So I realised I never posted about that triathlon I did 10 months ago (10 MONTHS AGO???).

It was a perfect racing day; sunny but not baking hot. Suzie (the swimmer and a good friend) and I stressed about all the race admin and fretted about the late arrival of our runner, but eventually off she went to the holding pen and I took up a spot by Cecily, pacing about and trying to drink enough (because I’d never tried getting a drink from a bike mounted water bottle while in motion before, and wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it on the course!) and not get too worked up!

Suzie came back eventually, racing through the hall towards the massive S I was standing under (she’s practically blind so I had to wait somewhere that she could find me!), somehow had the energy to get the soaking wet microchip off her ankle and onto mine and off I ran, trying not to trip myself up with Cecily’s pedals as I raced for the bit of the hall where I was finally allowed to get on the bike and start doing my thing!

It started with a long and worryingly steep descent – fortunately I didn’t realise I had to get back up it to get back into transition otherwise I would have panicked for the whole 40km!

The course was a 5km stretch which we did 4 loops of (5km x 2 (there and back) x 4 loops = 40km) – there was a gentle one-way hill at one end and a proper hill at the other end, so looking at my speed v elevation graph once I got home was pretty entertaining! In the end I got back in 1 hour 32 minutes, which is not bad for my first race, and being on a normal hybrid bike rather than a racing bike with special clippy pedals… Suzie and Herman and some of the other competitors I knew were standing at a spot on the course at one point and screamed out support for me – such a great feeling.

I was so glad that Suzie came to meet me at the re-entry to transition because by the time I’d got back up the enormous slope back into the hall and dismounted, my legs weren’t really up to running to our changeover place and she had to yell encouragement at me to get me back to where Herman was waiting impatiently for the chip, and I sat on the floor for 15 minutes and drank about a gallon of water.

My dad had left a message referring to Steve Waugh‘s “never give up” attitude on the sponsorship page, which came to mind several times during the race – as I climbed hills I thought about how Steve scored a century effectively on one leg during the 2001 Ashes; as I zoomed down the other side I chuckled about how everyone else sponsoring my company’s participants in the race must have been confused.

I would post the obligatory photo of me looking hot and sweaty and miserable in the baking sunshine with the backdrop of the Canary Wharf towers, but it’s got a massive copyright watermark across it (as it should) and I’m not sure I want to buy it that much. Suffice to say it’s not the best photo of me.

A great day – and one I hope to repeat!

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Blessings be upon you

So I had a really crazy day yesterday in which I cycled 34 miles (I just mapped that. I had thought it was 25. No wonder I’m so exhausted today), viewed 8 properties, made a rental offer on one, bought presents for my sister’s confirmation and a birthday party, went to Mass, went to birthday party and ate my body weight in schnitzel and mushrooms, and went home.

Re the house – yay! Hopefully the landlady will accept our offer on Tuesday and we can start shelling out absurd quantities of rental deposit.

But what I wanted to talk about was Mass. I try not to talk about church much so bear with me. I went to a church I’d never been to before because it was in the right place at the right time, and it was very pretty and a devout service with a good sermon and no singing and generally at least 8/10 on the church scale.

The priest is clearly used to tourists and visitors because he asked the (30/40-strong) congregation to introduce themselves on their way out – he had a few questions or a quick remark for everyone, which I found touching – he actually made it quite hard to be anonymous.

I thanked him, wished him a pleasant weekend and took a newsletter. He could obviously tell from my fluorescent jacket and helmet in my hand that I was a cyclist, and as I passed through the door, I felt a hand on my shoulder for a fraction of a second; a blessing in passing.

It really struck me – this priest had never seen me before in his life, but felt that if I was to face the streets of London, I needed a blessing to protect me.

Despite the fact that the LondonersonBikes’ choice (Jenny Jones 1st preference, Ken 2nd preference because he would have installed Jenny as his cycling guru) was not elected and we are stuck for another four years with a man who claims Elephant & Castle is fine to cycle through as long as you keep your wits about you, which is a flat out lie, may we soon have streets where no blessings for cyclists are necessary.

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Flat tyres, be gone!

A very exciting delivery was waiting for me when I got home from Easter in Edinburgh…

Marathon Schwalbe Plus puncture proof tyres, which demonstrations have shown to be impervious to deliberate drawing pin attacks, and thus ought to be a bit more resistant to the treacherous East End roads than the standard tyres which came with Cecily. See previous post for flat tyre mayhem.

New inner tubes (the last flat back tyre included a shredded inner tube, and it’s time I had some spares lying about the place anyway…)

And a tiny tube of chain lube because I’m not very good at looking after the messy parts of a bike (well, any parts of the bike actually), and it’s Time That Changed.

I’m hoping that with this little investment, I will have bribed Cecily out of her rebellious teenage years and into her sensible, high-exercise, low-fat twenties.

Apart from a minor mishap when I could not shift the bolts holding the back wheel on (with brute force, hammers or heat) and I had to take the bike to Canary Wharf in a cab to the nearest bike shop where the nice strong men with nice strong tools were able to loosen them for me… the transition was fairly painless, I’m proud of myself for being able to get the wheels off and back on, tyres changed etc, and I’m hoping that’s an end to the bike maintenance for about 6 months…

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The tyre gods hate me

Here is the list of the last few times I have tried to cycle:

Tuesday 21st Feb – cycled 8 miles, discovered when I got out of work that I must have had a very slow flat front tyre because it was totally flat at 8pm, decided not to try and learn how to fix flat tyres in the dark and cold in the middle of Berkeley Square, tried to wheel bike to tube, outer tyre was jamming with brakes, put bike and self in taxi, got home. £33. Fixed the tyre when I got home.

Thursday 23rd Feb – cycled 100m, went over a sharp stone and the back tyre deflated instantly. Dropped bike at home and caught the tube. Fixed it myself when I got home.

Wednesday 29th Feb, cycled 8 miles in to work and 8 miles home, had a minor disagreement with the back of a bus and another cyclist on my way home which left everyone totally unharmed but me a bit shaken.

I lost my confidence and work got crazy, so I stopped cycling for about a month…

Monday 26th March – cycled 4 miles into work, no problem, 3.5 miles home because… another flat back tyre! Fixed it up myself having sought mobile repair service (more below), but in the morning it was flat again, so I clearly did a mediocre job.

Puncture proof tyres are so expensive; on the other hand I’ve spent at least 4 hours fixing tyres, throw in a taxi ride home and all the tube travel I’m doing because the bike is out of action on days when I haven’t had the time or energy to fix it, and I’m probably well beyond the cost of puncture proofs in time and money.

Now I just need time to take it to a bike shop and get puncture proof tyres put on…

Posted in Commuting | 1 Comment

New Year, new attempts – Cecily meets the CS3

Cecily’s been gathering dust and getting in everyone’s way for the past few months as I went from one client to another with no showers and thus no cycling possibility (I’m not prepared to cycle 8 miles in London traffic and then face a client without a hot shower between the two…).

When I work in the office I almost always cycle, as it’s only 4 miles and 20ish minutes and it’s free and I have a locker there so I don’t have to schlepp cosmetics and towels around. But after work yesterday I needed to pick up my brand new Fitness First membership card (yes, I know, gym memberships are expensive, but I have managed to at least get a better deal by going through work and getting the corporate discount. Plus I can use any gym in London which means I can use the gyms near my clients and not suffer from “once I get in the door at home of an evening I am definitely not going out again” syndrome). Er, back to the point…

So yesterday Cecily and I did the 4 miles to Canary Wharf in the morning quickly and without any problems – that dreadful wind which had been howling around for the last few days had died off completely. Then at 6pm we did Canary Wharf to Berkeley Square; I tried to follow the CS3 west from the Wharf, but it wibbled around ALL OVER THE PLACE. I lost the route twice, despite having a reasonable sense of direction, and came to several abrupt stops while I tried to figure out where it was… wait… could that gap in the median strip that isn’t long enough for a bike possibly be part of it? Yes, yes it was. See the video below for a virtual tour of the route.

but then it spat me out at Tower Gateway and after a little more confused semi-navigation, I ended up back on my favourite road in London to cycle on – Tower Hill/Lower Thames St/Victoria Embankment. It took FOREVER to turn right off the Embankment up towards Trafalgar Square, but once I did, I got to cycle around Trafalgar Square, up Pall Mall and along Piccadilly (even if I then had to suddenly become a pedestrian wheeling a bike because you can’t turn right into Berkeley St).

How cool is that?

Pick up pass, cycle home along Oxford St, High Holborn, around the Museum of London roundabout…

Yes cycling is exhausting and time-consuming and occasionally dangerous, but I get to commute and still score all my touristy highs.


Post script – don’t cycle 14 miles in heavy traffic and get home and eat very cheesy pasta and then realise that you haven’t consumed any water since you left the office. Bad plan. Grumpiness will follow.

Posted in Commuting | 2 Comments

City of London does it again

My Sunday church routine of choice is to get up about 8 a.m., saddle up and head down the 8 mile stretch to Westminster Cathedral, which is terribly magnificent and impressive and, I think, much easier to be pious in.

It’s worth the 16 mile round trip, compared to the parochial suburban church which is across the road.

So I set off last Sunday morning on a road blissfully low in traffic volume, and moseyed down through the East End and over to Tower Hill. Where I encountered a Road Closed sign. Not overly put off, seeing a lot of racing crowd control barriers up, I pedalled over, round the barrier and pootled off down what was an apparently closed road. There were stewards in orange coats every 400 m or so, but no one said anything, so I zoomed along undisturbed (seriously, I saw one other bike) all the way to Westminster, past Big Ben; a little curb negotiation was required to wheedle my way out of the road closure, and off I went down past Westminster Abbey and down Victoria St to the Cathedral.

Having done my silly dance outside the Cathedral to get from my cycling shorts into my jeans without flashing all of central London, sat through Mass, lit candles for my grandparents at St. Patrick’s chapel (both were descended from solid Irish blood), done the silly dance again to get back into the cycle kit and pottered back up to the Abbey, I saw a decent crowd outside the gates of the Abbey and minibus after minibus discharging uniformed seniors at the entrance to the Abbey. Turns out it was the service of Thanksgiving and Rededication on Battle of Britain Sunday.

A nice steward was quite willing to let me back onto the race course with the promise that I would be off it by 10.30, and off I went again. It’s remarkable how fast you can go when there are no cars, no traffic lights and no pedestrians in your way. I saw a few serious riders out, one with one of those filled-in, solid back wheels.

I got home and discovered that the roads had been cleared for Stage 8 of the Tour of Britain.

All I can say is thanks for emptying the roads for me!

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Losing ourselves

Cecily, during her summer of neglect (mostly because I was either working from home and therefore not leaving the flat at all, or in Lancaster and not able to take her with me), seems to have withered a little, because within two days, previously firmly affixed attachments fell off!

I lost the bottom half of the kickstand as I manoeuvred my way home from Canary Wharf, on a back street, and I didn’t realise what the noise was until I got home and found the bottom part missing (I had a kickstand that was adjustable in length, two tubes, one inside the other, held in place with a screw). Obviously the  top half was little use to me without the foot, so in the recycling that went.

A mere two days later, I battled with the City of London’s maze-like roadworks-enforced road closures, and thus waited in an intersection, on a hill, to be able to turn right in a split second. In my haste to move out of the centre of the intersection and into the side road, I must have put my right foot down on the toe clip, rather than on the other side of the pedal, and thus it came clean off. I was not about to double back to the middle of that intersection to retrieve it!

Let us hope that “things fall apart” do not come in threes.

As I’m in the middle of a month of frugality, I won’t be replacing the kickstand, and I’ve transferred the left toe clip to the right, as I always had trouble getting my left toe into it and I usually have to take my left foot out at traffic lights, so it makes sense to have the foot that will not be removed from the pedal be the one with the clip.

Cecily’s picked up a distinct clunk to the pedalling circuit as well – internet diagnosis, that most reliable of tools, gives me gunged-up grease and ball bearings in the bottom bracket. Knowing nearly nothing about bike maintenance, I took her to Fitzrovia Bicycles for repairs and they have got her up and running smoothly again for a tiny charge (seriously I was expecting 3 times as much).

It’s sad that Cecily is showing age already – she’s only been around for 6 months (although we have done over 700 miles in that time and usually at least 60 miles in a given week, with some long breaks), but I suppose it’s to be expected.

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