Graphs.

Time for my yearly round-up of statistic-filled cycling nerdiness, and this time I’m even including BAR GRAPHS!

Since my ride through France in June, I’ve fallen out of the habit of blogging about my cycling, so a summary of 2014’s two-wheeled adventures seems like a perfect excuse to start back up again, for what promises to be a year full of changes, challenges, and definitely a lot less cycling.

2014: The Numbers.

Total distance: 6245.24km

Time spent cycling: 289hrs 47mins 10secs

Average speeds: 21.74km/h (Ridgeback touring bike) / 24.98km/h (Giant road bike)

Top speeds: 62.2km/h (Ridgeback) / 67.1km/h (Giant)

Crashes: 2 (one chin split open and glued shut, one horribly bruised hip)

Punctures: 2 (both in France, one piece of metal, one thorn)

Here are two nerdy graphs, the first being 2013’s riding and the second 2014’s:

2013

2014

My year of cycling began about as badly as it could, when on only my second outing I came off on a patch of ice, landing on my chin and splitting it open. A trip to hospital followed, where I had my chin glued shut, and then whiplash set in and kept me off the bike for the next ten days or so.

Over the next few months I enjoyed some relatively mild weather, gradually building up my distances in preparation for June’s adventure to the south of France. April saw me complete the ’30 Days of Biking’ challenge for the first time (annoyingly I never got round to writing a blog about this), riding my bike every day during the month of April, and racking up 636.72km in the process.

Then, in May, I took park in my first Friday Night Ride to the Coast ride, cycling overnight from York to Hull, via Garthorpe with a group of 30 or so other cyclists. Again, I don’t think I found the time to blog about this ride, but perhaps I’ll join them again for another ride this year or next. I did manage to post a YouTube video of the ride, which can be seen here.

Other than my ride with the ‘Fridays’, May was a fairly quiet month, other than a couple of 100km training rides at around the same time, and I spent much of my time making final preparations for what turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and challenging trips of my life – a solo ride from Caen on the north coast of France to the Mediterranean coast and Ceret in the foothills of the Pyrenees. I wrote a daily blog entry during the trip, the first of which can be found here.

On my arrival in the south of France I received the amazing news that I was to become a father, and as I write I’m just over six weeks away from the arrival of my son! Naturally, 2015 will be a year of much less cycling, and I won’t be setting any targets to get anywhere near this year’s total of over 6000km. The touring will be on hold for a while, but only until I can get the boy in the back of a bike trailer… I plan to get my touring fix by completing the ‘C2C‘ route from Whitehaven to Sunderland towards the end of the summer. (On my own, obviously. I’m not sure six month olds are very well suited to cycle touring).

Much of my summer riding after France took place in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, including a Lincoln to Sheffield ride, a gruelling circuit from Sheffield into the Peak District taking in part of the Tour de France route, and a trip along the Monsal Trail with two of my colleagues.

Bike upgrades:

In preparation for the French tour, the Ridgeback was treated to a bit of an overhaul this year. I built a new set of wheels from scratch, with a Shimano Dynamo hub built into the front wheel, and Mavic A719 rims. These wheels have proven to be well worth the expense, and remained rock-solid and totally true all the way down through France with the bike fully loaded with panniers.

The dynamo did an excellent job of running front and rear Busch & Muller lights and powering a battery pack which in turn kept my GPS fully powered all the way through France, eliminating the need to carry spare batteries. I’d strongly recommend a dynamo hub and  lights to both touring and winter cyclists. Knowing you’ve always got lights and power without worrying about batteries running out is a big bonus.

I also fitted an Ortlieb handlebar bag, which was invaluable in France, allowing easy access to small bits and bobs like my phone, wallet, snacks, and jacket. It’s now a permanent part of my bike, and I wonder how I coped without one.

Social media:

I’ve been following some great blogs and podcasts throughout 2014, the standout ones being the Pedal Hub podcast, presented by three cycling fanatics from Minneapolis/St Paul, one of whom is the brains behind 30 Days of Biking, and The Path Less Pedaled, a blog about all things cycling, run by a couple from the USA. Their Facebook page is definitely worth a follow, and provides lots of cycle touring inspiration. The Sprocket Podcast is another highly recommended show, presented by Brock Dittus and Aaron Flores from Portland, Oregon, who sample a new beer or other alcoholic beverage during each show whilst chatting about bikes.

And so, into 2015, which promises to be a year full of new experiences and excitement. My riding will probably be made up of mainly smaller, local rides, and perhaps I’ll even be able to post an entry to mark the first time I take my little boy on the bike! I’ll have a go at completing 2015’s 30 Days of Biking, and will be looking forward to a three day mini-tour in September when I ride the C2C.

Finally, I can’t finish without mentioning my colleague Martin Winslade, who has set himself the highly ambitious challenge of using his bike every day of 2015, and is blogging about his progress. Good luck Martin.

Happy cycling!

Erasmus.

After months of preparation and planning, I’m finally taking the tourer abroad again, for the first time since last summer’s London to Paris trip. Before I’d even come home from Paris last June, I’d started dreaming up my next trip, and decided I’d have a go at a self-supported ‘Manche to Med’ trip this summer.

So I’m now writing this on the train from Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour, where I’ll board an overnight ferry, arriving at Caen at around 7am tomorrow, my 29th birthday. Finally the trip that’s seemed like a distant pipedream for so many months is now a reality, and tomorrow I’ll pedal the first 140km of around 1300km I’ll be cycling in France on this trip.

Despite having been planning for so long, inevitably the last few days have been a bit of a wild rush to make sure everything was ready, and until last night I hadn’t even uploaded (or even planned) the final few days of my route onto the GPS, and left it until today to sort out my travel insurance and euros. But I’ve always been pretty good at procrastination, so none of this is much of a surprise.

So. A quick overview of the next few weeks in France. I’m planning on taking ten days to cycle from Caen to Perpignan, which is a distance of around 1000km, and will average around 100km each day. The first three days are a bit further, and I’ll cycle 140km, 130km and 120km each day, followed by some easier, shorter days of around 90km.

Once I’ve made it down to Perpignan, on the Mediterranean coast near the Spanish border, I’ll head inland to Ceret, where I’ll meet Mum, Dad, and my two sisters for a week of rest and recuperation in a villa with a swimming pool. Then I’ll take a three day trip along the south coast, covering 300km from Ceret to Avignon, passing through the Camargue on the way. Then, at Avignon, I’ll hand the bike over to my parents so that they can take it back to England in their motorhome, due to the virtual impossibility of getting a bicycle onto a TGV in anything other than a bike box.

From Avignon, I’ll take a super-speedy TGV up to Paris (under three hours from city to city I think), where I’ll stay with Luke and Krystelle (frineds of my elder sister), before boarding a Eurostar home the following day, June 25th.

Already, day one of the trip has involved one or two hurdles, and more stress than should be necessary. I’ve lost one of my back lights (I knew the mount was rubbish, and thought it might fall off at some point), but it was the cheaper of the two, so it wasn’t a big deal, and had one idiotic driver pull out in front of me from a junction in Lincoln.

As ever, boarding the two-carriage train at Lincoln with a fully loaded bike was stressful and more effort than it should be, and highlighted the lack of provision for cyclists on smaller, local trains. There were already two bikes on the train when it pulled into the station, and two is officially the limit. Which was a problem considering I was waiting on the platform with a loaded touring bike and another cyclist. We just about managed to squeeze on with a lot of help and baggage-moving from the guard.

Boarding the East Coast Mainline train at Newark was a little easier, but involved the usual dash from putting the bike into the bike carriage at the very front of the train, and running to climb into one of the passenger carriages further along, in the 5 seconds or so they allow the train to stop at the station for.

The cycle from Kings Cross to Waterloo was brief and pretty straightforward with the aid of the GPS, and gave me a chance to get used to the handling of a fully loaded bike, which felt nice and smooth, and not too much effort once I got moving.

The bike has had a fairly major overhaul since London to Paris. I’ve built a new set of wheels from scratch, and included a dynamo hub in the front, which provides a perfect solution for the power-hungry GPS I’ll be using to navigate all the way down through France. One of the main problems with the GPS last summer was that I needed a lot of very high capacity rechargeable batteries, which didn’t quite last a full day of cycling. I was able to get round the problem last time due to the fact that I was only on the road for four days, and could carry enough batteries to last the trip.

The dynamo hub seemed like the ideal solution to powering the GPS for a ten day cycle, and has (so far) worked faultlessly. An added bonus is that I’ve also been able to attach a battery pack with a USB connection, which is kept constantly topped up by the dynamo even while the GPS is running, so can be used at the end of each day to provide power for other batteries (GoPro, phone, etc). I also invested in a front dynamo light, from Germany, which means I don’t ever have to worry about keeping batteries topped up for that either.

I’ve also invested in more Ortlieb luggage this time, as one of the most annoying things on the London to Paris trip was having to cram my four panniers with all my gear, which made getting to small bits and bobs like my wallet, snacks, and so on a bit of a nightmare. In addition to the two front and two rear panniers I took to Paris, I’ve now got a handlebar bag (which I’m now wondering how on earth I coped without), and a rack pack, which sits across the two rear panniers on top of the rear rack.

Well, I think that’s quite enough geeky bike drivel for the time being. I’ll be arriving at Portsmouth in an hour or so, feeling a crazy mix of extreme excitement and nervous anticipation, wondering what lies ahead over the next ten days. I can’t wait to get cycling, and I’m hoping the 140km I’ll cover tomorrow will be eased by all this excitement, and of course plenty of croissants.

The blog will be updated as and when I find wifi…

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Repairs.

Following last summer’s successful London to Paris and Devon coast to coast cycles, I realised that despite meticulous planning and the belief that my bike was in perfect working order, it was more by luck than judgement that I got back from both trips without having suffered a wheel, gear, or brake related failure that would have left me totally stranded.

The fact that my bike was in pretty good condition meant that I was of the (foolish) belief that I only really needed the equipment and knowledge to carry out a puncture repair. Therefore, the only tools I took with me on both trips were a puncture repair kit, a pump, a couple of spare inner tubes, and a multi-tool with allen keys and screwdriver heads.

At the very end of my London to Paris trip, when I’d already arrived in Paris, my rear wheel rim suffered a pretty catastrophic failure, resulting in a broken spoke and a significantly weakened rim. It was sheer luck that the bike was still just usable, and I was able to limp from train to train and get home without having to take the bike to a shop to be repaired. Had this happened in the middle of the countryside, miles from the next village, let alone the next town with a bike shop, I’d have been totally stranded.

Given that I’m going to be cycling on my own through France for around 12 days in June, the majority of which will be rural cycling, I thought it would probably be a good idea to both invest in the tools to carry out more major repairs, and to equip myself with the knowledge to be able to do so.

Therefore, when my current wheels were showing signs of excessive wear, and it was clear they’d soon need replacing, I decided to keep them on the bike over the winter (so as not to mess up a new set of wheels on wet, dirty, gritty roads) and set about researching how to build a new set myself.

It’s been a very steep learning curve, and has taken a lot of research, but I’ve managed to build a very good, strong pair of touring wheels, and in the process have learned a lot of new skills. Whereas before I’d have been clueless, tool-less, and stranded in if I’d hit a pothole and knocked a wheel out of line and/or broken a spoke, if this happens in June I’ll have both the tools and the know-how to carry out a repair myself.

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So, if there are any cyclists reading this who are new to touring, and lacking the skills needed to carry out their own repairs, here are my recommendations for what you need to know how to do for yourself, and the tools you’ll need for the job.

Flat tyre:

You will need: 

  • Puncture repair kit containing glue, patches, sandpaper, chalk (not essential)
  • Tyre levers
  • Spare inner tubes
  • Pump

The spare inner tubes aren’t essential. But imagine yourself getting a puncture in the driving rain towards the end of a challenging day. Do you think you’ll fancy repairing a puncture by the side of the road with no shelter to hide in? I thought not. Having spare inners will mean you can whip the old one out, put a new one straight in, pump it up, and get on your way. The repair can be carried out in the comfort of your tent/hotel room/log cabin.

I know of many novice cyclists who don’t know how to repair a puncture, and will take their bike to a shop for it to be repaired. Don’t do this! Even if you only go out for a day trip on your bike, you can get a puncture anywhere. It is very easy to repair a puncture, and there are plenty of videos on YouTube showing you exactly how to do it.

Finally, remember to check the tyre to see if the cause of the puncture is still embedded in the rubber. If it’s still there when you pump the tyre back up, you’re going to be fixing a lot of punctures…

Broken spoke:

For the front wheel, you will need:

  • Spare spokes of the correct length and type
  • A spoke key

And for the rear wheel, in addition to the above, you will need:

  • A cassette lockring removing tool
  • A chainwhip

If you get the chance to build your own set of wheels, have a go at doing so rather than asking a shop to build them for you. You can always take them into a shop to be checked over if you’re not confident you’ve done a good job. By the time you’ve finished, you’ll have learned a whole load of new skills, and replacing a broken or bent spoke will be easy.

It is easier to replace a broken spoke on your front wheel than on your rear one. This is because no extra tools are needed in order to take the old spoke out and thread a new one into the wheel. The extra tools are required for a rear wheel break because the rear cassette (the stack of gears sitting in the middle of your rear wheel) are right up against the edge of the hub. This prevents you from being able to get at the spokes on that side of the wheel. Have a look at your rear wheel and you’ll see what I mean.

It is impossible to remove the rear cassette without a lockring removal tool and a chainwhip, but as soon as you have these tools, it is an easy job to do.

Spoke lengths are very specific, and are calculated to the nearest millimetre. In order to calculate the length of spokes your wheel needs, you need to know some key measurements of your hub and rim, and then run these numbers through a spoke length calculator. The spokes for the front wheel will be of one length, and then there will be two more lengths of spoke for either side of the rear wheel. Therefore, you’ll need to carry at least three spare spokes to be sure of having the right length to replace a broken one.

Working out your hub and rim measurements, and calculating spoke lengths, are pretty complicated topics which I won’t attempt to explain here. Either research these areas on Google or ask your bike shop to calculate the spoke lengths for you and provide you with some spare spokes. If you’re in the middle of nowhere with a broken spoke, you only need the spares, and to know which one to use depending on which wheel has suffered a break. You don’t need to know why they’re the length they are or how that’s calculated.

Snapped gear or brake cable:

You will need:

  • Allen key
  • Cable cutters
  • Spare gear cable
  • Spare brake cable

A snapped cable is an easy thing to learn how to repair, but impossible if you don’t have a spare cable, so don’t go touring without some! I didn’t know how to replace either of these when I first got into cycling, so when I’ve needed to replace my cables I’ve watched YouTube videos in order to learn how to do it, rather than taking my bike to a shop to be repaired. It’s a five minute job at most, and and essential skill to have if you don’t want to be stranded in the middle of France with a snapped gear cable.

Broken chain

You will need:

  • Chain splitter
  • Spare chain links

Provided your chain is in good condition and is well maintained, it is unlikely you’ll have to carry out a chain repair, but it’s still a possibility and if you’re in the middle of the countryside without the tools you’re vulnerable. This seems like a difficult job if you’re not familiar with how to do it, but once you know how, it really isn’t difficult. As ever, YouTube has a multitude of very good instructional videos you can use to help you learn.

Worn out brake pads:

You will need:

  • Spare brake pads
  • Allen key

This isn’t a repair you should ever need to carry out on the road, unless you’re on an extended tour of a week or more. If you check your brake pads before you leave and there’s plenty of life left in them, they’re not going to wear down enough to need replacing in the course of a week or so.

However, if you’re going to be touring for an extended period of time, and you’re carrying lots of weight on the bike which will increase the forces you’re having to use on your brakes, extra pads are essential. Changing the pads is very easy, requiring only an allen key to release the brake cable, remove the old pads, and fit the new ones. Guess where you can learn how to do this…yes, YouTube.

Glue.

Well it only took me five days and two cycles before 2014 welcomed me with an almighty thud, and a painful reminder that even when the roads look OK, it only takes a moment to hit a patch of ice and find the road heading towards your face at an alarming rate.

The day didn’t start well. I must have fallen straight to sleep when I got into bed last night, as somehow I’d neglected to set an alarm for work, so was woken by a phone-call just after 7am from my colleagues, who were wondering whether to send out a search party to find me on the ground having crashed… which would turn out to be alarmingly close to what was about to happen.

Although I was going to be pretty late to work, I wasn’t rushing when I left the house – if you’re planning on being late to work, a quiet Sunday morning is a pretty good day to pick. It was a chilly morning, a couple of degrees below freezing, and I took it easy out of the estate cycling over a crisp layer of frost, but as soon as I got out of the estate the roads had been gritted and seemed to be ice free.

Everything was fine as I took my usual route along Riseholme Road, left onto Longdales Road, and left again onto Nettleham Road, and even when I had to brake to stop for a car at a roundabout my tyres had plenty of grip on the road.

As I approached Waitrose, I remembered it was my turn to get milk for work, and realised that the petrol station would be open and I could buy some there. So as I got to the lights, I took a left at about 25km/h. Had I carried straight on I’d have been fine, but as I left Nettleham Road and turned onto Searby Road, I went from a gritted surface straight onto a sheet of ice.

Both wheels instantly slipped out from underneath me, and I left the bike and hit the ground hard. I’m not sure what hit first, but my jaw hit the road hardest and took the brunt of the crash, opening up a nasty gash on my chin which instantly started bleeding over the road, my jacket, and my bike.

I took a couple of moments to work out what, if anything was broken, and once I’d worked out that all my limbs and my jaw were moving properly, dazed and a bit shaken I staggered up and tried to pick my bike up. A woman had been waiting at the lights across the junction and had seen my crash, so when the light changed she drove across and got out of her car and helped me move my bike out of the road. She got some wipes out and gave them to me to try to stop the bleeding, and I thanked her and said I’d take a couple of minutes to sort myself out before continuing to work.

I phoned work to let them know I’d be even later, and then realised it was probably a bad idea to try to cycle the rest of the way in, so someone came out to pick me and the bike up. I’d intended to clean myself up and get on with my work, but it didn’t take long to realise the cut to my chin would need looking at, and I was covered in cuts and bruises from the crash.

I was given a lift home, had a quick shower, and took myself to A&E, where the cut was glued back together. Amazingly, none of my clothing was damaged at all, apart from an inexplicable hole in the back of my thermal base layer, despite there being no rips in the jersey or jacket that were covering it.

And most importantly of all, the bike survived almost unscathed, except for a bit of a rip to the bar tape. I’m back home now, nursing my wounds, waiting for the inevitable pain tomorrow morning, and thanking the cycling Gods that it wasn’t a hell of a lot worse. It could have been.

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Stats.

How could I forget! My 2013 summary should have included the end of year statistics from my beloved, obsessively updated spreadsheet. So here they are, in all their nerdy and pointless glory…

Total distance cycled: 4508.18km

Total time in the saddle: 206hrs 19mins 29secs

Furthest distance in one day: 181.82km (‘Wolds 100’ ride, 04/09/2013)

Top speed: 67.90km/h (‘Wolds 100’ ride, scary descent down Walesby Hill towards Market Rasen)

Adventures.

Here’s a quick round-up of 2013’s adventures on the velocipedes.

On January 1st 2013 I set myself the target of reaching 4,000km by the end of the year, which would mean cycling more or less 333km each month, which is pretty much 11km each day of the year. Which doesn’t sound like much, but for every day of the year I didn’t cycle, I’d have to add another 11km to another day. During January, February, and March, I wasn’t cycling anywhere near the distance I needed to be in order to be on track for my December 31st target, but only had to remind myself that I had some big rides ahead of me over the summer and would easily catch it back up again. Apart from my 4,000km target, my main aims for 2013 were to cycle from London to Paris, to complete the Devon coast to coast twice in two days, and to ride 100 miles in one day.

June saw me complete the first of these rides, and I spent four of the most enjoyable days of my life cycling from central London down to Newhaven, across the Channel to Dieppe by ferry, and then along the Avenue Verte to Paris (click here for my London to Paris blogs). To say that I caught the touring bug would be a huge understatement, and I could quite happily have cycled off across Europe and not come back. A simple twist of fate (name that artist) saw me meet two other cyclists, Megan and Alice, while I was waiting to board the ferry in Newhaven, and we cycled together all the way to Paris. When I left for home, they carried on, spending the rest of the summer on the adventure I’d have loved to have been on myself. They ended up cycling down to Marseille, across the top of Italy and into Slovenia, then Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany and back into France. In other words, the cycled around the Alps!

We’ve stayed in touch, and towards the end of October I visited London and met Megan and Alice in The Chandos just off Trafalgar Square. Despite having only got to know eachother for four days way back at the start of the summer, it was like meeting up with old friends. I hope we’ll stay in touch, and I’d love to be able to join them on another European adventure in the future. Had we met under any other set of circumstances, we almost certainly wouldn’t have become friends, but the common ground of a cycling tour united us, and it wouldn’t have been the same without them. And best of all, after meeting me their often-used acronym A.C.A.B (look it up) is now N.A.C.A.B, or even S.A.C.A.B, which doesn’t really make sense but made us laugh.

Just a couple of weeks after I got back from my London to Paris adventure, I was back on the road for another tour. I put the bike on the back of the car and headed down to the south-west, to attempt the Devon coast to coast. Handily my younger sister Rosie currently pitches her tent in a little place called Down Thomas on the south coast of Devon, which is right at the start point of the coast to coast route. So after spending a couple of days at Rosie’s, I headed off north, taking in Drake’s Trail, the Granite Way, and the Tarka Trail, on an incredible almost entirely traffic free 109 miles. The first day of the trip happened to be one of the hottest days of the year, and the heat combined with some ridiculously steep and seemingly never-ending hills, made for the toughest single day of riding I’ve ever completed.

I’d achieved my goal of cycling over 100 miles in a single day, but arrived at the campsite in Ilfracombe completely exhausted and accepted that there was no way I’d make it back down to the south coast in one go the following day. Instead, I enjoyed a far more sedate two-day ride back to Down Thomas, and overall it was a fantastic three days of cycling and camping that I’ll never forget, and would love to do again. Just not as quickly and not in 30 degree heat.

Clearly having failed to learn the lessons of the gruelling first day of the Devon coast to coast ride, I attempted another century ride early in September, which turned out to be the last really big ride of 2013. My friend Bret had never cycled 100 miles, so I devised a scenic route taking in the best of the Lincolnshire Wolds, and named it the ‘Wolds 100’. We’d originally planned to complete the ride one day late in August, but an illness which kept me in bed for three days ruined that plan. So early on the morning of September 4th Bret and I set off on what turned out to be a amazingly scenic 113 mile (182km) route around and across the Lincolnshire Wolds. We were treated to perfect cycling conditions, both in terms of the weather and the quiet, rural lanes with great views of the countryside, and Bret was over the moon to complete his first 100 mile ride.

And so, what lies ahead in 2014?

Well, I’ve got plenty more things I’d love to achieve on the bike, and have already got some adventures lined up in spring and summer in order to start ticking them off the list. 2014’s main trip will be a 1000km+ trip in June, from Caen on the north coast of France all the way down to Perpignan on the Mediterranean coast, followed by a week in the Pyrenees with the rest of the family, and then perhaps a  bit more cycling up to Montpellier before catching a train back home.

I’m also hoping to cycle some of the North Sea Cycle Route, which is a 6000km route taking in the whole of the east coast of Great Britain, as well as Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway. Conveniently the route passes straight through Lincoln, so I’m going to complete the sections within a 4-day cycle north and south of here in preparation for my Mediterranean adventure.

Then there’s the traditional coast to coast route, which is a 140 mile route across the country from Whitehaven to Tynemouth, crossing both the Lake District and the Pennines. Also, having passed the magic 100 mile mark twice in 2013, I’m going to go all metric (the way things should be) and plan a 200km route, and try to cram that in somewhere between all the other cycling I’ve got planned.

And finally, I decided there was a big gap in my bike repairing knowledge when it came to straightening buckled wheels and replacing broken spokes, which would undoubtedly come to haunt me if I did nothing to fill the gap between now and my trip to France in June. So I’m in the process of building a new set of wheels for the tourer, and have just about finished the front wheel. It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’m now confident I’ve got the skills to repair my wheels if I knock one of them out of line or break a spoke in France, which is exactly what happened during my London to Paris ride.  And here’s the (almost) finished product…

Wheel

Roll on 2014. This year’s target? No idea! Given that I’ll cover 1000km in ten days in June alone, maybe 5000 or more by the end of the year. Watch this space…

Expletives.

Unfortunately, there is a major downside to being a cyclist. An arsehole on a bike is just an arsehole on a bike, and is only a danger to himself, or perhaps the unfortunate pedestrian he happens to arsehole in the direction of (yes, I did just use ‘arsehole’ as a verb). An arsehole in a car, on the other hand, is a lethal weapon when he arseholes directly towards a cyclist. One such arsehole (noun) made a pretty decent attempt at killing me on my cycle home from work this evening when he arseholed (verb) his car at me on Riseholme Road in Lincoln. 

I consider myself a pretty sensible and safety conscious cyclist. I never jump red lights. I always signal (though admittedly the type of signal I give you depends on whether you’ve just arseholed towards me). I thank courteous drivers. I use cycle lanes when they aren’t full of parked cars. I wear a high-vis jacket with an excess of reflective trim, and bought the brightest, most noticeable front and rear lights I could find. 

Given the last couple of points, I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume that other people using the roads, if they’re paying the slightest bit of attention to what they’re doing, should at the absolute minimum notice my presence on the road. But no, not the arsehole I was unfortunate enough to encounter on Riseholme Road this evening. 

Here’s a diagram you can look at while I attempt to convey my fury in writing. I do love a good diagram. 

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Riseholme Road is a long, wide, straight, and flat road. There are street lights along its entire length. Tonight at 8pm it was dark and the road was wet, but it wasn’t raining. I was cycling north along Riseholme Road, with both lights on, tucked well in to the left-hand side of the road.

As I reached point ‘A’ I noticed a car waiting at the junction. There were no other cars coming in either direction. As I approached point ‘B’, he suddenly decided to accelerate quickly out of the junction, crossing the opposite lane, the central lane for anyone wanting to turn off Riseholme into the road he’d just left, and finally straight at me and my bike as he turned to start heading north. This all took two, maybe three seconds. All that stopped me smashing straight into the side of his car as he cut right into my path at a 45 degree angle was a quick reaction to grab my brakes and a foot or so of spare space to my left, between me and the kerb, that I was able to swerve into.  

The braking and swerving were very quickly followed by a torrent of expletives bellowed at the top of my voice, an immediate red mist, and 30 seconds of furious pedalling in a futile attempt to catch up with him and…I have no idea what I’d have done.

There was no traffic (other than me) coming in either direction, so nothing to cause him to rush out of the junction in the way he did, and it would have been impossible to fail to notice me coming had he been paying attention and checked before he pulled out. Even if he’d been impatient and wanted to pull out as I was passing, the lack of anything coming in the opposite direction and the extra width created by the lane for turning right off Riseholme Road meant he could have done so and stayed well away from me, taking the blue line instead of his idiotic red one. 

So there are two possible conclusions I can draw from the way this particular arsehole arseholed towards me. Either he wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to what he was doing, and rushed out of the junction because he hadn’t checked either direction properly (if at all), and had no idea I was there. Or, more worryingly, he was well aware of my presence, waited at the junction without pulling out when he could have done, and then purposefully drove straight at me before driving off. 

The possibility that the second of these scenarios is what occurred this evening is the scariest thing about cycling. No matter how safe, sensible, and visible a cyclist you are, there will always be someone on the road who has a grudge against cyclists, and is probably in a rush to be somewhere else. This person only remembers the cyclists he sees jumping red lights, and if he thinks you’re holding him up he’ll wind down his window and subject you to a torrent of abuse. This abuse will almost certainly include the phrase ‘I pay my FUCKING ROAD TAX!’. This is a topic I won’t stray into now, if ever, as it has been done to death on countless cycling blogs and is an argument of such monumental idiocy that it is barely worth acknowledging. 

As a cyclist who uses bikes for commuting as well as leisure and fitness, whenever I’m on the roads I get a definite feeling that cyclists and drivers are in conflict with one another in this country. Too many cyclists assume they have the right to ignore the rules that everyone else is following, and too many drivers think of cyclists as second-class road users who are lower down in the pecking order because they ‘don’t pay road tax’. 

Bizarrely, when I’ve cycled in France I’ve found French drivers to be far more considerate, courteous and respectful towards cyclists than those I encounter here. Having driven a lot in France, and been less than impressed with the way drivers act towards other drivers, I was expecting the French part of my London to Paris trip to be the more problematic. However, by the time I got to Paris I hadn’t encountered a single near miss or impatient motorist, and felt safe on the roads at all times, even in the chaos of central Paris.

So what’s the answer, and why does there seem to be such animosity between cyclists and drivers in the UK? I have no idea! All I do know is that it’s probably a very good thing that I failed to catch up with the arsehole who arseholed his car towards me this evening, and writing a blog entry was far more constructive than suddenly realising I’d picked a fight with someone much bigger than me who wasn’t wearing Lycra leggings and silly shoes.