Met League XC – Wormwood Scrubs Race 5

The start of the women's race hurtles towards us
The start of the women’s race hurtles towards us

I was mostly just happy to be able to race this, having picked up a little cold in the week and started antibiotics for a tooth infection. But I was able to make it on a beautiful, if a little windy, day out at Wormwood Scrubs, in the shadow of the prison of the same name. The course was a fairly easy 2 laps around the park and some sports pitches. I heard that flooding had prevented us from heading into the woods, but it certainly left some great puddles on the course, as captured brilliantly in a photo by fellow Serpie, Lars Menken. Continue reading Met League XC – Wormwood Scrubs Race 5

Met League XC – Horsenden Hill Race 4

Somewhere under all that mud are my shoes!
Somewhere under all that mud are my shoes!

What a beautiful day for a race, and a great race!

Sunny and warm for January but very, very muddy. This is my third cross-country race, and already I’m learning more about mud than I really wanted to know. This time the mud was soft and sticky, almost like clay and it makes it so much harder to pick your feet out of the mud, let alone have something to push against. I think running 5 miles XC is like 8 miles on the road. At least that is how I felt! Continue reading Met League XC – Horsenden Hill Race 4

First triathlon season

At the start of this year, I decided to take up triathlon as a challenge. Part inspired from the Olympics, part after completing the Virgin Active Indoor Triathlon in November and partly to get fit and get some more use out of my bike.

Since then, I’ve competed in 5 sprint and super-sprint distance triathlons, one duathlon, joined a running club and signed up for two half-marathons next year. So a pretty packed first triathlon season! Continue reading First triathlon season

Alternative SKS Chromoplastic Mudguard fitting guide

On Sunday I successfully fitted a set of mudguards to my new bike, as while getting splashed on the commute was fine, it was less fun to get splashed on a weekend cycle in jeans.

I chose the SKS Chromoplastics from Wiggle as they were on offer and look nice in black. The only trouble is that fitting is fiddly and the instructions aren’t all that clear. So without further ado, here is my guide to fitting them. Sadly I didn’t take pictures, so this is not an illustrated guide. Continue reading Alternative SKS Chromoplastic Mudguard fitting guide

I like to ride my bicycle

It has been just over two years since the launch of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, of which I was an early adopter. After my first year’s membership expired (and my key broke), I decided that there was more to cycling than the central London zone covered by the scheme and moved on to a hand-me-down mountain bike I acquired from my Dad.

My new bike, a Dawes Giro 300
New shiny toy!

Today, I became the proud owner of my first new bike as an adult. The plan is to start using it to commute to work. I’ve done a few test runs using the old bike, which according to MapMyRide is about 16km and takes me about 1hr 8mins. I’m thinking with more practice that could quite easily shrink to sub-1hour.

Owning my own bike (that is actually worth something) is quite daunting, given that a huge 20,000 bicycles are stolen in London each year. I’m hoping to increase my chances by:

  • Buying a new lock with cables to attach both wheels and saddle to the frame.
  • Registering the frame number and marking the bike.
  • Secure bike parking at home and work.
  • if all else fails, making sure the bike is insured; either on its own or as part of my contents.
I guess I’ve also got to look into the whole world of spare inner tubes, tyre levers and pumps; things that I’ve been rather blasé about with my rugged mountain bike tyres. Any other tips for a commuting newbie?

Cycle Hire Experience – 1 week on

I awaited the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme with interest. I live within the covered zone (approximately zone 1 + a bit) and make around 2-3 return trips a week by bus on routes that I could cycle. I’d also been considering cycling for a while, but wasn’t sure if I’d like it (or even if I still could) and I don’t own a bike.

In other words; I’m definitely part of the target audience for the scheme.

When registration day came around, I duly registered (with a glitch or two) and was sent my membership key in advance of the bike release day.

Cycle hire docking station outside the office
Docking station outside the office

My first trial wasn’t good – I attempted to give one a quick go around Russell Square from the rack just outside my office, but instead got an amber light and horrible juddering noise. Instead I had to walk to the next rack along, on Bedford Way, where I took my first 8 minute ride.

I can confirm and corroborate the general opinions on the bikes. Yes, they are quite heavy, but not overly so. The gear range is terrible. I’m not a strong cyclist, or fit in any way, but even uphill only the highest gear was of any use. First or second just leave you pedalling like a maniac without actually moving. And if your bag is too small, it will just fall sideways out of the basket, unless it is large enough to be bungee’d in.

The real test came on Saturday, when I took one to and from work (having invested in a helmet and reflective backpack cover). Other than highlighting how unfit I am – panting and sweating after a 15min cycle, it was totally fine. I even cycled home at 2am in the morning and found the lights to be adequate and the experience perfect. The scheme was actually perfect, as there is little in the way of public transport from Goodge Street to Farringdon/Sadler’s Wells, but there were docking stations almost door-to-door. Spot on!

Monday night, I got even braver and tried Russell Square to Victoria during the rushhour, and took advantage of being able to dock the bike and forget about it; using it to cycle to the pub, have a few drinks and get the bus back, not worrying about leaving my own bike somewhere overnight.

I’ve now used the bikes to make seven journeys that I would normally make by bus or tube, and it has been both fun and useful each time. Only once have I been over the 30 minute limit (by 34 seconds), so I’ve saved at least £6. 15 more weeks until I’ve paid off the £45 annual membership and the cost of the helmet and backpack cover!

The only scary moment I’ve had was cycling down Oxford Street. So many buses, bus stops and rickshaws that all seem to be out to get you. I shan’t be making that mistake again any time soon. The other thing that is quite strange about cycling around London is my propensity to get lost. I know my way around places that are walking distance from home and work, and I know the buses and tube for places further away, but actually having to cycle to places I’d normally take public transport too was surprisingly difficult. It isn’t like being on foot, when you can just stop any time, or turn around and because you are moving faster, there is less time for contemplating the route. It is funny though, because I don’t have that feeling in the car. (Probably to do with the sat-nav…).

Any way, so far I have loved the scheme and I hope I continue to use it beyond its current novelty.