A Grim North

Musings from a northerner living in the deep south…

Posts Tagged ‘London’

Megadock

Posted by Alan on August 9, 2011

Megadock, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

The new huge dock by Southwark tube has partly opened – the first tranche of docks are round the back of the station.

On Thursday my key will be 1 year old and auto-expire. Been a good year – I still haven’t got Victoria to Liverpool St down to sub-20 minutes, but I’m starting to think that’s down to my obedience at red lights! Think I’ll probably renew, £45 for a year is much better value than I would ever get at a gym…

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Skyride

Posted by Alan on August 5, 2011

I’m a day off today, which has given me the chance to catch up on some bits and pieces and lounge round the house. This meant I followed up on an email from TfL, telling me about the joy of Skyride. Being a bit of a leftie liberal, I did think twice about whether I should sign up for something so overtly connected with Sky but the centrist me me said ‘meh’, it might be a nice bike ride – there’ll be no cars on the road! On signing up you get presented with this survey, to ‘help them organise their events’:

Skyride Survey

‘Some cyclists thing they own the roads and are a danger to other traffic’?
Really now? Spot the question written by the non-cyclist!

Yes cyclists can be a danger to pedestrians (less to then motorised vehicles, obviously) but the majority of the time anything stupid one does puts the cyclist at risk rather than the ‘traffic’. 13st of me versus a 1 tonne car is not a contest I’m likely to win. I wonder what outcome the researcher is actually trying to get to from that question…

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Not quite London to Brighton

Posted by Alan on June 14, 2011

This weekend I attempted my longest bike ride yet, the target a pint of Darkstar’s finest at the Evening Star. This was always going to be a challenge and sadly I gave in 15 miles short in Haywards Heath. But not without some adventure and some lovely Southern scenery. Heading out from home the first stop was Crystal Palace, 17 miles down the road from home.

Crystal Palace

It's that tele mast again

A short pause for a quick snack and drink before an excellent run down the other side of the hill.  At this point I wasn’t following a route map, just trying to point in vaguely the right direction. This was probably a mistake! Seeing signs for Bromley and Beckenham I turned westwards and ended up on the edge of Croydon near Selhurst. Not something I really wanted – Croydon is a very motorised place, fully of dual carriageways and car parks. This diversion easily added 2 miles compared with the route I could have taken by heading towards Beckenham. Oops. Eventually I fell out of the urban sprawl and onto country roads.

Frylands Wood, New Addington

Frylands Wood, New Addington

The next pit stop at around 27.5 miles was a pub called the ‘White Bear’. It looked pretty good – a reasonable selection of ale, busy but not uncomfortable and the food looked fine. Some of the reviews online are less positive and it was £2 for a blackcurrent and soda – daylight robbery! Still, an ample chance to sit and take on board more liquid before heading southwards again. Unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to work my new gps toy properly yet – so ‘mile 27’ apparently took 44 minutes to complete…

So here comes the ranty bit.  In my planning I’d looked up a couple of routes, using CycleStreets and Sustrans. I really don’t know why I bother with the latter – I’m more and more convinced each time I try a Sustrans route that it’s been designed for someone with a 4×4 and bike rack who likes a slow pedal at the weekend.

Muddy ditch

This is 'national cycle route 21'

NCN 21 is Sustrans London to Brighton route, or more specifically Greenwich to Brighton route. So perhaps you might expect that connecting two cities it is a well paved, waymarked route allowing comfortable progress of 10-15 miles per hour. I’m not exactly Chris Boardman after all. Sadly it isn’t. Just 100 metres after finding the route at the White Bear, it turned into a muddy ditch. Since destroying my pedals on the way to Southend (and possibly the other rides before that) my bike is currently out of action waiting new pedals and retirement in the north. This mean’s I have Ruth’s Trek road bike – it’s not designed for this and this slowed me right down to 5-8 mph.

Spot the sign

Spot the sign

The route is waymarked, but these are often small hidden dark coloured signs on dark trees. Admittedly not a great photo but if you can spot the sign good on you!

Sign in Context

Sign in Context

As soon as the next sign pointed onto another track, I gave up on NCN 21 and took to using maps and minor roads.  By Caterham (mile 32) I was getting ready for the next break – but instead I got held up, by a carnival! This 5 minute wait proved a useful little boost.

Caterham Carnival

Caterham Carnival

Just over 35 miles, the pit stop proper arrived – the Caterham viewpoint. It’s a great view with the M25 completely hidden from the top. You can still hear it though – in the distance, the South Downs and the next lot of challenges.

Caterham Viewpoint

Caterham Viewpoint

By this stage I had started to flag a bit – I’m not convinced I’ve got the diet right on a ride to provide the optimum level of energy. At mile 42 I found another pub to take on water, the Dog and Duck close to the village of Outwood. I was fast running out of afternoon and it started to become clear that I wouldn’t get to Brighton, at least, not if I wanted to get home at a sensible hour.  So I switched the target to beat 55 miles so that at least I’ve cycled further in a day than I’ve walked!

Viaduct

Ouse Valley Viaduct

The Ouse Valley Viaduct just outside Haywards Heath provided a last breathtaking scene, this time man made countryside as the road dips down just above the river before climbing into Haywards Heath itself. Arriving just after 6pm, it had taken me 8 hours to travel the 57.6 miles – with stops. According to the GPS thingy, a moving average of 10mph, with my actual moving time being just under 6 hours.

Onto a train by half 6 and back in London sometime around 1915 leaving time for one last photograph.

The Shard

Looking up - The Shard

It’s not long now until ‘the big one’ – the c2c ride from Whitehaven to Tynemouth. Our maximum distance per day is around 45 miles. Now it’s just the hills to worry about!

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Work in progress

Posted by Alan on June 2, 2011

Work in is progress, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

Ooh, I wonder if this is the first sign of the Southwark mega docking station…?

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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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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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A view for a beer

Posted by Alan on April 11, 2011

Last weekend I took the bike down the Kernel brewery in Bermondsey, primarily because I wanted to stock up on beer! It’s a good 10 miles or so. On the way back I used it as an excuse to check out cycle Superhighway 3 out towards the Docklands, before heading up toward the Olympic Park at Stratford.

An Oast - used to store hops

An Oast - used to store dry hops, at Bow Locks

Having been on the go pretty much all morning without break I popped into the Container Café / View Tube by the Olympics Park.

The View Tube

The View Tube

It’s a pretty neat location – you can see the building work going on all around you and enjoy a bacon sandwich. It’s a bit hippy-ish,  despite being in the middle of one of the most commercial projects in London!

Inside the container café

Inside the container café

I guess it won’t be there much longer – I can’t imagine it would be allowed to stay during the games itself, so if you’ve got a spare sunny Saturday nip down the Greenway and have a look at progress.

Stadium

Stadium

Aquatics centre?

Aquatics centre?

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Things I have learned this weekend…

Posted by Alan on April 10, 2011

Looking north

Looking north from Sydenham Hill

  • South London has far too many trees
  • Both North and South London have some appallingly signed cycle routes.
  • Crystal Palace is reasonably hilly, but probably not hilly enough to really count for c2c
  • Tandem bicycles are more normal south of the water (saw two in quick succession)
  • Epping isn’t actually that far away.
  • Endomondo and my N96 really don’t get on well.
  • Always eat before going to a beer festival (especially if you’ve never been to the venue before and they have live music)…

Ahh… It’s been a good weekend. Long may it last.

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To the top

Posted by Alan on April 5, 2011

This weekend I took to the roads and cycle lanes of London again for two adventures, clocking up around 35 miles in total.  The second trip took me from home to Hampstead Heath and the opportunity to tick of another London must: the view from Parliament Hill.

The view from Parliament Hill

Looking south: the view from Parliament Hill

It wasn’t a spectacularly clear day – so I am quite impressed that some detail has come out in the cloud. The City is typically hazy (this is Sunday’s air pollution!), something that maybe one day will get fixed. It’s a real mixed use space – picnics, kite flying, many runners, sadly no cycling but due to the number of people walking I can understand that. (This doesn’t negate the fact I still need to find a hill to practice on).

Looking away

Just the three of us. Looking away.

Further down the hill you can start to pick out other detail – the London eye, just how utterly massive the Shard is and the motley crew of tower blocks apparently dumped at random across the London skyline.

Another view - spot the London Eye

Another view - spot the London Eye

Apparently the heath isn’t off limits to all wheeled vehicles as this mobility scooter proved – I bet that was an uncomfortable ride!

Off road

Off road mobility

With the photographic opportunities finished (i.e. we got bored) next stop was the Southampton Arms, just round the corner from the bottom of the heath.

Ale and cider house

Southampton Arms: an ale and cider house

There’s more about the pub over at my other blog but in summary it most excellent. 10 ales, 8 ciders and a selection of pies. What more can you ask for?

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ReCycling

Posted by Alan on April 2, 2011

Recycling, originally uploaded by Alan Perryman.

Waltham Forest encourage you not to dispose of your redundant bike irresponsibly by providing a bike recycling facility…

Edit 04/04/2011: I finally did a bit of research rather than jumping the gun and going with the sign. It’s not somewhere to just dump a bike – you can go down to buy a recycled bike cheap and get cycling, which is actually a pretty good idea. It might all be a bit random but for £45 you could get lucky…

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