A bit of time off from work to enjoy London and taking photos for pleasure.
A bit of time off from work to enjoy London and taking photos for pleasure.
My commute to work takes me via Oval and onto the new Cycle Superhighway each morning. I’ve been so pleased to see this happen and am a big supporter of the new cycle infrastructure that has been causing such chaos recently whilst it’s being installed. It’s an incredible experience to be riding to work on a segregated cycle route of a decent width and in some cases with your own set of lights that let you go before the rest of the traffic. The one towards Vauxhall, CS5, is particularly good.
With this new infrastructure comes the realisation that my commutes are probably going to be a lot slower as I’m no longer moving at the same pace (or faster) than traffic – what is often termed ‘vehicular cycling‘. I would much prefer the Dutch style of cycling in that everyone does it, everyone feels relatively safe and it’s not just for enthusiasts such as myself who are considered slightly odd for not commuting on the tube. With this comes the acceptance that to have more people cycling in London I will have to go slower, be more tolerant of other riders and generally not race along at 35-40km an hour. But you know, that’s worth it for me. I can go to Richmond Park, Regents Park, find hills all over the city for me to dress up in my spandex and raise my heart rate if I want. I’d rather London was safer so my girlfriend might consider riding again.
There was a really interesting article I found the other day via the fantastic Urbanphoto Twitter account. The summary being that most current cyclists are going to hate the future they’re all campaigning for. Again the example of our European friends is made.
Riders on dedicated bike lanes in Munich only go as fast as the slowest person in the bike lane. So we rode along pretty slowly after we got “trapped” behind the lady in pink—who wasn’t about to risk breaking a sweat in her dress—and no one had a problem with it. People just rode along behind her, letting the woman in the pink dress set the pace, and no one got aggro about it. A few riders passed her when we came to an intersection but no one shot her a dirty look or gave her any grief.
Having read this I’ve been really quite careful about passing other riders, especially on the new Cycle Superhighways. So much so that I worry about free-wheeling too much behind them with my clicky Hope hub in case it pressures someone in front too much. I do a little soft pedal until it’s safe to go by. Even when dressed in full roadie kit I’ve waited then passed when safe and avoided the temptation to be seen to be smashing it past.
With this all in mind I had an interesting experience on CS7 at Oval a few weeks ago. I was dressed in some baggy shorts, casual jacket and riding a muddy cross bike to work and was in front of people on the CS7 doing an average pace. I was riding two abreast with a friend who I had bumped into. I heard someone behind me so went to move in and let them through. Before I had a chance I heard a blowing through the mouth from him like a horse but clearly with the intention of showing his displeasure at being held up. The light 200 metres ahead was red so not much of a rush really. Besides, as soon as I realised I was holding someone up I swiftly moved over.
Passing there was another tut and he desperately raced for the lights. I then clocked the rear facing camera so gave a cheeky wave to it. We naturally caught up at the next lights and I asked him what the problem was. Then I saw the front camera. So clearly someone into cycling and wanting to make sure that anyone else doing wrong was swiftly brought to account on their YouTube channel (a wild guess at this stage) but front and rear cameras suggested this.
Further chats were had and still more justification for why he needed to get to the front and generally be a bit of an arse to other people in the cycle lane. And then the red mist took over on my part so I chased him down and got a photo of him which is when he spat at me and then gave the finger for the camera – I’ll not post the pictures. Sure, there was some provocation on my part but then at the next set of lights I spotted the Space 4 Cycling Badge proudly pinned to the bag. I asked about this but was told that I had completely misunderstood what Space 4 Cycling is for. I suggested it was so that everyone could cycling in London and feel safe. Apparently not.
I cycled off still pretty pissed off. After a while I wondered if the video might appear online. But in an interesting turn of events I actually followed (past tense) that person on Twitter. The irony being that their feed is full of pulling other people up for the quality of driving. All with videos. And a great deal of it is about cycling infrastructure and in support of it, so it seems strange that I’m in their way. Whilst this person apologised online it’s still a bad state of affairs when this happens. Interestingly he also posted up about him suffering from a case of MGIF (Must Get In Front – I had to Google it). Yet all the cycle campaigners responding to him seemed to be fully in support of his actions although without the full story.
Cycling in London is going to get more and more popular and hopefully there’ll be less people like this spoiling it for those venturing out on their bikes for the first time. I’d rather see families with children in these lanes riding slowly than overbearing helmet cammers any day of the week.
This weekend was due to be a big weekend of cross riding and be my first taste of cyclocross. This year I thought I’d have a go and see what all the fuss is about and maybe take the sting out of getting towards my first crit in the new year. The idea was to race at Kings Cross in the third round of the Rapha Supercross and then Incredibly Cross on the Sunday.
At the Supercross I entered my age category and also the fun category – the tequila shortcut being particularly appealing. Things didn’t start well and they were already two hours behind when I arrived to sign on – no one really seemed to know what was going on. Ahh well, more time to chat and watch people racing I guess and enjoy the atmosphere. It was raining and pretty cold and they’d relocated the stands undercover to compensate. I managed to do two practice laps and it felt pretty sketchy on a few corners. I did hear a few thuds of riders slapping themselves down on the hard floor behind me as well as the ‘ooooh’ from those watching. I almost lost my front wheel in one of the corners on the wet granite but was pleased to see that everything was rideable – no need for cross dismounts! This was good as I hadn’t really practiced these properly. Regardless I was still keen to ride and experience a few sharp elbows and the fun of it all. I thought a few MTB skills might help get round the course and give me a chance against those faster than me on the straights. Sadly it wasn’t to be as someone came a cropper on a loose bit of ply on one of the ramps during the women’s race. 20 mins later it was all over after lots of people in high vis inspected things and stood around talking. Presumably lots of teeth sucking was also involved. To be honest I was a bit gutted as I’d psyched myself up for it for a while and climbing down was a bit odd. Anyway, then they announced the free bar courtesy of Canopy, my favourite local brewery! A cheer went up and we enjoyed the free beer. Loads of the Brixton lot were there as well as various others in the London cycling community.
Plenty of beer was had and what more fun could be had in Kings Cross than putting an injured cyclist (broken collar bone) in a shopping trolley and wheeling him around. Seemed amusing at the time.
So, Sunday was another hangover and getting up and ready for the Incredibly Cross event. The idea of it is that it’s an underground informal, unsanctioned cross event that happens in a local woods, a course is made, ridden and then removed leaving only tyre tracks and a few weary riders with more hangovers. I’d been riding with Steve the weekend before who’d told me about the inspiration for it. In the US there are a number of events that are not part of a race series but just organised by friends and often involve a bit of fancy dress and plenty of drinking. Incredibly Cross offers the usual men and womens podium places along with two other prizes, most inappropriate bike and best fancy dress. My logic was that I would get a good race on the Sat so why not have a bit of fun on the Sunday? Steve convinced us to have a go at the most inappropriate bike. My first thought was my Brompton or #pizzabike. But instead I settled on a Boris bike! And why not dress up as Boris also? A few trips to a charity shop and a trip to Oval to get a bike I was ready. Working in Camden made getting a blonde wig pretty easy too.
After collecting the Boris bike I was alarmed at the weight of it whilst I man handled it into the van – 26kg or about 3.5 times as heavy as my road bike! Too late, we’re committed now. I put my wig on, jacket, tie, brogues and so on and then had the slightly strange experience of riding around sub-urban Mitcham dressed as Boris Johnson along a main road next to a park, much to the bemusement of onlookers. I finally worked out where to go and arrived dinging my bell and a nice cheer from the crowd who had already assembled. This was the second race in the series and they had attracted over 60 people which is amazing. A few others had also dressed up including Neil who came as Evil Kinevil and also Ben who came along in a white jump suit with home made spacehelmet. As you do!
Entry to the race is the princely sum of £2 or four tins of beer. I brought four bottles of Babycham and a bottle of Pink Cherry Lambrini as my entry which was fortunately accepted. The usual sign on and pinning of numbers takes place and then it’s down to racing! It’s a Le Mans start so drop the bikes off, walk back and go. Except I had an advantage – the Boris bike has a stand so was already upright and visible. That was where my advantage ended. Whilst everyone had their briefing all the bikes were moved around by Steve and Robin so as to add to the fun. Four bikes of the same model were carefully located together to further add to the confusion.
James also managed to capture a clip of the madness of a Le Mans start as well as Seb winning the run although celebrating a little too early
I’d already done a quick practice lap and regretted the brogues with their slippy soles even more than the heavy Boris bike. The step through cross bar did allow speedy dismount though. I was also relieved to hear that it was based on time (40 mins) and not laps. After two laps I was dying and so so hot in that jacket. However it was a hell of a lot of fun and I did actually want to ride it not just pootle around.
The course was great fun and did have me wishing for the actual cross bike, light wheels and frame and knobbly tyres. Never mind we were here now.
On your right Boris. Thanks Boris.
Amusingly everyone seemed to want to join in with the fun and I didn’t get lapped as much as I thought I would. The bike handled surprisingly well with it’s big tyres and ridiculous weight. The only trouble I had was lifting it up over the two log obstacles and the little step up log. That last one got harder and harder each time.
After I’d accepted it was going to hurt, stowed my jacket in the basket at the front and rolled up my sleeves I was even more into it. And then there were the beer hand ups. Hilarious. Trying to grab a beer from one person at relative speed, take sip without it going everywhere and then handing it back was challenging at best. James seemed to be having fun handing them out though.
Sadly I had to avoid the shot of whiskey offered due to needing to drive back but by all accounts most people managed to spill it all over their face anyway.
Laps got harder and harder towards the end and I was so pleased to hear the final bell go for the last lap. It did seem like a bit of a shame that it was all over but the chequered flag was still a welcome sight. Shouts of “do a skid” rang out as each person crossed the line.
I did manage to ride almost all of the course though and love these two photos. The first actually looking at the exit of a corner – something Neil has been telling me to do on a mountainbike for years and then secondly
racing letting Will go past on my right.
Once everyone was done tins of beer were opened and then a small prize giving and podium took place for the men and women. So good to see two Brixton women on the podium and Adeline with first place! Ben (also BCC) got best outfit and I got most inappropriate bike so a not a bad day for Brixton in all.
I won back my Babycham and Ben won my Lambrini which we of course opened and sprayed over each other.
Such an amazing day out on an inappropriate bike and it kind of reminded me of that stupid care free time you have mucking about on bikes in the woods as a kid. Although with beer. Such a great atmosphere, organisation, course and bunch of people. Can’t wait to do it again although with a proper bike.
Some of my other favourite photos below. And as with most cycling events, it ended up in Canopy after.
It’s sad to see that Brixton Cycles need to vacate their current premises to make way for a development of flats on the site. Sadly most are likely to be completely un-affordable for the majority of people but then that’s the London property market for you.
Brixton Cycles is more than just a bike shop. We’re London’s oldest worker-owned bike coop and an integrated part of the Brixton community. For 32 years we’ve been serving the cyclists of South London, supporting them to live a healthy, eco-conscious lifestyle, as well as encouraging young people in the local area onto two wheels, lending them tools for free.
Unfortunately, in January we have to leave our current premises as it’s being converted into luxury flats as part of the gentrification of the area. We’ve played a key role in the development of this community over the last 32 years and now we’re being excluded from the next chapter of it’s story!
We estimate the cost of moving as between £120-£150,000, including renovating a new space to fit our needs. As a coop, this is money we just don’t have. That’s why we’re asking for your help to cover some of these costs, to help us #savebrixtoncycles!
Last night they launched a crowd funding campaign to help them cover the costs of moving to a new space which hopefully means they can stay in Brixton for many years to come. Whilst I’m normally sceptical of crowd funding campaigns this one looks pretty well done and has some decent rewards for all levels of budgets. I’ve pledged some money to make sure I get a T-shirt and limited edition cap. As if I need another “stupid little hat” – Emma’s words not mine. I also get to have my name on the wall of the new shop which is a nice little touch.
As of writing they’ve got to £19,392 of the £40,000 they need. Pretty impressive for less than a day of fundraising! Make sure you watch and share the below video and please give a few quid to this great London institution.
I also love this video of Jim fluffing his lines over and over again.
I’ve been off the early morning sessions for a bit but managed to drag myself out of bed yesterday at 5am to join the RCC hills ride. I opted for the ‘stylish’ over fast group and met at the cafe for 6am for a quick filter coffee before heading out to the posh north hills of London.
As we congregated outside the club a series of drunk guys came past. One guy lingered a little and started peeing in a doorway. I’d already judged him as a bit of an idiot but then he started having a bit of a laugh with the delivery guy who was about to try and deliver in the doorway he was peeing in.
He finally turned around and clocked us all in our kit.
Night ride is it? For charity?
In my usual slightly sarcastic manner I said we were riding for charity. Without saying anything he fumbled in his pocket and pulled out two fifty pound notes, a twenty and some change. He then thrust a fifty into my hand and then stumbled off into the night to catch up with his mates.
I couldn’t quite believe it but it was legit and went straight into the bank. I’ve donated it to the Manchester to London fund. So thank you to whoever you are and I hope your hangover wasn’t too bad.
Each year Brixton Cycle Club / Shop puts of a big day of track racing at the superb Herne Hill Velodrome. It always seems to get great reviews and the pictures from the last few have been great.
This year I got involved through the club and ended up flyering and handing out posters to a variety of bike shops and cycle friendly cafes in London. This was an interesting experience seeing people’s reaction when you ask if they wouldn’t mind putting up a poster. Everyone was great and so friendly with only one exception. It also helped that whoever they got to sort the graphics did a cracking job of it.
So whilst it meant sacrificing a ride on the Sunday I cycled down on my Brompton to the track and took my camera and seldom used silly long lens. It was great to get down there and see some familiar faces as well as a few that I didn’t recognise. What was odd was that a few people said hello but I didn’t recognise them due to not being in a club jersey and bib shorts. It took a while but I got chatting to most people as well as met a few people I’ve known of or follow on Instagram but not properly met yet.
I probably got there a bit early for beer and racing but made do with coffee at first whilst we found a suitable spot to watch the action.
It was too tempting not to try the Canopy Beer on offer so started tucking in to that. Racing seemed to start but I really don’t know much about the track so wasn’t really that sure what was going on. A few people explained the races that were taking place but to be honest it was nice just soaking it all up and not being too involved.
We had a great spot at the side of the track and one of the best events was a sprint which sent a pair of riders past us at an alarming rate. The sound of perfectly tuned bikes and that unmistakable sound of carbon rims with fully inflated tyres rushing past was pretty impressive. A woooosh and then they were gone. The physical size and shape of the sprinters was equally alarming!
More beer was consumed, chats were had and the myth of roadies being completely up tight fun-suckers was put to bed once you’d seen the Brixton stall in action. Probably the most laid back cycling club in the world.
We also got to meet Chutney, the club secretary’s dog! What a lovely little thing he is, chasing stones, charming everyone he met.
So yes, too much beer was had, too much sun was had but it was an incredible day of watching some top notch track racing. I still have no idea what went on but the atmosphere was incredible and the performance of the riders really something. Can’t wait to go again next year but with suncream. Here’s a few of my favourite shots and the rest are on Flickr.
I’ve ridden over this bridge most weekday nights for the last seven or so years. It’s always a treat to glance left and right at the best view in London. I’ve posted more photos of this view to Flickr and Instagram than I should have and yet it’s still able to surprise you with its beauty.
Tonight I cycled back after a shitty day at work and was blown away by the colours in the reflections of the glass on the towers of the City.
It’s a terrible photo and sadly doesn’t do the scene any real justice. After I’d taken the photo I put my phone away and just admired the sheer beauty of it all. The fade of the light reminded me of 80’s and 90’s airbrush art where there was a super exaggerated chromed look in a lot of the work. Strangely it also reminded me of the Les Rhythms Digitales artwork.
I found this interesting little video earlier which looks at the alterations made to London Bridge station in the 70’s as well as some of the history behind it. The clip is only 15 mins long and shows some great shots of the wider area at the time. It’s even more interesting to me as the whole station is now being reworked again 40 years later. I love the signal box they show as being all modern and new then. It’s always been a fascination to me as you get the train in.
Via Bill Chidley
A month or so ago I joined Brixton Cycles Club after doing a fair amount of research, which mainly involved talking to a bunch of different people about what makes a good cycle club as well as knowing a few people there already. That and the fact that they clearly have the best kit in London persuaded me to join.
I went along for a first session and enjoyed it. It was a warm sunny day and it was pretty busy. A lot of the clubs have been swelling in numbers recently and Brixton is no exception. So that ride ended up with around 30-40 people in my rough estimation and although it was a large group it was well run and well disciplined. It was a nice day out, we had a good stop and chat, eat some cake, drank some coffee and then came back. I rode a few lanes I hadn’t done before and met and chatted to a few people I knew as well as a few other newbies like myself. After getting back I paid my fees and promptly went down to the shop the following day to get my jersey which I’ve worn with pride since. However I’d also then had a number of other rides planned for Sundays which meant I couldn’t go back until today.
So even though there was a forecast of constant rain for the whole day I turned up this morning at cafe St Germain at Crystal Palace expecting a far smaller group. I wasn’t crazy about going out but wasn’t going to do anything else really. Predictably there was hardly anyone there, only six of us including myself. But this didn’t matter and it made the group more intimate and enjoyable in many ways. The rain and the cold was less so.
I’d prepared properly and dressed up in as much winter clothing as I owned as well doing the cling film under the overshoes trick Leo had recommended a while back. The previous was quite mild and warm but today was freezing with the added benefit of pouring rain. I route was briefly discussed along with agreeing to not stop and get cold at a cafe. And off we went into the rain. It wasn’t that bad at first really and once we got going seemed to be ok. I wished I had worn a winter hat though to protect my ears.
We still managed a chat whilst riding and the occasional stop to regroup and roll our eyes the weather. We started looking for decent hills to warm us up and get the blood pumping again. That was fine until you started pointing the bike up hill and felt the rear wheel slipping as well as struggling with cold knees, even in winter tights. Large sections of the route were flooded with puddles over the entire road. I was thankful for mudguards and discs although the rear brake didn’t seem to be doing much by the end – I think this is down to cable stretch though.
It did all seem a bit silly at times but I strangely enjoyed it all, especially meeting a few more people to chat with and share a few kms rather than slogging it out on my own. After we got back to Crystal Palace I convinced Will, Richard and Celia to come for a coffee at Daily Goods to warm up. The coffee at St Germain is terrible but it’s a ritual I guess so can’t be too harsh on the place. Daily Goods allowed us to stand in the front bit and drip everywhere whilst we ordered and consumed multiples coffees as well as some food. Whilst we were standing there a young woman came over to Celia, seeing that she was cold, and offered her a shawl which was pretty sweet.
Overall a pretty decent day out on the bike and hopefully makes amends for not showing up at the recent club runs. I’ll be back again next Sunday but hopefully slightly less damp.