Category Archives: Cycling Diary

TWTs New Year

I didn’t blog much over the Christmas or New Year period because of a distinct lack of cycling on my part. This was, in part, due to the appalling weather and flooding all around me, which would surely have put off even the most determined of cyclists! Despite having nearly three weeks off work, I managed barely a handful of rides – but at least what I did manage was more than my standard commute. So, in the past few weeks I have:

1) Invested in a Turbo Trainer during the sales. I picked up a Tacx Satori Pro with mat, DVD and stand for £149.99, down from almost £350 from Decathlon, far cheaper than even online stores had it. I’ll post about my experiences on this another time, but this was my way of stopping Mrs Tubby always whinging about me going out on my bike.

2) Joined a small Social Cycling group that I met on the GoSkyRide website, which meets up every Sunday. I completed my first ride with theme and (just) about managed to keep up on my clunky hybrid. Riding with others is so much more fun, and I aim to join a proper club later this year.

3) I decided to do the Sport Relief ride in London in March – just the 25mi course, though!

4) I cycled from Central London all the way out to the M25 boundary, taking in all the major tourist sites along the way.

5) I cancelled my Sky Sports subscription owing to wall-to-wall darts coverage, football and a compete lack of cycling coverage, despite Sky sponsoring one of the strongest pro teams in the world! Ironically, just as I did that! they’ve started covering the Tour Down Under…

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Stolen Saddle Bag

Saddle Bag

Today, some odious little tosser has stolen my Bontrager saddle bag from my bike. It didn’t have anything in it, except for some mud, and it is quite positively the worst cycling accessory I have ever purchased in my life. I shan’t miss it. With a sort of gypsy’s curse, I hope it brings as much misery to the thief as it did to me.

The bag never really served any purpose for me. It was too small to fit anything in, other than perhaps a small bunch of keys or some energy bars – certainly nothing that wouldn’t fit in a typical jersey or jacket pocket anyway. It hung awkwardly beneath the saddle and all it really did was block my rear reflector and invite people to unzip it to see if there was anything inside worth stealing. It was an impulse purchase back from when I first got into cycling and I thought it looked like the kind of thing I “might” need, “just in case”. Well, I never did, and I don’t care, so there.

Enjoy your mud-filled worthless accessory, Mr Tea-Leaf.

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Snuffles

While it hasn’t yet got to traditional freezing temperatures just yet, my riding lately has taken a dent owing to a cold I caught last weekend. I know it’s not impossible to ride with a little dose of the flu, but I feel so drained, bunged up and sorry for myself, for once I just can’t bring myself to go out on my bike. Day Nurse is just about the only thing making me feel human at the moment.

Edit: I managed to get out on my bike for a short ride to the station this evening after posting this, just as the heavens opened. Now I’m soaking wet and snuffling. Cycling isn’t always good for your health!!

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Winter is Coming

It’s that time of year again where it’s now getting decidedly freezing every time I step out of the house, and motivation to cycle goes down accordingly. Evans Cycles have been pushing their indoor turbo trainers hard and I have to say that I’m sorely tempted – not just to maintain fitness in the winter months, but also to give me an opportunity to hit the pedals in an evening when I’m at home and can’t be bothered to go out.

I’ve never used a Turbo Trainer before, but they look quite straightforward. Maybe Mrs Tubby will let me have one for Christmas?

Update, 02/12/2013:

Mrs T: You use it indoors???

I think that’s a “no”, then…

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Cyclist Casualties: The Police Response

This is an article where I definitely have a foot in both camps. Following the recent high number of fatal collisions involving cyclists in London, the Met has launched Operation Safeway – a massive deployment of uniformed officers across several high-risk junctions, aimed at kerbing both poor driving and poor cycling. Today, there are 650 of them out and about. If all 32 boroughs are taking part, that’s a significant amount of their deployable officers on any one shift. There will be supplements of traffic officers, I expect, but they’re a fairly small branch themselves.

The trouble with these operations is that they’re short term – a reaction to a headline. Unless the Met can keep 650 officers on this operation every day, forever, then it won’t do a great deal. It is, in itself, another headline to react to the headline. I agree that “something must be done”, but there is only so much that the police can actually do. With all the million-and-one other responsibilities that officers have, there is little time to devote to traffic matters. A penalty notice for a traffic offence can take as long to issue and deal with (especially if it’s contested) as a Burglary. Unfortunately, both are priorities – and there aren’t enough staff to go around dealing with it all as much as we’d like.

I hope some good comes from Op Safeway; maybe the advice given out will save a few lives, and maybe a few dangerous vehicles and drivers will be taken off the road. But in order to be successful in the long-term, the Mayor’s office are going to have to come up with a better solution – segregated lanes, dedicated cycle expressways, restrictions on HGVs – whatever it may be. Hoping that drivers and cyclists will all suddenly get “better” at driving or riding won’t do.

Paying for an extra 650 police officers to do this permanently would cost about £25m in wages alone each year, so I doubt MOPAC are up for that, either.

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Cyclist Deaths in London

Croydon Cyclist Death

In the last 10 days, 6 cyclists have been killed on London’s roads. This is, perhaps, the highest number ever seen in the city in such a short period of time.

Without knowing the facts behind each individual case, it is impossible for me to comment in any informative way about these deaths. I see the arguments from all sides, since I am a car driver, a cyclist and a police officer. I’ve been in car accidents where I’ve hit another vehicle, I’ve been hit by other vehicles in my car, and I’ve been knocked off my bicycle by a car. I’ve attended dozens more RTC’s in my career, some fatal, some not.

Any road death is an absolute tragedy. Nobody sets out on the roads intending to kill anyone else. All too often, loved ones set out on a routine journey and they don’t make it to the other end. This happened to the fiance of one of my workmates, who now works in road death investigation, but she still lives with the consequences of a coach driver’s momentary inattentiveness to this day. 5 years later and it still haunts her. All too often, people get a sense of road rage, whether borne of frustration, annoyance at being late or held up – whatever the cause, the consequence is the same.

I read the news over at Road.CC and despair at some of the comments made. In many cycling forums, whenever a cyclist is killed, it is usually assumed that the cyclist is wholly innocent and that the car/bus/lorry driver must be at fault. I do not believe that is the case. These forums, where people are so blinkered that they cannot possibly conceive that a cyclist can do anything wrong, are not helping the cause to make roads safer. I have seen bad car driving, but I have also seen a metric fucktonne of bad cycling. Almost every day, I get people cycle at me while I cross at a green light. Almost every day, I get someone take a shortcut on the pavement around me as I walk.

Until cyclists take some responsibility en masse, nobody will listen to our concerns seriously. The counter-argument to cyclists’ demands for improved road safety measures is, “You don’t use the ones that are there anyway”. That means you need to ride in cycle lanes, where provided, stop at red lights and walk your bike if you want to go on the pavement. Don’t charge at pedestrians when they’re crossing. Don’t undertake vehicles that are turning. Don’t ride in blind spots and make sudden swerving manouevres. Ride sensibly.

No ride is so urgent that you should play with your life. Sensible riding is the only way to improve safety and get the added measures we all so desperately want. At the moment, nobody’s listening, and the righteous thunder of the Road.CC forums aren’t helping.

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Boris Bike Thefts

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Unlike cycle schemes in other cities, the rate of Boris Bike theft is remarkably low. In May 2013, only 143 bikes had been reported stolen. Assuming that number is now up to about 160 (and not counting bikes that have been stolen), that means that a bike gets stolen only about once in every 200,000 hires undertaken. By comparison, the Velib scheme operating in Paris had 16,000 of its 20,000 bikes damaged or stolen in only its first couple of years’ operation.

Why, then, are TfL’s bikes so rarely stolen compared to those in Paris? Part of the answer lies in culture; high unemployment in Paris, particularly amongst the youth, has led to something of a rebellion against a form of transport perceived to be primarily used by those affluent enough to do so. London has its areas of poverty and unemployment, but generally these aren’t in the Barclays Bike Hire footprint, most of which is in the most central parts of London. You won’t find many bikes in Newham, Tower Hamlets or Hackney, for example. But the other part of that answer lies in the security measures built in by TfL.

Barclays Bikes all require the user to enter their credit or debit card details when taking out a bike. It is simply impossible to do so any other way. Cash is not accepted. The other clever security feature lies in the absence of any locking mechanism, save for returning the bike to its dock. Walking around London, you simply won’t see Boris Bikes chained up to railings or casually left in the open for people to steal. The loss charge of £300 is enough to focus the minds of users and ensure that the overwhelming majority of bikes are returned at the end of their journeys.

Whether TfL will be able to retain this level of success if the scheme is rolled out more broadly across London remains to be seen, but credit should be given to the Mayor’s office for stopping the bikes going the way of shopping trolleys and Piaggio mopeds.

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Cycling World Cup – Manchester

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This weekend, I was up in Manchester for the Cycling World Cup. If you’ve never been to a velodrome, it’s well worth making the trip – very easy to get to and Virgin Trains do some great deals to Manchester; my travel only cost me a whopping £12.50 all the way from London.

I was particularly pleased with the picture above, which was shot on my iPhone, showing the GB Men’s Team Pursuit squad on their way to winning a gold medal. And I just about managed to get a shot of my favourite cyclist, Laura Trott, after she won gold in the women’s event:

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RideLondon Freecycle

Back in August, I took part in the Prudential RideLondon Freecycle, taking in an eight-mile traffic free loop of Central London. Registration is now open for next year’s event, although if you fancy the 100-mile ride out into Surrey, then you’ll have to already have registered as interest has proved overwhelming, with 50,000 people signing up in the first 24 hours alone!

Outside Buckingham Palace

For a TWT like me, the London-Surrey 100 is about 50 miles too long, but I was still able to enjoy punting around the capital this summer on my faithful hybrid. The route was an 8-mile circuit which could be joined anywhere. Mine started at the Houses of Parliament, where I then made my way down towards Green Park, along the Mall, out onto Whitehall, along the Victoria Embankment, a short climb up to St Paul’s Cathedral, a twisty route into the City of London, out the other side onto Tower Hill and then back towards the Embankment to do the loop all over again. It was an opportunity to see some stunning scenery without having to ride through London’s notoriously dense traffic.

For me, the first lap I did was by far and away the most enjoyable. Officially, I shouldn’t have started on the course until 9am, but I sneaked on at 8.30 (along with several others who had already done likewise) and was able to enjoy one of the most blissful 40 minutes’ cycling I’ve ever had in London. It was just me, wide open roads, no traffic and a whole city to play in. The second lap was much the same, only more people had started to join the route so there were times when I had to ride slightly slower. I then bumped into my parents, who had decided to come up and have a look at what this whole “cycling” thing was about, and didn’t get away onto a third lap until about 11am. By this time, so many people had taken to the road that it was completely impossible to move at a decent rate, and I found myself practically crushed in a crowd pedalling along at a leisurely 6mph. Unfortunately, children rarely have any idea how to ride in a group, so there were lots of youngsters swerving in front of other cyclists, groups suddenly stopping in the middle of the road, and pedestrians sometimes stepping off the pavements in front of us; it became less about the riding and more about “hazard avoidance”. Sadly, it stopped being fun, and I made sure that my third lap was my last – even though I could have gone twice the distance. The sheer number of participants had just made it impossible to move at anything like a decent pace – and I am absolutely not a fast cyclist!

The roads for the RideLondon event had been closed from 0500 so, in a feedback survey to the organisers, I asked a simple question: why not open the course up from 0700 so that those of us early birds who like to go around a bit quicker can do so – then leave the rest of the day to the families and children? I haven’t heard back and it’s far too early to get detailed plans on next year’s event, but I hope this is the case. I don’t want to see limits placed on numbers, which would seem to defeat the object of a “freecycle”, or any attempts at lane segregation (I can’t see how that could be enforced), or age restrictions, so I think an earlier start time is the fairest for all and balances the desires of “faster” cyclists like me (with the proviso that it isn’t a racing event!) with the needs of those with young children and more “leisurely” participants.

These last-lap hiccups weren’t enough to ruin my day, though, and overall it was one of the most enjoyable cycling events I’ve ever taken part in. The entertainment laid on at Green Park, St Paul’s and Tower Hill was magnificent and while I’ve heard a few complaints in the Evening Standard about road closures and the impact on businesses in London, the numbers taking part and out enjoying themselves spectating dwarfed the complainers. It felt like a one-day festival of cycling, and I was proud to have been part of it.

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Altitude Cycling

I’ve now passed 15,000ft in climbing this year, according to Strava. This may not sound like much to hardcore road cyclists, but you need to remember that I’m a fat bastard on a heavy hybrid with a wife, young baby and round-the-clock job which prevents me from getting on my bike as often as I’d like. I’m happy with myself 🙂

Brasilia, from 15000ft above ground

I went searching on the internet and found this image of the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, from 15,000ft, which is the view I would have if I’d been cycling like E.T. this year.

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