Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thames Bridges Bike Ride 2013

Some days you just can't wake up. You hit the snooze button a few times but just can't bear the thought of getting out of bed. Today was not one of those days. I had been waking up hourly since about 4am waiting for my alarm to go off. It was a mixture of excitement and nervousness, like applying for a new job. Today was my first long distance bike ride, the Thames Bridges Bike Ride.

To top it off, I do not have joy joy feelings of cycling in London. It seems weekly a cyclist is getting injured, and although I have had some practice out on the roads, I still was not too confident.

The day however, was perfect. Blue skies and a dabbling of happy clouds, it was hard to feel nervous on such a beautiful day. I showed up to Southwark Park and started off, grateful the ride was on a Sunday and not many cars were out and about.

After remembering to turn on my Garmin (*face palm*), I went over Tower Bridge, where my fiancee was snapping photos a la paparazzi of me. I smiled and continued on... hopefully I would see him soon at the finish line!

It really angers me when cyclists do not follow the rules of the road. To be fair motorists do it too, generally as a result of experience and thinking 'whats the harm?' so that is probably the same mentality of cyclists; but considering how many accidents occur in London I was surprised to see as many road violations as I did by cyclists. I am sure I broke one or two too... a few times I felt like I was "just pulling in front of" cars due to not knowing which lane to be in. However, turning left on a red? Come on!

Once we got out of London proper was when I felt I was really able to speed up. It was wonderful to see all the activity along the Thames, with a lovely breeze and the sun still blazing away. I enjoyed watching the rowers in formation, and all the dogs playing merrily on the banks.

Richmond Park had the toughest hill on the course, but was not nearly as bad as the hills in the New Forest. However, by then I was in the mid-upper 20 mile range by then, and my legs were not in a happy place. Thanks goodness for my Camelback.. and then going downhill!

The last few miles were gloriously traffic free, giving me time to look around and more or less amble to the finish right across Hampton Court Bridge, where Tom was ready to take more photos of me getting my finishing medal.

In all, it was an amazing route. I feel much more confident now on roads, although I still feel avoiding the central bits of London during rush hours still to be a good idea! Will I do the Palace to Palace up in Warwick next Sunday? Sheesh I just finished this one-- give me a break! :)

You can still donate to the Stroke Association at my JustGiving page... thanks to everyone who donated, you have helped countless others with your generosity! 

Friday, May 10, 2013

My First Cycle Ride in London

Food is truly a wonderful motivator. Nice weather helps too. I finally convinced myself to go for a quick cycle ride during lunch today. I felt stupid having my socks over my right pant leg, but kept telling myself its better than getting jeans stuck in gears on a busy road. This being my first time on my new bike on the road, I decided to not clip in.

View I had for lunch... perfect!
In short: I did not die, AND I got a tasty lunch at the Mayflower, a cosy pub along the Thames with nice outdoor seating! I even whipped out the laptop to do some work over since the day was shaping up to be so nice (and here I thought it was supposed to rain, but to be fair its expected in London). It was actually quite hard to find a place to stick the bike, but I found a good spot eventually, and worried about the bike being nicked most of lunch.

My pride of the ride was successfully navigating a roundabout-- with no one honking or a bus veering down on me. I was even able to cycle up (down? I guess its a perspective thing) Tooley Street to drop by Evans Cycles to figure out my gear issue (hint: it was a user error). That street, is -TIGHT-. Not in a good way. And the pedestrians just waking into the street without caring that they are not supposed to go (rote mann!kein grĂ¼ne mann!) I shudder when I think about Trafalgar  Square or anywhere near Covent Garden... maybe with time! Ha.

This ride was not about distance, it was about getting out there on the London roads with the bike to get comfortable with the gears and handling. Getting some sun and exercise was just a happy side affect :) 5.84 miles down.

View Cycling in London - Die Erste Zeit! in a larger map

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ponies and Donkeys and Sheep... Oh My! Cycling Through the New Forest

In my quest to shape up for the Thames Bridges Bike Ride ~(have you donated yet to my worthy cause?) happening in about a month, I decided to try some cycling in the New Forest, which is about 90 minutes from London. Since I -still- do not have my bike (thanks PruHealth!) I had to rent a bike. Luckily, Brockenhurst was not short of cycle rental shops, and I was soon on my way. I loved the landscape of the New Forest, very beautiful. Oh and let's not forget the ponies. It's a bit creepy turning around and -poof- there is a pony. I said hi :o)

The New Forest is definitely... ermm hilly, although it does not look it. It is much hillier than London. And I am just getting over the flu and have not exercised in a a while. The whole thing did not go as easily as I hoped, but I did manage to huff and wheeze my way into the Burley Youth Hostel. 
The YHA was very nice, although a bit off the beaten path. The only issue really was come 0800 the next day, no one was at reception and I needed to grab my bike! When I walked back at quarter to 9 someone was there... but I felt bad for the families and people who has ordered breakfast that morning. 
I was feeling a bit sad passing by all the stops and areas for walking. The New Forest has roughly 100 miles of cycle paths and over 143 miles of walking routes. Enough to keep people busy for many weekends!  

It was a quick 7 miles back to Brockenhurst, and with my impeccable luck, I dropped off the bike just before the rain started. Amid the rain I still managed to get in a quick walk and say goodbye to the ponies.
All in all it was a hair under miles. The things I learned:
1) I am worried about the comfort of my seat... and the comfort of my butt :)   After the first day it was not the happiest thing, and I was wearing cycle shorts. 
2) Cycling when under the weather is potentially not advisable
3) Although the first day I did about 23 miles, considering how hilly it was I feel pretty confident for the London race
4) I got a bit more used to traffic... but it still freaks me out. And let's be honest, London traffic is something special :)
5) If I want to do multi-day journeys, I need a pannier. A backpack is a killer for long journey.

My route is below... I wish I had time (and the space!) to pick up some beers at Ringwood Brewery (I passed it right by on my ride).. another time. PS It did not take me 23 hours to cycle this, the Garmin app calculated my moving time to be about 4 hours. I know this is wrong, and looking at the Garmin, it missed my loop between Ringwood and Burley.. so maybe I cycled more than I thought!