Tag Archives: Bike around Britain

Self Propelled

I’ve started a new blog at selfpropelled.life where I’ll be relating tales from my future adventures. Please follow me and Travelling Lobster there to find out what I’m up to.

I’ll be keeping this blog live as a handy reference for budding cycle tourers looking to pedal around the coast of Britain, and as such have included links to the legs (Garmin maps) and  blog posts from that tour; 5,451 miles covered in 3 months.

Caveat – some of my routes were at times a little unorthodox, there may well be smoother rides in places. All worth it for scenes like this…

Loch Fyne sunset 1

Loch Fyne sunset, spent the night wild camping

Starting 2015 as I mean to continue

January can often be one of the ‘meh’ months after all the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, then having to go back to work whilst it’s still dark for the majority of the day, with the weather not being conducive to wanting to get out of bed. I decided this year I’d make January count, rather than be the month you want to get through as fast as possible. It still seems to have flown by, but at least I appear to have achieved filling it with good memories rather than what can sometimes be a bland month.

It started off well with a great New Year’s party round at friends, after which I decided to sleep out under the stars in my back garden in an effort to begin the year off with a bit of a microadventure. This enterprise was somewhat fuelled by the several shots, some of which were of a dubious nature, consumed at the party, however I wanted to take up the challenge Alastair Humphreys has laid down of a ‘Year of Microadventures’, and sleeping out at least once a month. This won’t be difficult once I start my cycle touring later this year, however it requires a bit of motivation in the colder months. Suffice to say equipped with a sleeping bag encased in a bivvy bag I was pretty snug, but awoke somewhat bleary the next day. I need to decide where to camp out in February; somewhere a bit more adventurous than my back garden perhaps!

If you haven’t checked out Alastair Humphreys’ website definitely worth a browse, and I can recommend watching his ‘Into the Empty Quarter’ DVD which I saw over Christmas, all good motivational stuff: http://www.alastairhumphreys.com

Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long before the next exciting instalment of January fun, as some friends and I had booked a skiing holiday to Slovenia for the second week in. It’s a lot easier going back to work after New Year when you know you have a holiday booked within spitting distance. I hadn’t been to Slovenia before and it didn’t disappoint. Admittedly we were lucky with snow, as it’s been unseasonably warm, however the pistes were open and I hadn’t forgotten how to ski after nearly 6 years of not doing so. It was also cheap at under half the price of an equivalent holiday in France or Austria; the Vopa bar opposite our hotel charged around 2.20 euros a pint, as opposed at least 3 times that in France.

We booked with Crystal Holidays and have no complaints. They were a friendly and helpful team, who organised various events including a pub quiz; we somehow came third, despite the Jagermeister. Kranjska Gora itself is a lovely place, a small town with a bit of an Austrian feel to it which isn’t surprising considering it’s proximity to the border. The locals are very friendly, as were the other ski parties from all over Europe, including a group of Czechs with whom we had an impromptu late night guitar jamming session. Kranjska Gora has some excellent mountain biking trails which are open in the summertime, so might head back that way later this year if my route takes me in that direction. Slovenia is pretty cycle friendly, with lots of cycle trails available, so a good choice for a tourer.

Here’s a video my skiing buddy Chris put together from our night skiing foray; warning – this video contains heavy metal and Chris’ radioative green trousers.

The same Youtube channel also contains the somewhat epic crash Chris and I had on the Podkoren black run; a case of converging skiers with nowhere to go!

The ski holiday over it was back to work and the serious business of earning the pennies to support more fun based activity later this year. With the intended start date of my 2015 tour getting closer I’ve realised I’ve got rather a lot to before I’m ready to go, including a kit refresh, finishing planning, getting my house ready to rent then renting it out, buying plane tickets etc etc etc. At least I’ve made a good start this weekend by picking up my new bike from Oxford Bike Works. As I’ve mentioned before I really love my Ridgeback Panorama, however I wanted to upgrade for this years activities, and selected something a little more solid and simple; a steed that’s unlikely to break, can survive the harsher trails, and which I can fix relatively easily wherever I am.

I read a review on touring bikes a couple of months ago on Tom Allen’s website, http://tomsbiketrip.com/ (look under touring help for loads of really sound advice when planning a trip) , and noticed he’s designed an expedition bike, putting to use his years of experience of cycle touring in to designing something simple, hard to break, and practical. As I was in the market for something new, and didn’t want to go the route of Dawes, or another Ridgeback, I thought I’d take a look and got in touch with Richard from Oxford Bike Works. After a visit in early January, which included a fitting session, test ride, and design finalisation, I headed back there yesterday to pick up my new bike. After riding it around Norfolk today I can confirm I’m very pleased with the resulting machine, and would recommend Richard and Oxford Bike Works to anyone in the market for something that isn’t just off the peg.

Features include an SP Dynamo Hub for keeping devices charged, and for running the Luxos front lamp which will be handy in Norwegian tunnels, some of which can be kilometres long. I’ll carry on using my Lezyne back light, and add to it with a few other small LEDs if the weather is bad. It also has a natty two-legged folding stand, something I really missed on my Bike around Britain tour. I’m somewhat over-excited about the brass bell mounted on the handlebar stem; it just looks cool. The wheels are hand-built with 36 spokes, covered by comprehensive sturdy yet light mudguards, and Tubus Racks on which I can mount my Ortlieb panniers. The bike frame is Reynolds 525 tubing, and I did wonder why higher spec tubing wasn’t used, 725 or even 953, however apparently the 525 won’t dent as easily. I went for standard mountain bike style handlebars, with cow horns so I can change my hand grip; I get pins and needles in my hands if there in the same position for too long whilst riding. The saddle is a Gel Ozone Bioflex model, which is considerably larger and more padded than that on my Ridgeback; I can attest to it being more comfy after today’s ride, didn’t need padded shorts. I considered a Brookes Saddle but couldn’t justify the expense, and some say they take a bit of getting used to anyway. Finally, the most important thing, I chose red for the colour, as red makes things go faster, obviously, and because Travelling Lobster approves of anything that’s red.

Here are a few more photo’s from today’s ride around Norfolk; the snow drops have been out for a few week’s now and look lovely.

With the new bike acquired, I need to get on and tick some more stuff off my list with regards to tour prep, especially as I want to start in May which isn’t that far away now. I’m thinking of starting the tour with a visit to the first UK-based cycle touring festival, up near Manchester, before flying out to Nordkapp, the Northern-most point of Norway. It would be great to meet lots of like-minded individuals and make some new contacts, learn lots, and get motivated for the months ahead. The festival is the first of its kind in the UK, as far as I know, and I hope it gets enough interest for it to continue next year, cycle touring being something of a niche, although growing, past-time. Would be great to go back next year and talk about my 2015 adventures; here’s a link to the website, tickets go on sale pretty soon: https://cycletouringfestival.wordpress.com/

That was meant to be a short post, but turned into something of a ramble, so well done if you made it all the way through. Stay tuned for more news shortly on tour planning, working out how to get my bike on a plane, renaming my blog (suggestions welcome), thoughts on dealing with dangerous dogs whilst touring, and refining my kit list. 2015 is shaping up to be a winner, providing I get my arse in gear and get cracking on the to-do list.

04 Jan 2015 – In search of a bacon roll

I decided to take advantage of another cold yet bright winter’s day and head out on a ride to Blickling Hall and Aylsham today. The roads were icy in places yet manageable with care, and I had a yearning for a roadside bacon roll; you’d have thought that a bacon roll would be easy to find in Norfolk, home as it is to many a pig farm, however businesses must still be warming up after the festive period as no purveyors of pig based sustenance were open. In the end I settled for a couple of cheese twists from the supermarket in Aylsham, satisfactory yet leaving me feeling vaguely cheated.

The temperature didn’t appear to get above 2 degrees celsius, so I took it pretty cautiously around the back roads, especially on a downhill patch where the frost hadn’t thawed, with the odd speed bump for added stunt potential. So a pretty slow ride, but good to shake off the cobwebs after Christmas. I’ll need to up my miles and speed a bit as a I train for cycle touring again, however I’m pleased to have done 38 miles today, and that it didn’t hurt; must shed a few pounds though!

Here’s a link to the route, which I can recommend, although I’d avoid the main road back from Aylsham to Norwich usually, I was just lacking time before the sun set.

http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/665171875

Here a few photo’s from the ride:

Only a week to go before heading off to Slovenia for a few days skiing. It’s been several years so it’ll be interesting to see what I’ve forgotten. I’ve also never been to Slovenia before so really looking forward to it, just hoping for no injury inducing crashes. Once back I’ll be picking up my new bike, so going to be a busy but very fun January.

Autumn musings

Autumn is upon us and it feels like the year has flown by, again, faster than normal as I haven’t spent 3 months of it cycling around the coast of Britain. I can recall every day of that tour if I think about it, whereas days this year seems to merge all into one. Having spent the year mostly working my thoughts are turning to 2015, and firming up plans for my next cycling tour.

At the moment I’m contemplating Europe, starting in Scandinavia and pedalling South, however I still need to mull over it some more. Such a tour will require months off work, a kit refresh, maybe renting my house out, and saying goodbye to Norwich for a bit. Actually, it doesn’t sounds like that hard a decision to make, although I’ll miss friends and family; life on the road is cheap, it can be free at times, and if my house is rented out the bills take care of themselves. I keep fretting over the details but in the end the question of ‘Why Not?’ keeps returning, and I’m finding it very difficult to justify not doing something big.

I spent today pedalling around Norfolk, taking in the Autumnal scenes, and trying to empty my head of trivialities whilst building a new list of priorities. I’m forty next year, and it feels like a good opportunity to see some new places, meet some new people, and have another adventure. I wonder if I could visit 40 countries by bike in a year, or at least 40 fantastic places; 40 countries might be stretching it a bit.

Early morning ride in the mist, frost abounding.

Early morning ride in the mist, frost abounding.

On the bike front I’m still seriously considering replacing my Ridgeback Panorama. Whilst I’ve grown very attached to it, it needs a lot of work; new front forks, chain, cassette, handlebar wraps, cables, brakes, racks etc. When you take all that into consideration, and the fact I want something a little tougher for the next tour, it seems prudent to consider replacing the whole thing. I won’t get rid of it completely though; when I finally open that bar it’ll hang over the fireplace like an ancient sword from ye olde days. I’m currently speaking to an independent bike maker who has some exciting custom builds, so hopefully they’ll be more news soon on that topic.

Norfolk in the Autumn

Norfolk in the Autumn

One of the most frequent questions I get asked by friends is ‘What are you going to do next?’. It’s great that people are interested in what I might be planning, but it doesn’t half put the pressure on to do hit the road again. Maybe it’s a symptom of people living their lives vicariously, but I keep wanting to ask what they’re going to do next? What’s holding you back from having an adventure, be it large or small, and me enjoying reading about it? I think, like me, everyone is a bit scared of breaking from the norm, taking a risk, and going for it, however it comes back to the question of ‘Why not?’ again; although if you have a partner, kids, and are concentrating on a career I acknowledge it’s a little harder. You can however always take them with you, and do smaller trips – a remote office you can work from whilst pedalling has got to be a possibility!

Norfolk has many churches, this one is always a nice spot for a pause.

Norfolk has many churches, this one is always a nice spot for a pause.

Another good reason for going on a tour again has got to be fitness aspect. I think I’ve put on a stone and a half since finishing ‘Bike around Britain’, despite still cycling 10+ miles a day and longer at the weekends. Once you’ve got used to consuming several thousand calories a day to keep energy levels up it’s hard to cut down, although maybe I’m just a glutton. I also look back on my 3 months on the road and realise how happy and unstressed I was, compared to the 9 to 5 (or 9 to 9 as is often the case) routine. I enjoy a lot about my job however my Mum always says I’m not suited to an office job, so maybe I should take her advice and split; there you go Mum, if I hit the road for several months you can’t object overly – you’ve given me the motivation! xx

Keswick Church with its round tower

Keswick Church with its round tower

Signing off for the time being, but hopefully more news soon. Hmmm. Do you think I need to change my blog name if I venture into Europe; Bike around Britain might not work. Suggestions for names welcome!

P.S. Been playing a new game for the last few months whilst pedalling about – Ingress – bit like orienteering. Using your phone you get to find portals, capture them, and link them with other portals to gain points. It’s fun and gives you motivation to cycle that extra mile, although you always have to watch out for the opposing team who will scupper your plans at every available opportunity (credit to them where due). If you like getting about and fancy giving it a go look it up; and join Enlightened, those Resistance players have too much of an easy time of it and we need reinforcements 😉 https://www.ingress.com/

Stamps, holiday in Scotland, and September cycling

Did you collect stamps as a kid? I did. It was thrilling getting stamps from weird and wonderful places such as Australia, Europe, or Papua New Guinea. Maybe that’s where I got my original desire to travel from, to see these places myself.

I recently came across the Post Office Blog site, mainly because they’ve launched a new range of stamps covering Britain’s seaside architecture. It reminded me of several places I passed through on my Bike around Britain tour; well actually I passed close to or by all of them. I don’t collect stamps anymore, and have no idea if kids still do, but it’s a cool collection and made me feel a bit nostalgic. You can view them yourself here:

http://blog.postofficeshop.co.uk/celebrating-britains-seaside-architecture/

Here’s a sample – it wasn’t this nice in Bangor when I pedalled through, in fact I think it was raining, as it was for most of Wales.

Seaside Bangor Pier

Thinking about it I doubt kids still collect stamps, unless you can get them on an iPad, or games console; shame really, I hope I’m wrong.

Other neat stuff I’ve come across recently includes Volume Two of SideTracked magazine. I don’t usually buy magazines but think I have finally found one worth reading. I loved Volume One and wasn’t disappointed with this edition; it’s truly inspiring reading about the adventures other people have, all over the world. If you want to be inspired to have an adventure look no further:

http://www.sidetracked.com/

Volume Two

P.S. I’m not paid for either of the above links, I just enjoyed them and thought I’d share. I liked this paragraph from the Foreward:

‘A life encased in bubble wrap is claustrophobic and stilted; a sad waste of what could have been. But be careful, a life jam-packed full of unconscious distraction and thrill-seeking isn’t necessarily any healthier. I’m an advocate of seeking adventure, yes, but I’ve also learnt that it’s only when you risk with real integrity that the opportunity to grow wiser presents itself. Otherwise we just stumble from repeated mistake to repeated mistake, blind to the world.’ …Ed Stafford

With the above in mind I’ve got a few plans, but need to think them through a bit more.

So what else have I been up to? I spent a very pleasant week with family up on the West Coast of Scotland at the end of August. As usual it did not disappoint, and I especially love the West Coast. Highights definitely included the hike over to the pub, Tig an Truish, at the Bridge over the Atlantic with Dad, somewhere I stopped at last year, as well as a good day out cycling, entertaining my nephew,  being fed by Mum, and spending time with everyone. Also found a new whisky I like – a peaty little number called AnCnoc Flaughter which I thoroughly recommend. Here are a few pics:

Also did some mackerel fishing and managed to hook about 8 that were a decent enough size for the frying pan. Fresh mackerel really is hard to beat, especially when you’ve caught it yourself. Seb, my nearly 3-year-old nephew also caught his first fish, but wasn’t entirely sure what to do with it.

And now we’re in September, how did that happen so quickly? Whilst I haven’t really settled upon an idea for my next adventure, whether it be in Iceland, Asia, around the coast of the Mediterranean, or Scandinavia. I have at least been getting out on my bike a bit more and having the odd microadventure; can’t beat sleeping in the woods and waking up to the dawn chorus. I’m on holiday this week, and after a short ride yesterday I set off on something a bit more substantial today; a cycle just shy of 60 miles up to the coast, along it a bit, then back to Norwich. It’s been a gorgeous September day in Norfolk and it sounds like Autumn is looking promising weather wise, although best not to count one’s chickens before they hatch. I should really have bivvi’d up on the coast and cycled back tomorrow morning; maybe I will this weekend.

Here’s the route I took:

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/597344206

With a tailwind I made excellent time up to the coast, via Wroxham and Stalham, before arriving at Waxham. I had the beach to myself, aside from a few seals who appeared and regarded me curiously when I went for a swim. The water is still pretty warm, and it was elating plunging into the sea on a deserted beach; I think I loosed an involuntary ‘yeehaw’. Sadly I couldn’t get any pictures of the seals; my camera would not have survived contact with water. It was amazing how close they came; one popped up 2 metres away, snorted indignantly, before plunging back underwater.

From Stalham I pedalled along the coast, nearly to Great Yarmouth, before turning back towards Norwich. I had to spend a bit of time on the main road before turning off into the countryside again and making my way to the Fur and Feather Inn near Salhouse. They also brew Woodfordes ale here, and having covered 50 miles it would’ve been rude not to stop for a pint; Once Bittern, with hops imported from New Zealand apparently.

Brilliant day, which once again reminded me that the simple things in life are often the best; a day out cycling, costing me less than a tenner, through some lovely countryside and coastline, equals contentment.

Scottish Independence – my tuppence (or should that be cents) worth

I’ve been mulling over this for a while, getting gradually more irate as I see politicians make more of a hash of things, as they are want to do. Should I post something on my blog expressing my opinion on the Scottish independence vote? My initial thought was ‘No’, nothing to do with me, then I realised that’s completely incorrect, and perhaps reflects the apathy us general public have for political shennanigans that pass us by.

This is a blog about cycling primarily, and stuff I see, hear, smell, feel and taste as I pedal around the UK. That’s just it, I love the United Kingdom, I think it’s great, with all its history, people, places, and diversity. So I think it’s appropriate to post something here about how I feel about the whole thing.

Needless to say my opinions are my own, although I think they reflect those of a lot of my friends and family, some of whom I’m proud to say are Scottish, or at least live in Scotland so get a vote. If I’ve got anything factually incorrect then I apologise, I’m only human, and get my ‘facts’ from the news and speaking to other people.

Tent_up_and_fire_smoking_nicely - shores of Loch Fyne

Tent_up_and_fire_smoking_nicely – shores of Loch Fyne

So what do I think? I spent around 2 months cycling around Scotland and can genuinely say it was the best part of my Bike around Britain tour.  The scenery and environment is fantastic, the drivers patient with cyclists (aside from perhaps Edinburgh), and the people are mega friendly and always willing to help you out, or have a natter. I’m going to intersperse this post with a few pics from the Scottish legs of my tour, mainly as inspiration, but also because it’s well worth posting them again.

Bridge_over_the_Atlantic - one of my favourite place on the West Coast

Bridge_over_the_Atlantic – one of my favourite places on the West Coast

I really hope our Scottish family don’t vote for independence. I think they add so much to the United Kingdom; culturally, economically, politically and all the rest. By remaining in the United Kingdom Scotland will continue to benefit from all those points as the rest of the UK benefits them likewise. What exactly will Scotland gain from becoming independent? Seems to me like they’ll throw away a lot, taking on board a whole lot of risks that might not pay off, and also potentially damaging the remaining countries in the UK as a result.

IMG_1960

Sunset near Malaig

I think Alex Salmond is leading people slightly down the garden path with the view that they’ll be better off out of the Union. Seems to me like he’s just trying to make a name for himself as the one who reinstated Scottish independence; Robert the Bruce he is not, and we’ve moved on massively since those bloody and unproductive days. I shouldn’t reduce myself to personal commentary on individuals but he reminds me of a weasel, although that might be unfair on weasels.

What’s the benefit of independence? We have a growing economy, we’re coming out of recession, employment and business seems to be on the up although I recognise a lot of folks are still having a hard time of it. Scotland will have to join the Euro, they can’t keep the pound if they want to become truly independent and not just pay lip service to it. Do they really want to embroil themselves in the turmoil, instability and risks that the Euro could bring?

Top of Bealach na Ba

Top of Bealach na Ba

On the economic front, and I’m far from an expert, but I keep hearing how money and business will leave Scotland should they become independent. Several banks seem to be gearing up to move south, along with their pension funds. This isn’t going to help the rest of the UK and certainly won’t benefit Scotland as opportunities and businesses move away, leaving a gap that allegedly will be filled by oil and gas; a short term solution to a long term problem as reserves run out. I will however continue to support the whiskey industry, although I guess that can only go so far.

Highland_cattle

Highland_cattle

As I’ve mentioned I get some of my ‘facts’ from the news, and I was slightly disappointed today to see Westminster wading into the argument, although I think it’s probably with genuine concerns and good intentions. I don’t however think David Cameron et al are going to do anything to convince our Scottish compardres to remain in the UK; it’s more likely to be down to you and I, as well as more respected newsworthy individuals, to present a convincing and non-politically/career based case for remaining part of the UK. Maybe the queen should say something heartfelt; but that might be ill received, or construed in the wrong way.

Cape Wrath lighthouse

Cape Wrath lighthouse

Now for a few perhaps more controversial points. Why doesn’t the rest of the UK get a say on this?  It seems very undemocratic that only a partial percentage of people get a vote on an issue that’s going to impact the whole of the country. I guess if everyone got a vote it would be a landslide ‘No’, but I don’t think that’s the point; democracy seems to have gone awry. And whilst I think it’s fair that the vote is being given to 16 year olds and over is this not another ploy by the SNP to garner more support from perhaps a more volatile and more impressionable age group; I was speaking to someone about this earlier and think Alex Salmond has underestimated the intelligence of this age group, and that they’ll see sense and vote ‘No’. On the voting front why are only people that live in Scotland being given the vote, and not Scots that live abroad?

Again controversially perhaps, but why is Westminster offering further concessions to Scotland to stay in the UK? Feels like bribery to me, and surely similar benefits and powers should be offered to England, Northern Ireland and Wales? Having cycled around a lot of Wales they could do with some of the money that Scotland has benefited from for regeneration and welfare purposes? Seems unfair and pretty underhand to me. Scotland should stay in the Union because it works at the moment, and the long term benefits will be in everyone’s interests. It really iritates me and a lot of my friends that this last minute bribe is in the offing. Perhaps the rest of the UK has been too slow to wake up to this issue but surely this isn’t the way to go.

Highland_Dancing

Highland_Dancing

It’s not long until the vote now, and I sincerely hope that everyone in Scotland is able to get a clear and unbiased view of both sides of the argument without too much rubbish from politicians, and other selfishly motivated individuals. I’d love a ‘No’ vote and Scotland to stay with us, being obviously a big fan of Scotland and it’s people, from wherever they hail. If however a ‘Yes’ vote happens, good luck to a fair and generous country; you’ll need to stand on your own two feet, with your own currency and policies, and weather the storms that beset all other independent nations on your own. The remaining countries in the UK are going to have to focus on restructuring and moving forward, and won’t necessarily have the capacity to assist; although we’ll still I hope very much care.

Sunset_at_Big_Sands.JPG

Sunset_at_Big_Sands.JPG

I may have missed loads of pertinent points, and as previously mentioned my opinions are my own although shared with lots of people South of the border. We don’t get a vote, so I’ll get back in my box now, but hope some of these words made sense. If you do vote for independence I’m not done with you. I’m still going to visit as often as possible, and who knows, I might move North one day; I love the West coast and could quite happily live in Glasgow – great city and people. Good luck whatever happens, but I hope you see cents (get it, sense, reference to the Euro; maybe I should have left that pun out).

Arty_photo. - north coast of Scotland

Arty_photo. – north coast of Scotland

IMG_1863 IMG_2312

Stay with us Scotland!

P.S. What does everyone else think?

On yer bike again..and a rant

It’s been great getting back on my bike again over the last few weeks, after a significant pause due to travelling for work and being otherwise busy. I turned 39 over the weekend and have resolved to try and manage my work-life balance a bit better, and to get healthier both in body and spirit. Being totally focused on the job just isn’t good for oneself, and actually makes you less productive at work; starting to write my blog again will no doubt keep me motivated.

The last major cycling I did was back in March when I took a holiday in Tenerife with my brother, sister-in-law and their kids. It was a great break, and Tenerife is brilliant for cycling; many a professional team have training camps out there. I hired a bike for a few days and cycled up Mount Teide, Tenerife’s volcano and one of the longest continuous climbs you can take on in Europe.

Tenerife - view from balcony

Tenerife – view from balcony

Tenerife - bike hired from Bike Point

Tenerife – bike hired from Bike Point

I’d only cycled half-way up Mount Teide before Lobster demanded a beer break, then decided it was time for a manic descent around many a hairpin and exhilarating steep section, all in glorious sunshine.

Tenerife - beer break with Lobster

Tenerife – beer break with Lobster

Tenerife - descent from Mount Teide

Tenerife – descent from Mount Teide

I recommend Bike Point for your bike hiring needs if you’re visiting Tenerife; reasonably priced and you can hire the works as far as shoes, helmet etc goes, check out –> http://www.bikepointtenerife.com/

Anyway, back to the present day. I’ve been commuting to work each day, and trying to get out for a longer cycle on my way home. The Norfolk countryside is fantastic in the summer weather we’ve been experiencing. Cycling the few miles to work, and experiencing all the traffic made me wonder why more people don’t get on their bike for the short journey they have to make? The benefits are there to be claimed; get fit and lose weight, spend less on petrol, less pollution, less cars on the road, you can say hello to more people, less stress, the list goes on.

But saying all that there are many reasons why people are nervous about using a bike more often, and after experiencing a few near misses in the last couple of weeks I can understand why. I know drivers get annoyed with cyclists when they don’t obey the rules of the road, and I can understand why, got to be mutual respect from both sides, however the following points have really wound me up over the last few days:

  • You know those decorations called indicators on your car, well can you please use them. Whilst most cyclists will try and anticipate what you’re doing it’s not always easy. Why are we so bad at this in this country?
  • Please can you not overtake me then immediately turn right, causing me to slam on my breaks to avoid running into you. Nearly went over someone’s bonnet the other day.
  • Pulling out from a parking space without indicating, immediately in front of me, is not very polite.
  • Opening your car door as I cycle past, whilst causing a bit of excitement and an adrenalin rush, is not something I particularly enjoy. Please look in your wing mirror.
  • My personal hate at the moment; using your mobile phone whilst driving, whether it being to text, check Facebook, or speak to your Mum. On a roundabout the other day I witnessed someone smoking a cigarette with one hand, speaking on the phone with the other, and as a result nearly causing 3 accidents. Grrrr. I’m sure waiting a few minutes to finish your journey, or pulling over at the next available opportunity isn’t going to impede your social life too badly, and perhaps it will stop you from flattening someone. There was a brilliant clip I saw today of an advert in a cinema showing someone driving. At the same time the cinema texted everyone watching whereupon they all pulled out their phones to check the message, in the meantime the car crashed – what a brilliant advert; no-one could resist the allure of their mobile.
  • Why do a lot of people dropping off their kids at school think the rules of the road no longer apply, same in car parks? Not safe for your kids let alone a cyclist trying to dodge you.
  • In rush hour traffic many cyclists are going to be a lot faster than you. I can generally get to work more quickly on my bike than I would driving. Please don’t make every effort to overtake me then pull in front of me, often then breaking sharply because there a long queue of traffic.
  • Don’t get annoyed if a cyclist overtakes a cyclist, pulling out to do so. This is perfectly legal and safe. It’s made unsafe because you can’t bear waiting a few seconds for the manoeuvre to complete.
  • If you can’t drive that expensive 4×4 or equivalent safely, with awareness of how big your car is, buy a smart car or something equivalent. It’s safer for all concerned.
  • One for the pedestrians; just because you can’t hear a car doesn’t mean there’s not a cyclist coming up as you step onto the road to cross. Please revise the green cross code.
  • I could go one but best stop before this turns into more of a rant.

In return I’ll not jump red lights, not undertake you (I will probably still overtake you), not cycle on the pavement unless it’s really too dangerous to do otherwise – in which case most of the time I’ll push my bike, indicate with my arms, obey the same laws you do, and continue to cycle to lessen the horrendous amount of traffic of the roads these days.

And before people say that I don’t get it because I don’t drive, I do, and I pay road tax – a lot because my car is quite old and not especially environmentally friendly (hence one of the reasons I cycle more).

Thankfully the majority of drivers are fairly competent and sympathetic to cyclists, so well done to most of you. Hope the rest of you evolve soon or the selfish gene takes its course.

If you’re not a confident cyclist because of the points above, and the sheer volume of traffic on the roads, I can only encourage you to persevere. It sometimes takes a bit of bravery to keep safe; pulling out to stop stupid overtakes near roundabouts, not cycling in the gutter etc. And if you see a campaign for more cycle paths, or a cycle to work scheme, take advantage.

I received a surprise mini DV for more birthday (thanks Sheila, Norm and Sue) which I can attach to my cycle helmet and use to ‘video’ my cycling exploits. Looking forward to setting it up and perhaps publishing a few examples of close encounters on this blog; not looking forward to the bad experience but happy to record it for posterity. Drivers should do the same and record any foolish cycle manoeuvres, or bad driving experiences, just to keep thing fair – it’s that mutual respect thing.

So, enough of that already. I’m back on my bike, enjoying it a lot despite the above rant. Got more cycling trips planned, some micro-adventures, and perhaps a 3 month tour in Europe next year if I can convince work to give me the time off.

On yer bike all!

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