Bike Neglect and a Poorly Preschooler

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It’s been over a week now since I was last able to get on my bike. I’m still not confident about using my bike on road at all with Lebs (spell checked to herbs for a change and not Legs). Weather has been dire and babysitting is sparse at the best of times. 

Today I was called at work to say my little fella had collapsed at nursery and had a very high temperature. I’ve since had it explained that little ones who are very active with a fever can collapse to force the body to keep still and calm down. He’s at home now lapping up the extra fuss like a seasoned pro.

l foresee a biking dry spell for the next few days so if anyone can let me know what sort of exercises I can do at home until I can pedal again without an exercise bike I’d be so grateful!

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Rugby, Flagbearing, and A Very Handy Jacket!

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I got to stand on a real pitch eek!

Recently I got an incredible opportunity – to be a flagbearer at one of the Rugby 6 Nations 2013 matches at Twickenham.

I’d never seen a rugby match even on television and had no clue what flagbearing was all about but decided to throw caution to the wind and go anyway. My friends quite rightly pointed out that I might view first hand some sets of muscles that I may never have an opportunity to see again! So why not?

As it turns out it was absolutely great! I met some fun people and got to stand in front of 81,458 people at the start of the match which was England vs Italy… and England won fairly easily so the atmosphere was good! I was even caught on BBC1 – my 0.01 seconds of fame! You had to be pretty eagle eyed and nifty with the iplayer to really see me.

We simply had to hold down a banner whilst the national anthems for both countries were being performed by the Rugby teams. I didn’t get a photo being held by all of the team like I hoped but I did get this:

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I was close enough to smell them - sweaty!

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Thats me! Closest to the camera

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There was a lot happening at the same time

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All flag bearers for the 6 nations banner

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The turf felt AMAZING...

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The concept of the game itself was easier to me than football. However men were getting substituted every 5 minutes… not sure gaining such great physiques is worth getting quite so beaten up!

We were given 6 Nations jackets which we were subsequently not allowed to wear on screen (believe me it was freezing). However this jacket is perfect for me to use for cycling until I get myself some proper cycling clothing. Its like an anorak, with a nice roll up hood and zip pockets. Handy!

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This jacket should be great to cycle in

How I Found The One – 8 Questions to ask

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Having never ridden nor owned a bike since I was 7 years old, I was lost as to where to start with bike purchasing.  I had one very strong idea in my mind though.  My bike had to be purple. Purple with glitter; I would name it Twilight and leave sparkles wherever I go. Besides that I wasnt really fussy. As long as I had everything I needed to get on and go.

So like any good modern girl, I headed straight for Google and looked for bike reviews and was astonished to find that there were rather more things to consider. I ended up with my sweet yet serious Female specific Boardman hybrid comp bike which whilst admittedly completely devoid of both purple and glitter, is absolutely perfect for me and I am in LOVE.

Here are eight of the things I considered when I chose my bike, but please let me know what was important for you too!

1. Weight? – I’ve put this at number one for me because I don’t have any access to ground floor storage and live in a first floor flat.  If you’re like me and your bike will have to be hoisted up stairs, the weight is super important! Generally, you are sure to pay a little more for the lighter models.  Also be mindful if you are using a child seat like me. The seat plus the adaptor are pretty weighty once attached to the frame!

2. Female Specific or not? – When I spoke to friends and staff at Halfords they all appeared to think that the idea of buying a bike only for women was very much outdated. However I sat on a few and I liked the women’s ones better. Seat wise they felt nicer and handle bars seemed easier to reach. That said, bikes are so customisable that it probably doesn’t matter.  So I wouldn’t dismiss any bike for not being female specific or not. Try them out!

3. To fold or not to fold? – I did seriously consider a fold up bike. Seemed a perfect solution for me and no storage. However after checking them out in Halfords I had to say no.  Firstly, they are a LOT heavier than they look. Secondly, they often have a lot less gears and fancy stuff – nice and simple for getting to work, but I wanted the adaptability of using it for leisure at other times and having full control!  Thirdly – I’m not a fan of the way they look… I’m getting used to them now I see people on them a lot but I wanted a more bikey looking bike.

4. Hybrid or Road? – I haven’t touched mountain bikes here as I am primarily about cycling in the city.  The Road bikes are lightest but the handlebars curve under and most hybrids have a flat bar which allow you to sit up and not be hunched over.  I assumed road bikes are more for professionals… I was nervous of riding like that so flat bar was for me! Also the hybrid has slightly wider wheels than a road bike… So you can get away with a bit more!

5. Room for two? – Another issue I found with folding bikes, road bikes and smaller sized frames…. The design did not allow then to hold a bike seat. With my hybrid, I couldn’t go smaller than an 18″ or Lebs seat adapter would not fit.

6. Colour crush?– Okay it does come into it a little. I fell in love with my bike, colours and all BUT on the first ride the seat was totally smudged.  If you go for a lighter coloured bike either be prepared to commit to cleaning it more or know that you will be rocking the ‘well loved’ look sooner rather than later.

7. Reviewer verdicts? – I always pay attention to anyone who has taken the time to return to a site and write a review about the product they have bought.  Look out particularly for reviewers who have written after having owned the product a little while. I do this with all of my larger purchases.  If a lot of people are giving between 1 and 3 stars, there is usually an issue.  My lovely bike got mostly 5 out of 5 so I was happy!

8. Costly or Cheap? – This is entirely dependent on what you can afford and what you decide you really NEED.  I chatted to cycling customers at work and the general consensus was that if I wanted a decent quality bike which would not be terribly heavy, could hold a seat for Lebs, but would have potential for really eating up the road, £500 was a solid entry-level figure.

Busy, overworked, unfit mummy? On yer bike!

“But Mango… Do you even have a garden?” My manager was staring at me bemused.

I nodded. “No.”

“Can you even ride a bike?”

“Haven’t been on one since I was seven”

“Then why on earth do you want to get a bicycle?”

On the face of it, I suppose it did seem a silly idea but to me it made perfect sense.   My name is Stephanie; my nickname is Mango (that story is for another time), and I work as a bank cashier with a quirky bunch in South London. I spend most of my time speaking to a lot of interesting people doing a lot of interesting things while I do the same not-so-interesting things daily.  Periodically, I decide that to spice things up I need to start a hobby, and this time I chose cycling. Here is why:

WILL – I’m always looking for ways to get fit and tone up.  When you have a small child and limited babysitting facilities like me, it can be hard to commit to the gym or classes.  I tried DVD’s but I would watch them once or even work out with them and now they are just sitting on the shelf gathering dust.  I see cyclists often and it occurred to me that I was not only slightly envious of their skills and confidence but that it’s something which can be done alone or as part of a team; so I could potentially gain the motivation and social element I yearned for from the gym but also that treasured ‘alone time’.  Better still, it is not something that has to exclude my son.

If you choose a new hobby it has to be something you really WANT to do.

TIME –I live alone with my 3 year old son Caleb, affectionately known as ‘Lebs’ (which is a pain for phones – they always edit it to ‘Legs’) and spend most of my spare time with him. The rest of my time goes on housework, and playing Facebook games in between (sitting on my butt not being very fit at all).  Big chunks of spare time are hard to find and this way I could squeeze in the cycling on the way to work and back, and en route to parks and other activities at the weekends.

You need something which can fit in with your life.

MONEY – Gyms and classes plus what it would cost to get regular babysitting is pricey business. Some gyms have a crèche but again pricing can get silly.  Bikes can be very affordable or very expensive depending on what you want. A lot of work places will run some sort of a scheme to help you get a bike to use for getting to work. I went with the cycle2work scheme which is with Halfords. You get a voucher for the amount you set and you can use it to get everything bike related and pay for it over 5 years.  Have a nosey here or ask your work place for more: http://www.cycle2work.info/. Also if you are not as lucky as me to live only a mile from work and can walk it then a bike can save you money on commuting!

Be mindful of your budget and check if work has any employee schemes

AREA – Whilst I live in a built up area, there are plenty of parks and bike lanes, hills and flats; quiet roads and very busy ones. Lots for me to explore and satisfy my sense of adventure.  Knowing your area and what you will use the bike for becomes most important when choosing your bike but still worth considering before even choosing cycling.  Cycling on road will keep your mind and senses sharp – an experience you won’t get from a gym bike.  I know that gym bikes and the ability to give your mind a rest whilst exercising has its advantages too, but I find I do better when my mind is fully involved.

Consider local terrain – the more exciting or accessible it seems to you, the better!