Adventures in Cycling

2014-04-08 17.57.07

I’ve got a new laptop! My old one became more and more useless until it would only stay on for about 4 minutes, at which time a big sign saying “CORRUPTION!” would flash up and it would close itself down and restart. Which, as I’m sure you can appreciate, was pretty annoying. It was about 6 years old though, so I can’t be too angry.

So goodbye Dell, hello MacBook Air! My new laptop is beautiful, fast and I can do things I’ve meaning to do for ages, like edit my iTunes to be slightly less embarrassing (so long All Saints album and I Love College by Asher Roth). It also means that I can write on this blog again, hurrah! I know everyone’s been missing my ramblings about my pedestrian cooking…. But I’ve also been thinking that I’d like to write about more than just pasta and cake, which leads me to this post, about cycling.

As soon as we found a new place to live which was a bit further out of Chelmsford than our old flat, I got a bike through my offices’ Cycle 2 Work scheme. I borrowed £300, which got me a Pendleton bike, lock, helmet and lights, all from Halfords. The C2W scheme (as all the cool kids call it) is a great idea as you basically rent the bike from your employer, with the money taken out monthly through PAYE. My payment is £25.00 per month, which isn’t too painful at all.

I had two main reasons to start commuting to work by bike. Firstly, I am very tight and I hate paying to park my car. The only alternatives are the bus, which is almost as expensive, or a boring, 40 minute walk, so I decided to start cycling. Secondly, I wanted legs like Taylor Swift.

I’ve now been cycling to and from work at least 4 times a week since April. And although I am in no way an expert (I still can’t lift my left hand off the handlebar to signal and I once fell off trying to go up a curb) I have discovered a few things about novice cycling. I thought I’d celebrate my first blog post on my new laptop by imparting some of my new-found wisdom.

CLARE’S TIPS, HINTS AND OBSERVATIONS ON CYCLING

Do you really need to cycle?

Before you buy a bike and plan your new two-wheeled way of life, I’d stop and consider: How long is your current commute? If it’s less than a 10 minute walk, I wouldn’t bother cycling. By the time you’ve found all your bike bits, got the bike out the shed, cycled to work, locked up your bike and retouched your makeup, you’ll probably be taking about the same amount of time, if not longer. You’ll also have considerably shitter hair. By all means still get a bike, but maybe just use it for after work and weekend adventures.

To helmet or not to helmet

For me, the main reason I wear a helmet is not that it might stop me dying*, it’s that it keeps my hair down while cycling and stops it getting too bashed around by the wind. Yes, I’m that shallow. But I do appreciate that they do play a part in keeping you safe. I like knowing that if I fall off, my head is slightly protected. There are some really cool helmets around (cyclechic.com have some beautiful Bern ones) but in my opinion, you are not going to look cool in any cycling helmet, so you may as well get an ugly £30.00 one, instead of spending £80.00 on a pretty one.

Generally, the accessories suck

One thing I realised a few days into cycling was that I needed a rucksack. And not a cool, cute one from Topshop, a big ugly one that would fit all my work stuff: lunch, snacks, backup disks, kindle and possibly a change of shoes and a jacket. I got one from JD Sports in the end. Since then, I’ve added some black and pink fingerless cycling gloves and a black metal basket to my accessories collection. All this stuff is practical and useful and the bag has padded straps and is super comfy, but I’m not going to be featured in any cycling style guides any time soon.

I’ve found that generally, cycling accessories are pretty hideous. There is lovely stuff online (and on Etsy particularly) but the stuff in the big cycling shops is definitely more at the ‘functional’ end of the style spectrum. My advice is to shop around and be prepared to pay a bit more than you thought if you want pretty accessories to match your lovely bike.

One accessory I’ve bought that I DEFINITELY recommend everyone try is cycling shorts! I bought them to go under dresses and skirts when I’m cycling (my undies just aren’t glamorous enough to flash, unfortunately) but they’re so bloody comfy that I wear them all the time. Highly recommended.

Your desk drawer will start to resemble Superdrug

I might just be horribly unfit, but after a 20 minute bike ride, I am not looking my usual glam self. I decided that instead of spending the day feeling scruffy and untidy, I’d just get into work a bit early and sort myself out.

My desk is now like the toilets of a cheap and nasty West End club, except without the lollipops and I won’t charge if you borrow something. I have spare straighteners, styling product, hairspray, deodorant, concealer, blusher and face wipes and I can re-do my face and hair in about 5 minutes, much to my boss’s amusement.

Prepare to be hated

One thing I’m never sure about is whether to use the bell or not, which is more polite; to ask people to move or to just ring your bell? I thought it was better just to say excuse me be but once I was cycling on the pavement around the Army & Navy (scary!) and a lady said “God! Use your bell!” when I asked her to move. So you can’t win.

While you cycle about, minding your own business, you will get dirty looks from both motorists and pedestrians. The motorists, in my opinion, don’t really have any right to moan. By cycling you’re easing road congestion, freeing up spaces in carparks and helping the environment. As long as you’re cycling safely and not riding no-handed on the wrong side of the road, texting, they can’t really complain.

Pedestrians on the other hand, I think have a point. You’re on their turf, in their way. I just follow the rule that if it’s a narrow pavement and there’s more than one person about and I really can’t go on the road, I get off and walk. Yes, it slows me down and messes up my Map My Ride time, but I think it’s worth it for not being spat on by mums with pushchairs. Which could happen in Meadgate.

So there you have it! All I have learnt from my 6-ish months as a cyclist. As I mentioned before, I am in no way an expert so if you have any comments, or just want to inform me exactly how Cycle 2 Work operates, feel free to let me know.

And regarding my Taylor Swift leg goal, no change so far. But then, Taylor is 5 inches taller and 9 years younger than me, so I’m not sure what I was expecting really.

Clare xx
@ClareErin

* I intend to die the same way that Krusty faked his death: crashing into the side of a mountain, flying a plane with my face on the side, evading tax.

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