Posts tagged ‘cycling’

February 22, 2014

The Weekend Pages #4

This edition of The Weekend Pages is devoted to one thing —The VELOBerlin Film Award, which combines two of my favourite things —film and bicycles, so we’ve spent a lot of this week watching all the short films and then entering into huge debates about what we should rate each one.

I think the film above, Bike, the first time, might be my favourite so far, as it contains shots of Paris, my favourite city, as well as some great looking bikes. But I also loved Experiments in Speed, seen below. I do love a bit of British eccentricity…

There are 18 films to watch and the range is extraordinary, from cartoons to emotional films about litter-picking children in Asia, via a documentary about the Devil. No, not the real one, the chap who follows all the major bike races wearing a Devil costume. If you’ve ever seen the mountain stages of the Tour de France you’ll know exactly who I mean…

The full range of films can be seen HERE. Don’t forget to vote!

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Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

February 1, 2014

The Weekend Pages #3

Hello and welcome to The Weekend Pages; a post about great things I’ve found on the web this week.

We learnt this week that a mere 1,004 people in the UK completed the Rapha Festive 500 cycle challenge. Across the globe, the completion rate was only 23% of all the people who signed up to compete.  One of those was my boyfriend Stephen; I’m SO proud of him for that. We’re awaiting his woven roundel badge through the post to commemorate the achievement.

The three overall winners have just been announced and in third place was my favourite: eight year old Mini-pips and his Dad. What a brilliant father-son combination. The photos of them through their challenge are truly heartwarming, and it’s inspiring to see how such a young lad can ride so far, and with a big smile on his face too!

For me the best statistic from the Festive500 is the 118% increase in women riders from 2012. Hurrah for women’s cycling. Massive congratulations to everyone who completed and commiserations to anyone who had to drop out; I only realised through supporting Stephen how tough it would be!

The overall winners: Riding the Festive 500 in one big fat ride from Paris (FR) to Haarlem (NL) – #inonego from Rotgans & Rotgans on Vimeo.

In a complete change of topic, the other great thing I’ve discovered this week is Flow magazine from The Netherlands; about paper, mindfulness, simplicity and connection. How brilliant does that sound? They produce the English language version ‘Flow International’ biannually, so I’m eagerly trying to get my hands on a copy. In  the meantime, I’m downloading their free colouring-in pages for my daughter (and me!) to colour in.

 

Have you found some great stuff online this week? Do share…

January 18, 2014

The Weekend Pages #1

Welcome to the first ‘Weekend Pages’ post! Here you will find links to my favourite internet finds of the week.

On the Harvard Business Review Umair Haque’s post about having a year that really matters struck a chord with me, as 2014 is going to be a huge year of changes and I want to make it as good as it can possibly be.

In 2013, Team AWOL  (Recep Yesil of Turkey and Erik Nohlin of Sweden) cycled the Transcontinental Race from London to Istanbul. You can find more about their journey here. But what we have really loved is watching the four-part video. Part one is below. If you’re a fan of cycling, adventure and friendship I think you’d like it too.

 

Finally, this week I’ve signed up to the 100 Happy Days challenge, and will be adding a happy photo to my Instagram account each week with the #100happydays tag. Even the worst of days can have happy moments and I like to try to remember to be grateful for them. Let’s see how many happy moments I can capture!

What great things have you found online this week? Are you taking the 100 Happy Days Challenge? I’d love to know…

January 6, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! As we’re a week into 2014, I’m firmly closing the door on the Christmas and New Year festivities (which I’ve totally loved this year) and getting back into the swing of everyday life. The start of a new school term always brings about a return to routines and the end of Quality Street being an acceptable breakfast food, just as I’ve got used to the idea…

Traditionally the start of January is resolution time. Usually I like to write a giant list of resolutions for the year, some of which I manage to complete and some I don’t. I wrote recently about needing to be honest with myself about the things that I really wanted to do and forget the things that I think I should want to do. So, no marathon running goals for me, this year or ever. Although I think that if you want to make changes to your life, you should start them today, whenever today is, rather than waiting for January 1st, there is something tidy about making new starts in a new year, so I do find New Year’s Resolutions somewhat seductive.

2014 is going to be a year that contains many changes. My career, my home life, and the way I spend my time are all going to change, and not all of those changes are my decision. So, rather than trying to control everything, I’m going to try and go with the flow a little more. Which is terrifying to me! But, I think that trying to force things to happen is bound to end in failure. It is important for me to recognise what I can control and what I cannot.

Therefore my list is short, and perhaps a little vague. But here goes:

1 – Study for my RHS Level 2 exams.  I’ve written about this before, and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while (and really wanted to do) but life has got in the way of my plans. I’m determined to make it happen this time though. And I’m hopeful it may lead to more opportunity and who knows, perhaps a career shift.

2 – Make time. For my family, my friends, my boyfriend. Much of 2013 was challenging, sometimes it was painful and introspective, and it was a year in which my friends all supported me, but I feel as though I gave back little in return. I want to redress the balance and make time to visit my beloved friends and family and support them in whatever they are doing. My boyfriend has a year of change ahead of him too, and I want to be a supportive partner to him as we embrace our future together. (As an aside, I feel far too old to be saying boyfriend, but what’s the alternative? Partner makes it sound like we’re in business together…hmm)

3 – Say ‘yes’ more. And say ‘no’ more. Contradictory as ever…but by which I mean that I want to be brave enough to say ‘yes’ to the right opportunities that come my way, and say ‘no’ to things that I don’t want, need or feel like the right ‘fit’. And I’m not talking specifically about possessions when I say ‘things’, it’s really just a goal about being authentic and true to myself.

4 – Keep cycling. This is a bit of a vague goal, I appreciate, but I have really been enjoying cycling and I want to carry on improving, at my own pace, and just enjoying the ride. I have no challenges, competitions, sportives in mind at all. It will just be me, my bike and my boyfriend by my side.  Though, if you’re in Leeds and fancy a snail’s pace bike ride with a cafe stop in the middle, I’m your ideal companion!

5 – Visit somewhere new. Doesn’t matter where, I just want to keep exploring and having micro-adventures. And I really, really, want to go to somewhere I’ve never been in Europe in 2014. Fitting adventure into everyday life instead of waiting for a big chunk of time is something I’ve enjoyed in 2013, and I want to do more of it.

6 – Move towards being a ‘zero waste’ home. This is a huge goal and one in which I am going to be moving at an evolutionary pace, not aiming for an overnight revolution! On the back of reducing our reliance on the supermarket, the next step is reducing the amount of waste we create – less packaging, which in turn means less recycling. More composting and home-grown food! Which takes me nicely onto number 7…

7 –  Try my hardest to grow as much of our food as possible. 2013 was a dire year on the allotment for many reasons. I paid it a visit over the Christmas period and made a promise to it that I’d try my hardest to make 2014 a great year. Yup, I talk to my allotment. I appreciate that’s odd.

8 – Try yoga. We have a wonderful looking yoga centre near us and I’d really like to have a go at yoga, to benefit my (still too high) blood pressure and improve my flexibility. This is the year in which I’m finally going to do it, instead of just talking about it!

So, there we have it. Only eight things on my list this year. In addition to this are my usual ‘eat well, read more, learn new things’ goals, but they’re so heavily ingrained into my personality that I don’t need to specifically list them. As long as I’m breathing, I’ll be reading…

What are your goals for 2014? And do you have any advice for me in achieving mine? I’d love to hear from you.

December 20, 2013

Becoming a cyclist.

Last Sunday, I did my first ‘proper’ bike ride on my new road bike. I’ve done shorter bits of riding around Leeds before, but nothing above about 20 miles. On Sunday, we did 35. And most of them seemed to be uphill. Leaving North Leeds towards Harewood, then onwards to Harrogate and RHS Harlow Carr, we made our way along little side roads where possible, keeping away from traffic. Not always possible, of course, and on a couple of occasions I got a little nervous about the closeness and speed of some vehicles passing us. It felt a bit like some of the people driving massive Range Rover type vehicles really didn’t seem to know how wide their car was.

Having said that, the main way I was likely to end up having an accident was from too much nosiness! Lots of terribly nice properties, gardens, allotments and field of ponies to be stared at. None of which I should have been looking at when on a bike, so I had to keep reminding myself to concentrate and look at the road. Whenever we started climbing, I had no difficulty in keeping my eyes firmly fixed ahead of me, as I concentrated on my breathing and making my slow and steady way up the hills. I even managed my first Category 4 climb and did so without stopping, thanks to the support from my fabulous boyfriend. I had a little cry at the top of one of the particularly gruelling hills; cycling uphill into a head wind is not a lot of fun.

But despite the tears, the pain and the jelly legs, I loved the ride. Not least because we had a halfway stop at the poshest cycle cafe in Yorkshire, the famous Betty’s tearoom at RHS Harlow Carr. Not a cycle cafe at all, obviously, but they were as gracious to us in our cycling gear as they were to everyone else in their rather smarter attire. And, despite a bit of stiffness getting going again after a stop, it certainly helped on the way back.

Looking back it seems such a long time ago that I was terrified of cycling. I’d not ridden since a childhood accident, until I was caught up in the idea of trying my hand at completing a Cycletta, which I did on a hired bike. Then came my beloved, but ultimately ill-judged Pashley and now, I’m committed to the idea of being a road cyclist. Not someone who rides for speed, togged up in logo-emblazoned lycra, but someone who rides for fun. Maybe for a bit of touring over longer distances with a pannier and a youth hostel to sleep in. I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely well on my way towards losing that fear. I’m excited to see the Tour De France come to Yorkshire next year, planning to learn more bike maintenance, booking my ticket for the Festival of Cycling, and fingers crossed, entering the longer distanced Cycletta at Tatton Park.

I feel like a cyclist now. Really and truly. And to have faced my fear feels brilliant. I recommend it!

Female cyclist

December 8, 2013

Photo of my Week.

Pink bar tape

Pink nails and pink bar tape: the perfect ‘Margot and Barbara’ combination…

December 6, 2013

Hello road bike!

As you may remember, I recently sold my Pashley Princess, after a long, painful time deciding what to do. Rather wonderfully, I have been given a road bike on a long term loan and I love it.

Riding a road bike after a Pashley is such a different experience. To start with, it felt a bit as though I was constantly on the verge of tipping over the handlebars, despite everything being set up properly, purely because I was used to the ‘sit up and beg’ style of the Pashley. Getting used to the different handlebar style, the brakes, the gears, (and the tiny saddle!) took a bit of time, but now I feel as though I’m flying. I’m clearly not flying, but actually travelling at rather more sedate pace, but still compared to the Pashley, it’s seriously speedy!

Road bike

Walking down a very muddy bridlepath!

Sometimes, and I know this is weird, I develop a relationship of trust with a machine, even though I know it’s not sentient. I feel that way about my little car, and now I feel that way about this bike. I know that for some serious road cyclists this bike is considered a bit of a workhorse, a winter bike, rather than one that is built for speed. It’s not carbon fibre, for a start. But for me, as a novice, that’s what makes it so special. It’s the Welsh Cob of the road bike world! And, given my love for the Welsh Cob (for those of you who are not horse lovers, the Welsh Cob is a beautiful but study native pony) then this feels exactly the kind of bike I should be riding.

I’m so incredibly grateful for it and really looking forward to spending some time building up my fitness so I can ride for longer. At the moment, I can manage 25 -30 miles with a much-needed stop for cake. In my defence, it’s hilly round here! With the Tour de France coming to Leeds next year, I am hoping that the momentum around cycling that is building up in advance will be maintained beyond, and Leeds will become a place that’s great to cycle, for sport, for commuting, for families. And I’ll be there, on the Kona Honky Tonk (silly name, splendid bike) with a grin on my face…

July 17, 2013

Three Good Things: Week One

With sincere apologies to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for the blatant theft of his book title, I’m calling this post ‘Three Good Things’ and it will be the first in an ongoing weekly series that I shall post each Wednesday.

Three Good Things is inspired by ongoing conversations I have with friends and from re-reading sections of The Happiness Project. It’s about focussing on what I do have in my life, instead of what I don’t have. A friend of mine mentioned that he’d done a writing project with his children during a period of change in their lives to get them to remember good things every day and it’s really resonated with me. I spend a lot of time planning the future; I can often struggle to keep my mind in the present day.

In times of change or upheaval, or when things feel like they’re an ongoing battle,  it’s good to be able to slow down and practice a bit of gratitude. And that’s what I shall be doing in this series. Each week, I shall choose three things to share. Things that have made me happy, made me smile, brought me a bit of joy or peace and made me grateful for the life that I have. I will always be a planner, always have one eye on the future and always strive to better myself and my life in one way or another, but this will hopefully help me be thankful for what my life looks like right now.

Robert Brault wrote ‘enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realise that they were the big things’.

So, without further ado, I present to you Three Good Things.

One: Strawberries

The first thing to bring me joy this week has been my strawberries. I’ve had a difficult year on the allotment this year. I’m living further away from it, and life is so busy that it’s often a challenge to get there. It can feel like a chore, instead of the hobby it is supposed to be, when I’m trying to work it into my schedule. And the sun, though very welcome, means that watering is an ongoing necessity.

Thankfully, my reward for all this effort has arrived in the form of beautiful strawberries. Giant, sweet and warmed by the sun, these are the best fruit I’ve ever grown and I’m thrilled with them. The fact that they match my red toenails pleases me enormously too. I always paint my toenails red. Actually, that’s not true. On a whim, I painted them blue the other week. Then I had a really long bath, which made my feet go wrinkly. After getting out of the bath, I dried my feet, and realised that the combination of the wrinkles and the blue toenails made my feet look like corpse feet. Those of you who remember my kayaking experience of last year will realise that this isn’t the first time I’ve had that feeling about my feet… Given that ‘dead’ isn’t generally a look that I aim for, I swiftly removed the blue. I shall be sticking to red from now on!

The colour on my toes is Dragon, by Chanel, a truly bright red which makes me feel happy whenever I look at it.

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Two: The Cluny, Newcastle

The second thing to bring me lots of happiness this week was The Cluny, a brilliant pub in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle. We had such a great night out. The warm summer evening brought heaps of people to sit outside the pub on the curved stone steps and ‘village green’ area, so, armed with pints of beer, we sat and people-watched. It was a moment in my life when I wasn’t thinking about the past, or planning the future but was simply happy to be in the moment I was living and with the person I was with. These moments in life should be treasured and I’m very happy to remember that feeling.

The Cluny is a wonderful pub, filled with a great variety of beers including my favourite Timmermans (a fruit beer, I’m such a girl!) together with a live music venue. I really recommend it.

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Three: My lovely bike

The third thing that has made me smile this week is my Pashley Princess Sovereign. I’m pretty sure that I gave her a name but I’ve forgotten it, and when I took her out of the garage on Sunday she was covered in dust which made me feel a bit shameful. Nonetheless, the minute I got in the saddle, I remember why I love her so much. We had a little ride in the sun, punctuated halfway with a Primo’s gourmet hotdog (therefore reducing the health benefits of cycling to nil) and I’ve promised to myself that I won’t leave it as long before we go out together again.

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So, those are my Three Good Things for this week. See you here again next Wednesday!

I’d love for this series of posts to develop a bit of community – so do tell me, what are your good things this week? 

August 14, 2012

London 2012:The Olympic Games

I’m sure half the bloggers in the country have written an Olympics post by now, I know I’ve read a few. Still, there’s room on the internet for my two penn’orth.

I fell in love with the London 2012 Olympic Games during the Opening Ceremony. I wasn’t one of the people who had spent hours online trying and in many cases failing to get tickets. I hadn’t been gripped by any kind of Olympic fever but neither was I against the Games. If I was asked about it, my response was little more than a shoulder shrug. I spent three weeks of July in my usual Tour de France mind-set, and watching the incredible Bradley Wiggins winning the yellow jersey. After his broken collarbone the year before, it was the most magnificent return to the Tour and instantly there was talk of what he might do at the Olympics. For the first time, my thoughts really turned to the Games.

So, on holiday, we watched the utterly incredible Opening Ceremony, and I did one of the three things that I have done constantly throughout the two weeks of the Olympics. I cried. For two weeks since watching that Ceremony, I have found myself either holding my breath, shouting at the telly, or in tears. That’s it. Just those things. I’ve cried about cyclists and boxers. I’ve cried about swimmers, rowers, runners, riders and in one case, over the most beautiful extended trot I’ve ever seen. The equestrian events are the ones I know the best and if you’d told me that we’d win medals in all three disciplines, and two golds in the dressage, I’d never have believed you. I’ve cried over women competing from all the involved nations. I’ve cried at the sheer goodwill and volume of noise coming from stadium after stadium. I’ve cried as I’ve watched athletes from all nationalities, in all events, try their absolute heart out. I’ve cried when we won and when we lost.

I’ve shouted too. I’ve shouted at Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton and many, many more. I’ve held my breath as I watched Tom Daley get his bronze, when watching the almost-perfect dressage, when our team gymnasts had to wait for the results of an enquiry before finding out their medal results.

When I’ve not been shouting, breath-holding or crying in front of the TV, I’ve been outside. I suspect I’m not the only one who has compensated for all those extra hours in front of the tv by doing more exercise too. The motto of the Games may well have been about inspiring the next generation, but I tell you, they’ve inspired this old 36 year old too. Even though that inspiration led me to do a rather misjudged cartwheel that nearly popped out my hip…

With my kids, I’ve been running, swimming and bike riding. Playing football. Teaching my daughter how to cartwheel (badly). My children are quite young, so they’re not really aware about negative body images in the media or about vacuous, talentless ‘celebrity’ culture, but my daughter in particular has been captivated by watching women compete in sports as diverse as athletics, football, gymnastics and rowing. When we went out for a walk at the weekend, both the children ran in front of us, and my daughter shouted “I’m at the front, that means I win GOOOOOLD!” and my heart sang.

Now the Games have ended and there is a bit of a hole in my life. All a bit over-dramatic, I know, especially when I wasn’t remotely bothered about them beforehand but at the moment it feels true. I’m anxiously waiting for the start of the Paralympics so I can recommence my shouting, breath-holding and crying routine but beyond that I want to remember that feeling of pride, positivity, athleticism. Of positive body-image for women of all sizes. Of my children getting excited about competing in sports.

Let me leave aside the bad bits; the corporate sponsorship and logo-banning all over the place, the seating fiascos, the jarring note (for me, anyway) of supermodels at the closing ceremony (and, actually, quite a lot of the closing ceremony) the farce of G4S, and just concentrate on the sport, the volunteers and the spectators.  It’s really shown the best of Great Britain, of who we can be and of what we can achieve. I make no apologies for my over-enthusiasm or for my tears. Or for starting to save up to go to Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. I don’t want to be just sitting in front of the tv when they arrive.

June 11, 2012

Pashley Princess Sovereign

Yesterday was test ride day. After consulting the whole world, the bike I have ended up ordering is the Pashley Princess Sovereign, in Buckingham Black.

Before we entered the shop I was having doubts about whether it was the right decision. After all, it’s a bike with a design dating back to the 1930’s and apart from some nice specification upgrades (Sturmey Archer hub brakes and Schwalbe puncture resistant Marathon Plus tyres) it hasn’t changed since. On the one hand, it’s outdated, a bit silly and completely unsuitable for riding around hilly Leeds. On the other hand, I’ve always wanted one. It’s the sheer unadulterated beauty of the machine, coupled with a very strong rose-tinted view of life atop a Pashley that’s done it. I’m basically yearning to be a character in an Enid Blyton book.

My lovely (long suffering) husband said to me that I should stop being practical and just go with my guts. As we went upstairs and I saw ‘my’ bike waiting for me, I grinned a giant grin. That was it. I was in love. One test ride up and down the local roads later and it was completely confirmed. This is the bike I want. Rose-tinted and impractical it may be, riding it was an utter, utter joy. Sitting upright gives you a similar body position as on a horse, rather than sitting forward, which I find really comfortable. There is no getting around the fact that it weighs an absolute ton, but I’m not going anywhere near Alpe d’Huez any time soon. Apart from  using it to cycle to some of my work projects, I will mostly be pootling around after my kids on their little bikes, so that doesn’t matter. The giant basket in the front can hold all manner of baby wipes, soft toys, blankets, sweets and other essentials for a family outing. As for Cycletta, well, I’ll be at the back, sitting upright, and grinning all the way round.

As we left the shop, after reserving the bike and going home to sort out the rest of the paperwork, I did a little bit of happy crying. It’s a rare feeling to have exactly the thing I want, after waiting for years and years for it. I’m still smiling now, just remembering the test ride, and knowing that after a few more weeks of waiting, it will be coming home with me.