Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Full parking

It pays to get to work early, before the bike stands fill up.

It's probably the nicest stable of bikes I've seen in Edinburgh, and it's great to see all the young ones keeping green, fit, and stylish. I'd like to say this is actively encouraged, but this is a place where the cafeteria counts fried chips as a vegetable.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Bike nerd

My brakes are old.
I can tell from the look of irritation mixed with despair on the mechanics' face. They've been adjusted twice now but keep on giving me trouble, like obnoxious teenagers looking for the next prank to play. "What can we do next that will put M. in mortal danger, as she hurtles down a hill towards a busy roundabout? Ooooh, I know!"

This time the front brake has been misbehaving, refusing to spring back to its original position when released, creating a drag on the wheel that makes me feel particularly unfit as I struggle up gentle inclines. After poking fecklessly at the mechanism for a while, and even more aimlessly at the internets, I came across this refreshingly clear guide to adjusting my sidepull calliper brake (for such is apparently the name of the mechanism).

It seems like the back nut was just too tight, stopping the brake from springing open on one side. I've loosened it slightly, and it seems to be working fine now.

I feel like Sherpa Tenzing, having just conquered an impregnable summit, armed only with cranky frustration and a multi-spanner tool thingamajiggy.

What did you do Sunday night? I took photos of my spanner. Sigh.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Hamburger Bell

Love this hamburger bell, spotted at The Bike Chain in Edinburgh while getting a puncture fixed. It's a bell! Shaped like a hamburger! A bargain at £7. Nice little bike shop with friendly, knowledgeable staff who didn't quite notice we weren't their typical, active-lifestyle customers. "We've just received new Goretex", the young man pointed out. "It's very good". I'm also fairly certain they offered to measure my pelvis.

Do drop in and have a look, they have a good range of accessories and apparel and a selection of Brooks saddles to stroke lovingly.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Dawes Duchess review

I had a hard time finding my bicycle. I had my mind set on a classic step-through upright bicycle, capable of handling Edinburgh's many hills, and light enough to carry the two floors up to my flat.
But at 5'2'', and a small-ish budget (around £300), my choices were limited, especially in mountain-bike centric Edinburgh. I came across the Dawes Duchess in a vague state of despair, and though it wasn't love at first sight, I thought I'd give it a whirl.

See? It doesn't look too bad, does it?

My glamorous moutain-biking assistant holding the culprit. "You look so French", he said.

It has a steel frame, 7 gears, a chainguard, mudguards, and a basket.
Sadly, the test ride was disappointing. There was an air of cheapness about it, of over-complication. The colour was more purple than plum, the stitching on the grips was naff, and the rattan "effect" basket was, well, plastic.

Still, I could have overlooked all this if it hadn't been for the rickety feeling when I took it for a test ride. It was light enough, comfortable, and easy on inclines. Perhaps it had something to do with the bike having been assembled that morning, but I could feel every bump in the perfectly smooth road, and just felt like the bicycle would fall to bits beneath me.

Dejected, I walked up the road to find my lovely Falcon... but that's for another post.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Cramond ponies

When I moved to Scotland 10 years ago, I was dismayed, nay appalled, to discover a complete lack of Shetland ponies in the capital. Where were the pet apartment ponies I'd been promised? The pony postal services? The seeing-eye ponies? I'd built elaborate fantasies where I would go to the corner shop on my pony, my feet dragging slowly on the ground below us, a happy expression plastered on my face. I began to believe that Shetland ponies were imaginary, the pathetic fabulation of a Scottish Tourist Board desperate for attention. Imagine! Miniature ponies! With tiny little legs! And big fat furry bellies! The tourists will believe anything. Ahahahhaha.

Thankfully, Shetland ponies are a mere bicycle ride away now that I have a trusty steed of my own. Just follow the cycle paths in Northern Edinburgh to Cramond Brig. Edinburgh Council have a set of very useful downloadable cycling maps if you don't know what I'm talking about, or indeed if, like me, you're likely to get confused by the many obscure junctions along the way.

The ponies are right near the old bridge (a picturesque affair on its own), in a neat little field. Look, there's one:

They're a rather friendly bunch:

If a little inscrutable:

Ponies. Who knows what goes on in their furry, shaggy brains.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Winter warmers

The temperature has dropped dramatically this week. Scotland's been blessed with some rather lovely autumnal weather, and for once we are seeing a few clusters of golden leaves where there would normally only be bare branches and sodden, muddy lawns.

The cycle paths along the Water of Leith are particularly inviting.

Lovely, but cold. I've dug out my leather gloves and a raw silk scarf that has been serving me well. I don't exactly need a new coat, but I can't help eyeing up all the lovely offerings online.

Two of my favourites come from Urban Outfitters, and would look so sweet on a vintage bicycle:

(As an aside, when did casual coats start costing more than council tax?)

But my heart has gone to this cape-coat from H&M:

For autumnal dressing tips, head to London Cycle Chic and Riding Pretty. It's my first winter cycling, and I haven't quite got the warm/sweaty balance right!

Basket case

Yes, I know. My bicycle has a basket. It's very handy. I can keep things in it, like my lock, a bottle of water, a scarf, some wipes, my bag, and even, last week, the heavy folder containing my annual accounts. It's wicker, and dusty, having been cannibalized off an old bike I purchased on ebay that turned out to be far too big. It has the patina of age. And it fits a french sourdough loaf just so.

But why are people so pleased by it? Even grizzly mechanics' features soften as they affectionately pat the basket. "And you have a basket". Yes, yes, I have a bloody basket. Now can you tell me why my chain is skipping?

My workplace has a lovely stable of bicycles. There are two blue Pashley Poppies there, some dutch bikes, elegant roadsters and an array of perfectly charming bicycles. I'll admit I often stand by the floor length windows, indulging in a spot of bike spotting. Passing by the other day, I noticed two girls standing amidst the bicycles, pointing, discussing the options, obviously keen to purchase bicycles of their own. One of them pointed at my basket, determined. I could see the words forming in her brain "I need a basket. Just. Like. That". I watched, open mouthed, as her friend grabbed, no groped my basket, examining it, nodding in approval.

Dude. Basket fondler. Step away from my basket. They're barely the cost of a meal out. Go get your own.
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