Here’s my bike

Mybike

I’ve had my new bike for four weeks now, so I thought it was about time I took a photograph — though please do excuse the camera case perched on the seat and my gloves sitting on top of my bag!

As you can see she’s a lovely silver thing. I’ve swapped out the pedals for platform ones, added silver extra-light race blades and a black rear rack. I transferred the lock, lights and bike computer over from my old bike.

The bag I carry is an Altura Arran, which fits very snugly on the back and can hold a surprising amount of stuff: I’ve been known to fit two whole outfits plus my phone, wallet, digital camera etc in it. I keep a puncture repair kit, pump and spare front light in the top pocket — just in case — and the rear end sports a detachable red light, which I generally use in "flashing" mode to save on batteries.

Nice bike — but should I insure it?

Tonight I spied a fellow cyclist with exactly the same bike as mine.

"Hey, nice bike," I said as we sat side by side at the traffic lights.

"Oh, thanks," she beamed, completely oblivious to the fact I was also riding a Specialized Sports Sirrus.

I waited a beat to see if she would notice, before adding: "It’s the same as mine."

"Oh, it is! Snap!"

I laughed.

"Great bike," she enthused. "This is my third one."

"Third? Really?"

"Yep, the other two got stolen. So be careful, the thieves like these bikes too!"

And then the lights changed and she was off. And now I’m paranoid that someone’s going to nick my new baby, which makes me wonder, should I insure it? Sometimes I wish I didn’t start conversations I can’t finish!

What happened to hand signals?

Signals
This morning I had to cross a busy junction that has no traffic lights. I stopped to let a succession of cyclists to my right go past. Little did I know that ALL of them (seven in total) were making a lefthand turn into my road. Not one used a hand signal to let me know this, so I was sat there like a total plonker for no good reason. I was furious.

What happened to common courtesy? What happened to using a hand signal when initiating a turn? Do I look like a mind reader? Honestly!

I’m seriously thinking of getting a t-shirt made that reads A HAND SIGNAL WOULD BE NICE! But I’d probably be wasting my money…

Going the extra mile

When I rode home tonight I thought I would make the most of the spring-like weather (and the extra light now that it’s daylight savings) and go on a little diversion.

Instead of riding through Hyde Park I decided to go around the top of it, adding an extra mile to my usual commute.

It was very pleasant riding. The sun was low in the sky and was filtering through a fine mist, giving everything a faintly orange-pink glow.

I followed a dedicated cycle path skirting the North Ride. Riding through a field of longish grass studded with giant bare-branched plane trees, it was hard to believe I was in the middle of Europe’s largest city. I could almost convince myself I was out in the countryside somewhere — until the roar of a Porsche brought me back to reality.

All up, the diversion added less than 5 minutes to my journey. I think I might make it a semi-regular route: I could do with the extra exercise and the extra time on the bike. I couldn’t think of a better way to wind down after a hard day at work… (Well, I could, but it involves consuming vast quantities of alcohol, and that’s not what this blog is about!)

Busted!

There’s a first time for everything: this morning I saw two cyclists being booked for whizzing through a red light!

Foolishly, they did it right in front of a parked police car at the Trafalgar Square end of the Mall. Police regularly sit in this location, checking the speed of motorised traffic, and I have often seen them ignore the cyclists jumping the lights, because they’re too preoccupied with their hand-held speed guns.

This morning they must have been pretty bored though. When the cyclists whizzed through one policemen jumped out of the car and tried to flag them down, while the other turned on the blue light and gave a blast of the siren.

I bet those cyclists got the fright of their lives.

I only wish that police would watch the red lights along Kensington High Street, they’d have a field day booking all the cyclists that don’t understand that red means STOP not sneak-through-because-the-law-doesn’t-apply-to-me.

Cycling 10: Jeremy Riggs of Jezzers Jaw Jabberings

Jeremy Riggs’ blog, Jezzers Jaw Jabberings, is subtitled "Pointless blatherings on anything and nothing — mainly nothing". Yet as a fellow London cyclist I find that his cycling posts — especially this one — are particularly erudite and so I thought I’d subject him to the same terrible 10 questions I’ve asked other cycling bloggers over the past six weeks or so…

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

I’ve
only just returned to
commuting by bike in the New Year. I’d wanted to give it a go for
ages but decided to start when the company I work for joined the
Government-backed Cycle-To-Work scheme.  I used to ride to work when
living in Montserrat
in the Caribbean some years ago. Then I needed a mountain bike for the
journey,
as many of the roads were pretty rough and ready and steep. I still
have
my mountain bike and before signing up for the new bike made sure I
could get
up the worst hills on the way to work. 

One of the other incentives for
getting back on a bike was searching through the blogosphere and noticing how
many other people do it on a regular basis.

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A cycling tip that might save your life

An alarming story in yesterday’s Guardian claims that "between 1999 and 2004 (the period for which figures are available), 85%
of female cyclist fatalities in London involved a heavy goods vehicle (HGV)".

This news comes hot on the heels of two cycling fatalities in London this past week involving young, female cyclists.

The article does not claim to have any answers as to why women are the ones being killed in these accidents, other than to suggest that men ride more aggressively, so are less likely to get trapped on the inside of a HGV.

Personally, I’m not sure that riding aggressively is the answer. How about riding defensively instead?

I know that we cannot predict accidents, but you can help avoid them by not putting yourself in danger. Sidling up alongside a big vehicle, whether it be a truck, bus or van, in which the driver has limited visibility of what is sitting next to his left fender (or right fender if you are in the North America/Europe) isn’t exactly wise, is it?

Fortunately, I have very little exposure to HGVs on my normal commuter route, but on the odd occasion when I have seen them on the road I have made a point of not sitting alongside them, because I know the driver is not going to have a clue I am there. It’s better to either hang back and sit (a good distance) behind them, or get so far in front they cannot help but see you. If in any doubt, it’s always wise to make EYE CONTACT with the driver.

In fact, I think this is the quickest, easiest solution for preventing accidents with either car drivers or HGV drivers: all it takes is a look and a nod, and you know that your presence on the road has been noted. While I’m sure it would definitely help if HGV drivers were more conscious about the presence of cyclists on the road, us cyclists have to take some responsibility for our actions too.

It might sound silly, but staring into the eyes of someone behind the wheel of a vehicle might just save your life. It’s a pity that all those female cyclists killed in accidents involving HGVs in London didn’t make a point of doing this.

The office masquerading as a wardrobe

Clothes

This hat rack is adorned with two pairs of trousers, one cardigan, one jumper, one shirt, one long black coat and a velvet scarf. Doesn’t leave much room for my colleagues’ coats and scarves, does it?

Ever since I started cycling, my colleagues have taken great joy in ribbing me about the fact I have turned the office into a veritable wardrobe. I have suits and trousers and jumpers and scarves hanging off the communal hat rack, there’s a mountain of shoes under my desk and if I ever get wet on my cycle in there’ll be tights and fleeces and gloves drying on the heaters.

Little do they know I also have a secret stash of clothes (and socks) hidden away in one of my desk drawers, along with a collection of washroom stuff — perfume, deodorant, face wipes and moisturiser.

But let’s get one thing straight: I am no fashionista. All these clothes hanging around are just the consequence of my cycling. I don’t wear my work clothes while riding my bike, so I have to lug them into the office somehow, and if it means keeping them near my desk — or strewn under it — so be it.

I’m fairly fortunate in that our office has a fairly relaxed policy about work attire, so there’s no need for me to get too
dressed up. I can get away with wearing some nice trousers and a smart-looking shirt or jumper. But cycling does mean I have to plan ahead.

I tend to keep several pairs of trousers in the office, both of which are dry-clean only. As soon as they need cleaning I whizz them around to the dry-cleaners — a short walk away — so I don’t ever need to take them home!

Ditto for a smart black jacket, which is a permanent fixture on the back of my chair. I don it whenever I need to smarten up my “look” for meetings or unexpected outings.

But the rest of my “kit” — shirts, jumpers, skirts etc — has to be taken with me. I do this by either taking a bundle of stuff with me on the tube (I catch the tube up to twice a week) or I pack a small bundle in my bike’s carrier bag each day. The stuff I bike in I don’t usually wear that day: I let it hang up in the office so that any creases drop out and then I wear it the next day. So I have a weird little system of working out my outfit one day ahead. See what I mean about planning?

Unfortunately, because I am one of those paranoid people that lives in fear that my clothes might unexpectedly go walkabout thanks to a light-fingered cleaner or colleague, I make sure I’ve got a secret stash locked away comprising a spare pair of trousers and a t-shirt. I also have a collection of jumpers, because our office is notorious for being cold when you least expect it.

But on the whole, I don’t find the clothing thing too much of a problem. Although my colleagues might disagree!

Drawer

This is my drawer containing spare socks, a few cycling t-shirts, a scarf and a bunch of washroom stuff. I didn’t bother taking a photograph of all the shoes under my desk!

Cycling 10: Warren of Limited Warren T

Do you work in radio? Do you ride a bike?

I only ask because I’ve got a little theory brewing: if you work in radio you’re more inclined to be a cyclist. This is because out of the five people ‘interviewed’ for Cycling 10 (so far) three of them, including Warren T, work for radio stations… it can’t be coincidence, can it?

Anyway, now it’s Warren T’s turn to answer London Cycling Diary’s probing questions about… what else? … commuting by bicycle.

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

I probably shouldn’t count the times in the early 1980s so I’m going to say that I’ve been commuting by bike for three years or so; I started riding occasionally after my company moved their offices to an office park closer to my home. The bike path that is a mile away from my house runs through the office park and right by my building.

Two years ago I was sitting at a stop light in my mini-van when I was rear ended by a commercial truck at around 35mph. The 19-year-old driver wasn’t paying attention. The van was totalled and while I was waiting for the settlement cheque, I started riding full time.

I much prefer an enjoyable ride through the woods to sitting in traffic.  I have yet to buy a vehicle to replace the van.

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