Thursday, 29 January 2009

Are Cycle Lanes for Cyclists?

There is a cycle lane which runs along Southend seafront that I refuse to use. Some of the car drivers who pass me make their views pretty clear and think I have no right to be cycling in the road – even though I am riding at between 20 – 25 mph.

The cycle lane runs the other side of the curb between the two sections of pavement

When the government were consulting on the new Highway Code last year they seemed to be in agreement with the motorist who thinks he or she has the sole right to the road by making it compulsory for cyclists to cycle in cycle lanes where one exists.

“Am I just being bloody minded or showing off in some way?” “Why should this be a problem?”, you may well ask. “Why shouldn’t cyclists ride in cycling lanes”.

Well the answer really is quite straight forward. Cycle lanes are not only used by cyclists. And if I am riding at 20 miles and hit someone, then I am liable. No matter that it is a cycle lane and they shouldn’t be there. So it’s a matter of slow down or not use. And I see no reason why I should spoil my ride just because I might be riding at between 5 and 10 miles below the speed limit.

Take last weekend for example. I thought I would be a good citizen and as there weren’t that many people about, thought I would use the cycle lane for a change. First I had to stop while a 5 year old decided which side of the lane she was going to ride or, indeed, if she would even bother to give way. Then there are the joggers who think that the 9 foot wide pavement which runs alongside the cycle lane is not for them. Then there are dog walkers. Or people who clearly think that the risk of being hit by a bike in the cycle lane is more of an appeal than walking on the pavement. And when I shout “Bike” or something like that, I am the one who ends up with the torrent of abuse!

So, for cycle lanes read ‘anyone who feels like using it’ and ‘ll carry on using the road – safer all round.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

On the Road Again

Well it has been six weeks since that fateful day when I was out riding, hit a patch of black ice and ended up of the tarmac with a broken elbow. I did wonder if the local authority had a responsibility to grit the roads and so could in some way be responsible. If they were maybe I could sue for compensation – who cares about a compensation culture, just give me the money. Sadly none of the no-win no-fee companies I contacted were interested. It seems as if there is no clear cut answer as to how far their duty to grit goes. Ah well, not to worry.

Ok, back to the subject at hand. Today's weather forecast was good and tomorrow's said rain, so today would be the day I ventured back out on my bike. I was up nice and early for a reason not related to my ride which just as well because the temperature was only just above freezing and there was a thick frost. Luckily we had to do the shopping first and so the day had warmed up by the time we were finished.

Before I could go out though I needed to first replace the rear inner tube which had blown during the accident, then it was off to change into my cycling gear, including the new jersey I had bought myself for Christmas the chance to wear yet.

Assos cycling jersey

It felt great to be back out cycling again. Without blowing my own trumpet I was pleasantly surprised that I got in two laps of my training circuit (26 miles in total) and that the average speed was 14.5mph. Even more surprising was that my sit bones didn’t hurt at all. I have to say though that I approached left hand curves with more than a little trepidation and slowed to a walking pace when I went round the bend where I had had my accident. I would have liked to have tried for a third lap but my arm was starting to get rather sore and it seemed better to build up slowly rather than risk any damage that might put me back even further.

So now begins the road back to my previous level of fitness and with four months to prepare for my first sponsored ride of the year – 60 miles of Essex countryside for Little Havens Children's Hospice.

That’s all for now as I need to give my bike a well earned wash, clean and relube.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

No More Early Morning Rides for Me

I have always enjoyed early morning rides. The air is fresh, in the summer there is often a crispness to it that makes riding that bit more enjoyable. On the weekends, especially Sunday, there is very little traffic on the road. But then I read this in the february Cycling Plus magazine. Is there really a risk of heart attack or stroke the early in the day one rides? But still, it is a very useful guide to when to ride and certainly hard evidence on stopping at that café for lunch!


Early Morning: Go steady
Virtually all bodily functions are at their worst when you wake, plus you’re unlikely to have had any substantial food intake for 10 hours so energy stores will be depleted. To top things off, exercising early will leave you more prone to injury – or worse. “Research shows this is the most common time of day for suffering heart attacks and strokes while exercising” said Professor Waterhouse of Liverpool John Moores University. If you’re heading out early make it a steady ride and focus on the mental strength that goes with toughing it out when your body is at its worst.

Mid-morning: Pump iron
Though most functions that benefit endurance exercise will be improved from early morning may be a good time for strength training adaptations may be better. “There’s a strong argument for doing weight training in the morming if you’re trying to build muscle” said Dr Stephen Bird of the School of Human Movement Studies in Australia, “because testosterone, the hormone most responsible for muscle-boosting is at its highest around this time”.

Lunchtime: Give it a miss
Nearly all bodily function experience a lull in the middle of the day, particularly lung function and body temperature, which are crucial to cycling. Ideally avoid lunchtime for training but if there is no other option than make it a steady ride and save the tough stuff for a day when you can train later.A lunchtime ride may not do much for your cycling, but it could do wonders for your work. “Exercising during a working lunch break perks you up and is likely to make you more productive in the afternoon” said work-place psychologist Mike Clinton.

Mid-late afternoon: Speedwork and time-trials
Physically there are no negatives connected with this time of day – the only drawbacks are likely to be psychological. Mentally we’re at our best shortly after waking and things just get worse as the day goes on. Consequently, many people report that the hardest part of training in the mid-to-late afternoon is simply getting out of the door. But if you can summon up the mental strength, you should find you go faster at this time than any other, so it’s ideal for time-trials or speedwork, where you’re looking to get the best out of yourself.