Meeting my new bike for the first time


I had a brief rendevouz with my new bike — a Specialized Sirrus Sport Disc 2006 Hybrid Bike — tonight. Gorgeous, isn’t she?

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to bring her home because I’ve asked the bike shop to ‘spec her up’ by putting on mudguards, a bottle holder and a new rack at the back and bolting in the quick-release wheels — and they were so busy when I called in after work tonight I have to wait for a mechanic to do the work tomorrow. This means I’ll be able to pick her up — and ride her home —  tomorrow night. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, I’ve got to think of a name for her. Any suggestions?

Look out for cycling guide in The Guardian this Saturday

The Guardian is running an interesting banner ad on its website right now.

Apparantly the newspaper is publishing a 92-page guide to cycling in Saturday’s edition. I haven’t bought a Saturday newspaper in years, but I might make an exception this weekend. I’ll let you know if it was worth it…

Cycling 10: Chris of Life Cycle

Chris Lewthwaite, a Queensland-based cyclist, maintains the blog life cycle. His posts, often about awe-inspiring rides through lush, leafy landscapes, are always accompanied by stunning photographs. Here are his responses to my 10 questions about commuter cycling…

How long have you been commuting by bicycle, and what made you decide to do it?

I have been officially riding to work since 1999, but I was doing "other" transportational riding before that.  In fact, when I was growing up in the country, it wasn’t unusual for me to ride to the next town to visit friends or do the family’s shopping.

I started riding to work specifically because I got frustrated with the inefficiency of public transport in this city [the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia], and didn’t want to pay mega bucks for a car (I was a student at the time).  I figured that if I was already riding up 1,000 metre mountains on weekends, a ride to work or uni shouldn’t pose any problems.

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Bike shopping

I’ve just taken the plunge — and ordered a bike off the Evans Cycles website.

For no charge, I am having it delivered to their Fulham branch. Which means that when I go to collect it, I can buy my mudguards and a pack rack while I am there — and then I can ride it home. Woo-hoo! Hopefully it should arrive within the next 5 days.

Unfortunately, I am unable to take advantage of the Government’s Ride-2-Work scheme, which would have entitled me to get this bike for half-price. This is because my employer has temporarily stopped processing bicycle orders. I contacted our HR Department yesterday to find out if they were going to re-open it and was told "Yes, sometime in the next six months".

Obviously, I can’t wait that long. I need a new bike now, not some indeterminate date later in the year. So I’m going with the full-price option (although, technically, this is less than full-price because it’s last year’s model) and hoping that my employer doesn’t announce any time soon that it’s re-opening the scheme. (They don’t backdate; I already checked.)

Knowing my luck that’s exactly what will happen, but I’ll just notch that up to Murphy’s Law.

But why should that worry me? I’m going to be riding a shiny new silver bike with disc brakes and gears that work! I can’t wait.

RIP, my little Falcon Adventurer

You’ve heard the expression "the wheels fell off", well, that’s kind of what happened to my bike this morning.

My commute was going beautifully, but about a mile in I noticed that the rear of the bike didn’t feel quite right. Perhaps a puncture? Or a problem with my brake?

I stopped and checked. No puncture. Brake okay.

Another 200 metres along and it was impossible to pedal, almost as if someone was holding the rear wheel and dragging me backwards.

I stopped, got off and wheeled my bike into a quiet side street. I took a closer look at the back wheel. Something was obviously loose or broken because I could wobble it from side to side by about an inch. Not good. In fact, I think the technical term is fucked. There was no way I could fix it, and no way I could continue riding it. My only option was to walk it home, the wonky wheel screeching all the way!

Which I did. In the rain. And then, once I’d parked it up and got changed into my work clothes, I had to catch the tube into the office. No rest for the wicked and all that.

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Fire near the Royal Albert Hall

Now I know why I had to cycle through a cloud of choking, acrid smoke on my return journey tonight.

I thought the fire must have been in the Royal Albert Hall, as it was cordoned off and there were several firetrucks and police vehicles parked out the front.

It must have been a pretty big blaze. The newstory states that the fire began at 10.30am; I cycled past at 5.45pm and it still seemed to be burning!

Today my route suddenly became a congestion zone one

Four years ago the London Mayor introduced a congestion charge in the capital. The scheme, operated by Transport for London, charged vehicles £5 to enter the congestion charge zone in Central London between 7am and 6.30pm on weekdays. Recently the charge went up to £8.

Today the congestion charge zone expanded westwards, almost doubling in size.

I live less than half-a-mile from the new western boundary. This means 95 per cent of my commute route is now in the congestion zone.


That blue squiggle is a rough approximation of my route.

This morning I was anxious to see how the new extended zone would affect traffic levels, especially on the busier roads of my route — namely Kensington High Street and Kensington Gore.

I left the house a little earlier than normal and was on the road at about 7.40am. The traffic did seem a little quieter, although whether that’s due to the congestion charge or the fact that it’s mid-term break right now, I’m not sure. (School holidays always mean the traffic is considerably lighter.)

But the thing that struck me most — and I’m not sure if I was imagining it or not — was the number of new cyclists on the road. You can always tell new cyclists by the BRIGHTNESS of their new hi-viz coats. They just GLOW more brightly because they haven’t yet been tempered by mud and rain and pollution and god knows what else.

Tonight’s return journey was particularly quiet. I especially noticed the difference in what I’ve dubbed the "danger zone" — the area, including feeder roads, around the intersection of Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street. This evening I zipped on through with barely a car in sight. It felt liberating!

But I guess we won’t get a better picture of the impact — or otherwise — of this congestion zone expansion until next week when it’ll be back to business for schools. If it was anything like today then I’ll be a happy woman!