Thursday, 26 February 2015

Hyndburn Cycle Forum

One last bike ride before the birth? Possibly.
Yesterday I had a lovely 21 mile pootle taking the 'scenic' route to Accrington for the inaugural Hyndburn cycle forum. I rode mostly off road on a route that I often commute home on in winter, simply because it's mostly away from traffic (albeit miles further). I'd hit early commuter time on the sole stretch of road, so took advantage of the incredibly ambiguous signage that shows a shared use path by way of a blue circular sign only - at no point can you tell where the bikes are supposed to go, or where (if indeed) it ends. Being full term pregnant can have strange effects on your body when cycling; like the need to stop if you get a twinge or boot in the ribs, so the ambiguous pavement/shared path cycling seemed a logical option (esp as it's 12 minutes of uphill on an A-road). Plus I see people cycling on the pavement here regularly, a clear desire line for pedal power to the business parks in the area. 

The last stretch was canal and disused railway. A guy who looked the spit of John Simm passed me on an old drop-handle steed as I was taking a photo. Anyone know if John Simm cycles? He is from the area & I once saw him having a barny with his girlfriend in the carpark at ASDA, so it wouldn't be out of the realms of possibility that it really was him. He sped by too quickly for me to sneak a photo.

The forum was very well attended which I hadn't expected. Thanks to Alasdair from the local authority for getting the first meeting off the ground.  It was very interesting to hear about the work going on already that I knew nothing of and I'm sure some people would have found initiatives they can tap into for their work.
Hopefully it will pave the way for some joined up work and increased rates of cycle use in the area over the next few years as the East Lancs cycle infrastructure improves and things like the Huncoat Greenway finally get completed (of course that is on the assumption that the government does actually provide the funding that's been indicated).  And I'm hoping to be able to lend some of my time to a couple of groups to lead some rides in the future. Watch this space, as things develop over the year, I'll be letting everyone know.
It was great that there was such positivity within the group about routes that already exist and how they can be fully utilised. The area really has a wealth of off road sections, though many of these require that people are happy to get a bit muddy. Not exactly Dutch standard, but personally as someone who commutes through Hyndburn to get to the office in a borough at the other side, anything that makes my ride feel safer always gets a thumbs up from me. I am by nature most at home riding off road.

The meeting finished at 8 and by then there was some rain. Mac, hat, scarf donned I enjoyed the tail wind that pushed me along the main road back home. I happily discovered that (as discussed with someone in the parks team) a gate into the cemetery had been left open meaning I could enjoy a traffic free climb away from a truly horrible junction. Alas as I was repositioning my off-road light, I hit the only pot hole in the cemetery full on. Ouch! Luckily, my beaten up Raleigh has bomb proof wheels and the angled stem tends to soak up anything like that very nicely. Another off-road park stretch later and I was enjoying a brew at mum's.

It feels very weird that cycling is still the easiest way to get around. I can't walk very far anymore and can only go at snails pace, but give me my bike and pregnancy suddenly has little effect on my mobility.  It reminds me of someone in the cycling club who has trouble with his feet; he's unable to walk far and has a disabled badge for when he's in town etc. but he pulls his bike from his car and is leading rides for the rest of us.
I wonder how many people with mobility problems would even consider that a bicycle could be the answer to them being more independently mobile - probably not many. I know it wouldn't work for all, but I'm sure a significant number of people's lives could be transformed if they tried it out.

And here for a laugh is me feeling well & truly fed up with being pregnant; well a massive bump attached to a 5'1'' tall, 7.5 stone dripping wet person makes you feel like this.  Thanks husband for this gem.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Nowt New Here (yet)

Still no sign of childbirth starting. Just getting a larger bump and less able to walk. But happily the bicycle is still fine for riding a couple of miles a day.
So I ventured to the tip, my mum's and the sorting office yesterday. Spring is in the air somewhere (I've seen snowdrop proof), but the route I took continued to look wintry.

(So grey in real life that I filtered the pic to add some depth to it)

The waiting continues.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Full term adventure

I was off to a Cyclenation meeting yesterday afternoon in Hebden Bridge, so since it's just over the hill, I decided I would give myself plenty of time to ride the over. Only one significant climb (about 600ft in 2 miles) and the rest is just bimbling around on the tops before a cracking descent through Hardcastle Craggs.

I got to the top of the first climb to discover my camera batteries were flat, so only had my phone to take photos. Not great, but better than nowt. 

My first breather and a drink- I stood up, stretched and drank as two cyclists rolled past me, said 'hello,' complimented my non-stop climb up the series of chevrons (which I'd not takled since June on the day I found out I was pregnant), then both promptly stopped when they noticed my bump.

After a quick chat, they were on their way and I admired the view some more. The road up here had some icy patches left, so I took care and enjoyed as much freewheeling as I could and was passed by one other cyclist (getting overtaken is something I've had to get accustomed to whilst pregnant).

The misty skies began to clear up as I rolled alongside the shore of Widdop Reservoir.

I turned at the track for Walshaw & Lancashire Moor and wheeled right past the sign saying 'no mountain bikes'... after all I was not on a mountain bike.
I've never ventured up to the reservoirs here before, but I'd planned this as my picnic lunch stop. The service road was still snowy with some very slippery ice patches, so I went slow and dismounted to walk at a couple of treacherous points. I had the place to myself and found a nice dry, clean wooden style to perch on for my lunch.

From the hamlet of Walshaw it was all downhill into Hardcastle Craggs and to say it was a cold day, there were loads of people walking in the woods. I even had to queue in the cafe to pick up a slice of Yorkshire curd tart to take home with me.
By the time I'd reached the bottom of the hill my toes were chilly. I had also arrived in good time, so sat in the quare listening to a busker play some lovely classical guitar for a while.

After the meeting and a quick tonic water in Trades (who were delightfully playing The Timewarp (film version)), I got the train back home.

A lovely 15 miles in total with 2200ft of ascent (2400ft of descent). It felt wonderful being back over in Calderdale enjoying one of my favourite rides. Who knows when I'll next be able to get out, full-term is just a tedious waiting game. Everyone is telling me to take it easy & enjoy the rest, which I know is very sensible, but the back of my mind is wondering if each cycling adventure will be the last one for a while.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Are you skipping the bike?

I really hope it was a joke. I know my beaten up, over-worked, clearly loved through use (rather than maintenance) Raleigh looks like a shed so I should not have been so shocked at the question...

Today on the way to my mum's, I collected the tetra packs & a broken kettle, loaded them into my pannier & made the 0.01 mile detour to the household waste recycling unit. The recycling collected from our houses does not allow tetra packs which is mad when the bin men recycling unit is next to the one that the public take their stuff to, which does have a tetra pack recycling skip!
A gentleman working there took the kettle from me and then asked if I was skipping the bike too. I really am not sure if it was a joke. It's entirely likely that it was; it's exactly the kind of joke I might make if I worked there. I suppose they might not get any other people ever turning up on a bike with their rubbish. I've certainly never seen anyone else at the tip on a bicycle.

Anyhoo we had a nice little natter before I carried on with my trip.
Certainly a beautiful day to be pootling through the woods & park.

The return journey was through town to collect my pocket nappy stash from the sorting office.

Clearly I am having a very Good Life day today. Cycle to take my recycling out, cycle to collect my reusable nappies. If only I looked as cute as Barbara Good!

Thursday, 5 February 2015


Kitchen pottering
I glance up to stretch my neck
Surprise! a perfect sunset

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Multi-modal commute experience

I've now finished for maternity leave. Last week Stephen took time off work to get the baby's room sorted, so I was heading into the office on mi tod every day and well, it was pretty snowy & icy last week, so the commute required a bit more thought than usual, especially with my now very low, very big beech-ball of a bump (I literally look like I've put a beech-ball under my top - sitting at my desk, you wouldn't know I'm pregnant).

I did something I'd been contemplating for a while and tried out a multi-modal method since a 30 mile round trip in the icy cold in traffic when heavily pregnant was not fantastically inspiring (the weekend traipsing round the shops had left me totally drained, I knew my energy could just vanish at any moment).
So I cycled the 3 miles to the train station, literally pulling in just as the train did (phew, good job I didn't dawdle), the train was ram packed already so I decided to stand and hold my bike; there was already one bike in the cycle area and people stood in front of it, plus a lady sitting opposite the area who was clutching hold of her bike to stop it falling. She saw my obviously pregnant tummy and offered her seat, but since we'd have to switch positions with our bikes and all the standing people around us, I declined (although after a few minutes of standing I really wished I had been sitting down). 18 minutes later I piled off and began the three mile ascent up the converted old railway line up to the office (no dog walkers today, it must have been cold!).

So other than being heavily pregnant and having less disposable energy than usual, were there any benefits to getting the train for part of my journey?

I set off from home about the same time as when I ride the whole way. I did not get into the office any earlier than if I'd ridden the whole way. I did not cut off any hills, in fact the train follows the only 'flat' section (its not flat, but compared to the bits I cycled, that stretch is) and I forked out £4.20 that I wouldn't usually pay, which is a lot when you dont save any time (it was the stopping train, so it pulls in to all the little stations about every 2 miles).

On the way home, I got to the station in good time and after 3 miles of freewheeling down hill, the wait made me very cold indeed. I got the express train that stops at a different part of town. So was only on the train for 8 minutes. From here I'd be cycling up to my mum's (I pop in every day on the way home from work to make sure she takes her pills). This was NOT fun. The train had coincided with the worst of the commuter traffic leaving the town centre and from this station there's about 3/4 of a mile on a moderately steep (around 7%), arterial road that is unavoidable. The road is wide, but not straight and 90% of drivers passed me far too close (ie less than 3 feet) and most cars were tailgating each other too, so it was persistent. I pulled onto the side-streets that run parallel to the main road as soon as I could (which I do anyway). It was plain sailing from there and then my usual route home from mum's house, which is always enjoyable.

Can I see the benefits of doing a multi-modal commute in the future?
For my particular journey, no not really. It cost me money that I'd not usually spend and for the distance I was travelling, it saved no time at all. There was the added stress of getting to the train on time, plus the uncertainty of there being bike space available (or a train guard nice enough to let me on when there were already bikes on the train).  It did cut out some very busy bits of road, but I'm now so used to these sections that I take them in my stride (although it was nice that 85% of my cycling had been on quiet roads or cycle routes, cutting out a good 9 miles of A-road riding).
Perhaps if I worked at the town beyond, then yes, I would see a benefit because surely the train would be faster... (although possibly not by much - but that's the issue of the stopping train that serves all stations). 

Later in the week there had been weather warnings for blizzard conditions, so my boss agreed that I could work from a touch-down in my home town (I got loads done and really wish it was an option at least twice a week). I walked, but it really was a bit much- my hip was shouting at me and I took twice as long to walk the distance (to be fair it was snowing like mad and I did look like the Abominable Snowman after a couple of minutes).

So now I dont have to think about commuting for a couple of months, which is great - the commute can be the best & worst part of my day. I LOVE riding so it's always good, but working somewhere 15 miles from home is a PITA. I really miss those days when the office was in the town centre and my daily commute totalled 6 miles so any other cycling was purely for fun and I was more inclined to pick a scenic route home where these days I find I opt for the most direct (busiest) route to save time.

As for last stages of pregnancy pedalling. Well I'm still riding, albeit much much slower. These last few lovely sunny crisp days would usually have me off on adventures far & wide and I'm trying not to be too grumpy that I'm in the house getting the last few jobs sorted and 'relaxing' (most people would love it I'm sure, but it is tedious for me).