Category Archives: Adventures with my bicycle

So, what else have I been up to?

Mostly, I have been learning how to sew, and whizzing about the district on Zephirine, my bicycle. Occasionally, I have been combining the two, as in this sewing project:

Lumatwill cape and hat
Lumatwill cape and hat

Yes, it’s a cape for cycling in with integral reflective threads, which, in the words of a London cabbie is “bloody brilliant,” because “it scared the living daylights out of me.” From my point of view, it’s ace because it’s lovely and warm, and isn’t bright yellow lycra, and under normal lighting, it’s just a rather nice blue-grey tweed with red and pale grey stripes.

I don’t cycle in the matching hat, because all the reflective tweed in the world wouldn’t save my head from abrupt contact with a kerb.

For those playing along at home, the cape is McCall’s Pattern 5764 and the hat is Vogue 8440

“Sorry, mate, didn’t see you there…”

… is, I suspect, never a sentence I will ever hear uttered in my general direction. I was tootling along to work this morning, stopped at a set of lights, when a taxi driver leaned out of the side window to attract my attention.

“Oh dear, what did I do wrong?” I thought.

“’Scuse me, miss?”

“Yes?”

“I just wanted to say how easy it was to see you with those lights and that thing* across your back. Thanks. Nice bike.”

The lights are two Knog Beetle white lights on the front forks, plus the dynamo she came fitted with, and on the back I’ve got the red light she came fitted with plus a Knog Skink on the outside pannier, and “that thing” is a Bobbin Bicycles Miss World Sash.

Those of you who are friends on Facebook or follow me on Twitter may have picked up on the fact that I’m going to make a cape out of Lumatwill, as well.

Getting hit because I dazzled a driver might be a problem, but cycling a black bike, in the dark, with no lights, dark clothing, and, if a helmet is present, it’s dangling casually off one of the handlebars, strikes me as a way to remove yourself from the gene pool swiftly and messily.

Every day’s a learning experience, part, um, I’ve lost count…

Or, in which I owe my poor bicycle a massive apology.

Zephirine, poor creature, has been to the bicycle hospital twice since I’ve had her, with problems with her gears. Pashleys have hub gears (the gears are enclosed inside the hub of the back wheel), rather than the dérailleurs (cogs on the outside of the back and front wheels) that I’m used to.

To change gear with dérailleur gears, you need to keep pedalling.

To change gear with hub gears, you stop pedalling.

I did not know this.

I do now.

Sorry, Zephirine…

Here she is

Meet Zephirine. There was no way I was trusting my beloved camera to the combination of that front basket and Newham Council’s somewhat slapdash and hazy approach to massive great potholes and the fixing thereof, so I had to wait for the panniers to arrive.

IMG_1526

We’d just cycled to Victoria Park along the canal – that seemed like far enough after, what did we do yesterday? Oh yes, cycle the eight miles to work (and back again). I think Steve’s suggested route in this comment will be eminently do-able.

I also think I’ve cracked why going to the gym, or swimming, just don’t work for me as a form of exercise. I need to actually get somewhere when exercising. So I can quite happily walk from point A to point Z, given a sufficient quantity of Penguins* as a bribe, but tell me that I have to walk five miles on a treadmill, or thrash up and down a swimming pool, and I’ll get bored and fall off/drown/try and eat my own leg.

*note for Americans and other aliens: a type of chocolate biscuit.

Just in case you thought I’d gone under the wheels of a 25 bus…

I haven’t. Zephirine and I are getting on famously, swishing around the mean streets of east London, adding tone to the neighbourhood.

However, I have just realised that I will be cycling to work slightly earlier than planned. The plan (more cunning than a fox which had just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University, etc) was to surrender my season ticket on 31st August and cycle into work from that date. I’ll be £100 a month better off, and not paying to be transported in conditions which would get an animal transporter heavily fined, shut down, and possibly jailed.

That’s the thing that really bites – I am paying the not-insignificant sum of £1,208 a year to be jammed nose to armpit with people who only have the most tenuous grasp of the concept of personal hygiene, blokes with hairy arms, women with enormous handbags, people who think that my life will be enriched by listening to their bangin’ choons through tinny mobile phone speakers, people who use their buggy as a battering ram, people who think their shopping is entitled to a seat, and all on a line that regularly hits 32C in some of the stations, and is even hotter on the trains. The sheer amount of pent up rage on the Central Line of a Monday morning is terrifying, and it’s not always so pent up – I have noticed an increasing number of “incidents,” from the raised voice to the full-on, fist-swinging brawl*, over the last couple of years, and I fail to see why I should subject myself to it on a daily basis.

I’m hoping, depending on the weather, to go to the Rosaparents for a long weekend, catching the train out of Waterloo on a Friday evening, and back on the Tuesday. I’m planning to take Zephirine, and we’ll go on some jaunts through the New Forest, maybe down to the seaside, that sort of thing. This is why it’s dependent on the weather – I can, after all, stay in London and get rained on, thank you.

This means that I have to cycle in to work on the morning of 20th August, with all my stuff in panniers. The 20th August is nine days away. This might not be happening, but we’ll see.

Unfortunately, there is no sensible** way out of where I live, heading West, without encountering road works, Olympic building works, Crossrail building works, general “let’s put these building works here to annoy Rosamundi,” building works, and the Mile End Road (of Death, as one cycling blog so reassuringly described it). However, given everything in paragraph two, I’d rather take the road works than the Central Line.

In other news, I’ve added some new blogs to the side bar, under “Other Blogs”: Fragments, Georgian London, News from Colourman and The Quack Doctor. All fascinating, and definitely worth a read.

* Admittedly, this is extremely rare, but I can recall it happening more than once in the last twelve months.

** The definition of “sensible,” in this case: a route that doesn’t involve a detour of four miles to come out a mile down the original road, smack in the middle of the road works…

She’s arrived!

My new bicycle, very definitely a “she,” arrived yesterday.

Yesterday was a day of much loveliness all round. The electrician from Home Jane came and said “not surprised your shower wasn’t working, this wiring is what we refer to in the trade as ‘a death trap,'” and set to and put the shower on the right sort of cabling, so it now works. No more washing my hair in the bath, oh, what bliss.

Whilst she was doing that, I fixed the skirt I made and mum helped with (as opposed to me getting in the way helping and mum doing most of the work), that I’d somehow managed to make an inch too big in the waist, oops.

Whilst wrestling with needle and thread, I got a phone call from Evans Cycles at Canary Wharf saying that my bicycle was in and could I please go and pick her up as she looks about as out of place as, well, a Pashley Princess Sovereign among a showroom full of stripped-down racers and hulking mountain bikes.

So, having purchased a rather expensive helmet (only buy a cheap helmet if you’ve got a cheap head), and a fairly hefty D-lock as well, I set off, clutching the map and directions from Transport for London.

There’s a reason “it’s like riding a bike, you never forget,” has entered into the lexicon. You don’t. Well, I hadn’t, in the three years since I last got on a bike. There was, I must confess, a fair amount of “getting off and walking whilst cursing TfL’s cycling directions and wondering why I decided to leave my A to Z at home,” and one harum-scarum moment that made me whimper and head for the safety of the pavement at speed, but I think high-speed police chases whipping past you at, um, speed are part and parcel of cycling in east London.

And so we made it home, and I fitted her new lock, and I set up her Twitter account (yes, you may mock), and then we went for a trundle round the tiniest park I’ve ever seen. I then decided that being able to walk on Friday was probably a good idea, and so we came home again.

She is a very lovely bicycle. Incredibly comfortable to ride, she feels very sturdy and reassuring, and I noticed that car and van drivers gave me a lot more room that they used to when I was riding a mountain bike. I suspect there’s something about a sit-up-and-beg swishing round the streets of east London that triggers some hind-brain “keep clear of this lunatic,” instinct. We’re never going to break any speed records, but she will get me where I want to go at faster than walking pace and a lot more comfortably than the Tube at rush hour on a Friday evening.

There will be photos when the weather’s not quite so yucky. She’s named after the climbing rose Zephirine Drouhin.

I daresay there will be blogging of bicycle-assisted adventuring…

I have run quite mad.

Possibly working on the principle of “of you can’t beat them, join them,” I have gone and bought (well, put a deposit down on, anyway), a bicycle.

But not just any bicycle, oh no. Having tried, and utterly failed, to imagine myself perched atop some hulking great mountain bike or stripped-down racer, I bought one of these. A Pashley Princess Sovereign, in green, which I shall swish about on, in stately fashion. Or fall off a lot, possibly. Isn’t she lovely?

I used to love cycling, but when I moved to London, I was (an still am), horrified by the behaviour of the majority a certain subset* of London cyclists. Running red lights, cycling on the pavement, going the one way down one way streets and generally behaving like complete lunatics.

I will not be one of those cyclists, and I would like to thank three people in particular, namely Anna, Clare and Patrick, for reminding me that it is possible to cycle in London without turning into a homicidal maniac.

Thanks to the sterling efforts of Timbo at Evans Cycles, my new bike will be arriving in the Canary Wharf branch within the week. I am spending the intervening days sorting out refresher lessons (I really hope that the phrase “it’s like riding a bike, you never forget,” is true), reading the Highway Code, and working out cycling routes that will not take me anywhere near the Mile End Road, as well as deciding on a name for her so she can have her own Twitter account. Obviously.

If anyone’s got any hints, tips, helpful links and so on, please leave them in the comments. The purchase of a helmet, a heavy-duty lock and more lights than the average civic Christmas display can be taken as read.

*On consideration, damning the majority of London cyclists as psychotic nutcases seems a little unfair. My apologies.