Tag Archives: Sports

Why My First Time Was A Disaster

I’d waited over month for my Cycle2work voucher, and spent almost as much time reading bike information and reviews on the Halfords website.  I’d chosen safety equipment and the perfect bike seat for Lebs (find out how I made my final decision on my bike here).  Yet my first time on a bike since I was around 7 years old was still a bit of a disaster.

Firstly, the bike decided to be fashionably late. I’d been to the store,  and had an informed chat with a young man by the name of Lance on a sunny and quiet Monday morning. He helped me to order most of the things I’d researched and suggested solid replacements for the things he could not and I arranged to pick up the bike on Wednesday (my day off work). I figured that I might be able to dispatch Lebs to a relative whilst I collect and walk the bike home – possibly even having a little ride if I was feeling brave.

No chance.

All of the stuff turned up to store the following day but the bike did not.  Actually, the bike which was ordered never arrived at Brixton Halfords and lovely Lance collected one from Balham instead (I never established if it was still built from the box or taken from a display there – ignorance is bliss).

This meant that I now only had a Sunday, my other day off to collect my new bike.  I had no childcare.  I explained to Lebs what I wanted to do and he was very excited – he loves anything with wheels at the moment – so off we went together with him clutching his blue helmet to collect the new bike.

I got to the store to find that being Sunday, there was no Lance.  My heart immediately sank when I was greeted by a friendly young man (young and high pitched enough to make me feel old even though I’m not quite thirty).  He was polite but it quickly became clear that he knew almost as much about bikes as me, and on that day I  could write all my knowledge about bikes on the back of a postage stamp.  Besides advising me with well rehearsed speech on what lock I should buy and fitting the bottle cage to the bike there was little point asking him anything else.  The poor guy had no idea how to process the cycle2work voucher and whilst I was trying to be as sympathetic and patient as possible, Lebs was not and started to jump on the floor, make loud protests and ask every innocent customer who should pass him what they were looking at.

Next, there was no where adequate to rest the bike before putting Lebs into his bike seat. It was leaned awkwardly against the corner of the display.  It took the two of us to put him into the seat and figure out how to adjust the straps. The young man could not give me any assistance when I inquired as to if and how the child seat could be removed for solo rides. Now I WAS beginning to get impatient.

Then I was told goodbye (a little too enthusiastically I thought) and attempted to leave.  I say attempted because I had no idea that the weight of Lebs would affect how I moved the bike so dramatically. I tried to turn the bike and nearly dropped Lebs on the floor. He found it hilariously funny and the assistant tried to help me through the narrow aisle but it quickly became clear that this would be counter productive. He knocked the bike and one of the pedals spun and bit into my leg. So, red faced and in pain, I grunted something like ‘I’ve got to learn to do this anyway’ and wheeled Lebs very unsteadily out of the shop myself.  All the staff that hadn’t been around before suddenly appeared to be there staring at me like the stupidest creature that ever hit the earth.

It wasn’t until one of my cycling enthusiast pals looked over my new bike a few days later that I found it should have been fitted for me. It hadn’t even occurred to me! I assumed it was the same as how I shop for clothes. I know my size, I see something I like, I find the said size and purchase. I’m straight forward that way.  On a previous chat with Lance we had decided that an 18″ bike was the correct size for my height and I assumed that’s all there was to it.  My pal has since made some minor adjustments such as raising the saddle and lowering the breaks and now my bike is so much more comfortable.

I live about 1.8 miles from Brixton Halfords.  It’s a 40 minute walk over Tulse Hill that I’m very used to performing with ease. It was a cold, grey day and I was dressed in layers with a long coat.  I had thought that I could walk the bike back with Lebs on it but within a few steps it was clear that if Lebs was in his seat, I needed to be on my seat too. So nervously I got on, almost tangling myself up in my coat doing so, and started to pedal.  I assumed that I would be the first person ever to forget how to ride a bike but after one clumsy attempt (I was a bit nervous of the pedal hitting my leg again), I was off! When I say off, I mean wobbly on the pavement off, not cruising down the main road as I had envisioned.  However Lebs began to whoop with joy and sing and I, pleasantly surprised by how smooth and fast this mode of transport was compared to walking, couldn’t help smiling.

Still, I was dressed totally wrong. I was dressed for a slow walk on a cold day. Not trying to pedal uphill with weak legs and a few stones of weight on the back! I had it in my head I would sort of look like this:

But after a few feet  without any stretching or other preparation I was more like this:

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Cheesy but true. I had NO idea what hot thirsty work it is on the pedals.

Anyway I made it home in one piece thank God, after stopping 3 times for breath, cursing the terrible quality of the roads more times then I care to remember and also having some real cyclists shout things like ‘Oi oi wobbler!’ laughingly as I passed.

Then I had to hoist the bike up a flight of stairs to my flat with the seat still on the back (as it turns out the seat can come off so easily even I can do it). I have to turn a tight corner at the top step between my neighbors door in the hallway and my inside balcony. I have to hold the bike vertically on its back wheel to get up the stairs. It’s 11.5kg I believe but with the  bike seat and adapter attached it is somewhat heavier. Up until this point the heaviest thing I was accustomed to picking up was Lebs so you can imagine how much I struggled up the stairs. It wasn’t until I was halfway up the stairs that it dawned on me that I should have take Lebs out of the seat first… No I’m just kidding about the last part.

Anyway at the top step I think I hit my neighbors door with both handle bars, the saddle and the child seat quite hard. I really hope he wasn’t in at the time. I thought the bike would fit on the balcony just outside my front door but with the flat bar it would block the door and become a hazard.  My managers words were ringing in my ears. Could I seriously be bothered with this palaver every time I wanted to ride? I dumped it in the hallway inside temporarily and flopped down on the sofa.

Being a modern girl, I logged straight into Facebook before I even took a drink.  I decided I quite like the burning jelly sensation setting in around my legs and stomach and wanted to do this again! So maybe it wasn’t so much of a disaster after all.

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.

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!