A cycling blog I absolutely love!
A very sombre title I know, but I have recently heard of way too many cyclists being killed by vehicles, and accidents which just sound horrific! The other day I was cycling out through Kenton and loads of ambulances zoomed past. Then I was gutted when I saw that they were all heading for a roundabout; lots of traffic, cyclist on the floor, metres away from his bike. He was in a bad condition to say the least. It was grim, and I’m pretty sure it was a collision with a white van, which barely had a dent in it. And recently there has been a load of controversy in London about cyclists after the chairman of Addison Lee, the taxi company, mouthed off about cyclists and seemed to be saying that he doesn’t want them on roads at all! (If you want to read up on the story, here’s a brief summary.)
What upsets me the most about the way I’m treated on the road is how little drivers think ahead. On Monday I went out for a ride and FOUR times and car overtook me at great speed only to slam the brakes on (causing me to slam my brakes on even harder) so that they could take an impending left turn. On a couple of occasions it was a very near miss (Mum if you’re reading this, don’t worry, I’m fine, and yes I was wearing my high vis). The only thing those motorists would have had to do to make the situation safe is think to themselves ‘right, I’m turning left in 100 metres, that means that the best thing to do is slow down for a very short amount of time behind this cyclist so that I don’t have to cut them off and almost cause a crash’. What annoys me is how little people would be held up, its literally a matter of seconds, not minutes! And yet drivers insist on taking the gut reaction of overtaking even when its an idiotic choice.
Another thing that really gets me going is when drivers don’t even bother to cross the white line to overtake you because there is oncoming traffic, EVEN when the oncoming traffic is only like 2 cars! All they would have to do is wait behind you for those two cars and then they could pull out safely and have loads of time to get round you. People don’t slow down either, so if its raining and I swerve to miss a drain and a car is zooming past me (within the white lines at 40mph) then I have little or no time or space to react. Its ridiculous! A car would easily kill me if it hit me at that speed, and yet drivers just don’t make the effort to take an extra few seconds and make it safe. Equally annoying is when people try and overtake you when there is an island crossing coming up and they just don’t have space so you get squeezed out! Disaster from the cyclists point of view but I’m not sure drivers even care! I really hope and pray that I never get hit by one of those careless drivers. But as I cycle more and more, I am increasingly realising how dangerous the roads are for cyclists. And it worries me! How long will it be before a near miss becomes something worse? It wouldn’t take very much at all for a car to cut it too fine and I would be a gonner! I’m not saying I expect this to happen, I just mean it would be an awful shame, especially considering how easy it is for motorists to take care and slow down for cyclists. We are talking about a difference between waiting for SECONDS behind a cyclist, and risking their LIFE.
Its a no brainer if you ask me.
As a driver myself, I know how easy it is to not think about other road users and just concentrate on getting where you want to go. But if you are reading this as any kind of motorist, please can I urge you to take those few extra seconds to slow down behind a cyclist and make sure its safe FOR THEM before you overtake. It will make such a difference to the safety of cycling on the roads!
I absolutely LOVE this idea! Its like my dream bike shop/job! #hiremenow
The weekend ride was a brilliant mixture of adventure, rain, pain, chocolate sandwiches, banter and enjoyment. We woke at around 6am to get everything ready, pack the bags and have breakfast ready for a 7am departure. Because of a last minute puncture we actually ended up leaving at around 7.45 but morale was high and the sun was semi-shining as we left Gilesgate in Durham. Because I was the lady of the group I only had to carry a camelback with my raincoat in it, some inner tubes and a puncture repair kit and I did feel slightly bad as the boys crammed in bananas, drinks and sandwiches to their bags. Ah well!
The first 22 miles or so until we got to Stanhope were pretty average riding. We were on main roads with lots of rush hour traffic and it was hard to stay together as a group. But once we were passed Stanhope we took a right turn which took us away from the main roads and up into the scenic views towards Rookhope. This is really where the ride got interesting because the pennines sprawl out on either side of you and its a really undulating road. Its kind of like a mixture between Dartmoor and the Yorkshire moors. Last year when we did this ride you could see for miles and miles, it was clear blue skies and bright sunshine, but this year it was blustering winds, drizzle and mist everywhere! So there was much less distraction on the uphill slogs.
What this picture doesn’t show you is that I had to hang onto a snow pole in order to be able to stand still enough to take the picture! It was really really windy. Sometimes there would be a transient break in the clouds and we would all shout ‘blue skies up ahead’ but more often than not the sunshine eluded us and we had to battle on in the clouds.
Dad was particularly struggling because of the gears on his posh Claud Butler. Most of us had downgraded to a compact chain ring at the front so that we would be able to master the long hills (except my brother Sam who did it all on a mountain bike!) but Dad had a racing set on at the front. I think his big ring had was a mahoosive 64 teether! (If you want to find out more about gears and gear ratios then there is a really useful blog post here) We worked out that his lowest possible gear was the equivalent to my highest! Needless to say he was absolutely knackered by the time we got to Rookhope. I was sailing along and really grateful for my bargain upgrade to an 11-34 cassette a couple of weeks ago at Start Cycles in Newcastle. The upgrade was a complete game changer – hills that I really struggled on last year were a different story this time round. Gear upgrades are the way forward!
Another piece of kit that I was really grateful for was my dhb bibbed cycling leggings. I bought them off wiggle last winter in order to be able to ride in the cold and they are absolutely fantastic. They are one of the only set of bibbed leggings designed with women in mind and they are really affordable at only around £40. They have a warm lining and multi-panel padding which really helps on a long ride in wet conditions. Even though the rain persistently drizzled in the afternoon and the wind was really strong on some of the descents I didn’t get really freezing. I would suggest if you are a new rider then the first must-buy is padded shorts, and the second is windproof top layers. Makes cycling so much more fun when you are wearing the right attire!
As promised, we stopped at the 50ish mile mark at the Hartside cafe about an hour after we had gone through Alston (I was bursting for a pee in Alston and ALL the pubs were shut so I had to dash into the world’s smallest tea shop in all of my kit and politely ask to use their facilities. Bull in a china shop comes to mind!). What a welcome break that was! We were all soaking wet and the mist meant that we only had a rough idea of where the cafe was thanks to our cycle computers. The last time we stopped Rob stated all of our frustrations by saying that we just couldnt work out how far we had to go – the cafe could be 200yards away or 2 more miles. Luckily as soon as we started cycling again we saw a sig that said ‘Hartside cafe 250 yards’ and breathed a deep sigh of relief! The mist was really dense on the top of the summit.
After a quick bowl of chips, some soup and hot chocolate (and a brief attempt at steaming off our lycra on the open log fire) we set off again down the hill and into Cumbria proper! After that you’ve really won the battle – just a few more roads to Penrith and then on through into Greystoke and Johnby and we were at the farm! Just in time to see Muffin the farm labrador giving birth to her first set of puppies!
A memorable weekend all in all, it went by way too fast and I can’t wait for a bigger challenge. Maybe coast to coast? Any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.
Tomorrow is the big warm up ride for Fred Whitton in the summer!!
We (my brother Sam, dad, and two other friends called Rob and Alex) will be heading out from Durham to reach Greystoke, Cumbria by the late afternoon/evening. The route will cover around 68 miles (give or take a few shortcuts and wrong turns) and will reach up to 2,000ft of climbing on a couple of occasions. I’m uber excited! Training has been building up to this weekend for the last few weeks and so it will be a great milestone that will bring us closer to being prepared for Fred on July 14th. However, this week hasn’t exactly been ideal. I have had an essay due in for today which has somewhat chained me to my desk despite some glorious weather. And to top it off I’ve developed a stonking cold, one that makes your chest all full and your knees all weak. You know its a bad one when you get tired washing your hair in the shower. Not exactly ideal conditions to be doing a long pennines ride in! So tomorrow will be a great lesson in just plodding on through the pain, making sure I eat enough to sustain my body for the whole day and having ‘courage’ when I will want to give up.
We did this ride last year and the two hard points that I remember most vividly (there were others, I have just forgotten them) were the last climb which is a looong 6 mile climb at mile 43 when your body begins to feel a creeping and inescapable tiredness and then the final 10 mile stretch when my butt felt like it was sitting on a cheese grater and my stomach started cramping up from eating so much food and being hunched over all day. SO, to try and prevent those two things happening again this year I’ve bought some Chamois Butt’r (get it) cream which should ease the saddle pain, and some omeprezole tablets which help with indigestion. The added malady of the cold will bring its own hiccups I’m sure so I’ve also bought some cold and flu + caffeine tabs for extra protection.
Having reminded myself of the tricky points of last year I am mostly massively excited for tomorrow. There are some absolutely stunning views to be seen, fun to be had with family and friends, and some great roads to ride. There is one moment in particular that I just can’t wait for! Its when we finish that last long climb and reach Hartside Cafe which overlooks the Lake District with all the peaks on the horizon. I can’t wait! By then all the effort will have been worthwhile and a cup of hot tea and choccie cake will see us through!
Keep up to date with the ride by following me on twitter @pbabirye or on facebook.
I read an interesting quote about cycling today, it punctured my cycling dreams. It said ‘Cycling never gets any easier, you just go faster’ – Greg Lemond. That made me feel a little bit sick. I dream about the day when I’m averaging plus 20mph on a long ride and it’ll just feel like I’m sauntering about. But according to said quote this zen state of cycling is unattainable. I mulled this over for some time.
Then I mulled it over some more.
And I came to the conclusion that it never gets any easier because you don’t want it to. That sounds idiotic. I’m sure you could actually cycle around a park or something and if you were fit and fairly able then that would get easier over time. But if you love cycling then you won’t cycle aimlessly around a park for the rest of your life. You’ll have a trajectory that goes something like this…
Aged 5: First bicycle, red with yellow tyres. Ride around the garden all day.
Aged 10: Long term loan of older brother’s bike. Cycle around neighbourhood trying to go really fast around that cul de sac corners and getting some airtime by jumping off the pavements. Starting to feel good.
Aged 14: First proper mountain bike. Red and White Trek with no front suspension.
Aged 15: Dad puts suspension on Trek bike for you. You spend a good few hours in the garden spraying the forks white so that they match the rest of the paintwork. Whilst trying not to spray the flower pots or anything else that mum will kill you for.
Aged 16: Start mountain biking properly and regularly in the Wiltshire countryside. The love builds.
Aged 16 and a half: You start to feel that the bike might be more than a bike. That it might actually be more like an extension of your body than a piece of grouped together components.
Aged 17: Family trip to the Welsh mountains to go biking. You now know the bike is an important part of your life. Awkward. No turning back.
Aged 20: You buy your first road bike with your own money.
Aged 21: You decide to ride Fred Whitton in the coming summer.
Because loving cycling means that you don’t carry on riding that tiny red bike with yellow tyres forever – you look for bigger challenges, ones that will test you and grind your body under the millstone of your will. That millstone never gets any lighter. Thus, it never gets easier because you don’t let it, nay, you don’t want it to. The challenge is in the hard work and the sweat and thats where the enjoyment lies too.
Over the next five months I’ll be training for the Fred Whitton challenge. 112 miles in the Lake district including the mountain passes of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Winlatter, Hardknott and Wrynose. 112 miles of pain. In one day. Actually probably 111 miles of pain. I can imagine enjoying the first mile or so before the hills begin. I’ll keep you up to date with training, weight loss, bike alterations, friendly advice etc.
If it doesn’t get any easier then I’m going to do my darn hardest to make sure I go faster.