A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Posts Tagged ‘bike’

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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Manchester Cycle Chic

Posted by Alan on March 29, 2011

Mr Orange

Manchester, cycle chic?

Last week Manchester joined the growing number of cities with a website dedicated to cycle chic – people riding bikes, dressed for their destination, not clad in Lycra as per the cyclist stereotype.  The original idea started in Copenhagen and there are now worldwide sites, including a Gambia cycle chic! Having spend a few minutes as resident paparazzi in Piccadilly Gardens at the weekend, I felt it was only appropriate to share…!

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A greenway, a waterway and a motorway (almost)

Posted by Alan on March 20, 2011

Olympics and boats

Olympic boats

Having successfully managed to stagger across the finish line at Bogle, the next challenge booked in the diary is the c2c. At at the moment most of my cycling is relatively short utility trips (i.e. shopping and commuting) this is something else to ‘man up’ for.  With a planned completion date of June, it’s time to start training properly!  Yesterday provided a glorious day here in London so I took the opportunity to check out East London’s ‘greenway’, cycling down through the Walthamstow marshes to it’s start at Hackney Wick.  At the moment the Lea/Lee* valley paths are being upgraded for the Olympics so there are a few diversions but once onto the Greenway you start to see what London is capable of infrastructure-wise.

The Greenway

The Greenway - segregated running

The Greenway cuts all the way across the borough of Newham, I believe it’s the main sewer from Hackney to Beckton sewage works. (It certainly smells that way when you pass by a manhole cover!) It’s flat, wide and straight – potentially a very fast piece of cycling infrastructure.  Again due to the Olympics and Crossrail, there are some diversions in place.  There were particularly poor involving much pushing the bike and queuing to allow road traffic in and out of the Olympic park.  It would be nice if there’d been a few signs to as it’s really easy to miss where you should cross Stratford High St.

Anti-cycling gate

Anti-cycling gate

Further down the track there are many road crossings – each with a set of anti-cycling gates at each side.  In most cases they seem to have been vandalised to allow free passage (probably for a few motorcyclist too…) but the odd one remains intact. It does seem a bit odd to create some infrastructure for fast easy cycling and then add barriers to prevent take up.  I know the main target is to prevent people running motorcyclists or quad bikes etc, this really doesn’t seem like the best solution.

The main objective of the trip was to cross the river using the Woolwich free ferry.  A strange anachronism of London down in the bottom right hand corner, the ferry connects the North and South Circular roads.

Bike and Boat

Bike and Boat - from the southside of the water

Apparently there is some legislation meaning there has to be a free crossing here – so the small ferry carries lorries, cars, bikes and pedestrians the short hop between North Woolwich and Woolwich. I wasn’t the only cyclist either! Crossing the river is quick and relatively easy – I was very lucky with where I was put on the boat, opening up a familiar view but from the ‘wrong side’ of the Thames barrier.

A familar sight

A familar sight - but from the 'wrong side'

Once on the south side however, it was pretty obvious the unwritten law (‘south London must be less good than north London’) rang true with respect to cycling facilities.  The ‘Thames Coastal Path’ weaves between the riverside and busy roads with lots of ‘give up an push’ signs.  In the end I gave up trying to follow the path round the Blackwall Reach peninsula due to the lack of sign posts! The roads of between Woolwich and Greenwich did have some advisory cycle lanes but on a Saturday afternoon were as snarled up as a rush hour.  At least, I’m not sure how much worse the traffic could get at rush hour.

Snarling traffic

Snarling traffic

By Greenwich I was pretty knackered – a quick pit stop and a chance to ‘refuel’ before heading under the river again using the foot tunnel.  Currently under renovation, the lifts are closed.  This meant carefully pushing the bike down a spiral staircase and the back up the other side.  Apparently this is part of ‘National Cycle Route 1’ but I didn’t see any signs and you can’t cycle in the tunnel (probably for the best – it’s very busy with people walking). Even back on the north side of the river there didn’t seem to be any NCN1 signs – so I just hit the road and headed towards Poplar. There’s loads of interesting things on the back streets here so it was really cool to explore a bit, even if all of the roads did some how seem to lead to the A12, effectively a motorway. Eventually back to the Lea/Lee path and to the ‘stow.

With 29.3 miles (46km) on the clock it was a new personal best. Still a long way to go though – need to nudge that above 40 miles and cycle every day for a while to ‘toughen up’. Where to venture next I wonder…?

*Lea/Lee – it is spelt differently in places. No idea why.

Posted in Cycling, Transport Rant | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

No monopoly on borisbikes

Posted by Alan on February 25, 2011

So the real reason Mr C visited London was to play about on the Boris Bikes. Being the scheming planning type I thought – why don’t we try something a bit different. How about trying to visit every square on the monopoly board using only Cycle Hire? Great idea. In their glory, here’s the map of all the points:

 

The docking stations of Monopoly

Starting at Angel there were two bikes in the dock – only one would undock. Stop. Walk to the next docking station halfway down Pentonville Road.  Undock. Get distracted and cycle to Marylebone via the segregated route parallel to Euston Road (in doing so miss Euston Road & Kings Cross station).  Due to roadworks even this didn’t go well as the eastern end was closed!

Access Denied

Access Denied

Docking at Marylebone, we then struggled to find another two bikes in the same rack. Which resulted in a walk to Marble Arch and ultimate abandonment. Having not really planned a route between the docks or really thought about it past potting them it probably wasn’t ever going to go well. However, we did then cycle all the way across Hyde Park and back again. And the further east eventually finishing at Liverpool St. So it wasn’t an entirely wasted day.

Jelly family

Jelly family at Marble Arch

Ideally I need to find someone adept enough with computers to run a travelling salesmen algorithm across the points to get the most optimal route.  The two main outliers (Old Kent Road / Marlborough St) might cause you to spend a quid but otherwise everything is easily within 30 minute cycling distance of Charing Cross – but even then I’m sure with a bit of gusto and traffic lights in your favour it would be possible.

For anyone who fancies a go – here’s my Boris Bike Monopoly spreadsheet listing the squares, docks and co-ordinates of the docks.

Enjoy!

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A real cycle superhighway

Posted by Alan on February 24, 2011

At speed - on a bike

At speed

A few weeks ago Mr C of MCR Cycling came to visit, mostly to play on the BorisBikes (more of that later) as well as drink scotch at WhiskySquad #11 and buy a shiny Brompton.  As part of our day on the cycle hire scheme we took in what I would call a proper cycle superhighway.  Straight and segregated, the paths across Hyde Park stretching from Marble Arch to Hyde Park Corner and onto Kensington are absolutely fantastic. They aren’t quite wide enough for really comfortable passing at speed but it was easy enough to pass with care.

In 30 seconds we pass 4 bikes coming out of town – if there were more lanes like this maybe more people might be persuaded to use pedal power to commute regularly.  I haven’t got to commuting myself yet but after Bogle is done, I’ll be onto training for the C2C so I’ll need to build up some stamina and ditch the final 10 kgs before I hit ‘normal’.  10-11 miles each way will be hard to start with but having cycled into town once now I know it is at least not beyond my capability.

Talking of Bogle – sponsorship is now open. I hope you can spare a few quid and gift aid via http://www.justgiving.com/AlanP-Bogle2011! There’s just over a week left before the epic overnight walk begins. Exciting times!

On a lighter note – during the quiet spell mid afternoon, Mr C managed to perfect a wheelie technique. Well, it isn’t specifically banned under the code of conduct!

Wheelie

Oh look a wheelie

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BorisBikes in the snow

Posted by Alan on December 27, 2010

With the recent snow across London and the South East I think it will be interesting to see the impact on the cycle hire scheme. Certainly the bank of bikes at Euston Underpass on Sunday (19 Dec) was full and most bikes bearing some snowy evidence of not having moved anywhere for a while! – Personally I’ve avoided cycling too, though after Christmas with luck the snow will recede and I’ll be back on the saddle… For now, here’s a few pictures of bikes in the snow!

IMG_6287

Boris Bikes sleeping by the Euston Underpass

Frozen controls

Frozen controls

Cold seat

Cold seat

Unlike my last evening sojourn onto the streets with the camera I found just one brave soul cycling along.

Brave soul

Brave soul

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Speeding cyclists

Posted by Alan on October 19, 2010

Speeding cyclists, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

I’ve wanted to try taking panning shots for a while – the idea of inverting the speed and freezing the moving object really appeals for some reason.

I reckon this photo might be better cropped – the tour bus and pedestrian are slightly ugly intrusions into the image.

For the camera geeks, this was taken in Av mode – with the aparture opened as wide as it will go on my kit lens, the standard 18-55mm canon.

Maybe I just need to lie in way on a busy cycling thoroughfare with the 50mm fixed and see what I can do. Might have to learn a bit of patience though :-/

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Ghost Bike

Posted by Alan on October 17, 2010

Ghost Bike, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

Spotted at the corner of Tower Bridge Road/Druid St. Not much else to say other than: RIP David Vilaseca.

9/2/10

http://www.roadpeace.org

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One Less Car

Posted by Alan on October 3, 2010

One Less Car, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

Spotted in the Pembury Tavern, Hackney. It was the barmaids! She seemed slightly freaked out that I was taking a photograph…

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A question of balance

Posted by Alan on September 30, 2010

BorisBike

Boris Bike Brolly

With the recent binary weather affecting London, I haven’t been able to leave home without my brolly.  So… with good weather and a trip over to the BCS YPG in Covent Garden required, well, I couldn’t resist.

Right turns were more challenging, but otherwise it wasn’t a problem at all.

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