A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Archive for the ‘Travelling around’ Category

I’ve been somewhere else…

NCN Route 66 – The Rochdale Canal

Posted by Alan on November 9, 2012

Due to my procrastination (well work etc probably is more important…) this is a post that has been sat in drafts for such a long time.  The Rochdale Canal gave me one of my first ever cycling memories, cycling the 12 or so miles downhill from Rochdale to Castlefield. This summer I finally made it back to see how what it’s like following the restoration.

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Crap Cycle Paths in Rochdale – An update!

Posted by Alan on September 21, 2012

Access still denied - NCN 92 is closed

Access still denied

Was it really over a year ago that I took a very similar photo? Yes it was… way back in May 2011 I wrote about closures on NCN 92, one of Rochdale’s own answer to The Netherlands.

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Cycling – the Mancy Way!

Posted by Alan on June 6, 2012

When I first started cycling, I never expected to be in a position to cycle along a motorway; for obvious reasons it’s illegal!  However… this bank holiday Monday I had the fortune to stumble across a cycling event running along the Mancunian Way (A57M or Mancy Way as known locally).


Looking up Mancunian Way towards UMIST and the west

On spotting the cyclists whizzing overhead, I thought I should get a closer look, so proceeded up the slip road just by Upper Brook St.  Very quickly I could hear someone yelling behind me. A glance over my shoulder revealed an angry looking G4S security guard running in my direction.

Man, Bike, Cider advert

I am bicycle man

Taking the hint that this wasn’t wise I stopped. Apparently the road was closed to “all vehicles” and my bike counted as a vehicle. I did protest slightly pointing at the other bicycles up on the carriageway but figured it would be easier not to get into an argument with a Scots guard.


Overpass over London Road

Heading back through the old UMIST campus to the London Road junction I found a few more security guards.  Local lads, they were much more amenable particularly as I approached them directly to ask what it was all about and “did I need a number” to ride? They were happy enough to let me on saying the last few riders in the race (it was a charity thing organised by The Mirror) had now passed here and I could catch them up!

Motorway, UMIST

Looking back towards UMIST

So off I went, the wrong way down a motorway on my bicycle. Having cycled into Manchester already I didn’t feel the need to go too far – half a mile later I came off again headed on my merry way.

Definitely an enjoyable experience that I would have another go at given the chance, those overpasses have some interesting gradients!

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Cranking it up

Posted by Alan on May 11, 2012

Snapped Crank


A few weeks ago I was unlucky enough to suffer a snapped crank whilst cycling to work. As you can see from the dirt in the stub above, this must have been a fairly old injury that had been gradually worsening over time. Even though I am not very mechanically minded, I set out to find the tools and parts to repair. (If you aren’t interested in bikes stop reading now.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Snapped Crank

Posted by Alan on April 16, 2012

Snapped Crank

Snapped Crank

So the latest bit of news in my second hand Brompton saga was this mornings snapped crank. Luckily about half a mile away from home so I could walk it back and set off for work again… looks very much like there was metal fatigue or a crack there already from the dirt engrained in the scar.

Dead crank

Dead crank

All a bit disappointing really, had a good 15 mile run on it on Saturday… if anyone is London based and has the tools to teach me how to change this myself I’d be very interested!

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Cycling up the Lee Valley

Posted by Alan on March 12, 2012

Low Low sign
Low bridge is still low, now with added sign!

This weekend I went for an explore of the Sustrans’ route NCN1, north up the Lee Valley. I have a bit of an on/off relationship with Sustrans:  it is nice someone is trying to provide cycling infrastructure but so often the quality is compromised and it always feels like cycling is only a leisure activity, rather than a useful mode of transport.  This is a real shame – large parts of this route could be an excellent transport corridor through the summer months whilst it’s still light after work. I joined NCN1 via the low bridge at Coppermill Lane on Walthamstow Marshes. Most people struggle to walk under the bridge with a headroom of just 5’0″  but recently a sign has appeared telling all of exercise caution. Sigh: I guess someone had some budget to spend before the end of March. (NB I rolled through chin on handlebars!)

Lee Valley may conjure up images of a river lined with nature – it really isn’t, at least not for the first few miles. That’s not to say it isn’t interesting passing through industrial Tottenham and Edmonton, it’s just not all that pretty. A particular highlight was cycling under a row of electricity pylons along the ‘Lee Park Way’. As is my normal experience with Sustrans routes, there is an amount of randomness in it’s direction. Close to Northumberland Park, you’re suddenly directed off the towpath and onto a shared space footpath next to a major road. In fact you have to cross the road to use crossing the road twice in this short section – I reckon maybe 400 meters next to the road. Back on the towpath via a park, the next major problem (apart from the stench of Edmonton’s own Deephams Sewage Works – that was a fun 1/4mile) came at Enfield Island. Again this was on a diversion around the Enfield lock, where I guess a large number of cyclists might pose a traffic issue in a confined and risky space.


Dead end

Poor signage meant I followed a path that just ended in a pile of fly tipping and palisade fencing. Fantastic.  Doubling back and guessing, I eventually came through the Gunpower Park and into one of those new estates designed entirely for car use next to the giant Sainsbury’s distribution park on Meridian Way. Again poor signage forced me the wrong way down a wide straight fast road to a major roundabout.  Doubling back (I had a hunch I was getting further away from the river) I found I had missed interpreted one sign and missed a second. You mean I was meant to cycle along the pavement? Oh. Further into Waltham Abbey and the route led into park, next to the actual river Lee rather than the navigation. This section was really pleasant – in fact there were loads of people cycling here but judging by the rack fitted cars in the park car park most had driven there to cycle. To the north of the park at Holyfield Hall Farm I found time to stop and capture the signage standard that had misled me earlier:


Moo: more poor signage

On first glance I would assume the blue sign was directing me into the road to continue. But no, the red and white (with tiny writing) sign to the right indicates that this is not actually the cycle route – it’s actually the path out of shot on the right. Some proper signs wouldn’t go amiss along much of this route.  A rectangle with a point on it (like a road sign) would be fine, it could even include a way-mark as well as route number for ease of use.

Close to Lower Nazeing and I’d decided I’d gone about far enough, ~20 miles from home, close to Broxbourne station and with plans for the evening. 15 minutes after boarding the train and I was back in Tottenham again! All in all a reasonable ride – but punctuated with frustrating problems. Would I cycle it again? Probably but would I bring R? Good question.

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The Monsal Trail

Posted by Alan on February 24, 2012

In August last year, R and I took to one of the UK’s many off road cycle trails – The Monsal Trail, in the Peak District national park.  This wasn’t just for fun – it actually formed part of of a journey between London and Manchester!

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A reminder

Posted by Alan on October 30, 2011

On Friday evening on the way between work and the comfort of the pub, I had the misfortune to bear witness to a road traffic accident. The roundabout on the south side of Trafalgar Sq. has never been my favourite piece of London to navigate but it’s slightly less stressful than Parliament Sq en route to the fast road east, the Victoria Embankment.

At the lights on the roundabout heading towards the Northumberland Avenue exit were myself (BorisBike as my steed) and a motorcycle courier – both of us forward of the double deck bus which had angled over both lanes and within clear sight lines for the bus driver. I am on the left on the nearside, the motorcyclist over towards the far side, quite probably in preparation to avoid the parked cars on Northumberland Ave.

The lights change and we move off, but as is fairly normal some pedestrians make a last dash in front of the traffic on the Northumberland Avenue crossing. The biker slows to avoid hitting them. The bus by now has moved behind me into the left lane.

Then rather suddenly: crash! A small Merc taxi with blacked out windows and diplomatic plates has hit the motorcyclist from behind. The impact gives the bike some unwanted momentum, it raises up throwing the biker off onto his back then lands down onto it’s right hand side. The bike screamed as the throttle twisted uncontrollably.

Thankfully the biker got up and was able to walk and after swapping details we all went our separate ways.

But it is an unfortunate reminder: it is a hostile environment out there on the roads.  With the encroaching darkness all it takes is for someone to be in a rush or not paying proper attention to cause disastrous consequences for someone else. Regardless of the mode you choose to use the road – please take time to think about the other users and how your own actions might impact upon them.

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Skyride London

Posted by Alan on September 26, 2011

So with a long train journey ahead of me on Friday morning, I’d prepared the photos for a few blog posts to be written. Then the Wi-Fi on the train refused to work…

Never mind, a few weeks ago it was London’s Skyride after which I posted a short video. Here are some further photos and thoughts.

Blackfriars Ramp

Blackfriars Ramp

Normally this is a very busy road and I’m using it to gain speed before joining the traffic on the Embankment. Despite the wet it was nice not to have to worry too much about the traffic at the bottom.

South bank

South bank sights

Even Ruth got into it eventually – whizzing past the sights of the South Bank.

Buck house lady

Buck house lady

I wonder if the Queen ever rides a bike?

Closed cycle lane on The Mall

Closed cycle lane on The Mall

Yes – to allow for Skyride to go ahead they really did close a cycle lane. Crazy eh?



I wonder what those tourists thought of the bikes rushing past behind them…

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Speeding through the Skyride

Posted by Alan on September 6, 2011

So this weekend saw the return of ‘Skyride’ (formerly Hovis freewheel) the cycling event that closes off a large chunk of London so Londoners can meander round on two wheels. Apparently this year saw a drop in attendees, with just 55,000 attending compared with last years 80,000 but then it was raining for much of the day so hardly surprising some people stayed at home. It was good fun – but as you might spot in the video above, put a hi-vis on an over enthusiastic marshal and you invoke their internal god-complex and bring the proceedings to a halt. Ho hum.

Of course, away from the Skyride circuit it was situation normal.

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