Love London? Go for a ride.

Leaving work yesterday, the sun tapped on my back as I crossed the Old Kent Rd and reminded me what our city streets are really for on a warm, sunny evening after work.

So I turned the wheels round and headed riverwards.  I turned off the four lane whizzalong of the Old and New Kent Roads and headed down through Burgess Park, through Trinity Square where there was some kind of shoot going on, (photo, not the other kind some people are a bit too quick to associate with south-east London streets),  got slightly confused by the cycling detour which rules out the bike friendly Upper Ground route while they hack about Sea Containers House, and finally turned on to the river.

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Lots of bikes had beaten me to it.  Considering what a popular place this is, there is very little bike parking.  But I quite like the way the railings are decorated with an assortment of bikery.  I think it adds a friendly warmth to our cityscape.  I know some of the corporate landowners who have grabbed some of our riverside spaces in recent years disagree (yes, I’m thinking of you, More London) but I have no idea why they object so strongly to something so aesthetically pleasing as a bicycle attached to their street furniture.

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The bike enjoyed a relaxing half an hour on the beach at Gabriels Wharf (I still have to spellcheck this every time as I still hear Gerbil’s Wharf in my head, lisped in my daughter’s Continue reading

Dreaming of Spring

Today it really felt like spring was on the way. And I was up early, ready to ride out to East Sussex for a little jaunt in the forest. However, stuff happened to prevent this and I ended up confined to London doing other, admittedly important stuff. And then I had an hour spare and the warm bright sun, albeit surrounded by the cold winter air still trying to maintain its grip, inspired me to remind myself of spring and summer cycle camping trips. In compensation for missing a day on the bike in sunshine.
A tent, a bike and a beach. That spells cycle camping in warm sun to me. And I discovered I had lots of photos of this particular beach.
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Sometimes with bike, sometimes with bike and tent

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Why do I love this particular beach so much? Continue reading

Winter riding

icy track with bikeRiding at this time of year has its own pleasures.  Such as riding through snow silenced woods, quiet lanes empty of most human life, most of which is sensibly holed up in a nice warm centrally heated room in front of the TV.  Finding a warm pub, with a huge log fire, heading out into the icy cold again, wrapped up against the chill to ride through falling flakes of snow, the icy air blasting against your cheeks as you descend a steep hill at speed.   Strangely, all this, I find, exciting and pleasurable as long as I have sufficiently wrapped my core and extremities to feel toasty warm in the places that matter.  Even hills are welcome in winter, they keep the blood flowing on the ascent and reward you with an exhilarating blast on the descent that really lets you know you are alive.

snow bike greenwichWe did such a ride on Sunday. 40 miles out of London across a bit of Surrey, Kent up and over the North Downs a few times, then back to London.  Despite the ice, sleet, snow and chilly wind, a great way to spend the day.  Of course, it always helps to have great company too, which indeed I did.  The picture below (thanks, Ian,) sums up the atmosphere of the whole ride, perfectly.

 

Surrey and Kent ride

Singing in the Rain

umbrella bikeTwo days running, I recently rode into work in pouring rain. The illustration above, however, is not my preferred method of keeping dry on the bike. And I’m not recommending it either. It was taken by someone in Japan, not by me. But, I have borrowed it to illustrate, the sensation of slight lunacy and devil may care that descends upon me whenever the rain falls hard and fast upon me and my bike. My usual careful, considered and calm attitude to riding on the road is threatened by strange urges to do something a bit daft. I often feel a temptation to laugh out loud, or put my feet on the handlebars and cry wheeeee! on a descent. I have actually done the former several times in torrential downpours, once hurtling down a hill on Skye, with rain drenching me both from above, and from below as the force and volume of water hitting the ground was so great, and visibility so poor, I felt I was riding in a massive rain cloud, rather than under it. My daughter and I once rode in a summer thunderstorm from Peckham to the Barbican, singing as many songs about rain as we could. The few pedestrians that had dared put their heads out of doors in the storm, seemed a little bemused. I thought I heard one shout, “Nutters!” as we passed. Continue reading

A Doubtful Vintage

A good friend can always be relied on to remind you not to take yourself too seriously, not to get too pompous and above yourself.

So while, I’m sitting here getting all airy fairy and poetic about finding the true meaning of peace and spiritual health in the wild, lonely places of this land, one of my friends pops up and hauls me out of my Wordsworthian daydream, to remind me of the dangerous situations to which such over romanticising can lead.

This particular friend is very observant. His keen eyes noticed a carelessly placed bottle of my particular camping fuel of choice in this particular blog picture:

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It is, as he correctly pointed out, methylated spirit.  Continue reading

Well, here’s the bike. Again.

Yes, I know, I’m still not wearing a skirt. I don’t usually, when cycle camping and touring. Although I will have one crammed into a tiny corner of one of my panniers.  Just to throw on over a clean pair of cycling shorts in the evenings when I pop into a local bar or pub.

Me and the hardy Roughstuff. Just having broken camp in a field near Hardraw.

Me and the hardy Roughstuff. Just broken camp in a field near Hardraw, August 2011.

This was taken by a friend who accompanied me for a few days of my End to End in the summer of 2011.  I met up with her when I reached York and we crossed the country, through the Yorkshire Dales and spent a long weekend just riding a few of the terrific roads in that part of the country.  A mini tour within my much longer trip, that began four days earlier at Dungeness and ended, some 1000  miles or so later, at Durness on Scotland’s north west coast.  So, those of you with some knowledge of the geography of these islands, will realise I didn’t exactly take a very direct route!