Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Where is all the women's stuff at?

So at 23 weeks pregnant, Rupert and I are still pedalling the means streets of Ealing and Twickenham.

Every week I wonder if I'll be too big to cycle, but so far Rupert is the comfiest place to be while growing an increasingly wriggly baby.

However, as time has gone on, my usual leggings and shorts have become increasingly uncomfortable. Luckily, I wear a rather lovely Foska jersey in the design of a Harlequins kit to cycle to work in (thank you lovely brother in law N). It's very big so is accommodating the swell. This is particularly important now that I have reached a point where my waistband tends to travel down to under the bump, while my base layers tend to ride up to under my boobs. It leaves a chilly strip of tummy under my jersey and a desperate need to wee as the waistband digs into my, already under pressure, bladder.

There's the option of pulling up the waistband to over the bump but that leaves me completely breathless as it digs into my diaphragm. There's also the option of maternity cycle shorts but at a minimum of £30 for something that I may not wear for more than a few weeks, it seems a bit steep.

With all this in mind I have been on the hunt for bib shorts. Lycra can accommodate alarming stretching, there's no waistband to dig into tender bump and no risk of rolling down. I can also wear them post baby.

But I have hit a roadblock. I can't find any. Well, I can, but they're horribly expensive or bloody tiny.

Looking for cheap men's bib shorts, you can find them all over the web. Many hover at the £25 mark if on sale or just a very cheap imported type. Women's seem to be an import from China at £25 quid risk or about a million pounds. Mr Weenie didn't believe me and put his considerable searching skills to use last night on the web. He too was stumped.

If we're all honest, women make up less of the market than men, so I was expecting fewer options under 'ladies', but I am shocked at the lack of gear.

At the moment the hunt goes on, but I have a nasty feeling I will end up shelling out a small fortune for big bib shorts.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

You're pregnant ... and cycling?!

So, it turns out a teenie weenie will be joining the family in August.

I found out in January and, for the moment, am continuing to cycle into work. I am 14 weeks and, as I carry high so am looking fairly obviously with child.

I suppose I was expecting a few raised eyebrows but there have been more than a few incredulous 'you're still cycling?!'s. And it's getting old pretty quickly.

I cycle about 8.5 miles to work, it's not a huge distance if you're a regular pedaller and as one, it counts as moderate exercise. I'm not a racer on the road, I don't weave in traffic and I like to think I'm pretty sensible and risk averse. Perhaps if I had another option I'd take it, but public transport takes about 1hr 45mins because it's three buses and costs a small fortune. My bike ride takes about 40 minutes. Bit of a no-brainer there.

In the years I've been cycling on the road I've done about 6,000 miles, I did 5,000 on Reg alone (I know because I never reset his odometer). I have had one car collision in that time. It was in heavy rain and low visibility. It was, shockingly, four years ago and, in that time, I have gained a huge amount of experience and a reflective belt.

Since getting the news about the impending arrival I've changed my habits. I no longer attempt the Chertsey Road roundabout (I promised Mr Weenie) and, instead, use the bike/pedestrian crossings either side. I am far less likely to come past the inside of lorries and buses even if there's a lot of room and, when the light improves, I may well choose to go via the canal and Syon Park to skip large sections of road.

The most likely way to be killed while pregnant is in a car accident, yet no one tells you not to get in a car while pregnant. People are hit crossing the roads every day, but no one tells you not to while pregnant.

I get that not everyone wants to cycle while pregnant and I totally support their choice, I just wish people would stop questioning mine.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Angry man in an Audi

I appreciate it must be frustrating when a cyclist is ahead of you on a narrow road. Perhaps you're in a rush and need to get somewhere. However...

Sitting on your horn and making patronising wafting gestures while laughing at your own cleverness is not a good look.

When the cyclist then overtakes and is in the bike box in front of you at a red light and sets off at a (perhaps deliberately) slow pace but at a wide junction at which you could easily overtake her, it is perhaps inadvisable to pull up alongside her, and, while still driving across the cross-hatched junction, lean across the passenger seat looking through the side window and not at the road and shout that she's something along the lines of a f***ing bitch and that you hope she is knocked off her bike and killed.

This is particularly not nice when your child is in the passenger seat and looks terrified and more than a little embarrassed at your behaviour.

My only consolation is that, following your appalling behaviour, I followed at a distance as we were going down the same rat run. Watching you nearly take your rear bumper off as you went far too fast over the speed bumps in an attempt to leave me in your wake was quite something and I was perfectly placed to enjoy the view.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The new commute on a new ride

My company has moved us all to Teddington. Excellent. It's a good 8.5 miles by bike and nigh on impossible by public transport.

The purchase of Rupert (the new bike) was mainly motivated by the increased distance and the fact that I can no longer hop on a train if the weather's bad.

He was definitely worth the investment. The wider Marathon Plus tyres (32mm) may be heavier, but they grip the road and are completely unfazed by the wet weather of the past few days. Hopping down curbs is done with ease and the potholes going through Twickenham centre are never a problem. 

The disc brakes are a revelation. Who knew you could perform an emergency stop in the rain?! I certainly didn't. I feel far more confident as I negotiate the Chertsey Road roundabouts that I would have with V-brakes. 

Commuting from Ealing to Teddington is, by and large, a lot more civilised. Fewer sets of lights and better road surfaces are coupled with a good variety of routes available for exploration. 

At the moment I'm averaging about 40mins on the commute and I regularly arrive at the same time as a colleague whose son is at nursery with Eenie. She is normally leaving as I drop Eenie off and drives. If that's not an argument for cycling, I don't know what is. 

Oh, and the showers here work. Every day. With hot water. *Sobs a little with joy*

Having already accosted the company CEO on the lack of extra bike racks to accommodate the extra staff and been assured they're on their way, the future is looking bright...

Thursday, 14 November 2013

A dark week for cyclists

This week in London, four cyclists have dies and another three have been seriously injured on London's roads.

I won't pretend to know the full details of each incident, nor am I stupid enough to apportion blame.

However, I do think that the numbers have now crossed the line from tragic coincidence to proof that something has to be done to improve cycling infrastructure in London. No longer do I feel irritated at the chorus of 'please be careful' from loved ones as I head off on my bike, now I understand why they worry and feel bad for being the cause of their concern.

Although I disagree with those around me who have decided that cycling in London means certain death, I'll admit there are problems to be addressed.

The cycle lanes that do exist need some serious work. The ones I regularly use in Ealing, Shepherd's Bush and west London generally are pretty poor. There are potholes galore, they stop and start at will and many are completely illogical. In addition, the problems identified with the Bow roundabout, and the recent deaths there, prove that paint on the road is not enough.

Separate cycle paths have their place but, in a city established hundreds of years ago, it is completely impractical to suggest we can build a comprehensive network from scratch.

I think we need to be looking at both cyclists and motorised vehicles to address some of the situation. Both are legitimate road users and should be respected and held accountable as such.

We need more access to awareness campaigns on the sight limitations of lorries, for example. Chatting to friends, very few were aware of just how little lorry drivers can see around their cab. The many cyclists I see creeping up the inside of immense articulated lorries are surely unaware of just how invisible they are.

Drivers should also be made aware of a cyclists' eye view when they come to close. Cars are meant to give a three feet of clearance when overtaking a bike, but few do. I've been brushed by wing mirrors or done emergency stops many times when cars, buses and lorries have come too close. I honestly believe most drivers would give more space if they experienced the feeling of a near miss.

what really gets me angryu, however, is that the laws already exist to make everyone safer, but they are not being enforced.

Since returning to commuting I have been horrified by some of the behaviour on the roads, cyclists and drivers alike have demonstrated reckless and dangerous disregard for one another and themselves. For every cyclist I see jump a red light, I see a car do the same. For every car that swerves into the cycle lane without looking, I see a cyclist cutting into traffic without any indication of their intentions.

I could go on, but the point is that there are dicks that drive and dicks that cycle. Their behaviour has to be addressed. There needs to be a campaign to clamp down on dangerous behaviour on both sides. Prosecute for light jumps, take on drivers that creep in ASL boxes, just bloody enforce the law. Bikes are required to have lights, so why are so many cyclists allowed to go on the road without them unchallenged. They are risking not only themselves, but everyone around them. It's not acceptable. Why are so many drivers allowed to get away with being on their mobiles phones? It's not acceptable.

Until we take road behaviour seriously as the issue it is and those in authority start enforcing the laws in place for our safety (and that of pedestrians), all the cycle lanes in the world won't be enough.

Cycling is on the up, with more people unable to afford the exhorbitant costs of owning and driving a car, it's only going to increase.

It's about time that those in charge stopped ignoring the problem and dealt with it.