A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Archive for May, 2011

‘Wierd’ science

Posted by Alan on May 31, 2011

‘Wierd’ science, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

So I take it none of the leaves were selectively bred for particular characteristics then?

I don’t get what it is that makes marketing people so scared of science… (I’m not even going to rant about the comic sans clone).

Please don’t lecture at me via food packets. If I really want to weigh up the pros and cons of genetic engineering, I’ll find a friendly biochemist to ask. I just want to make at sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch. Ok?

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100 miles

Posted by Alan on May 27, 2011

100 miles - a full week of cycling

I wasn’t going to bother posting this outside of Facebook until I added up the numbers. A fraction over 100 miles in a week – and only today, did I cycle all the way to and from work. The miles soon add up – no lycra was worn in the chewing up of those miles.

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Flagtime

Posted by Alan on May 26, 2011



Obama in town, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

I meant to post this yesterday when it was still news… oh well. London’s been hosting the US commander in chief, if you hadn’t noticed. Therefore… FLAGTIME!

This is The Mall, where I paused en route for Liverpool St during my commute home. It’s a pretty good cycle expressway, despite the lack of blue paint…

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Circling the East Midlands

Posted by Alan on May 23, 2011

This weekend I headed out of London into the East Midlands for some c2c training with one of my c2c tour mates. Having trekked up to Euston earlier in the week to book tickets I later discovered that I could have done that from home – East Coast (the nationalised one) will allow you to reserve a bike space, even if you aren’t using their services! Never mind, c2c tickets had to be booked anyway and it was really easy online!

Bike on train

Secured on the train

Reservations on some routes are essential – on this train there were just 2 cycle spaces for a 5 carriage train. Guestimating at around 65 seats per car,  that means 1 bicycle for every 162.5 people. So, I guess this bicycling lark better hadn’t take off then… There was even an electronic reservation sign, just like in the passenger solution.

Electronic reservation on East Midlands Trains

Reserved!

Our route took us through Northamptonshire, Rutland and Leicestershire. Starting at Kettering station, we went east round past Corby, north towards Oakham before curling back west towards Market Harborough, finally returning to Kettering some 42 miles (68.4km) later. There are a lot of pretty villages to pass through away from the main roads, which was nice.

Out in the country - a church and ornate wall

Out in the country

The run did prove that I am not ready for c2c yet. The hills were certainly a struggle and I was flagging a bit by mile 26 where we stopped to take on some water in a nice pub.  The maximum distance on c2c isn’t much further – but it is much more hilly. On the other hand, as we’ll set off in the morning we’re bound to stop for lunch somewhere halfway – by 35 miles in I think I had run of energy and after the sugar of a can of coke I was able to amble home, which should help matters. Any new bike will also be much lighter and in better fettle which could help.

So, a lot of exercise required in the next 4 weeks then! Adding on the transfers between Liverpool St and St Pancras and the short trip to my local station, I finished on 50.8 miles (81.2km) for the day.

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Who ate all the pies?

Posted by Alan on May 22, 2011



Who ate all the pies?, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

After yesterday’s distance run, today Ruth and I have gently wheeled our way round to the Southampton Arms in NW5. Pie and a pint is our reward. Sunday winning!

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Lovely Cornwall

Posted by Alan on May 10, 2011

For the Easter bank holiday weekend I upped sticks with the masses and headed west, to Cornwall. I knew the train would be busy on Friday but I wasn’t quite expecting how busy!

Busy train!

Inside the 10.06 to Penzance

Having bagged the last unreserved bike space on the train (5 of 6 were pre-reserved – by the time I got off there were far more than 6 bikes in the compartment…) there was no way I was getting off until Bodmin. So standing it was for the 275 or so miles to Bodmin Parkway. I actually didn’t mind standing too much –  with my earphones on, some fizzy drink, fresh air from the opening windows and something to read it was bearable. Changing to a steam train here meant I could grab a cup of tea and a break for a few minutes rather than going straight into tackling the Cornish hills. From Bodmin town I could pickup the Camel Trail, one of the major Sustrans routes stretching the 20 miles down the Camel valley to Wadebridge and Padstow – a former railway, so well engineered with nice easy gradients. For the final section of journey from Wadebridge to Polzeath on the north coast I took to the road. This was harder than I imagined, with 4 fairly major climbs (for a city dweller anyway) as well as a very steep decent into Polzeath itself with the road covered in sand from the beach. (Shortly after I learned the art of configuring v-brakes). Here I spotted an unusual use of an underground roundel.

On Saturday there was more cycling, as with my extended family who I was visiting we took to the Camel Trail – this time a section I hadn’t used the day before from Wadebridge to Padstow, from where I saw the crazy idea that is paddle surfing…

Paddle surfer!

Paddle surfer! - there were loads of them!

At the end of the trail is Rick Stein’s fish & chip shop, which was pretty fabulous.

Haddock & Chips

Haddock & Chips at Rick Stein's

Following a walk round the harbour and amble around the lovely surroundings of Padstow (well worth a look), it was time to hit the trail and head home. Later that night I wandered round the coast – Cornwall is so lovely, I am very gutted I couldn’t fit my D-SLR in the panniers! The Kodak tried it’s best to capture it’s loveliness…

A lovely day for speed boating!

A lovely day for speed boating! - Daymler bay

Padstow / Daymler bay is the Camel estuary and used by many speedboats. Too soon, Sunday came and it was time to head home. With a train reserved at half 2 from Bodmin (no way I was standing all the way home too!) I set of reasonably early so as not to rush too much. Instead of taking the mental road route back to Wadebridge, I opted for the gentle road down to Rock (home of Sharp’s brewery and many many posh people) to take the ferry to Padstow.

It's a lovely day for boating

It's a lovely day for bike-boating

This is great facility available for cyclists to use as the Camel Trail starts just on the other side of Padstow. Just £3 for a single trip across the river. It’s a tidal estuary, but on a lovely day it isn’t at all choppy.

A lovely day for boating

A lovely day for boating (yes enough boating already)

With plenty of other traffic to avoid, the ferry nips across the water as quickly as possible.  All too soon, I was back on dry land on the quay at Padstow and almost ready to pick up the trail again. This meant easy cycling for the 12 or so miles back to Bodmin town which was really appreciated. Particularly with full panniers weighing me down somewhat… From Bodmin town to the Parkway station was more challenging. A proper new Sustrans route, this meant sudden turns, hairpin bends and a general feeling of “am I going the right way?” The early (ish) start meant I had missed the trail traffic and landed myself in the Parkway café for a pasty and brew. The UK must be the only country in the world to use a teacup/saucer to indicate a buffet!

Cornish Pasty!

Cornish Pasty!

Sadly I did not get a cream tea before I left Cornwall. Woe is me. An excellent adventure for me and particularly one where I felt I had to use the bike – I was visiting relatives who were also on holiday. North Cornwall isn’t famous for it’s public transport and whilst I did see a few dinky buses plying the slopes of the coastal towns and villages, I can’t imagine they would be much quicker or convenient. After all, my bike is powered by pasties…

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Wheelers Brunch

Posted by Alan on May 9, 2011

Having been in Manchester for Uncaged Monkeys on Friday, on Saturday it make perfect sense to head out for a ‘late running’ wheelers brunch, a Manchester cycling meet up. I was kind of expecting breakfast somewhere but actually we headed down to Jacksons Boat on the ‘Cheshire’ side of Chorlton Meadows.

Jackson's boat - Chorlton

Jacksons boat - Chorlton

The whole point is for like minded ‘normal’ cyclists (i.e. not speed freaks in lycra) meeting together. Topic of conversation doesn’t have to be bikes/cycling/infrastructure but we did talk about that. Quite a bit as it turns out. In the mid-afternoon grey (Manchester is able to demonstrate all 256 shades of grey) we took a more circuitous route back to Chorlton via Sale water park and some cycling infrastructure, I’d guess provided by Sustrans due to the frequency of anti-cycling gates.

Anti-cycling gate

Mr C, posing by the anti-cycling gate showing it's impact...

It was a fairly pleasant route even with the frequent dismounting. I can understand the pressure to block these routes to motorcycles – but they aren’t vandal proof – the gate below has been pushed apart so we could cycle through easily. I bet you could even push a motorbike through…

 Anti-cycling gate

Anti-cycling gate - this one has been spread by the locals

This isn’t a direct route between conurbations or even between major centres of employment so maybe it doesn’t have to be a cycle superhighway. But even then, why put in cycling sign-age and but infrastructure that slows you to walking pace? How is that going to improve the modal share of cycling?

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Ghost cycling

Posted by Alan on May 8, 2011

Ghost cycling, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

Paris gave me many opportunities to practice panning shots and surely a nation with a reputation for fashion should produce plenty of ‘cycle chic’?

This guy is ‘ghosting’ through the roundabout at République.

I think there’s still more work on the composition required, probably to fill more of the frame with the cyclist and put their head on the third line to the right. Anything thoughts from either the photography nerds or cyclists?

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Versailles cycle chic

Posted by Alan on May 6, 2011

Because the gardens are too big to walk round quickly…

Les deux

Les deux

Tandem

Err.... les deux!

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Véliberation

Posted by Alan on May 5, 2011

Just before Easter we made a trip across the channel to Paris. Being a regular BorisBike user, trying a Vélib was on the to-do list.

Ruth a la Vélib

Ruth a la Vélib

First impressions were that these bikes are more flimsy. They don’t feel as heavy as the blue bikes of London and fixtures and fittings all seem a little smaller.

Velib: Basket not bag pouch

Basket not bag pouch

The first most striking difference is the basket, rather than the bag ‘pouch’ we have in London. This doesn’t make a lot of difference to me as I always carry some kind of bag, but I could see how if you didn’t how a basket could be much more useful. The gears and bell are exactly the same. Additionally you have a lock, so you can park anywhere if you need to – this means once you have a bike you can rely on it to be there. It is a source of frustration in London that the natural flow of bikes means that you’ll often find a city centre dock empty and have have to change your plans…

Saddle up

Saddle up

The saddle looks the same, though there are no helpful numbers on the seat post for quick adjustment. The docking mechanism is fitted to the side rather than the front – this felt a bit less solid than London, though it may mitigate against the idea of ‘hot-docking’ (riding into a dock without dismounting) for fear of leg injury!

Side dock

Side dock

During our days in Paris we saw many wrecked bikes in docking stations. According to wikipedia, many are vandalised as a backlash against the primary user group, the “bo-bos”: bourgeois-bohemians, the trendy middle class French. I haven’t yet seen this in London, despite the bikes being used primarily by a similar demographic. Towards the suburbs, the tyres and inner tubes seemed to be main target – many docking stations had multiple broken bikes in them.

Borked Bike

Borked Bike

Being a regular in London, I haven’t actually tried the casual hire process though I have been shown it. You put your card in and are given a receipt which you take to a docking station and key numbers in to the dock, using the 3 digit pad to the left of the wheel. Next time you want to take bike you put your card in again and it gives you a new receipt. It sounds onerous, but after Paris I can see how TfL came to that choice.

In Paris, you are given a card with a subscriber number on. This must be key in at the terminal where you then select your bike – if the only available bike happens to be 10 metres away at the other end of the dock so be it. Run! Push the button on the dock and the bike is released. I wasn’t too keen on this idea – at a nearly empty docking station it would be very easy for someone to take the bike you just rented and in the process lose you €150 in bike non-return fees…

Anyway I enjoyed the two circular trips I made and if I do go back to Paris I’ll certainly be using Vélib again.

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