Quiet roads but lots of rain!

Last week my bike remained firmly parked in the shed. I had a serious dose of food poisoning on Monday night, the after effects of which lingered for pretty much the rest of the week.

So after a seven-day hiatus, I was itching to get back on the bike this morning. Despite the threat of rain I knew I’d have an attack of the guilts if I caught the tube.

I’m glad I braved it. It didn’t rain once, and the traffic was nice and manageable because it’s school holiday time and half of London’s gone in search of sun on the Continent.

The journey home was a different story though. When I left the office at 5.15pm it was raining pretty heavily. I (foolishly) didn’t have a rain jacket so had to cycle home in a rather inadequate t-shirt with a flouro waistcoat over the top.

It rained for the entire 6.5 miles. It was that kind of drizzly, gets-into-everything rain that you know isn’t going to stop any time soon.

By the time I got in the door I was soaked through to the skin, my hair ragged like rat tails and my shoes squeaking with water. But if I’m really honest, I enjoyed cycling through the rain: I love the cooling sensation on my skin and the sound of the water sloshing out of the puddles when I skid through them! I just wouldn’t want to do it every day. Oh, and it’s always better if it rains on the return journey when you know there’s a hot shower waiting at the other end.

Today’s roundtrip total distance: 12.48 miles | Ride time: 77min and 04sec | Average speed: 10.30mph | Top speed: 20.4mph

Five

5
Dave at Dave Moulton’s Bike Blog has tagged me as part of a meme in which I’m supposed to reveal five facts about myself. Let’s see if I can keep them all to a bike theme…

1. I first learnt to ride a bike when I was 8 years old. Given that I lived in a rural area and went to school with kids who rode bikes before they could walk, this was a relatively late age to learn to ride a bike.

2. I was taught to ride a bike by my best friend’s older sister. There were no training wheels, no gentle lessons. I was simply pushed around and around until I could do it without anyone holding me up. I remember falling off — a lot. I don’t, however, remember crying. I think I was so determined I was going to ride a bike that I didn’t give a toss if I killed myself in the process!

3. My first bike was "loaned" to me by the girl who taught me to ride. It was an old red thing that she used to ride when rounding up the cows on the family’s dairy farm! It was rusty but it was reliable. And once I’d mastered the art of staying upright while turning the pedals I was officially "gifted" the bike. I rather suspect that kind of generosity would be unheard of today.

4. I got my first proper bike from Santa the same year I learnt to ride. It had big dragster-type handlebars with purple and white streamers coming out of the hand grips! The bike was purple. The seat was white. I loved it.

5. I used to stick bits of cardboard in the spokes so that they would rub against the tyres and create a sound which, to an eight-year-old’s ears at least, resembled a motorbike. Don’t laugh. Every kid I ever knew did this too — it was so much more "professional" than simply making the noise with your mouth.

I am supposed to tag five other people to run with this meme, but I’m not going to do that. However, if you’re that way inclined please feel free to give it a whirl…

Morning chaos, evening rain

I look forward to my Monday morning cycle, seeing as it kind of sets me up for the rest of the week.

This morning’s ride was slightly chaotic — and disturbing — especially up Ken High Street where too many buses and white vans conspired to try and run me off the road. But fighting for my life (a bit of poetic licence, there) sharpened my mind so that by the time I got to the office I had enough energy to write a rather complicated lead news story and an opinion column, sub-edit a page of letters and oversee the redesign of two news pages — all before lunch time!

The return journey, undertaken in drizzling rain that turned to a big downpour about a mile from home, was more exciting. The cordons and road blocks for Saturday’s Tour de France prologue were still in place, so it meant my ride along the South Carriage was fast and furious and I didn’t have to worry about any vehicular traffic giving me grief. I hope they stay in place tomorrow. Cycling is so much more fun without the cars, taxis and buses!

Today’s roundtrip total distance: 12.75 miles | Ride time: 77min and 32sec | Average speed: 10.59mph | Top speed: 20.7mph

Le Grand Depart flythrough

Bikes

I watched the Le Grand Depart of the Tour de France from the Square Mile this morning.

After securing my position at the top of Ludgate Hill I stood and waited patiently for about 50 minutes.

Then, pretty much in a blink of an eye, the caravan parade was riding up the hill, whizzing around the corner, and then heading on towards St Paul’s Cathedral en route to the first stage in Kent. It was a blur of colour — accompanied by cheering and clapping and the click-click of camera lenses!

All very exciting, if somewhat of a disappointment because it was all over so quickly…

New book on cycling

TwowheelsI don’t often buy a newspaper these days, preferring to get all my news online, but this morning I picked up a copy of the Guardian and discovered an ad for a new book I plan to order. Two Wheels is by Guardian journalist Matt Seaton, who is…

… an out-and-out bike nut who rides to work during the week, races at the weekend, and has even been known to attend transport policy conferences in between. There’s really nothing about bikes and cycling that doesn’t interest him. Based on the success of two years of the Guardian‘s weekly Two Wheel’s column (since imitated by other newspapers), this collection, revised and updated, will contain something for all bicycle owners – whether commuter or racer, recreational rider or cycle tourist.

You can order a copy via the Guardian’s online bookshop.

I love my bicycle because…

LovemybikeAs part of the Tour de France celebrations here in London, the Design Museum on Shad Thames is organising a free event on Sunday at 1pm entitled I love my bicycle because…

The idea is that you take your bike to the museum and confess your undying love for your trusty stead. According to the museum, all the contributions will be filmed to
"form a unique archive of memories, appraisals and passions".

If I participated — and I won’t, because I’m shy (!) — I would say I loved my bike because it gives me freedom from the crowded public transport system, keeps me fit, helps reduce my stress levels and makes me feel truly alive.

What would you say?