WATCH: Street Velo rolls into Worthing

Every now and then a plan comes together and I find myself doing something for work that means I can spend time hanging around bicycles.

One of those times came along a couple of weeks ago when StreetVelodrome rolled into Worthing for the weekend.

So here’s the product of a well-spent couple of hours in the sunshine (and a couple of hours in the office).

I’ve definitely had worse working days… 🚲



What do you wear when you’ve got nothing to wear?

I find it bit tricky… cycle specific clothing that is.

Everybody’s got an opinion and it’s helpful and at the same time it can be really unhelpful. Mainly because when I ask people what things I need they sometimes say random words (which I think refer to items of clothing but I can’t be 100% sure).

I have a limited number of cycling garments:

  • Three-quarter length bib tights
  • Short sleeved merino base layer
  • Long sleeved thick-ish zip up top thing (I don’t even know the name of this item but I don’t think you call it a jersey)
  • A (donated) gilet that’s too big for me
  • Winter waterproof jacket
  • Caps (not hats) x 4
  • Helmet.

We’ve had some quite nice weather recently haven’t we. So when the sun comes out and it’s quite warm but not that warm what do I put on?

Bib tights? Well I only have one pair so it’s a yes on that front.

Base layer? I guess. Do people always wear a base layer? It’s sunny but not boiling so I’m thinking it’s a yes to this too.

But what goes on top?

I think the long sleeved top will be too warm. The rain jacket is definitely out.

I need a jersey but I don’t have a jersey. I have a non-cycle specific running top which might do but it (obviously) doesn’t have pockets at the back so how am I going to carry things?

Aha! It’s ok, I have a saddle bag someone gave me once ages ago. It can’t be that hard to attach…

At this point I have to admit I did actually ride my bike with the saddle bag attached like this. I just wasn’t convinced it was on correctly (wonder why that was) so I had to use that black tape. AND this was after a good search of YouTube, I still couldn’t work it out! How embarrassing.

Thankfully I’ve since received some helpful advice and a demonstration of how the saddle bag attaches so we’re all good.

Anyway, back to the clothing issue. I think we’ve established I need a jersey so that’s the next thing on my cycling to do list.

In the meantime I’ll need to work out the answers to questions such as:

How tight is too tight?

Is it a cycling crime to wear flamboyant arm warmers even though I’m a learner?

Just how important is it to colour-match socks?

Answers on a postcard please.

Can we fix it?

Yes we can, thanks to the excellent basic cycle maintenance course run by Brighton and Hove City Council.

With my mileage on the bike creeping up in recent weeks I figured it might be sensible to actually learn, at the very least, how to replace an inner tube and fix a puncture.

It’s one thing cycling around the city with its plethora of bike shops (I mean, it would be a bit awkward walking to one of them in my cycling shoes, though probably just about doable) but if I was alone in the middle of the Sussex countryside and I got a puncture I’d be stuffed.

Plus it’s just plain embarrassing having to admit (in the bike shop or to any other cyclist) I haven’t the first clue about the most basic of cycle maintenance.

A quick bit of research lead me to the city council’s website where Brighton and Hove residents aged 14 and over can sign up for free courses (they also do training for anyone new to cycling or wanting to brush up on their skills).

The maintenance classes take place most evenings at either the Maclaren Room on The Level or Changing Gears in Lewes Road. I opted for the former knowing I could just roll down the hill after work and be there in good time.

I felt a tiny bit nervous. You never quite know what to expect with this sort of thing do you… and with my fairly decent bike and clip-in pedals I often wonder if I’m doing quite a good impression of someone who vaguely knows what they’re doing at cycling (but please don’t look too closely).

Well. There was nothing to be nervous about. I arrived and was greeted by trainers Katie and Terry who both instantly put me at ease. There were four of us booked on, two men and two women, all with different types of bikes. Katie and Terry explained what we’d learn over the next two hours: the names for all the bits of your bike (you’d always wondered but were too embarrassed to ask), pre-ride checks, cleaning, removing your wheels (and reinstalling them obvs), removing and replacing your inner tube, and repairing a puncture.

Because there were only four of us at the session (I’m not sure what the maximum group size is) it was easy to ask questions (some of this stuff really isn’t obvious to people who’ve never come across it before) and I could get close in on the action.

When something was being demonstrated by Katie we were all able to take a turn in trying it out – and that made such a difference in terms of the knowledge and skill I was able to take away from the evening. It’s all well and good being shown but for me the information never really goes in unless I actually do it.

And while all that was happening Terry was checking over our bikes for any issues that could be sorted there and then, with some advice on what to do next if not.

The outcome of all this was that I came away believing my next job could be in bicycle repair. ALL I’d need would be a toolbox full of THINGS and I’d be set!

Ok perhaps not… but I did go out the next day and get bike cleaning stuff and lube.

And after much confusion about how the numbers and letters on my tyres correspond to the numbers and letters on inner tube packaging (and with some help from my friendly local bike shop) I eventually got the correct size. I’ve even practiced removing and replacing one of my inner tubes (I was in the pub at the time but it all counts).

So, I’m 100% better prepared than I was two weeks ago and all for the princely sum of £0. If you’re inspired by the spring weather but feel you need some tips on making sure your bike is roadworthy, this course is well worth the two hours.

Can we fix it? Yes we can!

Back on the bike

There’s something so brilliantly liberating about cycling. After a brief interlude (of four years) I’ve recently rediscovered my lovely bicycle. Well I say rediscovered – I always knew where it was (in the shed, don’t judge me) but I lost my mojo for a bit there. Anyway that story is for when I write my memoir – the important thing is I’m back on the bike.

Having been cycling quite a bit this past few weeks, just short journeys really, I’ve been reminded of *that* feeling. You know the one? The feeling of having the freedom to go anywhere I want to go, the only limitation being how far my legs will take me (and that, I’m learning, is further than I think). The feeling when I pass that queue of traffic on my way to work. The feeling I got when I turned out of the bottom of West Street and saw the West Pier at sunset.

sunset west pier

The way it feels not having to find a parking space in town… and not having to pay for that parking I never needed to look for. And knowing every time I turn the pedals I’m getting that bit fitter.

It’s only been a few weeks back on two wheels but I’m starting to feel the difference in body and mind already. I’ve even managed to persuade myself to ride to work for a 6am start and home after a 10pm finish when it would be so easy to jump in the car (it’s not even that far for goodness sake, it only takes 20 minutes)…

There’s just one small thing. Now I’m back riding, I want to be BRILLIANT at it immediately NOW. I have the patience of a gnat where giving myself time to learn new things is concerned. There’s no time for being okay at something. But as one of my teachers once said (about 109 years ago): “She’s a perfectionist and that isn’t a good thing”. Apparently there’s a perfectly respectable half way place between being rubbish at something and being brilliant at it. Who knew?!

I was re-reading one of my old blogs from four years ago and remembering that stamping foot episode I had when I couldn’t get up (or down) a hill. Well… I’d like to think age and experience are teaching me something and that I’m not quite the same person I was then. But one thing I certainly have learnt during my self-imposed abstention from cycling is that if you want something in this life you really have to do it YOURSELF.

So my new motto: JFDI (but patiently?!)

The only way I’m going to get better at cycling is by cycling. Bring it on.

A Saturday cycle and a history lesson

I was down in Hampshire this weekend for a radio shift. An early start meant I stayed over the night before, and with temperatures in that part of the world reaching a positively tropical 10 degrees, it was a perfect opportunity to explore the local countryside on two wheels.

We’ll call it a gentle (ish) leg turner around Bishops Waltham – not quite 30km – which ended with a refreshing beer at The Crown Inn.

And as I was supping my drink I discovered this particular public house is steeped in history.

In 1805, after the battle of Trafalgar, a French admiral named Villeneuve was captured. The British sent Villeneuve to England but released him on parole and during that time they only went and put him up at the one and the same Crown Inn! His men, who numbered 200, stayed in local houses. I can only imagine what it must have been like when they all met up for a swift half on a Saturday night…

Let’s go for a ride

#30daysofbiking – day 2.

Kilometres cycled: 13
Laps of Preston Park velodrome: forgot to count – about 10
Tantrums: 0

On that last point… I’m beginning to feel a whole lot more comfortable in the saddle, which is aces… although *technically* I suppose you could say I’m avoiding steep downhills!

It’s also a bit tricky reaching the brakes with thick gloves on. Is that a thing? Maybe I can adjust them. I should check that.

I love my bike.

And this is my tune of the day:

Hills are difficult aren’t they

new bike

Much excitement at my house this weekend after this little beauty arrived.

I’d been waiting since December when my old hybrid was stolen from outside a train station in Brighton. Fortunately my insurance covered part of the cost. I put in a bit extra and then had to wait while it was built to order (“We always do the men’s ones first madam”. Er, okay… how does that work then?!).

Anyway, after some expert help with attaching the pedals, adjusting the saddle, changing my cleats to those ones like what Wiggo’s got, and other such technical things, I was good to go.

The planned route was up past Withdean Stadium (I’ve only done this once before and I struggled, but how hard could it be? I’ve got a snazzy new bike!), down Woodland Drive, and along to Hove Park.

Here’s the thing. If I’m honest it *could* have gone better. If I’m really really honest, it was quite possibly the worst ride I’ve ever done. In fact, even calling it a “ride” is stretching the definition of the word “ride”.

Strangely, the uphill, while difficult, was ok. I mean, I had to stop three times to get my breath back but I made it.

It was the downhill bit that threw me. Not literally but almost.

I’d forgotten how steep the top of Woodland Drive is. There I was, leaning over the drop handlebars (is it drop or dropped?), with my feet attached to pedals that I’m not entirely convinced I can get out of, wobbling because I’m going so slowly, feeling like I’m just about to throw myself off a cliff edge.

Cue panic.

Followed by a tantrum of epic proportions. And I mean EPIC proportions.

“I can’t ride this stupid bike. WHY did I let myself get talked into this? I’m not cut out for cycling. I’m going to sell this stupid machine.” Add in some swear words and you can picture the scene.

I can’t imagine what people queuing down Dyke Road Avenue thought when they saw a girl in cycling gear, standing next to her bike, shouting down her phone. Well, I can actually. All the gear…?

Now, I know some brilliant people. And the one that bore the brunt of this spectacular episode is one of the loveliest and most patient people I know, which is handy as if I’d been on the end of me ranting I’d have put the phone down.

15 minutes later I was in the car, bicycle in the boot, being delivered home, ride abandoned.

I’m not certain, but I *think* next time I’ll take the flat route…

Parkrun, PBs and pram people


Here I am looking a bit knackered at Saturday’s Brighton & Hove parkrun, in a photo taken by billhems (I’m the one on the left in the red top).

I’m unsure how far through the run I was at the time – I’m a bit disorientated and can’t quite place my location in the park. However, what I do know is I always seem to look (and feel) this knackered after the first few metres while others barely seem to break into a sweat after 20 minutes at what looks like full pelt.

Anyway, no matter!

I made it round… and in a personal best time of 32.23. That’s 32 seconds quicker than the week before and a whole 44 seconds quicker than my first parkrun.

So, the time’s going in the right direction.

Next thing I’ve got to do is stop getting lapped by the people with prams…!

I am the winner!

Well not quite:

20130127-082733.jpg …but I didn’t come last!

There were *at least* 40 people behind me.

My goals were:

1. Run all the way
2. Finish
3. Don’t come last

Mission accomplished.

The next goal, although I know it’ll take time, is to run a sub 30 5km.

Bring it on.

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