome Lane. Night Ride Nirvana.

30 cyclists with bikes --  a bit more custom than Costa is used to at 3:15am -- even for Gatwick Airport!

Waiting for the 06:32 train (after a power nap!)

Lovely new waiting rooms on the platforms.

All that remains of the West Pier in Brighton.
Oddly sculptural and still unmistakably Victorian, the ruins have become iconic in their own right.

The rest of the group arrives at the pub for breakfast.

I love moments like this.

After another Brooks saddle disaster and being so pleased with the Selle SMP Dynamic on my Enigma, I am trying the Selle SMP TRK (men's version, as the women's is much too wide) on the tandem in my stoker position. Our longest ride so far has only been 12 miles but included some climbing. The padding on this saddle may be a little too thick for my liking over long distances but that remains to be seen. We intend to do a few 30-40 mile day rides before committing to a longer night ride with me on this saddle. (Bailing out in the middle of the night due to saddle pain is just too embarrassing. Don't ask me how I know... twice!)

Astrid the Viking is doing very well though I had a moment of consternation on day 4 when... the left crankarm fell off! One more thing that hadn't been properly assembled. The left brake lever internal assembly is a little dodgy as well -- Adam has done what he can but upgrades to Tektro are definitely on the cards. This week, I arranged for her to be security-marked by the police at Kings Cross station.

On 4th September, we participated in National Cycle To Work Day, only the second such event in the UK. Adam commutes by bike (6 miles each way) every single day, me not quite so regularly (or so far) but still more often then not, so this was nothing unusual for us and it felt odd to take photos!

Adam ready to leave for work.
(He wears a helmet only for commuting and only started doing so after a few worrying recent incidents.)

Me, not quite ready to leave yet.
(And no, I do not wear a helmet -- except under extreme duress.)

Meanwhile, it's also been very busy on the campaigning front, with Transport for London's plans for the new East-West and North-South cycling highways going out for public consultation. I struggle to be objective while reading plans like these but, guided by the analyses of others who are very good at this (read these summaries by Danny Williams, Mark Treasure and Rachel Aldred), am inclined to think these should get built, as a massive step-change indeed a breakthrough in the way transport planners and engineers think about cycling (as a true option, not an afterthought). Even so, big businesses in London are fearful of the impact and are actively campaigning against it -- have they not heard about the tangible advantages that businesses next to cycle lanes gain, as illustrated recently in New York City?

Do you cycle in London - or indeed in other cities perhaps looking to London as an example (shining or cautionary)? What do you think of these proposals?  

In other news, I was contacted yesterday by a brand new bicycle manufacturing brand launching in London in a few weeks' time:  Fred's Bicycles in Dalston, London. They have developed two models of bicycle under a design brief of utility, reliability, simplicity and affordability.  A well-built steel City Bike under £300? Their models do not come with integral racks or lighting systems, but there are so few choices in the City Bike niche in the UK, this is a welcome addition. I plan to attend their official launch on 2nd October and have a good look at these bikes myself -- so watch this space for my impressions. I will be keeping an open mind as to whether this might be the longer-term solution to my own London Town Bike Challenge

Meanwhile, interactions within the online cycling communities continue to grow. I've made a number of real-life friends over the past few years that started with online 'introductions'. I have not yet met Josie Smith (cyclist, blogger, writer and advocate based in Decorah, Iowa) face-to-face but she interviewed me by e-mail a few months ago and has just published the outcome: Part I published yesterday and Part II published today.

I waffled on for so long in response to Josie's questions, I suggested that she edit it but she kindly said she thought I had important (?!) things to say, so, instead of cutting it down, would run it in two installments.  I am relieved to see that this was not an exception made just for me: one of my very favourite recent posts on Josie's blog (written as a guest blog feature, not an interview) also ran to two installments: Bike by Bike I and Bike by Bike II.

Next up is tomorrow's 100 Mile Smile Ride!

And then in just a couple of weeks, it'll be time to Coffeeneur again!

So while work may have lessened its grip on me, it's still go go go around here. Pedal on!


  1. I've never seen a bike saddle designed to drop down on its nose like that. Maybe that's a problem?

    Scenic photos. And some unusual round heritage buildings. Definitely wouldn't find those in Canada!

  2. Hi Jean

    I know, the "eagle beak" is an unusual feature of Selle's SMP range but so far it's been the best solution to the problem I was having with genital pressure from the nose of most other saddles I'd tried. In particular, I found the noses of Brooks saddles very painful, which was such a shame as I love that aesthetic. More here on these unique saddles (if you've got the time!): (although this bike fitter doesn't really comment on the particular issue I was looking for a solution to!)

    Yes, the Kent oast houses are unusual and intriguing! All part of the strong hops-growing (and beer making!) heritage in Kent. I don't suppose there is a lot of that in Canada?!

  3. Actually we do have a growing number craft beer makers near the major cities. The bigger well-known beer maker in Canada has been Labatt's. Actually there was production outlet in the city where I grew up. I'm not a beer drinker at all so I'm a bit clueless but do see the ads and news releases. I'm not clear about hops-growing.

    Another long-time Canadian beer brand is Molson.

    1. Yet another thing about Canada I've learned from you, Jean. :) I've heard of Molson but like you am not a beer drinker and had no idea it is Canadian.


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