Tag Archives: cycling

How I learned to Cycle Confidently in an Hour For FREE! (And I Bet You Can Too*)

Hi all!

So how is summer treating everyone? We have recently enjoyed (or suffered, depending on your viewpoint), the longest heatwave in seven years! How have you spent it? Lebs and I have been having great lots of fun! We have had some indoor and outdoor picnics (Bulmers for mummy please!), and plenty of trips to Brockwell park. It’s great to ride there by the way, very bike friendly and perfect for beginners!

Lots to do at Brockwell park!

Lots to do at Brockwell park!

Well I can proudly say I have more or less DOUBLED my use of Caroline, my Boardman bike, on the once terrifying roads in and around Streatham, South London. I wasn’t using her as much as I could be for the following reasons:

  • I needed to go everywhere by turning left because turning right was super scary (*blushes*)
  • I had to get off and walk up and over any lump or bump in the road vaguely resembling a hill causing Lebs to laugh at me
  • I was even more afraid of the main road (I still am a little but not so much that I won’t use it)
  • I was convinced through a lot of trolls on social networking sites that all cars hate me and want to kill me.
This was too much for me before my lesson (I'm serious).

This was too much for me before my lesson (I’m serious).

It took a near miss to spur me to action against all these inhibitions. One day I was cycling with Lebs on the back to his nursery when I turned left out of a t- junction and found that two cars were coming towards me, and one behind me was about to follow me around the bend. I was instantly afraid and so sought the nearest passing place and tucked myself in. It hadn’t occurred to me that the driver turning left behind me would swing round quickly, become spooked by the two cars approaching and swerve into the same passing place without looking first, very nearly taking me and Lebs off the bike.  I was shaken up(more even then my first ride out on a bike with Lebs), and not only that, I couldn’t help but ask myself; was there some way I could have avoided that situation?

That night, I took to the Lambeth website with hopes of finding some information on cycling courses which would help me.  There was lots of information to be had (see here), but best of all I saw that anyone living, working or studying in Lambeth could get FREE cycle training! One-to-one! No download speed in the world could have opened the page fast enough for me!

I found myself on Cycle confident website, where I left a session request briefly explaining my fears and what I felt my experience level to be.  A few days later I received an email from Nick, inviting me to book a session.

Nick was very flexible. I originally had asked to meet at a local park but after a phone conversation about my abilities he was happy to meet at my house and go straight onto the road.

On the morning of the session, Nick was nice and early. He was warm and chatty, so I felt a little less nervous (it felt a bit like being in school again).  He checked my bike over to make sure it fit me correctly and that it was road worthy and then off we went!

We did a few basic loops in the streets near to where I live in Streatham Hill. I am lucky in my area in that there is a good mixture of hills, and flats, back streets and main roads, cycle lanes and junctions.  Nick cycled slightly ahead of me initially and then behind me. He tutored me on using gears and my road positioning.  It seemed the simplest adjustments made the world of difference.  Within 5 minutes, having changed my hand and foot positioning, I was already feeling more confident.  Better still, Nick lives and rides locally, so he was a gold mine of information about local roads, routes and even cycling groups.

My fear of hills was swiftly conquered with some guidance and practice on using my gears.  I learned what it is to ‘spin’ (owwww), and conquered my first proper hill. Not just a bump or a lump but a proper up-and-over hill! I had breath to spare too! I was so pumped I think I broke the world record for saying ‘thank you’ in 1 minute.

Next my fear of turning right.  This involved schooling on my road positioning. He showed me how staying in the gutter as religiously as I was could become potentially a hazard for other road users or cause me to panic.  In fact, all of my other fears were calmed by Nick demonstrating to me how important it was to look ahead, stay calm and stay SEEN.

He also consulted my attitude towards drivers.  He understood that people might be grumpy sometimes but if I am staying seen, making a little eye contact where possible, not swerving in or out of lanes and signalling clearly before maneuvering, then road user grumpiness will be minimal.

Next we hit the main roads. Nick showed me how to position myself safely at the traffic lights and how to use the cycle lanes safely.  I was finally feeling very confident and Nick tested me out!  We did a big loop along Streatham High Road back to my home where the lesson ended. HE told me that we had completed 7 miles and I almost passed out with happiness! I had never thought I could do 7 miles and still have breath! I wanted to straight back out (and I did, the next day).

Since my lesson I have not only used my bike more often but I have had some waves and compliments from drivers (they can SEE me yah), and conquered a few more hills! The best experience of all was when I took Lebs to nursery and he said “mummy lets take the flat road ‘cos you can’t go up the hill”. I cleared the hill and he whooped for joy “Well DONE mummy!”. I was so proud!

What’s your proudest cycling moment?

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That’s my confident face!

I have now decided that since I am with Caroline more often, I would like a new saddle. The search is on…

*Do you live or work in Lambeth like me? If so then why not see how easy it is to get cycling for yourself?  Let me know how you get on! http://www.cycleconfident.com/sponsors/lambeth/

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Just A Quick Note to Say…

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I’m super excited as a newish blogger to have passed that first 1000 views and just wanted to say a massive me-and-Lebs sized thank you for stopping by and taking time to leave comments!

I’m writing about my Cycle Confident course next so stay tuned… better still, sign up for email notifications.

Thank you 🙂

Hindu Squats and the Afro Thunder

Well it has been a while hasn’t it?

I’d love to say I have been clocking up some serious miles and gone from beginner to semi pro in cycling skills … Alas, in truth whilst I have taken some commutes to work, I haven’t had as much time as I’d hoped to go cycling.

First of all, I been eating way too much of things like this:

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Hot waffles with bananas and toffee ice cream and caramel syrup… and cream… so naughty!

Extremely yummy but all I want to do after such treats is relax and read a gossip magazine!

Another issue I have encountered is Lebs hair! Normally, I plait it, so using a helmet is no problem.  It also means that I can still go cycling when I want to, without having to find a baby sitter first.  However Lebs scalp has recently been very sore so I have had to give the plaiting a rest.

But there is no helmet for Afro Thunder!

Afro Thunder!

Afro Thunder!

So no passenger ride for Lebs for now.  I’ve found out that Caroline actually is really great for leading Lebs home from nursery. So we walk to and from nursery and I can ride the rest of the way to work.

Lebs walks faster whilst holding onto Caroline!

Lebs walks faster whilst holding onto Caroline!

I’m frustrated though that I haven’t been able to go on longer rides.  What I would like from cycling besides all round fitness is stronger legs, a more toned shape.  My work is not far enough from home for me to harvest the results I would like.

I discussed my worries with a cycling friend who also has commitments and was advised to try Hindu Squats between riding days.

I do squats generally and couldn’t see initially what was special about Hindu Squats.  I was hell-bent on completing the 30 day squat challenge despite the fact that my cycling friend promised me it would not particularly improve my cycling:

Squat challenge I was following originally
Squat challenge I was following originally

But then I tried them! I started to feel results within days. (See a demonstration here ). And there was no need to do hundreds of them!

In fact I was so excited to feel the beginnings of muscle bulge in my thighs that I hurried out to try a hill near to home which normally proves troublesome… I cleared it! It was still hard but I felt empowered by my new strength.  Suddenly I felt I had finally progressed from my first time!

So I will be continuing with these until Lebs hair back on the bike with me once more, and beyond.  What kind of exercises do you do between rides?  All tips are welcome!

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!

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.