Itchen to get to the Park

Another Sunday, another Sky Ride: Itchen to get to the Park. This time, it was just me and Rachel. We braved the terrible weather and wound up doing half of the trip, opting to cycle back from the highlight, Itchen Valley Country Park, to our homes, instead of all the way back to the starting point. Personally, I would have preferred to continue, but it was pouring it down and Rachel didn’t have a jacket! That’s one downside to a mountain bike with no basket or panniers…

Here she is, during a dry spell! Everyone got the Sky Ride bibs again, which helped keep a bit of the rain off…

Itchentogettothepark

Anyway, getting a bit ahead of myself here – this was our route! We were five minutes late to the start yet again, this time because we just couldn’t find the area we were supposed to meet at. We cycled around the park and stumbled across by accident in the end – although some others arrived much later than we did!

As usual, there wasn’t any time to take photos during the ride itself, but I managed to take a few at Itchen Valley Country Park. Here, you can see how much it was raining on the day!

Brr!

We stopped at the cafe and filled up the bike racks…

Rachel and I somehow missed the fact that there was an offroad cycle at the park itself, because we were busy getting ourselves coffee at the time… Still, it gave me a chance to show off my new helmet! More on that in another post…

Neither of us had our locks with us, so we brought our bikes around the back of the cafe and left them in plain sight by the door…

Here’s our friendly cycle group, still sheltering from the rain at the front of the barn!

As usual, the leaders were very friendly and helpful, and made sure everyone was safe and working to a pace they were comfortable with.

As we missed the off-road ride, when the group cycled off, we spent some more time at Itchen Valley exploring. Unfortunately, it turns out that the usual cycle track used at the site had been ruined by some vehicles which had left huge ruts down the centre, so we had to make do with cycling in the fields.

It was quite hilly and bumpy, and the wet grass was pretty challenging to cycle on, but I did all right! Unfortunately, cyclists aren’t allowed on the nature trails at the park – which is fine by me, as I also love walking too.

However, I did think it a bit strange that cycling was considered to be too stressful for the wildlife in the area, but that it was okay to have a brand new Go Ape adventure park installed in the same place!

That’s fine too – because I also love Go Ape and it’s great that there’s one now so close to where I live. Mind you, it’s still expensive – £30 per person.

What would Go Ape be without the obligatory ape statue to pose around?

To the left of the centre of this picture, you can see the zip line for the finale of the Go Ape experience – puts the one that’s already there to shame…

After checking out the Go Ape course, we decided to head on home, but not before one final photo to show off my new helmet!

In my first wet weather cycle, I learned the following things:

  1. My trainers do not have a good grip on the pedals when they’re wet.
  2. It doesn’t take long for your saddle to get soaked.
  3. My waterproof jacket is not all that waterproof.
  4. Brakes make scary noises in the rain.
  5. Wearing a helmet makes you forget how wet you’re getting.
  6. And most importantly, cycling in the rain is still good fun!

Lady of the Night: Miss Cyclist 2011!

I love Bobbin Bicycles’ site – if I was an affluent girl about London-town, I’d pop in a pick up a Pashley Princess in black (or maybe a Pashley Sonnet Bliss Claret), a cycling mac and some leather gloves, and then cycle around Piccadilly Circus, dodging buses. Alas, I need something a bit cheaper and a bit more practical, when it comes to my bike, but I still love to browse. One of my favourite products is the Miss Bobbin Sash:

sash

Priced at a rather reasonable £20, this is a reflective sash that you can wear over your coat or clothes, and personally, I think it looks awesome! I wish I’d had something like this last year when I was jogging at night – it’s a useful item that really doesn’t need to be limited to cycling use.

sash2

It shows up quite well in the dark, and because it’s so prominent, you don’t need to be wearing light coloured or reflective clothing underneath to be seen. Also, I would imagine you could store it in your bike bag so you never get caught out on a dark night (or morning!).

lrsash2

I love the colour schemes of these as well – and check out those cute little buttons!

Find the Miss Bobbin Sash at www.bobbinbicycles.co.uk.

Beginner’s Quandry: What to Wear?

Okay, I admit to being shallow. I know there’s more to life than what you wear, but anything I do invariably revolves around clothes. I’m going to use an excuse here and say that working from home affords me no opportunities to dress nicely, so any time I actually venture out the door for any kind of occasion, bar a trip to the supermarket, I get excited.

But when it comes to riding a bike, especially if you have no experience of it, what the heck do you wear?

The cyclist's uniform

This is about all I knew about cycling clothes about a month ago. Tight-fitting lycra. But you know, there are a few simple rules that I learned simply by being on a bike for one afternoon.

1.) You don’t need special clothing to ride a bike.

2.) If you want to wear a skirt, wear one – just give a bit of thought to your underwear, maybe wear some shorts underneath, and think about whether your bike has a drop-bar or not.

3.) Capri trousers are great for cycling, because they keep you cool and there’s no chance of your cuffs being caught in the moving parts of the cycle.

4.) Jeans aren’t a great idea, unless they have a forgiving fit. They’ll probably want to shimmy down your bum, and restrict your leg movement, especially skinny ones. Also, they will make you sweat.

5.) What you wear on your top half is really down to you. A good idea is to look for a top with extended length, particularly down your back, as you’ll be leaning forward and a short top will ride up a little. Floppy long sleeves could get in your way.

6.) Layers are good, in case you get hot or cold, but think about what you’re going to do with any items you take off. If you tie a jumper around your middle you not only create a sweat swamp as the material makes you hot, but you run the risk of having the dragging parts fall into the chain or wheel. If your bike doesn’t have a basket or panniers, you could take a bag – but again, you could end up with a sweat patch on your back if you’re carrying a backpack in the heat.

7.) A light, waterproof jacket may well save the day if it starts to drizzle. I am no expert on this, because I’ve been wearing one for years that my mother-in-law rescued from the lost and found at her secondary school. But it doesn’t have to be a special cycling jacket – just think about length all the time. Is it long enough to protect my back if I’ll be leaning foward? Is it so long I’ll run the risk of it being caught somewhere?

8.) Footwear – a real quandry here. I know some ladies that bike in heels and look awesome doing it. In fact, heels are great because they naturally allow your feet to slot onto the pedals and make it harder to slip off, plus they give you a platform to stand on when you stop in traffic. However, if you’re a beginner, it might be an extra difficulty you don’t need right off the bat! Ballerina shoes and similar flats are totally fine, but if they have floppy soles you may find it harder to pedal, and if they have a loose fit, they may slip off. For my first ride, I wore a pair of trainers, which worked out very well as they have a hardish sole to make pedalling easier, and they have a built-in grip on the treads that works well with the bumpy grip of the pedals.

Needless to say, unlike some other sports, you don’t need a special sports bra to cycle, unless you’re going to be pedalling in a very vigorous manner!

That’s me in the middle – and this is what I wore for my first ride. Trainers, long shorts and a long top with adjustable sleeves. Simple, not very exciting, but certainly not lycra! I rode a hired bike for this trip, and hilariously I was completely colour co-ordinated – my trainers were blue and white, my shorts were blue, my top was blue and white, and the bike was blue and white. Have to make an effort, after all!