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Seven types of London cyclist – which one are you?

17 Nov

This post is for everyone who cycles in London, because if I’ve learnt one thing doing so it’s that there are certain types of cyclist  – and you need to learn who owns the road.

Speed racer1) Speed Commuter (you know the type)

Bike: £3000 S5 Cervelo

Cycling attire: Clad head to toe in full sponsored club kit, invariably wearing sunglasses despite the grey skies, usually carrying a bottle of high five energy drink mounted on his expensive carbon frame. On the way up Box Hill – yes.  Trying to get through Vauxhall roundabout in one piece – no.

Cycling style: Shoots off before the lights have even turned yellow and sprints like Wiggo at the end of a Tour de France time trial. For all of two minutes, that is, before he’s stopped at the next traffic light.  (I say ‘he’ as it is rare to encounter a Speed Commuter of the female variety.)

Miranda Upright Ambler2) The Upright Ambler (opposite of the Speed Commuter)

Bike: £100 second hand Dutch bike from the Brick Lane Market.

Cycling attire: Generally female, sporting a wicker basket on the front of her upright bike containing handbag, papers, dog, flowers etc. Often clad in sensible shoes and helmet. Tends to look like she belongs in the Netherlands. Has a bell.

Cycling style: The Upright Ambler is in no rush and will sit patiently behind the bus or motorbike, blocking the way with her basket in case anyone wanted to squeeze through. I quite like the Upright Ambler, though. She brings an aura of calm amongst the frantic, noisy traffic. And I’m dead jealous of her basket.

Single Speeder3) Single Speeders

Bike: Specialized Langster – looks second hand but has had a decent chunk of cash thrown at it.

Cycling attire: Single Speeders are mostly found in the east. They don’t need to worry about wearing lycra to avoid their trousers getting shredded in the gears, because their jeans are all but skintight anyway. If they’re wearing a helmet – often they’re not – it’s a trendy rounded steel coloured one sitting atop of thick rimmed glasses. They’ll probably have a satchel on their bike, coloured socks and plimsoll shoes.

Cycling style: Tuned in. Single Speeders look pretty friendly, but you’re wasting your time trying to talk  to them – they’re oblivious beyond the Indi music in their headphones.

High vis4) Super High Vis

Bike: Specialized Allez – entry level road bike on sale at Evans. c £400.

Cycling attire: We’re talking ankle and wrist reflector bands, flashing lights everywhere, bright yellow gloves and full fluro clothing.  I massively back all efforts to make London safer for cyclists  but sometimes this level of hi vis could end up causing, rather than avoiding, a crash.

Cycling style: Cautious.

Boris Bikers5) Boris Bikers (I’m sorry, but these are the worst kind)

Bike: The beast that is a rented Barclays Bike. £2 an hour.

Cycling attire:  Boris Bikers are an occasional cyclist so they have no helmets, in appropriate clothing and oversized bags bulging out of the undersized basket.

Cycling style: Often European and on the right (wrong) side of the road. Probably lost so making abrupt movements to change direction or hovering hesitantly in your way. Total liability. Don’t get me wrong, I do think Boris Bikes are a fantastic initative.  I just think they should come with some kind of safe cycling info, like a radar fitted into the bike with a loudspeaker that blares whenever they’re on the wrong side of the road/pavement/precariously close to a bus/taxi/other cyclist. Actually, I think I have got Boris’s email somewhere…

Brompton rider6) Brompton Bike Riders

Bike: M3L Timeless Classic – because they really will use it forever. A pricy £1200.

Cycling attire: An odd mix of office or day wear, mixed with some cycling apparel as they aren’t quite immune to the lure of lycra and high vis. Their outfits say ‘Hey, isn’t it convenient that I can hop off my bike and simply fold it up before I pop into the office. I don’t need to bother with all the extra bike kit.’ (Oh, except for my fluro waterproof over the top of my shirt. And the cycle clips for my suit trousers so they don’t catch. And the special bag on the front of the bike where I put my laptop and my newspaper).

Cycling style: In training. Because did you know, there is actually a Brompton world championships held every year in Oxford (and my good friend Vicky Taylor held sixth place in the female rankings for quite some time – more from her later).

Parent Child bike7) Parent with Child

Bike: Solid ride with precarious child seat (and possibly trailor) attached. Halfords finest.

Cycling attire: Anything. I’m too nervous to notice. I’m sorry, but the sight of a small child gazing out of a safety seat on the back of Mum or Dad’s bike just makes me so anxious. I get horror images of the bike falling over, or a bus coming to close to outstretched toddler’s hand… ahh. I admire them for their green, fit way of commuting but I still think if it was me I’d have a carseat in jeep, avoiding rush hour where possible.

Cycling style:  Careful. They are carrying the world’s most precious cargo.

There are, of course, plenty of ‘normal’ types who cycle to work (like me and probably most of you). We wear an appropriate level of lycra without being overkill, want to get there on time but aren’t agressive at the lights, know our road rules, make ourselves seen without being a beacon and keep a careful distance from other vehicles. But unfortunately, we’re not enough of a spectacle to make this post.

So cyclists – who am I missing?


Five reasons why you should watch the Tour de France

7 Jul

Sprint finish Tour de France1. It’s incredibly exciting watching. Stick to the highlights between 7-8pm on ITV and you’ll see the best of that day. Unbelievable sprints to the finish line, incredible strength up steep mountains, stunning scenery and splashes of vibrant colour in the various team kit. Not to mention the nail biting carnage of the crashes and unplanned chaos such as the support bus getting firmly stuck under the finish line, with riders at 60k an hour just 3k from the end. You’ll be on the edge of your seat.

2. You learn about science. ITV do a brilliant job of explaining the how and why behind cycling. Why it matters to sit on the wheel of your team mate (the energy you save by riding in their slipstream is substantial), how close you need to be to make the most of this advantage (very), why the team sprinter who will win the stage is kept in the middle of the pack until the last minute (so he can conserve his energy). You realise how strategic and tactical the sport is – mental as much as physical.

3. Cyclists are hard bastards. Sure, Murray may play for three hours to win Wimbledon, but these guys are on the bike for five plus hours NON STOP. They eat, drink and pee on the bike, battling several thousand metres of ascent in the mountain stages and riding on the flat at an average of 50k an hour and downhill at up to 100k. That’s some serious speed. And they do this EVERY DAY for three weeks. It takes not just physical prowess, but pure mental determination and focus.

4. Mark Cavendish (speaking of physical prowess). Need I say more…

Mark Cavendish

(P.S. Ladies, if you do want more, check out the Bangable Dudes in Pro Cycling blog. The site consists of carefully selected photos of good looking professional cyclists (opinions are subjective). There’s something for everyone, including a heavily bearded CX cyclist and some mountain biking dude riding in just his gold speedos. Er….)

5. In the spirit of equality, I asked the men in my household what they thought. Their answer: crashes and sprints (as covered above) and the girls on the podium… an outdated, sexist tradition of having two beautiful women on either side of the podium as that day’s winner recieves his jersey and gifts… Really?!! Do they have men at the podium for the women’s Tour de France I wonder???

Dan Martin podium girls

If all the above is not enough, this year is the 100th Tour de France, so it’s the perfect time to get into it. It only happens once a year, so make the most of the next two weeks. And if you really enjoy it, you’ll have the Vuelta (the Spanish version), the Giro (the Italian version of the Tour de France) and the Classics (one day races) to watch as well.

You’ll also be able to appreciate why there is so much controversy around doping in cycling and whether it really is possible to achieve first place through sheer human athleticism, or whether you do need some additives.

Oh, and if you’re confused about the various colour jerseys and what they mean, there’s a brilliant explanation in this article from the Financial Times. Here’s an excerpt:

Then there are the jerseys: the semaphore of the Tour. The overall leader wears the famous Yellow Jersey (or Yellow Jumper, as I pitifully managed to refer to it on my first Tour). The Green Jersey is worn by the rider who manages to sweep up the most “points” on offer every day. You get a certain number at the finish line, and a certain number for an intermediate “sprint” en route. The Polka Dot jersey goes to the rider with the most points in the King of the Mountains competition – much like the Green Jersey but only available to collect on mountainous stages. The White Jersey is for the best young rider overall.

Any more ideas???

Calling all ladies

18 Jun

The more time I spend cycling round Richmond Park, the more I realise there is an abundance of M.A.M.I.L.s (that’s Middle Aged Men In Lycra, for those who don’t know) and not enough women on bikes. I’ve been cycling about a year and having discovered the greatness of the sport, would love to encourage more ladies to take it up. Not necessarily seriously – anything from commuting to work, getting a bike to pootle around town, giving the velodrome a go or trying some longer rides and races.

I’m not sure why the sport is so male dominated, because frankly, women look much better in lycra than men do. Plus it’s a great way of keeping fit, exploring the countryside, and a good excuse to eat cake and drink wine afterwards. And who could say no to that…

This blog aims to share cycling adventures, tips, practical advice and encourage women to give the sport a go so one day, we’ll see all-female pelotons giving the Mamils a run for their money. Guest posts are welcomed.