Spokes(Wo)Man

Scared of traffic ? No bike infrastructure ? Too Far ? Helmet hair ?

 

Fuck it, ride anyway

Filtering by Tag: Commute

Oops, my bad

Dear Car Driver from this morning,

I note the demolition and excavation trucks were all over our local streets this morning, caught mid lane-change so they effectively took up two lanes, and caused a back-up of stationary car traffic far further back along our main road than usual.

I note that in filtering through this clusterfuck at a walking pace, that my rubber-clad handlebar touched your wing-mirror, making a sort of a "thwack" sound.

This is the face you pulled;

shocked bloke.jpg

OH THE HUMANITY !!

May I point out that I immediately stopped and apologised ? Like this;

Hands-Clasped-Woman-Apology-760.jpg

But that you continued to make this face at me;

shocked bloke.jpg

So I kind of made this face back;

eh.jpg

After literally a full minute you continued with this face;

shocked bloke.jpg

Ultimately forcing me to pull this face;

puzzled.jpg

Look pal, I touched a piece of plastic on your car at an extremely slow pace, with a piece of soft rubber. Nothing was broken, I'd be surprised if you could show me it even left a mark.

The overly dramatic reaction, the huffing, the OMG of it all  - all of that just made me lose any sincere regret for my error in judging the gap between you and the other peak-hour hog driver, and just made me not give a fuck about you or your stupid car.

You're a 40 year-old white dude driving a car with "Blossy" personalised number-plates.

Examine your life choices.

Ride to Work (or don't) Day - 2017

Here's a little tale about Ride to Work Day 2017 - and why I didn’t.

Today is annual R2W day and therefore the 2nd anniversary of my commuting to work by bike, as well as this blog. We’re now in the Terrible Twos. Time for a tantrum…

Oh. My. God. Could you not ?

Oh. My. God. Could you not ?

R2W Day is great for getting people started riding, the camaraderie, the massively increased feeling of safety in numbers, and freebies along the way are terrific, as is the enthusiasm of the volunteers and sponsors. Free bananas anyone? Free bandana, shirt, water bottle, wrist band, puncture repair kit? Take it all! Take two! You're Sprocketman ? Here take six !

This duck is bananas; BA-NA-NAS

This duck is bananas; BA-NA-NAS

OMG, #MeToo

OMG, #MeToo

Sprocketman shepherded his buddy G2 into riding to work for the first time this morning, and my only fear for them was that they’d have too much fun and ride past work and just keep going for the day. G2 also may now have unrealistic expectations about the fanfare that attends one’s arrival at work by bike; it’s not every day you get a tickertape parade, as you pass under an honour guard formed by Bike Network and Bike NSW volunteers each holding aloft a giant banana.

But this year, as a cynical bike advocate of some 2 years standing, I’m not riding. At first it was just because I have ridden each day for a while and I like having Wednesday as a mid-week rest-day, otherwise I am pretty knackered come Friday night. And this past week I’ve had horrible headaches - I was fine with my whiplash symptoms until I went for a scheduled check-up, they tinkered with something I really wished thay hadn't, and voila ! I’ve had a bloody annoying headache ever since - so I was going to ride today riiiiiight up until I just decided all these things were a bit much - and in giving myself permission to not ride on this one day, I thought about what I’d be missing out on - and the answer (for me) was actually “yeah, not much”.

Because I'm a bit over the People’s Front of Judea/Judean People’s Front duopoly of the two main cycling advocacy groups in the unfair state of NSW.

1848da4df0c0ab991b226dfb7ede1be8.jpg

Perhaps if they were little less occupied in competing with each other to become the pre-eminent cycling event organiser, and a bit more focussed on actual advocacy for the everyday bike rider we'd see some progress.

I’d like to see less emphasis on bike riding as a "special event”. The Spring Cycle clusterfuck and R2W entrench the attitude amongst local government that cycling is a mass event to be planned for a Specific Day, and then after that everyone should put their bikes away and drive to the station.

I’d like much less emphasis from my bike advocates on racing and endurance events, with the fees we all pay in, I'm pretty sure they could have paved our own cycleway halfway to the city by now if we'd spent it wisely.  I’d like to see their resources spent on, here’s a thought, a full page ad in the main newspapers cleaning up common misconceptions about cycling, especially as it relates to road rules and rights and obligations.

Let's face it, the red-necked driving enthusiasts/bike haters of this world aren’t going to come to a bike blog to read a refreshingly different perspective; so we need to get the message across in a format they’re likely to see, and alongside the drivel which passes for journalism via the Daily Telegraph in Sydney for example seems like prime hunting ground. Next to the Monster Truck Rally ads and the greyhound racing results.

A full page ad, explaining that;

  • Roads are paid for by income tax and council rates, not any mythical “road tax” which cyclists have been unfairly dodging.
  • Car registration fees are based on the weight of the vehicle registered and is meant to contribute to, but in no way covers the actual cost of damage caused to the roads by the vehicle in question
  • That motorists are actually heavily subsidised by non-motorists
  • The 1metre & 1.5metre passing distances are minimums, not targets. If you’ve got the extra space, take it, because you trying to hit 1meter on the nose is a little concerning to me when you under-estimate the size and speed of your metal box
  • That cyclists are permitted to travel two-abreast, and you, driving your single-occupant metal box big enough for 6-8 people have no moral high ground here
  • That we’re all forced to look the other way on significant Human Rights atrocities just to continue buying your petrol from evil and repressive regimes
  • That Lycra for cyclists isn’t a fashion choice but is for comfort and is designed for purpose while riding (in the same way you change into pyjamas for lounging/sleeping and a pair of unfashionably tight LYCRA sluggos to go to the beach every five years).

 

And if Bicycle NSW and Bicycle Network are the Judean People’s Front/People’s Front of Judea, what does that make me ?

splitter.jpg

Clearly I’m the Popular People’s Front of Judea. Splitter !!!

I clipped a girl, and I liked it

Like any normal commuter, I sometimes encounter acts of mindless selfishness from other travellers. As a pedestrian, or on my bike, people can just be a bit self-unaware sometimes.

Difference is with my bike, even if I carry the bad mood with me, I'm still less than 100kgs of grudge pedalling along. Not a two-tonne metal murder box capable of killing entire families in a single sideswipe. I say that, we've had one pedestrian death caused by a cyclist since 2006. Which is awfully sad, but doesn't compare to pedestrian and cyclist deaths by car in the same time period. 

This particular day was during the recent school holidays, so the roads were delightfully clear, and I didn't expect to meet many peds around the grounds of the university, forgetting as I had, that uni and primary/high-school holidays schedules can differ somewhat.

So I'm tootling along the shared bike path alongside the uni, and I see a professionally-dressed woman with a little girl in a tutu, and I think "Ah, childminding issues during school holidays." and I slow down a bit. I pass them, we wave, I thank them, smiles all around.

Lovely encounter, and I have so many of them.

Twenty metres on it was Dad's "take your kid to work day" and I approached a professorially dressed man (baggy tweed blazer and daggy briefcase), with his little boy. I called out "bike" they turned around and saw me, we smiled, they moved to one side of the path.

Technically this path should be great, it even has a middle line marked out, pictures of bikes and walkers periodically painted on it to remind people it's shared, and do most of the pedestrians give a fuck ? Do they heck. They wander along four abreast, they step out into it without looking blah blah blah - all the usual stuff. I go slowly here anyway as there are often ducks and ducklings, and more than once I have seen a pet cat strolling along.

Anyway, this father/son combo move to the left, and then as I am level with them, the kid decides to deliberately run into my lane - i slam the brakes on, hurting my hands in the process as the full weight of me and backpack are thrown onto the handlebars and watch in disbelief as this father roars with laughter as his little shit deliberately runs in zig-zags and circles so I can't pass by.

Fuck me, I had no idea how to counter such behaviour. It seemed wrong to employ the airhorn on a little kid - although I was rapidly revising that assessment as time passed - what we needed here was some actual parenting.

If I had hit him there wouldn't have been laughter, and I would have been the bad guy. So I stopped and just waited for the circus to end, and when I could see an appropriate gap, I pushed through slowly. Making sure the kid wasn't listening, I directed some choice words towards Dad, and I was off again.

Would he have encouraged his brat to hold up someone walking, with a pram, in a car, on a motor-scooter ? Run onto the train tracks ?  One can but hope.

So with this bemusing encounter in my head, I rode on, and three minutes later encounter another block of professorially dressed men, who are taking up the entire path, four or five abreast and four or five deep - its' an entire men's store of tweed on the move !

They look up, the see me descending the hill towards them. They do nothing. I get closer. they see me. They do nothing. I draw level with the lead walkers who are four or five steps ahead of the main pack and I turn to them and bellow, with my best former hockey goalkeeper voice "IT'S A SHARED PATH MOVE OVER !!!!!!!!!!!"  I blast the airhorn, they scatter, and I am grimly able to continue without having to come to a complete stop.

Fucking patriarchy.

At this point I'm wondering when I will inevitably hit some arsehole who's entirely to blame, and I grimly think I'll probably enjoy it on some level.

Gah, so I continue my ride, quite bitterly now, and five minutes later I see a couple on the path ahead, walking in the wrong lane, eh, but whatevs, and draped all over each other. She's swinging her arm about as they stride along, but the left lane is clear and I keep up the pace and blow me down, as I draw level with this pair, she decides to fling her entire arm into my lane. There's a god awful sharp cracking sound, and I brake on the spot, because I'm actually not going that fast as I overtake them. 

It turns out her umbrella smacked my handlebar and scared the life out of both of us; we checked the other was ok, we did that thing which women do which is pat each other on the arm to ensure the other is alright and to mutually assure good intent. We laughed, we apologised to each other and off I went. Mood altered.

All my grumbling about pedestrians and when I actually do hit one, even glancingly, I feel terrible about it.

But some days I wonder if I wouldn't be better off in the traffic.

And that is my little essay why shared paths are no good for either party.  

 

 

 

That's how a bear can rest at ease

What a crackingly glorious week of riding. The weather, although chilly in the morning, and calling for long sleeves and full gloves, has otherwise been lovely - clear, crisp, still and in the afternoons, warm enough to ride home in short sleeves and fingerless gloves.

The only "stand your ground" moment was vs yesterday's Stepford Wife, and she really doesn't even rank in the top 50 of scary shit that's happened to me on my bike. Meh.

And this afternoon ? A half-hour early departure to get through the parts of the city where the motorists are particularly selfish and I was away. 

Sometimes when I'm cycling along for a while by myself I find I'm singing out loud; and that's when I realise exactly how happy I am. Tonight's ballad of choice ?

That's sure coming from some deep place ...

Looks like this bear's decided on a few simple necessities himself ...can't hear him singing though ? Why is he not singing ? Stupid bear.

Dear Blonde Lady

I see you in your BMW SUV tank. 

I too am a blonde lady with fabulous hair, and so I feel I can really speak to you on your level, y'know ?

We blonde girls have to stick together right ?

So, if you ever close pass me, then punishment pass me with a left hook turn without indicating again, and I catch you, I will rip you out of the driver's seat of your husband's sad phallic symbol so fast your pearls will tangle, and I will crack a backhander across your lifted face like the basic bitch you are.

Got it ?

Good.

Love & kisses

Spokes(wo)man xx

 

ps you look like you need the exercise; get a bike.

Upon reflection

Some cyclists have a love-hate relationship with their Local Bike Shop (LBS).

We had 3 near us at one stage; one closed down and the LBS nearest him immediately jacked prices up by 40-50%. 

Sigh. Ok, see ya later.

The third LBS I have written about extensively as a bastion of mansplaining, gender-based assumptions and general fuckwittery. I try to never go there.

I've been planning ahead more with my restocking of supplies, and have been patronising (as opposed to being patronised by) a few CBD bike shops instead. Sorry Locals, but you've brought this on yourselves.

Although I made the mistake of going into Specialized (that frickin' "z" annoys me hugely) and asking if they had rear-view mirrors.

"You're the third person this hour to come in and ask for one of those."

"So, you got any?"

"Nup."

"Ever think of stocking them ?"

"Weeelll...  " he left unsaid that rear view mirrors on bikes aren't cool. Fuck off, nor is neck pain from too many years at a desk. When I turn my head, my whole torso, and therefore my handlebars follow. A mirror is one of the slightly-dorky-if-I-did-but-give-a-fuck accessories that made me feel comfortable riding alongside trucks, buses and speeding traffic. And clearly I'm not alone in this.

So I rock my mirror. You don't stock it, Imma buy it online.

 

#SorryNotSorry

 

Back to the One True Path

When my new bike came on board, with its improved gears and higher capacity battery, I decided to become a full-time Hobbit, i.e. taking the longer but much hillier route into the city via the National Parks and various bushland reserves between home and the office. No longer would I roll alongside semi-trailers and 4 lanes of traffic down the laughably-named Pacific Highway.


So I have been happily tootling along doing the 2 hour trip, having a fantastic experience every day and encountering far fewer cars as a result. More pedestrians tho, whoops, sorry 'bout that.  Let's just say I have some material for another blog post on that subject.

But I have started to wonder if I’m doing the right thing, perhaps reversing my hard-won desensitisation of my first year of bike commuting, so today I took the One True Path – the main route from the North into the City, as trail blazed several years ago by the first hardy Easy Riders who banded together one misty morning all that time ago, wondering if they could commute together on a regular basis and whether anyone else would like to join them?


Almost 10 years and 200+ people later, they’re still riding daily. Some of them have ridden to work every day since. Amaze balls. Or as us wanky cyclist are saying these days “Chapeau”!

Nothing like some insensitive cultural appropriation of a polarising political/cultural figure.

Nothing like some insensitive cultural appropriation of a polarising political/cultural figure.

Granted today was day three of the school holidays and of course the roads were at their best, ie emptier than usual, I gave it a crack and it wasn’t terrible. I had one close pass, and when I caught them at the next red light, I tapped on the window and made the nearly anachronistic “wind your window down” gesture.

I looked in the window to see if not Santa himself, perhaps his Chief Elf in the driver seat.
I couldn’t help it, immediately my voice softened and I smiled
Me; “Hello there, how are you?”
Elf; “Very well thank you.”
Me; “I just wanted to let you know you were a little too close to me back there.”
Elf; “I am so very sorry. I was very worried about you back there, but I was worried about crossing the centre line.”

Aww bless. My stony heart melted a little more. This reaction was completely illogical because the Elf had just said he feared crossing an inanimate line of paint more than he valued my actual life. But eh, he's an elderly Elf. Whaddya gonna do ?

But would it kill the RTA (instead of cyclists) to ask vulnerable/valuable road-user specific questions at licence renewals ?

Jeez, a full page ad in one of the trashier Murdoch rags that all the road-ragers of Australia and the UK lurve to read would bear far more fruit than all the clever ad-campaign jingles and glossy posters you see around.

But, back to my Elf;

Me “I understand. But that corner back there has lots of gravel, and I was going to have to move further out into the lane to avoid it. It’s actually legal for you to cross the centre lane to give me more room, as long as there’s no oncoming traffic, which there wasn’t.”
Elf; “I didn’t know that. I’ll be more careful in future, and I’m so very sorry.’
Me; “ok, thank you for that, and thank you for being so nice about it all. You have a lovely day.”

I wanted to pat him on the back of the hand at this point, but instead we made the “After you/No, after you" gestures at each other as the traffic backed up behind us.

One small step for Spokes(wo)man, one giant leap for driver education.

Apart from that the only real issue of note was the car exhaust pollution; gah it was vile.
Sprocketman has taken to wearing a pollution mask

I think I’ll just go back to the National Parks. But it's good to know I can take the more direct route still, if I need to.
 

And with a bound ...

Commute no5 – uneventful.

Commute no6 – the ride in, uneventful.

Commute no6 – the ride home, an event !

Commute no7 – events all over the show !

Commute no8 – Boom !

On a quiet day at work we’re done by 4.30. No-one there is a great believer in busy-work for the sake of it, so if we’re done, we’re gone. Besides, riding in gets you to the office between 7.30 and 8am, so come 4.30 it’s not unreasonable to adios.

Buuut, I then have a 45 minute wait for the first ER Grand Depart of the evening. And I could be halfway home in that time – so the question arose, was I ready to ride home by myself ?

Turns out, yes indeedy I was. With a little trepidation and a muesli bar I set out, and while I will always be so appreciative of the group for it’s valuable teachings, support and sheer physical mass on the roads; the guilt of knowing you’re last and probably slowing everyone down is real. So riding north over the Sydney Harbour Bridge at my own pace was dee-lightful,

The Good  ...

The Good ...

epic infrastructure fail notwithstanding.

... the bad and the definitely ugly.

... the bad and the definitely ugly.

Popping up in North Sydney amongst the buses and homeward-bound cars, not nearly as busy as after 5pm. Usually it's like a game of Whack-a-mole, with yours truly feeling a bit like the mole. The route, not that difficult to recall, the nature reserves and national parks just lovely to take a spin through. I rode for just under 2 hours on my own, I took 2 turns wrong but realised pretty quickly and corrected, and it was all great.

Commute no7 was also the day of the protest against the idiotic new cycling laws proposed by Minister for Cars Duncan Gay and weasily supported by the Teflonesque NSW Premier Mike Baird.

Sprocketman and I both wanted to attend and yell “Shame” and “Booo” at the appropriate moments, but to do so we had to leave around 6am -  45 minutes before my usual inward-bound group. I refused to ride along the ill-named Pacific Highway, so instead Sprocketman would ride with me all the way along the ER route.  As long as I could remember it.

So I lead him out just after dawn, we two arrived at Martin Place without incident, although not with out a grumble from my SO that my journey in was too winding and chop n’ change. I think he prefers to point himself in the direction of the city and ride like a one-man Panzer tank , flattening all before him and leaving nothing but a sonic boom in his wake.

We collected one of my other cycling friends RGH, made new friends with a lovely German lady who doesn’t ride in Sydney because our cycling laws are so fucking restrictive; and off we went to hear from politicians of all sides give the Liberal Party coal-industry fanbois some stick, and generally boo and hiss as required.

That evening, I nonchalantly donned my lycra and rode home, alone again, cheerfully.

Commute no8, I went solo both ways without even thinking about it.

It occurs to me that while I have been commuting by bike since October 2015, for various reasons, holidays, weather & medical, I had only actually ridden in 5 times before I graduated to making the journey alone.

I think for someone as utterly scared as I was, this is a terrific milestone. For anyone else who’s afraid to ride, or to ride in, or dithering about something else entirely; I hope this give you lashings of encouragement.

So what else am I afraid of?

Oh sorry, I didn't notice you there...

Dear AK600W,  how lovely to have your company as you were sucking my back wheel on the approach to and over the Pymble bridge, and how kind of you to have your hand on your horn the entire way into Gordon !

At 6.30am with light traffic and two pretty clear lanes I'm not sure I was giving you quite enough room to overtake safely on your clearly critical mission; but thank you also for taking the time to pull up in the lane alongside me and gesticulate furiously through the window.

It's almost as if the time you took to harass me, riding legally, was far greater than any perceived "delay" caused by me having the temerity to ride to work, or even exist in your world.

Have a lovely day AK600W, wherever your shitty little station wagon takes you and your loved ones.

Sincerely,

Spokes(Wo)man

Write on, sister

Write on, sister

The Road Less Travelled*

* Because it was the wrong fucking way.

It turns out that when a certain cyclist in our group issues an invitation to swing by his house for beers; the group immediately rides to his house en masse.

What could go wrong ?

What could go wrong ?

Nobody was going via the usual way home, which I have yet to commit to memory, having only managed to ride it one time, about 3 months ago.

I learned about this route change after we’d already departed Observatory Hill and thought to self, “Oh well, take the beer detour. What's the worst that could happen?” 

It was even on my way home and actually close enough that I could get from the festivities to my own house without a guide if need be. All was fine while we were on a route I’d been over once or twice before, but when we hit the new-to-me part of the route, I got dropped like the proverbial hot potato; 

As I slowed to make a few unfamiliar descents, and take some very tight corners on a narrow winding bridge, my group pulled ahead more and more until only a single jersey remained in view. I kept him on my horizon for 10 minutes and peddled like a m*therfucking dervish to shrink the gap, and drew level with him as he waited for the lights to change. At which point he jumped and said “Where the hell did you come from?” Followed by “Ah, and where are you going?”

Turns out I followed the one person who wasn’t going to drinks, and who was heading off in a completely different direction from where I live. Awe …some…

A quick chat with him regarding directions revealed a stunning lack of knowledge on my part as to a) the suburb I was in and b) the suburbs surrounding the suburb I was in.

Given that I had missed a crucial turnoff many kilometres back, and probably wouldn’t be able to find the group again anyway, I decided to continue on and see if I couldn’t make my own way in the general direction required and somehow cross paths with them on the National Park trails. Yes, the odds of that happening were firmly in my favour…

   I consulted my handy compass ...   

 

I consulted my handy compass ...

 

Anyway, a long a tiresome ride heading straight into the baking Sydney summer sun, along the side of a major road, eventually I found a few signs pointing to a university halfway between the city and home. I knew the SO used to ride through the campus on his journey home, so a quick chat with him on the mobile, and I found the entrance to the bike path, and boom, a mere TWO HOURS after setting off, I reached home. Utterly parched. Probably sunburned. Certainly very happy. I lay in bed, ate a small bucket of pasta and passed out.

Umm, no. I was quite clearly f%cking lost...

Umm, no. I was quite clearly f%cking lost...

[Edit] I kept an eye and an ear out for signs of their Hobbit gathering, but no luck, and I also updated my Strava the moment I arrived home, in case they were worried by my disappearance; and lo their Strava routes revealed some repeated back and forth at a key junction which could only have been them retracing their route looking for me.  That offset my inner pouting a great deal. Thanks ER Hobbits and Blue Stravos in particular !

D’uh, the bike and an unplanned bit about just getting on with it.

Eight or nine posts in, I realise I’ve been merrily writing away without having talked about my actual bicycle, beyond its deliberately ridiculous nickname*.

I’m not going to wax lyrical (or indeed wax at all, except when I maybe start racing) about derailleurs and Campy vs Shimano, mostly because I have at best a vague knowledge of what those words are.  [They’re not even English, for heaven’s sake.] This will probably change one day and I’ll be sure to create a new tag called “Mechanical Shizzle” for interested readers to search for, but you’ll be a long time waiting.

Bit of a segue [not a Segway] - because the underlying topic is really interesting - this side of things comes with experience, and bike knowledge is earned over time, as well as learned. Not to disparage experienced riders knowledge of all things technical about their bikes, but it can sometimes sound a bit clique-y - a bit elitist if you must – and when surveys in most countries and over years of repeated polling show that many people, mostly women, see this knowledge gap as another barrier to riding, you have to ask, what’s really at the root of that? Nothing more than the fear of appearing foolish in front of other people.

But here’s the thing; at the moment, all I know how to do is repair a puncture using a little bottle of tyre sealant and a CO2 canister. You pour one bottle into the tube via the valve, spin the wheel around to coat the inside, jam the CO2 canister on the value and let the pressurised contents re-inflate your inner tube. Man, it was amazingly, forehead-smackingly easy [based on three practice tries in our driveway]. Easier than putting on eyeliner, let me tell you.

When I was out with my commuter group one of the guys got a puncture, and we massed by the side of the road while some helped and the rest of us just waited. A couple of people I’d been chatting with along the way urged me forward to watch, so I’d know what to do – and I asked why they were doing it old-school, i.e. taking the tyre and tube off and sticking little patches on it, then pumping it up manually with a bike pump borrowed from another rider.

According to the riders I was chatting with, the reason was the guys had no experience with the canisters, and were quite bluntly, a bit scared of trying them and looking stupid. Wut !  They were doing it the more time-consuming and fiddly way partly because of a fear of appearing foolish in front of other people?! 

So anyone still dithering over starting to ride or not needs to understand that you ARE going to look foolish; whether it be on day one as you wear your SO’s beloved Mapei jersey, which looks like unicorn vomit; whether you slow down to descend but your entire group accelerates past you whooping with delight, or when a woman on her second-only commute knows a better way to fix a puncture than you do after 30 years of riding.

THIS is a Mapei jersey. I'm sorry ...

THIS is a Mapei jersey. I'm sorry ...

And get this; to some people you will ALWAYS look ridiculous; the good natured cheers from my office colleagues after I change back into high-vis lycra for the ride home is probably nothing to what passing motorists think about my attire or the size of my arse.  Who cares?  <end segue/>

And who amongst you is gonna tell Liz Hatch she looks ridiculous ? Yeah, didn't think so ...

And who amongst you is gonna tell Liz Hatch she looks ridiculous ? Yeah, didn't think so ...

Soooo the thing about my bike is that in many people’s eyes it means I am not now and never will be a “real” cyclist.  I do actually understand that thinking, in fact I often feel that way myself. Until I tell myself to STFU.

I ride a BH E-motion City Commuter. Yes, my bike is electric assisted.  And a commuter, aka a “Step through” or a “Dutch Bike”.

Voila ! A Dutch bike.

Voila ! A Dutch bike.

I sit upright, with my handlebars higher than my seat, and without racing handlebars aka “dropbars” not to be confused with “dropbears”, which are a native Australian mammal.

Awww look, he's smiling. The cuddly dropbear, so beloved of Japanese tourists.

Awww look, he's smiling. The cuddly dropbear, so beloved of Japanese tourists.

An earlier post describes my discomfort with a racing/road bike posture, and the feeling that my face would be ploughing into the tarmac at the slightest rider error. So I went with what I was comfortable with right now. Never let Perfect stand in the way of Progress. Less succinctly expressed as “I’ll do what I want, and you can stick your "Bike Culture" up your derailleur.”

I deliberately chose an e-bike model which requires me to pedal; so if I don’t pedal, the engine does nothing to help me, and the weight of the bike actually works against me. The last thing I wanted was to lazily putt around on a lightweight motorbike, but some people do want or need that and I throw no shade at them for their decision, because y’know, perhaps people are themselves the best judge of what suits their particular circumstances without complete strangers weighing in with their ill-informed opinion and being all Judgey Judgerson about it.

Actually, not one single person has, to my face, given me shit about not riding a proper bike, or about “cheating” or anything of that nature. I like to think that’s because I ride with some really cool, all-embracing “everyone starts somewhere” kind of people. Certainly there’s always been someone who has mused over my bike, wondering out loud if their partner might like one and subsequently be persuaded to come out cycling and join the cult.

I utterly LOVE that. My bike is a “gateway” bike and I love it.

I’ve noticed I often feel I need to explain, that for me, the need to get started NOW far outweighed the need to get started in a year or so when I was fit, when I had graduated to a proper road bike, when I moved closer to work, in other words when all the planets had aligned and everything about my ride was under control and was perfect.

As I enjoy myself more and more, I find I give zero fucks about any negative comments which may zing my way, and in fact I kind of look forward to them because I am SO ready to defend my choices.

I have rainproof detachable Ortleib panniers which hold my handbag du jour and my work clothes - I usually only need one pannier on a work commute, but there’s a second one for when we go on bike picnics or I decide to get the groceries on my bike – I also have a Reisenthel detachable basket I use instead of the panniers for just popping out for a bottle of wine or loaf of bread or whatever.

Ortleib pannier

Ortleib pannier

Reisenthel detachable &amp; foldable basket

Reisenthel detachable & foldable basket

And finally, I have a parcel from Wiggle en-route, with a selection of tasteful cycling jerseys and bib-shorts designed especially for the laydeeez.

Wiggle.com, let's not do that stupid copyright thing again, eh ?

Wiggle.com, let's not do that stupid copyright thing again, eh ?


*I’m changing my bike’s name from Buttercup to Emmeline, as homage to the suffragettes. Now all I have to do is remember that’s what I’ve done.

The Accidental Hobbit

Well, another 5am start thanks to a nervous sleep. Again the human shield rode with me to Gordon where I introduced myself to the group. A couple of faces were familiar but mostly they were new to me.

Much less of being handled like a precious parcel today; don't get me wrong, they were still giving directions and calling out warnings, and I still felt safer and happier than I'd have been on my own; but it was far more like riding as an equal, albeit one who didn't yet know the way.

I hung on until the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and was dropped just as we entered the CBD; no big deal, I was more than happy to take my time behind some cycling tourists who were excited about the view, and I realised I should be too, rather than keeping up with a group for whom this was an every day event. I found I was smiling as I rode along. Take the time to appreciate the achievement and the sunshine on the harbour.

The return ? Again was at the meeting point in plenty of time and introduced myself to more new (to me) faces, and said G'day to other familiar faces. A few people had questions about my bike, marvelling at the weight, and joking about using it to tow the slower riders up hills.

Although I often feel I need to explain myself for riding with an electric assist amongst them putting in the hard yards, no-one has ever been scornful. Every ride I go out on, someone looks at my bike and sees it as a solution for a less experienced or confident rider they know, there's always something like "Hmm, I'll tell my wife about this, she hates the hills" or something similar. I love the thought that someone else might get a kick out of an e-bike.

  In Chatswood, at the juncture at which the group splits off into the Hobbit run through the national parks, and the regular journey home, I half took a punt on the park, half misheard the directions, and yep, attached myself to the Hobbits.

My journey home. Why wouldn't you ?

My journey home. Why wouldn't you ?

The first major descent freaked me out for a second or two but once I decided I was committed (and gravity was kinda making that decision for me)  I just had to embrace it. And I loved it. Yay !!

Climbing out again on the other side of the park was the biggest effort I've had to make to date, standing climbs and really throwing my full weight into propelling the bike ever upward, but I kept up with the guys and though I arrived at various points after them, puffing audibly, it felt amazingly satisfying to have made it, and to discover that I could make it.

A clearly audible puffin

A clearly audible puffin

After that, the remainder of the journey home through quiet suburban roads was still constantly uphill, but nothing after the Hobbit run.

A triumphal turn into the driveway and ... no-one was home, except the cat who was majorly pissed at having been locked outside. Ticker-tape parade another time eh ?

 

 

 

Systems Are Go !

Just checked over my bike for my second ever commute to work tomorrow morning ! 

Weather has been torrential the past few days (cheers to the deluge that came through our roof, through a light fitting (!!)  and all over my study. I am writing this amongst stacks of drying books and artwork ) so I thought I'd miss starting to commute out this week but the forecast is for clear days all this week - and if you wait for everything to be perfect in life, you'll wait a long time.

I'm meeting the rest of the BUG at Gordon, which is 6 or 7 km away via the utterly hated Pacific Highway. There is a cunning back route, which i haven't tried as yet and my memory won't retain the directions until I've ridden it a few times. It'd be ok if i wasn't on a schedule to meet them for a prompt 6.45 depart. So direct route it is.

New lights are charged and can be seen from outer space; tyres are pumped, rider is pumped. Rider's fiancé is again joining me until the meeting point, and then he'll peel off and do a 3 or 4 hours up and down some mountains.

Right on

Right on

Nerves are waaaaaaay in control; nothing like last time's jitters and fears.

Just need to pack an outfit for work, and toddle off to bed for an early night.

D-Day

Yesterday, 14 October 2015, 6am start – although I woke an hour earlier than needed, and was up and about having a cuppa and feeding the wild parrots when Sprocketman woke.

Still a bit chilly in Spring, I was wearing arm warmers and a warm protective jacket. I wore proper riding knicks with padding in the seat and a vintage Mapei shirt from their halcyon pre-drug test (hahahahah) days.   In other words, I went the full lycra.

I did indeed ride Buttercup (my electric assist bike) named after I heard Sprocketman referring fondly to his race bike as “Bluebell”.  Bit of family ribbing : )

I had one pannier with some essentials, wallet and so forth and of course all my toiletries and some clothes were already stashed at work from my old gym days. We’ve got great storage & shower facilities in our office and as a result four of the seven of us ride in.

Sprocketman rode with me along the Pacific Highway to act as my human shield and get me safely to the assembly point, and then he stayed with us for the fun of the ride.

The group I rode with are here http://www.sydney-easy-riders.com.au/    very very funny and lovely accepting people.

I helped myself to a free bacon & egg roll at the 6.45 Grand Depart from Gordon, because it was National Ride to Work Day the local council had a fry up, giveaways, coffee & gelato. Along the way so did Willoughby council and there was another at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and these guys stopped at each breakfast and refuelled heartily.

I’m guessing there were 25 or 30 riders mustered there, with several newbies like me tacked on.

With a lead rider, and a lanterne rouge * to make sure no-one gets dropped, the communication was fantastic, for directions, upcoming obstacles, traffic warnings (on your left BUUUUUUUUUUUS !!) . Every now and then at designated points we stopped briefly to tighten up the bunch.

So it was a lot of fun riding in, and very scenic as they choose routes with as few cars as possible. I noticed I was so keen not to be dropped that I missed a few stop signs – I need to not rely on herd mentality/safety.

Riding over the Sydney Harbour Bridge was of course a magnificent moment, and one of the group came the extra step with me to Martin Place, to make sure I arrived safely, and when I got to my desk he’d checked in on my Strava to see that I was at work. Thoughtful eh?

All day I was utterly chuffed at having made it all the way without incident, there was one fall and it wasn’t me.

Around 4pm I started to get jittery again about missing the departure of the afternoon group; so I may have got back into my cycling kit around 4pm, and sat at my desk working until it was time to leave, ahem.

Riding back – another story!   Much bigger and tighter group, and loads more traffic, so we left Observatory Hill sharp at 5.15.

I had a designated rider to talk me through directions and what not, this guy was a bit more serious but I couldn’t fault the way he took the responsibility of keeping me a) alive and b) from being a menace to others on the road.  He told me which riders to chase down, and they all made me muscle to the front each time we stopped at lights. They were all very kind, but a lot less joking went on because of the hills, which were pretty much all the way back.

At the point the groups separate, with “the Hobbits” going the rest of the way via the National Park, I stuck with a different guide for the North Shore Leg known as “the Back Door”. These guys were more relaxed, by then we were in the backstreets more scenic and loads more direction changes, but hardly any cars. Plus because the hills were bigger than the inward journey, and I was keeping up no problem, they seemed pleased with my progress, like a somewhat unpromising child winning a spelling bee. My bike got a bit of attention and I think more than a couple of riders were going home to tell their spouses about a way they could join in and keep up.

Buses are scary, they just don’t seem to see you and lane change anyway, and the loooong bendy buses are not fun. So these guys became chattier, one of them is often on a tandem with his wife, and they keep up with the group.

Sprocketman met me again at Gordon station and we rode back together along the Pacific Highway again – next time I know to stay with the ER group and go the backstreets home instead – or next time I might go with the Hobbit sub-group who turn off and take Lane Cove National Park, which would see me basically pop up in my own backyard.

But they all said they hoped to see me again, so I can’t have been too bad a newbie. They all kept saying everyone has to start somewhere, and told me encouraging stories of new riders who broke their arms on their first days with the group.

I’ll apply for membership and see if I get accepted, otherwise they have their route maps on the website, and I’d be sort of confident with those - just SO many twists & turns to remember.

I have maybe two muscle groups making their presence known today – but mildly so. And I feel really good, like I have conquered a fear or a longterm goal – which in fact I have.

I’d like to do it again, but the early starts are horrendous – but you gotta do it to avoid the cars sadly;  North Sydney was a bit of a sensory overload in that way.

I haven’t done it because I’ve been SO scared of traffic, but this group really fixed that : )

Looking forward to the next time.

*The Lanterne Rouge – literally the Red Lamp - is the competitor in last place in a cycling race such as the Tour de France.  In some races the Lanterne Rouge is an official rider, and if he overtakes you, you must drop out of the race. Booo ! The phrase refers to the red lantern hung on the rear carriage of a train, which ye olde-timey conductors would look for in order to make sure none of the couplings had become disconnected. You may think it a bit pretentious to call a non-racing rider this; similar to calling your morning commute group a ‘peloton’, but I like it as a title and Ima gonna keep using it.

A Brand New Blog

I'm about to push myself to achieve a long held goal; to use my bike for more than just pootling along to the shops; and start commuting the ~30 kilometres (18+ miles) each way to work.

I nearly started in 2014 on the annual Ride to Work Day - it utterly bucketed down overnight and that morning I strategically reassessed my options/chickened out.

Brand new rider + busy Sydney highway + rain = disaster in the making. I was massively disappointed and hugely relieved at the same time.

Riding on busy main roads with my other half is for me at least a fairly traumatic event, so last week when I read about a local Bicycle User Group (BUG) who were offering to guide new riders into the city on Ride to Work Day 2015, I jumped on that idea as my solution.

With 2 or 3 days to go, I have checked my bike, checked the route maps, checked my helmet, checked my bike, checked the route maps somewhat more obsessively and checked the time as I lie awake every night beforehand from sheer nervousness.

My big fear is crashing and dying, being crashed into and dying, touching the wheels of a fellow cyclist and bringing them and an entire passing peloton down, probably into the path of a large truck. And them all dying, or worse, shouting at me.

I don't have a drivers licence, so perhaps I have a skewed view of Sydney roads, but on the other hand perhaps I don't because everything I read proclaims Sydney roads and motorists to be the least cycle-friendly in the world.

Awesome ! Let's do this !

So I plan to write about my personal journey to become a cycling commuter, along with some other related topics which I think are interesting enough to share. If anything I write helps just one other person gain the confidence to try it too, well then that's a lot of effort for not much result isn't it ?

Nah ! j/k !