JD’s Columnist on Wheels
Hiring the saddle (27/10/10)
London finally has its cycle scheme. After a few months of adaptation, some postponed dates and loads of controversy, Boris’ attempt to promote a greener lifestyle seems to be working.
After investing 140 million and giving barclays the opportunity to have the biggest mobile billboards in europe, Boris filled the city with those sharp and cool looking bikes. The design is pretty elegant and clean. It gives me the idea that I could cycle all the way from Jungledrums headquarters in Holborn to a concert in Southbank without getting my trousers dirty.
The bike is heavy and it’s not very fast compared to a standard commuter bike, and the carrier compartment was not well planned; you may have things falling out of your bag during your ride. Therefore it’s better to use a backpack and forget about the carrier device.
What about helmets though? Are we supposed to carry our own? That is a kind of grey area that is not solved yet. But we’re definitely seeing more people on the road without helmets…
But let’s focus on good points Another pleasing aspect of the relative success of London’s bike hire scheme has been how it has encouraged many people to consider cycling as a way of getting around the city as well as promoting a healthier lifestyle. With an access fee plus usage charge you are ready to cut through the busy London traffic and get to places very quickly, and in a stylish way. Cycling to Old Street and pausing for a coffee at the café pitstop “Look Mum No Hands” to warm up your fingers sounds like a great idea to me.
Once I heard from a bike courrier in New York that the only means faster than him was a helicopter, showing how effective bikes are in busy traffic. So, push hard and start to overtake some people. You may also get sponsored by a bank!
Find out more at tfl.gov.uk
Mission Complete (17/08/2010)
After loads of jellybeans, cans of sports drinks and a few pints I completed my challenge.
It’s all done!! Three hundred and sixty kilometers in three days, cycling through the hills of Sussex, wheat fields in France, picturesque villages and Versailles’ gardens to finally reach Paris with all the style and glory I deserved.
We left Twickenham in the morning and arrived in Portsmouth on Thursday evening, had dinner and went straight on to the ferry to spend the night and arrived in Caen the next morning. Breakfast was ready and we left at six thirty in the morning to reach Evrox in the evening. This was the longest day. A few hills, sunny spells, showers and roads that looked like grey velvet cutting fields of sunflowers. Surreal!
We left Evrox around nine thirty for our last day on the road. We reached Versailles and subsequently Paris where we all regrouped to arrive as one. People where applauding and cheering as we passed by. It was great! I felt like a slow version of Mark Cavendish.
The support team was great as well. They made sure that we only focused on cycling. They had everything prepared for our breaks, all the medical assistance needed and a photographer waiting for us on the top of the hills just to capture our funny faces as we finished climbing.
I raised £1300 for the BIG ISSUE FOUNDATION and won the “King of the Mountains” jumper for completing all the hills without deviating from my single set speed. At one point I was told off by our guide for speeding up in front my group (which, by the way, was the second fastest) to keep my momentum on the hills. The effort was enormous but the pleasure was even greater.
Glories and scenery aside, this was a great experience. I started to see things differently. My brain makes different connections and remembering all the effort made to complete this journey every trip I might plan in the future looks possible. Handicapping myself to riding on a single set speed gave me more pleasure, more respect and more pride at the end of my journey.
I think I am now ready to ride a fixie bike to Berlin. Maybe…
Thank you all for the great support!
Bon voyage (21/07/10)
Well, this is it. In a few hours I will leave for my biggest physical challenge yet. My ride to Paris start tomorrow at 08:00 and I am very excited about it. All the training I have done had paid off. My legs are stronger and my cardiovascular condition is a lot better than five months ago. Hills are still making me breathless and wanting to have one more pair of lungs, but this is what the challenge is all about.
Anyway, there is no way back and I want to get this done! I will leave home about five in the morning and a friend will drop me off at the starting point: The York house, a beautiful victorian house in Twickenham where we’ll have a short briefing and assessment to see in which group everyone will be riding. After all the talking we’ll get on the bikes and ride to Portsmouth.
We spend the night on the ferry and arrive in France the following morning for one more day of lovely country lanes, picturesque villages and beautiful landscapes. And of course, loads of sweating. We arrive in Paris the next day in the evening and we will have a chance to enjoy the final stage of the Tour de France, coming back to London on Sunday.
I have unconsciously cultivated this passion for cycling since I was a kid growing up in Brazil. I always had a bike! And now I’m older the passion gets serious and deeper. I am trying to be in tune with cycling events, publications, bike gear, and cosy and hidden places in London that can be discovered on your bike.
A good publication to get your hands on is 42×12 The Cult of Fixie by Patrick Potter. I have not finished reading yet but I can assure that the pics are just amazing. When I come back from Paris I will write a bit more about this publication and definately upgrade my bike into a fixie! Hurray!
For now, I need to shoot off ‘cause I have a bit of packing to do!
See you a few miles later!
Prickly encounter (17/06/10)
A few days ago I saw a wild hedgehog for the first time! As you could imagine I was quite thrilled, surprised, and intrigued by its appearance. First I thought it was a rat but then I realised it was not moving as fast as one. Then I said to myself it was a brown squirrel that had lost his tale in a fight against a gang of grey ones. But its legs were quite short and my imagination goes wild when I’m riding.
As I slowed down my pedalling I realised it had a firm exterior and my mind just shouted: look, its a hedgehog! It was one of those moments when you forget all about what you were doing and you only want to focus on the new information.
Well I didn’t have much time to look at it because he/she was quite scared and quickly hid itself in the bush again, and I couldn’t really stop… off on my training session for my ride to Paris in July.
They have been both pleasant and painful experiences these training sessions. Outstanding countryside landscapes, great feeling of freedom, good doses of stamina and adrenalin and very, very steep hills. You have to really enjoy cycling to go uphill and still keep on going.
To give you an idea, I’ve been cycling around 20 miles a day (36km) and some days of the week I go for longer rides into the city which I really enjoy. I hope my legs will get used to it to allow my mind to enjoy the trip.
And in the meantime I’m in search of more hedgehogs!!
Cycling Revolution (29/05/10)
I know it is difficult to believe in any politician’s words but I still feel that it’s necessary to spread the word: London’s Mayor is promoting a cycling revolution for 2010. This is a programme that will promote a safer environment for cyclists, training tips, new routes and other benefits to turn London into a greener city.
To encourage beginners in taking to the saddle the “Cycling Revolution Team” is providing 6000 bikes to hire, from £1 for 24-hour access to £45 for annual access. They will be distributed at around 400 special docking stations, located in nine boroughs and in the Royal Parks 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year round. This measure should be in place by July. Many cities have already introduced similar schemes, including Paris, Lyon, Brussels, Berlin, Stuttgart, and São Paulo.
Another good measure proposed is the Cycle Superhighways. Twelve routes are planned to provide a safe, direct, continuous and easily navigable routes along recognised commuter corridors into the centre of the city. These will cater for existing cycle commuters and will also provide for those wishing to give biking to work a try for the first time. The first two pilot routes to Barking and Merton should be ready by the summer 2010, so check it out!
There are also a bunch of cycling events taking place this summer, so you should check out the link for more information on the Revolution.
Let’s transform London into a healthier, greener and safer city with a friendlier approach to cyclists. Even Boris Johnson is often seen biking to work in his suit. Let’s get to it!
Critical Mass (11/05/10)
Every last Friday of the month hundreds of cyclists gather around Waterloo Bridge for a very interesting ride. There is no leader, there is no planned route, threre is not even a formal reason to be there. Everyone mingles within the mob to ride on the busiest London streets, blocking and dominating the caotic Friday night traffic.
It is ‘Critcal Mass’. An event held on the same day in over 300 cities around the globe. Some people say that it is “the monthly protest by cyclists reclaiming the metropolis’ streets.” There is no membership and the routes are decided as an organised coincidence.
London is also on the list. I went there for the first time and I had a really great experience. Despite the fact some drivers (especially cab and bus drivers) get really upset when they see a green light and they cannot move (due to bicycles) which could turn into risky actions I was able to enjoy myself very much (remaining in the middle of the group where it’s safer!).
I had time to chat, meet people and enjoy the view while the traffic was waiting for their turn to move with every driver with their fingers on the horn. It felt like I was part of a very noisy pacifist protest! We rode from Southbank to Trafalgar Square, then to Oxford Street leading to Park Lane in Hide Park finishing back in Southbank.
The only painfull thing was getting back home. After riding about 10 miles to get to Waterloo plus 15 through the city and 10 more to get back home my legs had swollen to the size of watermelons. Well, I asked for it! I need training for my Big Issue ride in July (SPONSOR ME). So after 35 miles (around 56 km) and a great experience my thighs needed some rest!
Find out more at criticalmasslondon.org.uk
London is a fascinating city for me, especially when viewed from the saddle of my bicycle. I embrace speed and tranquility while riding on by the exuberant and “full of charm” buildings and streets of the city. I feel that I live a sort of paradox between this speed and tranquility, experiencing different angles, sensations and places that I would never discover if I didn’t have my bike beneath me.
I just love my bike, surely you’ve noticed! And this is one of the reasons that I decided to face a great cycling challenge between two of the most charming cities in the world: I’ll be taking part in The London to Paris Bike Ride to raise money for the Big Issue Foundation.
It’ll be a great experience! Through the British and the French countryside, I’ll be riding about 100 miles a day with my single speed Prima Foffa facing quite a hilly terrain to arrive in Paris in time to see the final stage of the Tour of France. I cannot wait to see the landscape, the little villages that I’ll pass by and of course the winner of the greatest bike race in the world.
My chosen charity, The Big Issue Foundation supports the homeless getting back in control of their life. Through training, counseling and support they provide a professional structure to recreate what is necessary to rebuild their self confidence.
I need as much help as I can get to raise a good amount of money – I’ve set myself the target of £1,300! Please follow the link below to sponsor this challenge and change someone’s life.
For more information about the ride, just visit londonparisbikeride.co.uk
About our man: Alex Beraldo is a Brazilian illustrator who’s been living in London since 2005. He loves coming to JungleDrums on the day we go to print so he can eat the pizza we always order when we have to stay at the office until the small hours. Alex will be sharing with us here his passion about cycling, and his adventure to Paris.