29 · non-binary (they/them) · neurodiverse · spoonie · queer femme · NSO & trainee zebra · polyamorous · burned-out activist · geek.

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tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Over the last year, I've come to think of myself properly as A Cyclist, and whilst it always used to grind my gears (pun not entirely intended) when the old "cyclists don't pay tax or insurance!" line was thrust in my face, it has come to annoy me even more as I hear it more and more often, whether yelled at me by motorists who are angry with me for obeying the Highway Code or read in the latest cycling news.

There are a few problems with this.
  1. Road tax doesn't exist; it hasn't for a long time (in that name), and looking back to when something by that name was introduced, Winston Churchill objected to it on the basis that it would make motorists feel that they had more right to use the roads than people who didn't (have to) pay it. And he was right.
  2. The thing that most people claim is "road tax" is actually Vehicle Excise Duty, and it is based on the emissions produced by a vehicle. Zero-emission vehicles, such as electric cars, don't pay any VED. Therefore, I do in fact pay the appropriate amount of "tax" for my vehicle.
    Side note: neither do emergency services vehicles, or, more frustratingly, really old vehicles that aren't environmentally friendly.
  3. Cyclists who also own a vehicle that is not exempt from emissions duty do pay VED. I am not one of them, but there are many people to whom that does apply.
  4. Road repairs are currently paid for through local council tax. I don't pay that, because I am a full-time student. But if anyone wants to seriously suggest that full-time students should be banned from cycling, let me know so I can get my popcorn.

And on the insurance thing — I am a member of British Cycling at the Ride level. Note the very first 'perk' of membership listed on that page:
"Liability insurance cover of up to £10m for incidents where you are wholly or partly at fault."

Incidentally, in order to be a racing cyclist in the UK, most organisations insist that riders hold a racing licence, for which you have to be a member of British Cycling — and all membership levels from Ride and above include insurance. (The level below Ride is for "cycling fans" who want to support the work that BC does, but don't need the benefits of insurance, etc.)

CTC membership also offers a similar deal, albeit without the option for race licensing, and there's a good number of other insurance companies that do just-insurance without the campaigning side of things. Ergo, many cyclists already have insurance.

"But not all cyclists are members of these organisations!" I hear you cry — and yes, that's true — but enough are that enforcing an annual fee similar to VED in order to ride a bike, ostensibly to insure oneself, would be simply unfair to those who have taken out insurance from other places, whether as part of their memberships or independently — especially as the latest figure I've seen quoted as part of this suggestion is actually 50% more than what I pay for my BC membership.

And yes, organisations like BC and CTC could restructure their memberships to not include insurance, but that doesn't take away the fact that the £50 figure suggested by the founder of the Motorists Association this week costs more than a CTC or BC membership (which come with other benefits as well as just insurance). Either he's not doing his research into what's already available for cyclists, or he has and has come up with a higher figure because he realises what a costly nightmare it would be for the Government to monitor and administrate cyclist registration and insurance.

And the difficulty of administrating mandatory cyclist insurance is just one argument for not bringing it in: we could also potentially draw likeness to the effects of mandatory helmet use in Australia.

As you can see, the numbers of children cycling dropped significantly, and adults were also put off, albeit to a lesser degree. Whilst this data is old, and about helmets rather than insurance and tax, it does suggest that enforcing something upon cyclists which makes it less easy to just get on a bike and ride (once you know how, obviously) may discourage people from doing so.

So it seems to me that enforcing insurance and tax on cyclists might be somewhat counterproductive to our Government's aims, given that the Conservative Party manifesto, pre-2015 election, said this about cycling:
"We want to double the number of journeys made by bicycle and will invest over £200m to make cycling safer so we reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year."

Of course, the Tories have since announced a plan to change VED and road tax, removing the responsibility from local councils for road repairs and repurposing the money they take from motorists to fund it on a national level, so the argument "you don't pay road tax!" might actually be valid from 2017 (point #3 above notwithstanding).

Which is implausible, since they plan to take much less than they'll actually need for road improvements and maintenance, but refactoring "road tax" is a different problem to propositions to tax cyclists.

What I worry about is the continuing effect on attitudes and behaviour towards cyclists, should "road tax" be reintroduced and ideas like cyclist registration and insurance continue to be lobbied for by motorists who, I suspect, really just want to see fewer bikes on the road, and so are doing their best to come up with ways to make that happen.

I'm a confident cyclist; my grandparents met through a local cycling club in the 1940s, took my mum and her brother on cycling holidays when they were children, and the passion has been passed down to me and (to a lesser extent) my own brother. I got my first road bike aged 12, and as a teenager, I rode regularly at the Manchester Velodrome, until a crash brought me off the track, whereupon I got out of the habit and almost stopped cycling altogether.<

Aged 14, with my pride and joy. The bike was sold after my crash, and I'm told it's still in use on the same track, but I have yet to see it again.

I was bought a new bike for my 18th birthday, but between going off to university where I couldn't afford the add-on to my contents insurance for it, and then several years of laziness, I rode barely 500 miles on it until earlier this year.

However, in February 2015, I began cycle-commuting, on that bike from ten years ago, and via a colleague, I discovered Strava Challenges, and my passions for leisure riding and the Velodrome were reborn. In the intervening ten months, I've ridden just over 1800 miles, or 3000km. I ride nearly every day, with a large chunk of my commute along busy A-roads, and for me, the abuse hurled out of open windows and horns blaring behind me for daring to choose not to bounce over the potholes in the gutters — it all just glides over my helmet.

But I know other cyclists are not so brave. Other cyclists may be scared off by the increased number of motorists who feel they have more of a right to use the road because of the "road tax" they pay, that they assume cyclists don't. Other cyclists may be put off if they currently choose to use a bike because it's a cost-effective alternative to cars and public transport, only for a mandatory charge (which, again, could be higher than membership of a cycling organisation) to come along and make it unaffordable. It would almost certainly put off privacy-minded individuals who enjoy the freedom of one thing they do not have to register with the Government.

In short, cyclist insurance does exist, and many make use of it — but in my opinion, we shouldn't enforce it — and registering and taxing cyclists would probably be an administrative nightmare that would be counterproductive to the Government aim to reduce congestion on the roads, reduce pollution, and get more people cycling.
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Strava's distance challenge this month is 120km; I couldn't decide on a place to go, so at 09:15 this morning, I set off from work just outside Manchester city centre and decided to see where I felt like going.

Opted to turn right at first major junction on reasoning that I'd never turned down that road before; passed through Sale and Altrincham, then Warrington. Began to get rained on. Started thinking about maybe heading for Formby and going to that beach with statues on, but then spotted a signpost for Daresbury, the birthplace of Lewis Caroll, and remembered that one of the British Cycle Quest clues is there, along with a visitor centre which I reckoned would sell me a brew to help me warm up. In actual fact, it was attached to a church, and the brews were provided at a suggested donation of 20p, or 50p with biscuits. They got the handful of spare change from my wallet, and I had lovely stem ginger biscuits and alright (instant) coffee.

Whilst there, I examined the BCQ question book and decided to pick up a second answer in Chester. Arriving there with 65km on my GPS, I stopped for lunch, decided I was cold and wet and would be happier heading in the direction of home instead of somewhere else, so scrapped my "ride 100km, look for a train station, and get a train home" idea, and aimed for the Cheshire Cycleway to get me out of the town centre and vaguely north-east-wards again.

But of course, Chester has a lot of cycle routes, and I picked one with signs saying Connah's Quay in one direction, and Chester Town Centre in the other, thought to myself "well, I've just come from Chester so it must be the other way", and set off.

Sometime after this, I pass a sign welcoming me to Wales. I stopped to consider if I wanted to attempt to navigate Chester town centre again, decided I didn't, took a silly photo of myself at the border, and figured I may as well see how far I could get around the North Wales coast before hitting 120km.

Katie looking quizzically at Welsh border sign

116km landed me on the doorstep of a lovely cycling shop/café called Bike Hub in Rhyl Harbour, with divine blueberry cheesecake.

Cheesecake, a cup of coffee and my helmet, with Rhyl Harbour in the background

They didn't believe me the first time I said I got lost and was aiming for Manchester but took a wrong turning in Chester, only when I showed them the photo of me at the border.

120.0km exactly landed me at the entrance to Rhyl train station, with six minutes until the next Manchester train, and four minutes to a Chester one.

Of course, the Manchester one was a Virgin Trains service, which have mandatory bike reservations even when there are no other bikes on board, and a overzealous guard enforcing the (not-always-enforced) rule, so I ended up on the Chester train, and then changing again in Crewe.

122km later, I arrived home from my slightly-more-Welsh-than-usual commute, and am now in bed with my Kindle. It has been a grey and geographically-challenging but very fun day :)
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Today, I did the August Strava Gran Fondo of 150km, and also established that my upper limit for a day of cycling is probably about 145km.

Had I not been very conscious that:
a) it takes a very long time to cycle 150km
b) I had set off 2 hours late anyway
c) my mobile battery is terrible and if I'm out of the house for 12 hours without access to electricity it basically needs to stay in airplane mode all the time.

…then I probably would have tweeted sentiments approximating the following (and a few other things that I have since forgotten):

  • You know you're in deepest darkest Cheshire when the only business you've seen for miles is hydrotherapy for horses.
  • "I can do 150km easily enough in Cheshire, it's quite flat" is probably true when you don't forget that Alderley Edge is built on an actual cliff.
  • Motorists who use unlit country roads at night, see white light coming towards them and don't dim their bloody high beams are THE WORST KIND OF MOTORISTS. Off-road cycling whilst temporarily blinded and unable to see the edge of the road was not on my agenda and I'm a bit grumpy about that, er, emergency motion?
  • 1km from home, 11pm, drunkards yelled "Tour de France is over luv!" at me and - I'm quite proud of this one, because I'm not very witty very often, and never spontaneously - I replied: "I'm on the Vuelta mate, which way's Spain from here?"

Places I stopped:
  1. Sandbach Waitrose - tasty, had treacle tarts and excellent bike parking. Had been intending to go to café opposite but menu was not gluten-free friendly (for my lunch companion), nor was it budget-friendly, and I'm not sure my Lycra would have quite fit in with the rest of the clientele's attire…
  2. Co-operative Food, Audlem - had meant to go to Priest's House Café, following excellent reviews from other cyclists, but arrived 5 minutes after they closed. Had roadside picnic instead. It was alright - potato wedges, orange juice and Jaffa Cakes. Who needs nutritional value anyway.
  3. Hazel Pear, Acton Bridge - tasty and very cheap food, cold drinks, handed me water without me needing to ask when I just stared glassy-eyed at the menu unable to think. Later on, not only let me charge my phone behind the bar but also went to find a charger to do so, since I didn't have mine. Highly highly highly recommended.

That will have to suffice for a ride report because I didn't take any photos, and I'm really really tired…
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Yesterday I rode my first Audax sans-[personal profile] damerell, and have now officially failed to finish more Audaxes than I have successfully completed, which is not quite the achievement I was hoping for.

It was meant to be a very hilly ride - starting in Marple, up into Glossop and Hadfield, past the reservoirs and over Holme Moss (one of the categorised climbs from the Tour de France's Grand Depart in Yorkshire last summer), then down into Langsett and Midhopestones and Strines, and then back into the Peak District through Edale, Chinley, New Mills and finishing again in Marple.

Well, it was a very hilly ride, and I did make it up to the summit of Holme Moss, with a bicycle, using only the power of my legs.

At the summit of Holme Moss

I also enjoyed descending the hills, and spotting road paintings leftover from when the TdF came past last summer.

Ey Up! / Go Yates Go! Allez Allez Jens!
Shut Up Legs Vive Le Tour!

However, I did come undone a little on a hairy descent out of Midhopestones - taking a corner much wider than I should have and probably somewhat faster too - I know that I was going for 66kph on the approach to the corner; I was braking heavily so probably didn't hit the ground at that speed, but still a little too fast. Unfortunately, on a 25% reverse-incline with a tailwind, there's a lot of factors against you...

So that goes some way to explaining why my front wheel was the wrong shape when I dropped the bike off at my local bike shop this morning, and also why I've got a small-ish rugby-ball shaped lump on my elbow, and why I had the help of Northern Rail to avoid the final big climb of the day (Mam Nick) - which is why I officially didn't finish the ride.

On arrival at the ride rendezvous point, the ride organiser (an old family friend) offered to take me and my bike home and deliver me to the A&E department up the road, where I hung about for three hours or so, had a number of X-rays, and eventually got sent home with painkillers and the good news that nothing was chipped, fractured or otherwise broken.

I have acute neck/shoulder pain today, leaving me wondering if I did bang my head after all (I knew that I hadn't lost consciousness, but didn't know if I'd hit my head or not) - but I'm at work until Saturday morning so unless it gets any worse I'm just going to assume whiplash.

Incidentally, how to make a hospital receptionist really struggle not to laugh at you:
"What's the problem?"
"I came off my bike and my elbow is the wrong shape."
"Was it an RTC?"
"No, just stupidity."

Think I'll stay away from hills for a little while.
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Written end of July 2015, post-dated to the day of the ride for some kind of historical accuracy.

The website I use to log my cycle rides, Strava, has monthly challenges one can enter, which include km-per-month (starting at 250km and increasing in increments of same up to 1250km) and also a "Gran Fondo" - usually 100km in a single ride, but during the summer months, they encourage you to get out on your bike more by progressively increasing the distance to 115km in June, 130km in July and 150km in August. In June, I hit the first one by adding the extra distance onto the end of the Great Manchester Cycle, but for July, I invented my own ride: getting myself from home, across the Pennines and to a lovely cycling café I discovered in York last year.

Fisheye photo of Katie, standing with their bike ahead of their big ride to York

I set off at about 9am, and immediately my GPS began to worry me, telling me that Strava's estimated ride time of 5.5 hours was out by an hour and that I should have left at around 8am instead in order to get there at the same time as the Yorkshire-based friends I'd planned to meet. Indeed, a quick bit of mental arithmetic as I made my way to the main road, and I began to realise the GPS was probably right; I usually ride at about 20kph, so I was looking at 5 hours just for the first century, never mind the final 33km after it.

I figured, nothing I could do for it except update the friends and say I'd just let them know when I was about an hour out of York, so they could make their respective ways to the cafe.

About an hour later, I realised things had gone slightly wrong again: as I passed a sign labelled "Woodhead", I realised that I wasn't on the right road. I mean, I was, in that my GPS was telling me that I was going in the right direction - but my grand plan for crossing the Pennines was to use the utterly beautiful Snake Pass, not the HGV-filled Woodhead Pass.

Thankfully, I struck lucky with the traffic - I guess that's the perk of riding on a Saturday morning:

Another lone cyclist, on the Woodhead Pass

In the end, I think I probably made the right call route-planning over Woodhead; it was actually remarkably not-very-steep at all, more of a windy and slow ascent, and quite pleasant on a quiet morning.

There weren't many photos for the rest of the ride; I was conscious of time creeping along, so my only records between then and the café were a video of some roadside chemistry in the form of sachets of electrolyte drink and 1500mls of water, with the recording stopped rapidly, as I realised I was shaking my bottle too hard and it was going to explode - and a celebratory snapshot of the sign welcoming me to the County of North Yorkshire.

I texted shortly after, from Selby, giving the one hour warning to friends and my mum, who had decided when I was somewhere near Barnsley to hop on a train and see if she could beat me there - she did, although I think TransPennine Express gave her quite the unfair advantage! - and almost exactly an hour later, I pulled to a stop outside the café, and looked down at my GPS/clock just in time to hear Kieran say "And what time do you call this?!" - to which I happily replied: "5 hours and 11 minutes of moving time since I left home, so about 20 minutes earlier than expected!"

(OK, so I was also about an hour later than planned; I blame the Yorkshire hills and my faulty lungs for that. The "moving time" is the important figure to me!)

So then there was all the food, fruit juice, delicious cake, and a celebratory photo at York station before getting the train home:

Celebrations with the bike in York

Next adventure: Dark Peak Grimpeur, a 106km randonneur with many many hills - my first Audax not on the back of [personal profile] damerell's tandem. Hoping to take the camcorder out that I received last Christmas with the intent of video-blogging my time in Finland, and doing an on-the-move ride report...
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Written July 2015, post-dated to the day of the ride for some kind of historical accuracy.

Last month I did the Great Manchester Cycle for the second time; the 52 mile distance again, but the difference this time being that I started cycle-commuting earlier this year, and whilst I only started riding real distances... well, on the day of the GMC, it's definitely helped with my fitness levels to be on my bike almost every day for the best part of six months!

The day was plagued from the beginning, with a puncture before I even started; thankfully, Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op were on hand to give me a new tube and get me to the start line with minutes to spare...

Bicycle being fixed by a mechanic At the start line of GMC 2015

I was riding with a colleague, at least up until mile 10, where she overtook a few slower cyclists ahead of us, and I wasn't able to catch her straightaway, and since she has a faster pace than I do, she was long gone by the time I'd passed the slow bunch in front of me. We exchanged a few texts along the route, but in the end we didn't see each other again til the finish line.

About a third of the way into the second lap of the 13 mile route, I heard a familiar hissing from my back tyre and realised I had another puncture - upon inspection, there was a stone pushing its way through the rim of the tyre itself, one that looked remarkably like those on the towpath between my friend's flat and the start of the ride... I concluded that whilst my puncture from the beginning of the day had been fixed, the stone that I could see had been the cause, and having not been removed, had done double duty. Fortunately, it was a slow puncture, so I hopped back on the bike and thrashed my way along one more mile to the feed station, where other mechanics from EBC were hanging out ready to help people, and so my bike ended up in surgery again:

Bike being fixed... again!

I also took a moment to natter with the St John Ambulance volunteers (unfortunately, since it turned out that unlike in 2014, entering the feed stations didn't stop your ride timer...) and had a bit of a stretch.

The final two-and-a-half laps continued without event (or photos) - I beat my way around the course and finished, unofficially/according to Strava in ten minutes less time than in 2014. I got stuck behind a slower rider again as I went for the finish line so couldn't do a sprint finish - but there's always next year!

After the ride, I then rode up to Edinburgh Bicycle Co-op's shop to pay for the gear that I got off them, since their stands on the ride were cash-only; whilst there, I decided to buy a front tyre so that I had matching tyres (as the replacement given to me during the ride was a skinnier, slicker tyre than my previous ones, and I wanted front and back to match - plus it generally being a good idea to know how much wear your tyres have had. I then rode back to the stadium where the ride started and finished, as of course, having paid for the second tyre, there were none in the shop as they were all made available for the ride ;)

In the trip back up to the stadium, I ended up puncturing again, though thankfully the front tyre this time - and EBC, to their credit, replaced the tube for me for free when I got there - I ended up buying one tube and two tyres, and getting two free ones - the first because they caused my second puncture in not removing the stone from my tyre, and the second just because I'd already been out of my way to the shop once that day and they felt sorry for me ;)

Admittedly, part of the jaunt down to the shop was to pick up extra mileage for a Strava challenge, and so during the day I ended up riding just over 115km, or 75 miles - in about 4.5 hours. I was very impressed with myself - and very, very tired. (Also grateful to have apparently found a post-exercise protein shake that doesn't taste like death - the High5 banana/vanilla flavour, when mixed with milk, is actually quite palatable, and I had pleasingly DOMS-free legs the days afterwards, hopefully not a coincidence as I then went and bought another 12 sachets of the stuff for future rides!)

Exhausted post-ride, but happy!

Said [twitter.com profile] benjimmin of the above photo: "You are the most dignified person that exists."
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
I am visiting a friend in Cambridge, who is doing a super stressful course and needed some cheering up. I got started before I even arrived;

Kieran: (Texting me around the time that my delayed train is due.) Are you here?
Me: No, I'm here.
Kieran: Where? I'm outside.
Me: On a train.

(I've wanted to use that line for years.)

Once my train finally arrived, we had to cycle to his flat around 2 miles south-west of the train station. This was made somewhat more difficult by the fact that Cambridge has been experiencing north-easterly gale force winds for the last two weeks or so (which we, of course, had to cycle directly into).

Upon seeing the lovely smooth and flat cycle path however, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking it would make life a lot easier. And that was probably my mistake.

Around 1.5 miles into the journey, in something resembling a comedy sketch, an extremely strong sidewind joined forces with the headwind we were fighting, and took my bike right out from under me. Fortunately, the wind buffeted my fall, but did mean that I had one of those "I'm going to fall off my bike now" sense of doom moments before actually hitting the ground.

I decided I was fine, dusted myself off, pushed the bike upright, and began to use it to help me stand up.

But of course, the gale that we've been riding into is still smashing into us, and no sooner had I raised my centre of gravity even a foot from the ground, I was back on my arse again, this time with the bike on top of me.

Meanwhile, Kieran (who had been merrily cycling off into the distance) suddenly realises that I've stopped talking/yelling, and turns round to see me lying on the floor under my bike, flailing like an upside-down insect, and starts laughing at me.

(We followed all of this up with going to see the Lego Movie, by car because it seemed rather more sensible, and that has had us spontaneously cracking up ever since leaving the SPACESHIP! cinema.

I wonder what hijinks tomorrow and Monday morning will bring.
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Yesterday, I arrived home from my night out at 5am, slept for five hours curled up in the armchair downstairs, and then went out cycling with my mum. MADNESS.

It was actually quite relaxing - apart from the new traffic system in Poynton, where a motorist took pedestrians, cyclists and cars having shared priority to mean "if I have to wait, then you have to wait too" and suddenly pulled over as mum tried to (entirely legally) filter past his stationary car - causing her to stop just as suddenly, and me (having just clipped into my step-in pedals) to fall over sideways... he then drove away the moment the traffic cleared, leaving me lying in the road trapped under my bike as my leg spasmed with cramp, and mum and a kind stranger trying to unclip my foot from the pedal.

I love motorists, I really do.

Other than that, though, it was all lovely - we got to Pott Shrigley with no further bruises or bashes, and I made it up the hill to Green Close chapel without stopping, which has always defeated me before now.

We met Dan there, had coffee and a baked potato each (well, coffee cake in the case of mum) and then shared a mahoosive bowl of fresh juicy strawberries.

Then, I said to mum, "why don't we take a different route home?" - so she fished out her A-Z and said, "well, there's always the old brickworks..." and Dan said "isn't that Kettleshulme way? It'll be a bit lumpy..." but I said "that's fine!" figuring I fancied testing myself.

So we turned the other way out of the Coffee Tavern car park, and headed for the brickworks, and mum began to tell me about how it was a popular training ride amongst Manchester cyclists, and one which she had avoided for around 20 years. I began to feel full of confidence (and a hint of sarcasm).

The route completely redefined "a bit lumpy" with one climb alone gaining us over 1000 feet - and yet I managed to do all the climbs without stopping to walk once. (We won't talk about how many times I hopped off at summits to sit down and wait for poor old mum.)

It was hard, hard work, but so worth it, for the view as much as getting to the top and looking behind me and seeing what I'd achieved. Fitness: I has it!

On the way back down from the summit, there was a hill that I was zipping down at 36mph (with brakes on!) and then I saw the climb back out of the valley on the other side and began to pedal... and there was no friction. My chain had slipped off, and I'm still going at 30mumble miles an hour thinking "oh shit oh shit oh shit" ... I managed to freewheel up about three-quarters of the other side before I had to unclip to avoid a second tumble. (OK, so that was one hill I walked up part of.)

By the time we got home, we'd covered 22 miles and 3008.5 feet of ascent. (The extra six inches is vital when you're talking these kind of numbers, evidently.) We're both a little sore today - surprisingly my arms and back the most, presumably down to standing on some of the climbs to power up them faster. In fact, I was going to go swimming this morning, but have decided that perhaps I should nip into the pool on the way home from my work induction tomorrow instead... :)

tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Cycling in the dark, alone, is a unique experience. I've done overnight before, with [personal profile] damerell on the London to Brighton night ride, but going it alone is a whole different kettle of fish. I've also ridden in the city at night - well, 10pm or so - but that again is different to the countryside.

Riding alone, there's nobody to talk to, and I felt so infinitesimal. Every sound was magnified, from the wind rippling past my jacket to the owls hooting in the trees. I saw bats, and rabbits, and foxes, but no humans - none at all, for 35 minutes zipping through the night.

In the country, all the roads look the same. Single track, lined with hedges; they go on for miles and miles. None of the landmarks I had doing the route in daylight earlier in the day (twice) existed once the sun set; the cottages and the passing places and the funny looking trees all blended into the darkness.

Even with a headlight chosen specifically for this kind of cycling, I could only see 20 feet ahead of me, and I was riding in the centre of the road to get the best possible vantage of the tarmac ahead. Signposts appeared, sticking out of the the hedgerow, for less than a second, gone before I could read the lettering.

The adrenaline coursing through my veins right now is intense.
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Because I'm tired of getting into altercations with people who object to the presence of cyclists on the road on the basis that "they don't pay road tax", I thought I'd clear a few things up.

First: nobody pays road tax. Road tax doesn't even exist. The payment commonly known as road tax is actually called Vehicle Excise Duty, or VED, and it's a tax on the vehicle. It is paid as a license to drive or park a vehicle on public roads, and the amount paid usually depends on the emissions of the vehicle. So, as it happens, a bicycle rider pays the appropriate amount for their zero-emission vehicle!

Historically, the Road Fund (and its predecessor - the RF came into being in 1920, but taxes for vehicles were introduced in 1888) existed to pay for road construction and maintenance, but it was very heavily subsidised by local and general taxation, because RF wasn't enough to cover the costs, and eventually, in 1937, the government stopped ring-fencing the Road Fund and it all went into a big pot along with income tax and council tax, and it is this pot which pays for the upkeep of roads today.

It's also worth noting here that the original VED was introduced because the roads were intended for use by horses and cyclists, and the tax upon drivers was implemented to give them permission to use the roads. At risk of sounding like a small child: "we were here first!"

Amusingly, Winston Churchill once predicted the future in a speech opposing the Road Fund, saying: "It will be only a step from this for them to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created". Well, quite.

Cambridge Cycle Campaign also came out with a gem, suggesting that those who believe cyclists should be banned from the road for not paying this mythical "road tax" should also be in favour of smokers getting priority medical care, as non-smokers don't pay a "hospital tax".

This also led me to think about some of the vehicles that are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty: fire engines, police cars, ambulances and other healthcare vehicles. Would those arguing that cyclists should be banned from the roads also ban the vehicles of the emergency services, I wonder?

(There are others too - vintage cars, army vehicles, vehicles imported by members of foreign armed forces, etc. and I wouldn't object to the argument that owners of these vehicles should pay VED.)

In short, this "cyclists don't pay road tax" argument is old, and boring, and so very very wrong.
Mar. 31st, 2012 08:46 pm


tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Yesterday, I bought a pair of SPD pedals and shoes to go with them - for the non-cyclists amongst my readers, that means the kind of pedal that snaps into the bottom of your shoe, instead of the old-money way of trapping your feet into a cage-like thing attached to the pedal (called a toeclip). (SPDs are a specific kind of step-in pedal designed by Shimano, where the attachment on the shoe is recessed into the sole of the shoe, so that when you're walking around, you aren't clickety-clacking and walking with your toes up in the air.) </technical-ramblings>

I've used non-SPD type clipless pedals before, when I rode on the Velodrome, so it was quite easy getting used to them, and by the time I got home from the bike shop I was quite comfortable using them. The bonuses of clipless pedals are things like:
  • not having to fiddle around too much with them when you're setting off from traffic lights - just align the pedal and shoe, and push down
  • making better use of your energy: even with a toeclip, your feet aren't bound to the pedals so some of your energy is used keeping your feet on the pedals as you pull upwards
  • less risk of crashes - your feet simply won't slip from the pedals and unbalance you when you're on a clipless pedal
One of the disadvantages, however, is that if you do crash, you do so with all the grace and elegance of an elephant with four left feet.

As noted this morning.

Not even a minute after leaving home, I'm ahead of my brother en route to where we were meeting a group of others for a short leisure ride, and slowing down for traffic at the end of the road. My brother, on the other hand, is staring down at his gears instead of looking where he's going, and crash. Right into my back wheel.

I'm stationary at this point, with one foot on the road and the other firmly attached to my pedal. I go crashing down, and my brother lands on top of me. I instinctively yell "You bloody idiot!" or possibly something less tasteful, and he jumps up and tries to remove his bike from the tangled mess that is me and my ride.

Problem is, his pedals (flat, with big unwieldy toeclips), have found their way into the spokes of my front wheel. When he vigorously pulls his bike away from mine, my bike moves as well - and because I'm still attached to one of my pedals, I slide along the road too, much to the amusement of the drivers gawking through their windows, and more blue language spouts from my mouth.

No damage to the bike, but I have quite an impressive bruise on my left thigh. Most damaged, however, is my ego: this is my first Proper Crash (i.e: one that resulted in one or more cyclists hitting the ground) in nearly a decade.

(I actually had a prong with another rider during my London to Brighton ride at the start of the month, but having learned how to 'correctly' crash on the Velodrome, we both managed to stay upright and rolling!)
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
I did it!

Best moment (aside from getting to Brighton of course) was sitting at some traffic lights in Battersea at 00:30, where a partygoer asked us "why are you all on your bikes at midnight?" to which [personal profile] damerell replied "we're going to Brighton for breakfast!"

Have raised £800 so far and donations are still coming in. I'm dead chuffed today. And a bit tired :)

Photo by [personal profile] damerell.
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
Whilst I'd like to congratulate the drivers on the Manchester Airport Eastern Link Road for their valiant efforts to knock me off my bike this morning, I'm afraid I won't be inviting them to try harder next time.
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
A few years ago, our local cycling club created a women's trophy exists because my mum was the first woman in the club's history to beat everyone including all the men, and apparently they couldn't stand the idea of a woman winning the competition, so they gave her a new trophy and put the name of the second place winner, who happens to be male, on the winners trophy.

History has just repeated itself, but unlike my mum, I'm gonna fight for what's mine.
Sep. 26th, 2010 07:46 pm


tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Today: cycled 50k, went *shiver* and "ow". Had second breakfast. Cycled 50k back to Cambridge, via many bus stops to shelter from the rain. Beer, hot bath, nap.

On my way back to London now on an NXEA train stopping everywhere in the world but terminating at Stratford, hurrah for less Tube. Want food, sleep and cuddles.

tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
On Saturday evening, I headed out to meet [personal profile] damerell at London Bridge and, after enjoying delicious food and beer at Black and Blue in Borough, got lost took the scenic route to Waterloo and a train to Hampton, drank more beer and then had a (comparably) early night ready for Sunday: cycling 100km around London on his tandem in my first Audax ride, the London Sightseer.

It totally blew away all my expectations - particularly the ones about my own ability and fitness. I had guessed that I'd probably give up about halfway through, too exhausted to carry on. As it was, we finished (with an hour to spare of the allowed finish time) and though I was a bit sore (cobblestones = ow!) and a little tired, I was far from exhausted, and didn't actually feel like going to sleep until shortly after midnight, nearly six hours after we finished riding.

We didn't get any cries that I had fallen off or wasn't pedalling: the only person to comment on "that silly bike" was another tandem rider participating in the SkyRide as we were leaving Horseguard's Parade, though a few other Sightseers did pass comment on how we kept dropping off and then catching them up again - I overheard one rider remark "ooh, it's the Terrible Two again!" and another called us the Deadly Duo *grin*

I remembered how much I love long-distance and non-competitive cycling, yay, and discovered that actually, tandem riding is fun! I was expecting to hate the lack of control, having to cycle the way that the pilot wanted to when the pilot wanted to. I commented to [personal profile] damerell during a break that I wasn't sure if it would make him cheer or groan, but I was keen to do another sometime, on the back of the tandem again, rather expecting him to tell me "no chance", but instead found that apparently I lack a lot of the bad habits that some stokers1 do, and there is actually the possibility of more rides in the future :) I don't think I'll be joining him on the 200k he's doing at the end of the month, though!

The biggest surprise, however, came when I finally lay down in bed to sleep, and discovered that I was on a phantom bike and my legs wanted to pedal. WTF?

1: posh word for "the one on the back"
tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)
Today, I went up to Cambridge to see [personal profile] damerell and ride his tandem. He bought me beer and food, and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time :)

[personal profile] nanaya suggested that "stoking [personal profile] damerell's tandem" sounds absolutely filthy, thoroughly obscene, and that whatever it is a euphemism for is probably illegal in Utah.

[personal profile] damerell replied that "well, it's hot and sweaty and best with two people moving rythmically in unison..." which is quite true, and you do get a lot of people pointing and staring in amazement when you do it in public, even in Cambridge, but really, it was quite innocent.

Yeah, I probably wouldn't believe me either.
tajasel: Katie, wearing a helmet and bike glasses. (bike bike bike)
A couple of weeks back, I took my bike into Manchester for the poly meet and then brought it down to Winsford, so that I could use it to transport myself to the interview I had a few days later. I never got around to taking it back home with me again, so, thankfully, it was still here tonight when I was rushing about getting ready to go bellringing this evening.

I put the chain back on and attached the back wheel, then the front wheel, and rode off. I had a nice clear run all the way down to the church, and then I got to the bottom of the hill with the church gate at the end of it, at which point I had to hit the brakes.

It was at this point that I remembered I hadn't attached the brake cables to the calipers again, and I crashed into the gate, went over the handlebars and headbutted the gate, before landing firmly with my crotch on the crossbar.

As it turns out, there was no practice tonight, so I rather fortunately had nobody to observe this rather comical accident, and I limped home, feeling a bit sorry for myself, where I'm now lying on the sofa with a mug of chai latte listening to [personal profile] volucris blow up his colleagues on Quake 3.

tajasel: Katie, with a purple wig on. (Default)

Thoughts on my Bike )