Monday, 14 June 2010

A right royal bike tour

If you have good eyesight and peer carefully enough at this photo, you may just make out Windsor Castle lurking in the background. Don't worry - I haven't gone all monarchist on you, but I've realised that the bike ride I did yesterday took me past Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court and Windsor Castle. Hence the title of this blog entry.

About once a year I grab my bike and head out to Windsor, picking up the Thames Path on the southern side of Hammersmith Bridge and sticking with the Thames most of the way. It's a great London cycle trip, going all the way from the centre of Westminster to the Surrey countryside, via Barnes, Kew, Richmond, Kingston, Hampton Court, Chertsy, Staines and Old Windsor. The gardens at Hampton Court area wonderful place to stop for lunch. The locks you pass are always jam-packed with boats. And be sure to check out the odd assortment of lovingly maintained waterfront properties with the union jacks flying proudly from the garden flagpole as you cycle past the Staines area of the river as well - it really is a different world!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Look mum no hands

Check out 'look mum no hands' - a fab new cycling themed cafe bar / bike workshop on old street in clerkenwell. Another thing to add to the list of what's fabulous about cycling in London!

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Sunday, 25 April 2010

A jaunt through the shires

Saturday morning and time to go cycling. We decided to pop by and see W's mum. Only thing is we live in north London and she lives on the Wiltshire / Dorset Borders. So we struck off for Paddington station and let the train take the strain as far as Reading. After a bit of faffing about food and the route we left around 10.15, had our first picnic lunch of the year on the very pleasant villiage green at Monxton (pictured) just before 2, and made it to Monkton Deverill for 6 - peddling our way through Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire on our way.

Yesterday's ride had a definate military theme. We rode past Aldermaston, Burford and the huge Larkhill barracks, before hitting Salisbury plain - which seemed to stretch on forever. We also cycled past an awful lot of 'tanks crossing' signs but didn't run into any tanks. That probably wasn't a bad thing... Not something you come across much when cycling in London!

Yesterday was one of the longest day rides i've ever done, clocking in at just over 79 miles if you include the London bit. Which I do, cos I flipping well cycled it...

The route (kindly provided by googlemaps): Reading train station to Monkton Deveril via... Burghfield, padworth common, ashford hill, monxton, greatley, cholderton, bulford, larkhill, chitterne, Sutton veney, longbridge deveril.

The distance: 79.2 miles yesterday, 16 miles today

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Up in the North Downs

I learnt a very valuable lesson yesterday. If you're planning on doing an 80 mile bike ride, you really do need to leave the house before noon.

W and I set off from Finsbury Park, bound for the sunny south coast. W got as far as Surbiton and then had to head back - knee stopped play. I decided to head on but reality struck deep in the North Downs, and I realised I'd never make it in the light. Plus I was relying on the maps on my iPhone and the battery was clearly about to give up the ghost, so back to London it was.

Still, I had 57 miles of daffodil and cherry blossom filled, fabulous city and country riding taking in central and suburban London, a sunny lunch by the Thames, and the Surrey Hills part of the North Downs. It gave me some much needed hill practice. AND I didn't have to walk my bike up any of them! I'm yet to be convinced that I'm actually fit enough to cycle the end to end next month though...

Despite the fact that a general election is looming, londoners yesterday seemed much more preoccupied with the big Chelsea game - banners, scarfs and supporters tops abound. It was only when I hit rural Surrey that the campaign posters came out. Only for one party mind you, and not the one I'll be voting for!

Friday, 9 April 2010

A bit of country livin' in the big city

When I was cycling my way around bits of New Zealand five years ago I loved cycling past houses in the country where people left fruit, veg and flowers by their mailboxes for passing traffic to stop and buy. The buying bit usually involved leaving a bit of cash in an 'honesty box'.

Then, when I came back and started cycle touring in England, I realised people did it in the countryside here too!

But it was only when I moved to N4 that I realised people do it in London as well. I pass this house on my way home everyday, and there's flowers or plants for sale on a regular basis. They ask for money through the letterbox rather than an honesty box, but I love that there's a little bit of countryside life lurking in zone two of London. And if only I'd have had £2 on me, I'd have bought some flowers as well. I took a picture instead!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The dog ate my homework

Well, that wasn't quite my excuse for being late for work today, but late I was, nevertheless. The great thing about doing the late shift at work is that you don't have to be in until 11 am. The bad thing is that, if you go via horseguards parade, like I do, you sometimes get caught up by the horseguards. As they parade...

One of the many great things about cycling in London. 20 miles worth of top central London cycling today. Poppy + sunshine = almost unavoidable good mood.

It looks like the weather's going to be fabulous this weekend. Where shall I go cycling?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Cycling just got a lot more fun again

After seemingly endless months of cycling through the dark and the cold something wonderful has happened this week. The sun has come out. The wind has dropped. You can leave the house at 6.30 in the morning and it's light. You don't have to pile on layers of clothing. And lo and behold, cycling has suddenly become fun again. Wooooooooooooo hoooooooooooooooooooo...

Thursday, 25 February 2010

I don't know if you've noticed but it's raining...

The good news is, as you're only supposed to get rained on in London 12 times a year if you cycle, the rest of the year's cycling experiences should all be pretty dry. God, who comes out with these statistics? Hmmm...

Fortunately, just this week I bought myself some shiny new waterproofs. Good for getting home dry but very, very bad for cycle chic. Even if I was on Poppy the pink pashley.

Tomorrow I'm off to the fabulous Bobbin Bicycles - - to buy Poppy a new basket. It really is the most beautiful cycle shop in Britain. Think I'll ask them about how I can rock some winter cycling style.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Cycling - how else to get to a wedding? Or back again.

W and I went out on our first training ride in preperation for our planned May John O'Groats to Lands End ride on Sunday. But first we had a wedding to go to! So we packed up our panniers with our dressing up clothes and headed off to Oxford - only ten miles of cycling, and letting the train take the strain the rest of the way. Still, we appeared suitably eccentric when we showed up at the reception with our bikes (this was definately a trip for Geraldine the silver bicycle, not Poppy the pink).

One very fun wedding reception later, an anxious hour lying in bed listening to rain (because if you go on a cycling trip in February why ON EARTH would you ever think to bring waterproofs with you? We were very lucky it didn't rain when we were riding...) and a leisurely breakfast later, we were off. 50 miles, some very nice countryside and a couple of hills that I found much more difficult than I should have done, and we found ourselves at Chorleywood station on the Metropolitan line, ready to be whisked into London by the next train.

In all we did 55 miles on Sunday. It felt like pretty hard work at times. In May we're going to have to cycle 68 miles everyday for 16 days. OMG.

I'm going to have to do a lot of training in the next 12 weeks. In the meantime I've finally bitten the bullet and bought some new cycling waterproofs. Just in case it isn't gloriously sunny on every day of our 16 day end to end jaunt. And also quite helpful for those 'occasional' days when it rains in London...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

A bicycle made for two?

I've been wondering about tandems lately. Mostly along the lines of 'wouldn't it be easier to cycle up big hills on touring trips if someone else is also peddling the same bike' type thoughts. Also because I've been on holiday for the past three weeks and, quite frankly, it's a lot easier to dream about big cycling trips if you're not having to think about work, or ironing, or other equally not-very-exciting things that pretend to be everyday necessities of life.

So when the opportunity to try out a hire-tandem came up earlier this week whilst still in sunny Mendoza in Argentina, W and I couldn't resist. Now, it was a rubbish tandem bike, and I'm sure if we got our mitts on a beautiful Thorn touring tandem one we wouldn't have to contend with a crippling saddle, painful handlebar grips, no gears and our feet for brakes (you get the idea). BUT... I would still be stuck at the back of the bike, staring at W's t-shirt and having to crane my neck to either side to get a view. Which, lovely back though it is, ISN'T why I cycle. I want that view of the open road.
Plus I'm a control freak, and if you're stuck at the back of a tandem (which makes you a stoker) you don't have any control. You have to trust your 'pilot' (I'm loving the terminology). And 'W', as the slightly bigger of us would always be the pilot.
This is the man who cycles down hills like he has a death wish and who I've heard falling off a bike ("arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhh" is the subtle verbal clue that alerts me something has gone awry) on several occasions and into a line of cars waiting at a traffic light on another.

Yup, that's who I would have to trust. With my life. Gulp.

So, I'm definitely going to have to do some more thinking before I jump into tandem ownership. But if you ever happen to be in Mendoza and decide to do a tour of the wineries by bike, then do give a tandem a try. At least then you can blame the wobbling on the weird bike, rather than on the wine you've been downing!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Cycling through snow

I decided I couldn't be doing with this Tube nonsense any more this morning and jumped back on to my trusty pink bicycle for my (very early) commute into work.

The first five minutes were a little dodgy as the side roads where I live had received a thin coating of fresh snow last night (just enough to cover all the ice that I know is lurking underneath), but once I hit the slightly busier roads it was fine. Better than fine - it was great to be back on Poppy the bike. And of course the one good thing about cycling at 6am in the morning is that you have the roads pretty much to yourself!

Roll on summer - which in my case is coming very soon as I'm off to New Zealand and Argentina for three blissful weeks of warmth and wine - hurrah!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Cycling in a new decade!

I rescued Poppy the pink bike from the garage where she's been languishing for the past month and struck off for home on her this morning. It was only seven miles but I'm sure it felt much more difficult than normal - I guess that's what happens if you stop cycling for almost two months (hang my head in shame).

Any hoo... it was a beautiful ride in the winter sunshine through some great parts of London - Horseguards (lots of camera snapping tourists), Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Russell Square, Amwell in Islington (loving the shops around there - they seen to be really nurturing quirky, different places in that part of town - I wonder if it's the same landlord), Barnsbury, and finally home to Finsbury Park!

It's my usual commute, but when you're cycling in winter the gloom of the morning and the dark of the evening can make you forget about the interesting places you see along the way. I must have ridden that route more than 300 times, but I spotted something new today - gates on an old building that name it as the Goodenough College. What a great name! I thought the gates would belong to some long since deceased Victorian institution, but their website makes it clear they are still going strong. I wonder what grades are 'good enough' for them?

Anyway, in a bid to get my cycling fitness back I've signed myself up for a spinning class before work tomorrow morning. Which means I've got to have a 6am start. Marvellous...