Feeling every bump in the road

Today’s commute felt a little odd. And it wasn’t just my new brakes.

My tyres are pumped up so tightly that I swear that if I rode across a beach I would feel every single grain of sand.

Riding home along the South Carriage Drive tonight, a road which is bump-bump-bumpy at the best of times, I could feel every bone in my body shuddering and vibrating in protest. Personally, I think I’m lucky that all my teeth didn’t fall out, they were clinking and shaking so much.

Tomorrow, I might just let some air out of the damn things…

Putting on the brakes

Brakeblocks_1Last week I noticed that my brakes weren’t working as well as I might expect. A couple of times – most notably flying down Westminster Bridge – I had to pull the brake levers very tightly (so that the lever was practically touching my handlebars) before anything would really happen. Once or twice I had to put my foot down onto the ground to bring my bike to a complete halt. I know. Not good.

I put it down to the hot weather and made a mental note to ask T, my live-in mechanic, to take a look at my brakes.

Late this afternoon he did some investigation, and found that all four of my brake blocks (two on each wheel) had worn down to dangerously low levels. To be honest, I was quite embarrassed to see the state of them when he showed me how thin they had become. I guess 11 months of wear and tear and constant hard braking will do that to brake blocks, right?

Anyway, I made a runner to the nearest bike store (Cyclopedia on Kensington High Street), bought two pairs for £12 before the shop shut at 5pm and then promptly handed them to T for fitting.

Afterwards I went on a test ride to try my new brakes out. I nearly flew over the handlebars the first time I pulled the brake levers. Bloody hell. Apparently it will take awhile for them to bed in, but for the time being I’m going to have to ease up on my trigger-happy heavy-handed braking lest I end up spending more time in the air than in the bike saddle. But I’m feeling a bit more confident that my bike will now stop without wearing out the soles of my Converse trainers!

The beauty of an empty stretch of road

I had an absolutely beautiful ride into work this morning. It was hot and there was a strong, gusty wind, but the lack of traffic on the road more than made up for this.

At one stage, pedalling up Kensington High Street, there was barely a car in sight. An open stretch of bitumen, sticky from the heat, never seemed more inviting. How lovely to have a whole lane to myself and not be worried about whether I was holding anyone up.

It wasn’t until I got to work that it dawned on me. The school holidays have started and everyone’s on vacation.

Let’s just hope it stays like this for the rest of the summer. I love having the road to myself!

Cycling in hot weather

The weather for the past week has been absolutely sweltering here in London. With temperatures in the mid-30s and grass fires burning in rural England, I feel like I’m still living in Australia — minus the ice-cold beer and the mosquitoes!

The decision that confronts me each morning is this: do I get all hot and sticky on the back of a bike, or do I get all hot and sticky in a tube carriage?

This past week, I tried both options — twice each in fact — and I’ve come to the conclusion that the cycling option is by far the better. It takes a long time to cool down at the end of the ride, but the process of commuting is much more enjoyable than being sandwiched in a carriage with hundreds of other hot and sticky bodies. And the air circulation is a little better too!