Sunday, 2 April 2017

#Errandonnee 2017 Challenge: Starring Bridget the Surly Cross Check

Errandonnee #1

Date: Monday, 20 March 2017
Errand: Get my bicycle repaired
Category: (Bike) Store
Destination: Brixton Cycles, 296-298 Brixton Rd, London SW9 6AG
Distance: 11.13 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

Some cretin tried to steal my stem cap mounted bell by force but only succeeded in destroying the star nut. Cue impromptu trip to the bike shop first thing Monday morning. Must say, 6 miles on a bike with its headset not tensioned is something you can do... but I wouldn't want to repeat the experience!

Errandonnee #2

Date: Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Errand: physiotherapy appointment
Category: Non-Store Errand
Destination: Octopus Clinic, Harmsworth House, Bouverie Street, London (in the old UK Patent Office building)
Distance: 16.04 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

"Will they let me bring my bike inside? Or will I need to lock up outside?" The answer lies with the people (and their personal biases), not the place. 

A blog post all about my knees is coming up soon. At the moment all I'll say is, Nicole Oh is an amazing physiotherapist. 

Errandonnee #3

Date: Tuesday, 22 March 2017
Errand: Photographing Cycle Superhighway Design Failures on my Commute Route
Category: Volunteering (Cycling Advocacy)
Destination: My Office, Bury Street, London EC3A 5AR
Distance: 18.10 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

There are a handful of places along Cycle Superhighway 7 -- where there is protected space, segregation, cycle-specific traffic lights, etc -- that nonetheless just don't work and in some cases are dangerous, either by accident or by design in creating conflict with motorised traffic that simply did not exist before.  Today on my commute, I set out to record a few of these sites/situations. At one junction in particular, I feel very lucky to have captured the 'perfect storm' where the most dangerous vehicles are exactly positioned by the phasing of the traffic lights to pose the most risk. 

The two junctions shown here should get their own blog posts. I do think I need supplemental video footage. At the moment, I have not got enough here, from these few photos, to explain in words exactly what is going on. Sorry!

Waiting for my green light to go straight ahead

Over in parallel, waiting for green light to go straight ahead

On simultaneous green light phases, northbound cyclists and traffic Go, Go, Go!
But... see that turn signal? Immediately after the dotted diagonal line is a bus stop.
Guess what that bus driver is trying to do? 

Errandonnee #4

Date: Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Errand: osteopathy appointment
Category: Personal Care
Destination: The British School of Osteopathy
Distance: 2.22 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

While physiotherapy is an ongoing regime right now, the occasional "fix me up" of the reactive rather than proactive kind is sometimes also needed. Tonight, I went to the osteopath to work on a little problem that flared up two weeks ago just before the first Friday Night Ride to the Coast of the year, which I've been ignoring but of course only became worse. I really like the team at the British School of Osteopathy and there's never a problem getting a short notice appointment after work.

Errandonnee #5

Date: Thursday, 23 March 2017
Errand: glaucoma test (referral following high pressure readings and pain over several months)
Category: Wild Card
Destination: The Eye Clinic, Luton & Dunstable University Hospital
Distance: 7.3 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

When the chips are down and you really really have to... you can run an errand with a blinding migraine. Especially if someone with a car can come get you afterwards.

Oh, and I don't have glaucoma. Might be thyroid related. Back to square one (and back to my harried, part-time NHS GP to try and talk her into ordering gold standard blood and saliva tests that the NHS simply does not pay for). 

more coffee please (in the hospital cafe waiting for Adam)

Errandonnee #6

Date: Saturday, 25 March 2017
Errand: return my lock to work, after taking it with me on Thursday to go to the hospital
Category: You Carried What On Your Bike?! - a 3 kg chain and padlock
Destination: Bury Street, London EC3A 5AR
Distance: (part of) 4.39 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

my bike's weekday home

my office

the Swiss Re Building aka 'The Gherkin', opposite my office

Errandonnee #7

Date: Saturday, 25 March 2017
Errand: bike shop to try on summer mitts
Category: Another Bike Store
Destination: Cycle Surgery, Southwark Bridge
Distance: (the other part of 4.39 km)
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

Weird thing. The shop guy didn't really know what they had in stock or how to check what was in their warehouse or how to order stuff in, couldn't work the til properly... and he made some incredibly sexist comments (out of presumptions not malice -- he truly didn't have any concept of being offensive). And yet... I can be a tricky customer. I tend to know exactly what I want and to spell out specific criteria I'm looking for. This guy went out of his way to help me, spent a lot of time trying to find out what stock might be available, was sincerely embarrassed and apologetic about his difficulties in ringing up the sale. In the end, my overall impression of Cycle Surgery staff (formed over 7 years since I bought my first bike there) is unchanged: friendly and helpful, passionate about cycling and helping people get the most of their ride.

No automatic alt text available.
We have a winner here. Any guesses which?

Errandonnee #8

Date: Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Errand: morning commute
Category: Work
Destination: My Office, Bury Street, London EC3A 5AR
Distance: 18.09 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

I cycle every day but chose today as an official control as I felt it might be, I don't know, "typical". Weather coolish, not much wind, skies grey but dry. Traffic a little lighter than usual but a cyclist riding about half a block ahead of me in a residential area called the French Quarter (Clapham) got doored by a guy in, of course, a white van. So stereotypes are alive and well! I didn't actually see the impact (so couldn't offer my 'services' as a witness) as I was distracted by creaky pedals. The guy was okay I think, though there was blood on his face (whether from nose or mouth/teeth, I don't know) so I hope he went to hospital to get checked over. He'll be sore tomorrow! The oddest thing (to me) about the incident was that his exclamation on being hit was not, as you'd expect these days, a four-letter expletive but an actual real-life shout of "OW"! Rather comic book style. Imagine a big lightning-bolt word bubble "KAPOW!" over his head. Sorry for the flippancy but it was incongruous. 

Anyway, lessons for the day: It's called the Door Zone for a reason. Stay out of it. 

And... I've been thinking about it for some time but have definitely decided to buy a video camera I can mount to my bike.

Streatham Vale Park

Tooting Bec Common

Northbound on Blackfriars Bridge (Cycle Superhighway 6)

Bike + Office + Icon

Sorting out my stuff

Arrived early today, even if I was a little slower than usual

Errandonnee #9

Date: Wednesday, 29 March 2017
Errand: osteopathy appointment
Category: Personal Care
Destination: The British School of Osteopathy
Distance: 2.22 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

What a difference one week makes! (Well, and one hour, as we moved to British Summer Time last Sunday.)  This photo was taken exactly one week after the one above, as my appointment was again at 18.45.

I Intended to get a photo of where they let me store my bike when I rock up here (i.e. in their back office) but when my appointment was finished, the staff on reception had already wheeled Bridget out ready and waiting for me. So no "in situ parking" shot. Full points for valet service though.

Errandonnee #10

Date: Friday, 31 March 2017
Errand: morning commute
Category: Work
Destination: My Office, Bury Street, London EC3A 5AR
Distance: 17.72 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

On the day that Mike Hall died... no words. Here are some photos of London architecture.

Errandonnee #11

Date: Friday, 31 March 2017
Errand: Intercept Adam as he drove through central London, so I could get a lift in the car to Bognor Regis 
Category: Wild Card
Destination: south entrance to Blackfriars station, traffic (for him) permitting!
Distance: 2.8 km
Steed: Bridget the Surly Cross Check

What I learned/observations:

I thought I had photos, I truly did. Bridget & I posed against a very picturesque raised concrete flower bed. My attire was even better colour-coordated with her than it usually is. I'm sure there's a photo lurking on my phone somewhere... hmmm.


Errandonnee #12

Date: Friday, 31 March 2017 (plus 1 day)
Errand: filling prescription and buying summer clothes
Category: Unexpected Arts & Entertainment
Destination: Boots and M&Co., Bognor Regis town centre
Distance: 2.5 km
Steed: Lucy the Brompton (because doesn't Bridget deserve a rest?)

What I learned/observations:

As many migraine sufferers will tell you, the worst part isn't so much the pain, it's the lost time. Days, weeks... over a lifetime it adds up to months lost from your life that you can never get back. Missed weddings, rescheduled exams, cancelled day trips... 

So, please lend me a little latitude if I choose to wrest just one day back from the 3 lost to migraine during the 12 days of this challenge. (That's 3 days in addition to the hospital trip documented above.)

Today, we cycled along the seafront in glorious sunshine, so that I could finally run errands of a (very nearly) non-medical nature: filling a prescription and buying a few properly spring/summer clothes suitable for lazy weekends at the coast. Each one of those errands could have qualified, except that I've already got two store controls. Maybe I could claim the chemist as non-store errand -- except I did buy stuff there.  

The other option is to claim a control for what we didn't expect but really did happen:

I wasn't about to ask.

Apparently something called "SU Rag" is happening. University students in weird fancy dress doing a pub crawl all over town during the day? No idea. It was unexpectedly amusing, though.

Of all my errandonnee trips this year, THIS is the only one I felt was made in the "true spirit of errandonneuring".

TOTAL DISTANCE FOR THE CHALLENGE: 99.71 km  (now where can I find another 0.28??!)

Friday, 17 March 2017

Are You Up To A Challenge?

Over on the righthand side of the blog is a link titled "Challenges", which takes you to a brief potted history of some of the "organised" schemes I've signed up over the years in an effort to get myself out on my bike a little bit more than maybe I normally would without some kind of "incentive" (if that's the right term). 

I don't know about you, but I don't actually respond very well to the concept of a "challenge". I mean, I like to have goals, but as soon as I sign up to what someone else has defined as a "challenge", I swear my sub-conscious is quickly at work to invent ways not to do it!  (I like how G.E. of EndlessVeloLove explored the whole idea of goals and resolutions in a January 2017 post -- my own experience feels very different from hers because she and I define the words "resolution" and "goals" in almost opposite ways -- but oddly enough, the end result is often the same!)

A classic example for me is the #30daysofbiking challenge that runs the full month of April. When I'm not riding my bike much, then, as much as I like the idea of "pledging" to cycle, even just a short distance, every single day, no way is that going to happen. And if I'm cycling quite a lot, then to be honest, I want a day off now and then! (And the various chronic physical difficulties I deal with often have my sports massage therapist and personal trainer reminding me that recovery is essential, that muscles can only grow stronger if they're given a chance to rest.)

Sunday, 5 March 2017

A Year Of Transition

Yes, things have been a little quiet on the blog lately and an update is overdue. This post will be of most interest to friends and family living far away, and not so much to those who primarily read this blog for its cycling content. 

In the past 8 months, we somehow went from living in one family house to.... one house plus... my suddenly-empty-again London flat plus... a seaside flat that will, once probate is complete, belong to Adam. 

Our medium-to-long term plan has been to sell the house once Adam's (now grown) children fledged and find a new home of a size more appropriate to just two adults (plus approximately a <cough> number of bicycles). But the unexpected loss of my tenant and Adam's inheritance prompted a lot of re-thinking. 

The goal now is still to sell the house but, instead of buying something else, divide our time between the two flats. We can't do that immediately however because Adam still works in Harpenden, his son hasn't yet moved out (a whole 'nother story) and my flat really needs a lot of work before it can be a proper home again.

After mulling over a dizzying number of options (I can't even remember what they all were), we find ourselves nearly 3 months into a Transition Plan.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Thursday, 29 December 2016

In The Wild: Freddie Grubb Ravensbourne

St Mary Axe, The City of London -- December 2016

(Not built by THE Freddie Grubb but by a new start-up who, rightly or wrongly, have adopted the name.)

Monday, 19 December 2016

In The Wild: BSP Oma Confort

If there's ever a bicycle guaranteed to make even a confirmed bicycle junkie do a double take, it may well be this:  a Dutch bicycle in Pepto-Bismol Pink.

Gresse Street, Fitzrovia, London -- July 2016

Friday, 25 November 2016

#Coffeeneuring Challenge: The 2016 Edition

The 6th Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge: Yay, I finished! Autumn of last year is a complete blank for me so presumably I didn't even attempt this wonderfully traditional challenge, and I know I did not complete in 2014.  So I am quite surprised and pleased that I did succeed, on 7 separate occasions, in riding my bicycle at least 2 miles for the pleasure of a hot beverage. 

I have finally figured out why this is such a tough thing to do if I'm riding with Adam. It's all down to the "spirit" of the challenge. See, Adam does not drink hot drinks. But the problem is more than that. We are both "tourists" and love nothing more than spending the day together out on our bikes peering at everything. However, Adam is not a coffeeneur at heart. He does not see the point of stopping -- or 'interrupting' -- a perfectly good bike ride for something as trivial as having a drink.  Drinking is for hydration and drinking from his bottle on the bike while on the move is perfectly adequate and sound good sense to him. Stopping is inefficient. He does it for me but I have to pointedly and directly request it. Hints go right over his head. Yet, how many times have we ended a ride only for him to say "Oh no! You didn't get to log this as a coffeeneuring ride!"  If I didn't know him (and his honest heart) so well, I'd suspect Coffeeneuring Sabotage.  

So this year, knowing that one week of the 7-week challenge would see us in the Netherlands where we would be cycling together every day, I devised a strategy:  get him cold enough and/or present our plans each day as ambitious enough that some kind of proper sit-down stop would be not only (1) welcome, (2) sensible, (3) enjoyable (even for him), and/or, if push came to shove, in some way (4) absolutely necessary.

Fortunately, the weather during our Amsterdam sojourn was fully co-operative! 

But I am jumping ahead to the second part of my 2016 Coffeeneuring Challenge.  

Without further ado, here are my 7 rides in chronological order. 

Destination:  Chilterns Gateway Centre (National Trust), Whipsnade Road, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU6 2GY, UK
Date: Sunday, 9th October 2016
Hot drink of choice: Plain Black Tea with Milk (score: average, say 3/5)
Total mileage: 23.8km
Bicycle: Riley the Enigma

Bike Friendliness: 

Quite good. There are bike racks but it is perfectly okay to keep your bike with you and lean it against a table or wall within your line of sight.  This is a popular stop for cycling clubs.

Other Observations:

This was a beautiful morning and it was nice to see so many families out early to enjoy the great outdoors. Lots of dog walkers and kite flyers. After enjoying my hot beverage, I freewheeled into Dunstable to visit Adam's daughter and her fiance in their new, first home.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Notes From Amsterdam (Part II)

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

We are told it will rain off and on (mostly on) all day today. Oh, and windy. Gusts of wind. Those isobars are packed tight today, weaving and waving their lines towards us from the west. It's November though -- what else can you expect? We cycle north through the city, through Chinatown, pausing in Niewmarkt to remember our first visit here one extremely clement March. Then we roll straight onto a ferry over the River IJ and roll straight off the other side into pleasant suburbia (mostly land reclaimed in last 50 years to meet the demands of a rapidly expanding Amsterdam) and hence onto a wild natural Polder Oostzaan. Why this wilderness? Water management. (Everything is all about the water. Always.) Headwinds. Marshland birds. More herons than you can shake a stick at. (And at one point, somehow, we inadvertently literally did. Nerves of steel, those herons. Be still now, indeed.) I love polders. Musings on wide open skies... my mother spent her childhood in south Texas, loved wide open spaces... my father grew up homesteading in the Bitterroot ranges of northern Idaho and hated them... the two years in the 1970s we lived on the prairies, my father yearned for mountains. My sister-in-law from the prairies felt claustrophobic for years in western Oregon. Me, I'm comfortable with either. Both. I love the drama of Big Sky Country. And the Netherlands definitely qualifies. Look down at your feet, below sea level. Look up. The sky is the limit. Anyway. I like wild, empty polders! And the sun is peeking through. Lunchtime brings us to Zaanse Schans, a residential area of Zaandam that looks like a theme park but is the real deal and oddly enough not a 'protected' site (although it is listed on the European Route of Industrial Heritage). Tasty salads and coffee in a bistro run by a family with very American accents. The bikes sit unsecured outside the window. (Adam has left the key to his chain in the pocket of his other trousers!) Then back through Zaanse Schans and across the Wijdewormer to Neck then through the sprawling town of Purmerand and down long straight avenues to Edam. Edam is a "protected townscape" and very pretty, verging on twee. They really ought to pedestrianise the village centre though. A brief sit down and then... it's dark. Magic along the unlit Purmerdijk -- a night ride! Our little blinkies are next to useless. But there's no traffic, just the sound of the wind in the reeds and dry grasses bordering the canal. A few wiggles through industrial estates to make you think you're back in the UK (cycle here? inconceivable!) and then we are on a southbound train... Approximately 40 miles in total.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Notes From Amsterdam (Part I)


I wish I could have a video cam strapped to my head every time we leave the apartment. So many amazing everyday stories here. I have in fact taken very few photos. I'm just gobbling it all up with my eyes and (hopefully) brain. Not to mention, it's hard to take many photos when you have to take gloves off to do it. After a while, cold hands get faster and more efficient at slapping down the photo bug impulse.

Oh and.... autumn is so beautiful here. The backdrop to every scene is a blurry watercolour in every shade of grey, with great splashes of fallen leaves in vivid yellow, orange and gold. Add reflections from rivers, canals, lakes, marshes and puddles and it's like moving through a liquid painting.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Today it was just above freezing and pervasively damp. But there's no such as bad weather, just bad clothing... and some days that's even true. We cycled to the Novagraaf offices (a reccie for tomorrow) then through a beautiful forest, over the Amsterdam shipping canal, round Weesp (pretty but, well, nothing special as Dutch villages go - I can't believe I am saying that), then through a wonderful nature reserve where some kind of native but rare deer has recently been re-introduced, around through Naarden (which is beautiful and charming and unusual with its forts and starflake-shaped canal system), had a wonderful lunch at Het Hert (I walked in thinking "I want an omelette and a bowl of really hot soup" and that's exactly what I got), where we warmed up and dried off (or steamed gently by the radiator, if truth be told), then ventured out again only to find it was raining in earnest. Heigh ho, off we went to Muiden (or Muider, I'm not quite sure) where there is a huge, moody impressive castle dating back to 12?? called Muiderslot (I do have that part right) that is not open November-April but the village (whatever it's called) is the prettiest, most postcard-perfect place you'll ever see. We cycled along a pretty canal on a road closed to cars, then alongside a motorway, then along the Amsterdam shipping canal for a very long way (which brought back lovely memories of the Fridays' Lowlands Tour just over a year ago) and then a superb commute-hour route across the eastern part of the city to the Amstel. Which meant home. 33 miles in total. Hot shower, feet up, drink to hand... Life is good.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

An Oldie But Goodie: Raleigh RSW 16

Here's another Luton & Dunstable Cycling Forum Recycle Project story...

One Saturday afternoon last month, Adam disappeared into the depths of our shed looking for a longer seat post for Petra.  He began removing various bicycles and boxes of parts from the shed and laying them out on the lawn. My mind on Petra, I took little notice. I am so accustomed to seeing lots of 'junk' from the shed -- all of it donated, all of it received without inspection -- that it was several minutes before my eyes focused in any meaningful way, only for them to land on something that made me dash for my phone. 

I know nothing about Raleigh's RSW range but I knew instantly this was not another run-of-the-mill "let's see if we can transform a sow's ear into a silken purse" sort of refurbishment project. 

A few minutes later, I had uploaded a handful of photos to the Vintage Bicycles UK group on Facebook. And within 24 hours, this little beauty had a new home. 

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