Welcome from the 5mile Cyclist

Welcome from The 5mile Cyclist.  Hopefully you will enjoy reading the trials and tribulations of a continuing battle with cadence and calories whether it’s a pootle with friends or some serious Audax training.

Please feel free to follow my blog too. It would be great to hear from you.

Top Tips for Buying your First Bike

It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you have as long as:

  • You have suitable storage for its value. Bike theft is rife.  A runaround bike can be left outside, locked up to something for half a day but a more expensive bike should live inside, locked to something.  If the lock isn’t very strong, make sure the bikes are in your line of sight.

 

Locked but still in view

 

  • It’s in good working order. Many companies offer basic bike maintenance courses but the four things you want to know every day are:
  1. the correct amount of air is in the tyres
  2. both brakes work
  3. the chain isn’t rusty or jammed
  4. the handlbars move in the same direction as the front wheel

Bike Fit

  • It’s the right size for you. Some brands fit you better than others depending on their frame size and shape.
  • It doesn’t weigh a ton.  The heavier it is the less likely you are to ride it up hill.  The lighter the bike, the more miles you’ll ride.

Gears are best

  • Have more than one gear.  Single speed may look light but you have to be really fit to travel distances or to keep up with traffic and it puts unnecessary stress on your knees.
  • Use a local, reputable bike shop that has been recommended to you.
  • Sign up for Road Intelligence courses in your area (currently still called cycle training). It’s not about being able to ride a bike, it’s about road positioning, route planning and appropriate communication with other road users. It’s free in most London boroughs.

 

 

 

Ready to Go Go Go

Empower yourself with Kit and Knowledge to Keep you Moving

Be Prepared
The absolute basic kit to keep with you consists of:

  • Water (a bottle cage and bottle on the bike)
  • Flapjack/dried fruit and nuts/snack
  • Pump (my favourite is the Lezyne micro floor drive hpg)
  • 2 Spare inner tubes
  • Tyre levers (plastic not metal which damages the rims)
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Set of allen keys
  • Lock (or two)
  • Disposable gloves
  • A rag (to run around the inside of the tyre to find the cause)
  • A darning needle to remove flint, glass etc from tyre
  • Spare batteries
  • Extra layer (ie a rainproof or windproof jacket)
  • A smart phone to access You tube to see how the rear wheel comes on and off a Brommie!

Lights are required by law.  A water bottle and holder is crucial to your health – dehydration is not good for you.  It is amazing how much water is used by the body when cycling, even moreso on cold days than warmer ones.  Make sure you have water (replaced every day) and that you drink it whilst out on your bike.

I also have Lypsil, a nail file and a lipstick

Lights and Reflectors (red at the back of the bike, white at the front)

2 Design Museum

These are paramount and there are a myriad of options available.  It is not just about seeing where you are going but about being seen by others.  In a town under street lighting there is probably less of a requirement to have laser-burning lights but you do need to be able to see potholes, rubbish, pieces of glass and all the other things that could give you a puncture or bumps and drains which often have loose covers.

A dynamo light takes power from your wheel rather than batteries, but this is expensive as you need a special wheel to be built.  A top of the range option worthy of consideration though.

rear Light

Battery operated lights require batteries that work.  I keep a spare set of batteries on my bike at all times. I also have two sets of front lights and rear lights on my bike so that I dont end up without lights.  This may be excessive but I’d rather have too many than not enough.

Unfortunately all lights need to be easily removable because if you are leaving your bicycle outside they will potentially be removed.

Cateye are popular, Exposure are top of the range, LED lights from Moon are very bright although they need recharging.

Placing your lights is worth consideration – for example on the seat post is only ok if you never wear long jackets.  By law they should be on the bike, not you or your rucksack. Staying visible is crucial and that is not always about lights and hi Viz.

Cycling on the Road

The best way of knowing that other road users have seen you is by making eye contact.  If the driver looks back at you and not their mobile phone you know they have seen you.

The Power of Eye Contact

Road Intelligence courses – currently called cycle training is the most empowering thing you can do to stay visible on the road as a cyclist.  Using eye contact and appropriate road positioning along with competent and relevant bike handling skills make a real difference to how you use the roads.

Computer
If you like to know your mileage, calories, cadence (pedal spins per minute), heart beat or where you’ve been and where your going there is a computer for it.  A basic Cateye provides the first three above although when cycling longer distances, route planning becomes crucial.  I now have a Garmin and am considering a wrist watch to measure my heartbeat.
Garmin GPS
Garmin are one of the top bike computers for routes and stats.  They have GPS and are sophisticated computers that can practically put the kettle on!   There are also many Apps on smart phones that offer useful cycling stats but they also drain the power to your phone.  Being contactable is probably more important.

Mudguards
The one at the front protects the chain from mud and debris on the road.     The one at the back protects your back from mud and debris on the road.  However, if they are not fitted correctly they can cause punctures by rubbing on the tyres and if they come off on a group ride they are extremely hazardous to the people behind you.

Locks 
These vary in price and security but if a bike thief wants to steal your bike, eventually he/she will.  Adding protective barriers like two locks, keeping it inside, keeping an eye on it if it’s on the street will all help.  Your insurance company probably have a minimum recommendation to use.
The police operate a Bike Register which they use as a reference when recovering stolen bikes.

A Track Pump
This means that you can make sure the pressure in your tyres is exactly what it should be (embossed on the tyres)

Track Pump

Bike maintenance courses are free in most London boroughs and are also offered by bike shops, well worth doing.

Awesome Cycling Chic – is it Possible?

Knowing what to wear has been a battle all my life.  Hiding 13 stone (82 kilos) was always a nightmare and often very traumatic.  The very best tip I was ever given was to wear what I felt like wearing which changed my whole approach forever.  This allowed me to consider dressing for the occasion but also focussing on how I feel in said outfit.  It was and continues to be a life changer.

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Since taking up cycling, the additional factor for wardrobe consideration is the weather.  Once I know whether the forecast the next decision is always about my feet. Having chosen the footwear the outerwear is next.

Waterproof jackets and overtrousers will keep you dry.  All things Gore and Castelli work best for me, excellent technical fabric, great fit and long lasting.  I never leave home with Gore overtrousers and Castelli jacket.  Both have rescued me in sudden changes in the weather, not just the rain but also the cold.

Waterproof socks not so much – although the Sealskinz works well over another pair of woollen socks.  The most waterproof gloves I have found are Giro leather gloves.  Amazing.

IMG_3988

 

Then the focus is on the destination which need to go with my shoe choice. At a push I might take another pair with me but that is cumbersome and not always practical.

My base layer will always be a (fitted) sports bra and seamless knickers.   Next layer is always padded shorts.  Never underestimate the comfort of Lycra. It stretches and moves with you. It also doesn’t reveal your butt!  Merino wool tops are excellent base layers as absorbing sweat is crucial.   The layer over that is purely what I feel like wearing.  The only cycling consideration is to ensure that coats, skirts and dresses are not too long to be caught up in the pedals, wheel or chain.  Laces are tucked into themselves for the same reason.  I avoid scarves as they always move!

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For longer rides the development in fabric technology makes a real difference to the enjoyment of the bike ride.  Maintaining the right temperature, wearing clothes that accommodate movement without rubbing is crucial.  Cotton, Linen and silk are extremely impractical for cycling.  Cotton, unlike wool, absorbs the sweat but keeps it sitting on your skin which will make you cold and smelly.  Linen and silk have the some problem but worse they crease.  You may look marvellous on the bike but as soon as you dismount you will be a smelly, creased mess!

More and more manufacturers are at last realising that women like cycling and are beginning to develop their own women specific range.  Although too many of them are pink, several are keeping ahead of the rest by offering ranges that don’t make you look androgynous or be only available in pink! Velorution, Velovixen and Queen of the Mountains  are worth keeping an eye on. Definitely, top of the range and top choice Castelli and Gore are my recommendations for long distance riding. All weathers.

Walking the bicycle

It always amazes me how much criticism and judgements are voiced to describe people riding bicycles.  If the cyclists were people without bicycles just walking along the pavement to their destination no one would bat an eyelid but if you are on a bicycle everybody else becomes the equivalent of Gok Kwan!

Top Tips for Short Trips:

  • What do you feel like wearing
  • Weather forecast
  • Shoes
  • Jacket/Coat/Outerwear
  • Dress for the Destination
  • Base Layers

Top Tips for Longer Trips:

  • What do you feel like wearing
  • Weather forecast
  • Shoes
  • Jacket/Coat/Outerwear
  • Emergency back up (overtrousers and windstopper/waterproof top)
  • Dress for the Ride
  • Base Layers

What is your favourite wardrobe item?  It would be great to know.

 

 

About Me

16 years ago I was an overweight, exercise-phobic slob who no matter what I was actually doing, in the back of my mind I was always working out what I was going to eat for my next meal.

Snacking inbetween meals was fixed in my regime, I couldn’t eat one round of sandwiches unless there was another one with it followed by a couple of bars of chocolate.  Food was the main focus of my day.

Cake anyone
But it all changed one Saturday morning.  I was looking for a pair of trousers in my wardrobe to wear but I couldn’t find any that fitted. I couldn’t do them up.  I tried on every pair I owned  Eventually I found a size 18 pair of stretchy jeans and after a 20 minute struggle lying on the floor using a hanger in the zip to do them up I managed to put them on.  But this had been traumatic.  Whilst wrestling with the zip I wondered what had happened.

More importantly I started wondering what was going to happen? I then heard in my head the immortal words of an ex boyfriend who had said to me as he found me sobbing about my weight a few years earlier “there will come a time when no matter what you do, no matter how much you diet, your metabolism will change and you simply won’t lose the weight”. My mind was racing.  As I had outgrown a size 18 pair of jeans what happens next? Do I start buying size 20, then 22, then 24, 26 – when does it stop?  And at that moment I had a cold realisation that this stops right here, right now. And it did.

 photo-159

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Why a Blog ?

Since taking up cycling five years ago I have cycled to Scotland from Hyde Park Corner in eight days, I know longer own a car and have discovered the joy of advance rail fares.  All of which are achievements I never, ever thought would be mine.

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My introduction to cycling was by seriously long-distance cyclists who guided me around the cycle shops finding suitable attire on a bicycle even though I was only going to be cycling five miles or less.  Padded shorts were and are a priority, regardless of what’s going on over it which could be anything from Max Mara to Marks & Spencer and everything in-between.

Every day becomes an adventure, an exploration and an opportunity to discover what’s practically on your doorstep.  Life in London has been transformed by riding a bicycle as the Capital has reduced in size – no longer am I counting bus stops but I am counting calories burned.   Cycling from The Houses of Parliament to St Paul’s Cathedral in 15, fun filled, exhilarated minutes each and every time is so different.

St Pauls Cathedral

 

Focussing on food, what to wear and where to ride have been a fascinating  learning curve, that continues every day.

The 5mile Cyclist is a hidden pun on smile because every time I ride my bicycle I have an enormous grin on my face.

The aim of my blog is to share experiences, choices and discoveries, be they about cycling, eating or what to wear for the weather and the destination, every single day.  I hope you enjoy reading it.

Happy cycling and happy cooking!