Cyclejen's Blog


The time next week I will mostly be riding a bike
August 13, 2010, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , ,

This time next week. Just writing that phrase requires considerable thought and gives pause. It’s been enough to make me attempt to write this entry at least three times already. This time next week, what will you be doing? I can only hope that I’ll be somewhere in France, feet on pedals, wheels on the road. The worst will be over – I will have cycled through the Downs, I will have made it to the ferry on time, I will have not thrown up on the ferry, no punctures, no tears, no broken bones. This is what will happen; it is what must. Perhaps you sense a touch of gravity to these words, but now that the out of office message is on my email at work, it means This Is Real. So Real It Deserves Capitals. Even On Words That Have No Good Reason To Have Capitals In Them.

It’s great, I can be all serious and pretend I’m in a Nike advert or something, all Lycra’d up and significant:

What is my motivation? Redefine my limits. Redefine my outlook. I believe in the morning sunlight and the quiet before the day begins anew. I believe in the climb and that all uphill struggles have their reward. I believe in reaching the top of a hill and looking seriously and thoughtfully at the rising sun whilst a camera pans from a close-up of my face out to the golden landscape. I believe in equating getting up at 6am with superiority. I believe that truth is the burn in my legs, the sweat on my back. I believe in the rocking horizon, the rush of air. I believe I have said something profound if it’s soundtracked to Rob Dougan or whoever the 2010 equivalent is. Rob Dougan probably – he makes some really significant music, man. I believe in gratuitous slo-mo. I’d get some cross-promotion in and believe in cycling being the rhythm and my i|Pod being the dance, if it wasn’t dangerous to cycle with headphones. I believe that the road to come is not as far as the one travelled. I believe that the future is what you make it. Revolutions of the heart, mind and spirit. I believe in reinventing the wheel, but not too much, ok? Just do it.

Right, it didn’t work with Orange, but Nike, go on, buy me some sports equipment or something, thanks.

But in all seriousness, I am feeling pretty serious now. It already saddens me to know that in just over a week this will all be over. What will I do after this? It’s not like I can go round on my bike asking people for money. I get the feeling that might be illegal or, at the very least, result in a few kicks in the head. I like my head. It’s served me well enough so far. What will I do? I have a few really nice routes around Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire that I know I will do, and I look forward to doing, just for the sheer hell of it, without thinking about how long it has taken or how fast I am going. I will probably find a way to buy a nicer, shinier bike. I will find other outlets for my writing, because I am pleased to rediscover that I can actually write. But my life has been all about the ride for the last couple of months. It will definitely be weird to no longer have that goal. I may end up pedalling frantically in my sleep or signalling with my right hand every time I want to cross the road. I may have detachment issues about my hi-vis vest and helmet and wear them casually on a night out. This is not good. Flourescent yellow is soooo 2006.

I got some good advice from a colleague regarding the downer I know I will feel when I stop, and that is to keep on cycling. Keep on writing. Do not create a void and there will be nothing to fall into. He should know, he cycled the Andes, for crying out loud. This guy is just one example of the fantastic people who I’ve met and/or got to know better by doing this. Cyclists are a friendly and generous bunch. They’ll wave at you if you pass by them on the road. They’ll offer advice and even bikes. They’ll help you fundraise. They’ll literally push you up some of the steepest hills when you no longer can. Just don’t try to knock them over with your car or drive too close and I promise, you won’t be given the finger. Still, maybe it’s all like a big boy’s club, and they’re nice because I ride. Maybe they won’t let me leave. When I get to Paris I might have a few of my fellow cyclists meet me, not with a ‘well done’, but with ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHY HAVE YOU STOPPED? LET’S HEAD ON TO BARCELONA YEEWAAAAH!’ Actually that sounds pretty cool. No wait, the Alps. No it doesn’t.



A spinning personality

I’m sure after reading my blog that you too have also been convinced to hop onto a bike and cycle your way to freedom. Unfortunately, at the moment you do not have a bike. Fear not, intrepid would-be cyclist, for I have constructed the perfect buying guide. After months of research and detailed analysis, I have compiled a quiz that will best ascertain your bike buying needs. Using the latest technology in personality profiling, we can ensure that you will get the best match. Unless you want a mountain bike. It’s not in the answers. So what are you waiting for?! You are now only a few questions away from discovering your true cycling identity!

What’s your favourite TV program?

a) It used to be Arrested development, but now I really like the Sopranos, but I’ll always have time for Futurama, actually I re

b) I like ones where the elephant poops on the floor.

c) The news at 6. Once I know how Iran’s nuclear program is doing I can relax into my dinner of steamed fish and veg.

d) Anything with Alan Titchmarsh. He really is a lovely chap.

e) Pfft. I don’t own a TV.

Your friends say you are:

a) Working a few things out at the moment.

b) Mean because you stole Sally’s toy car and smashed it.

c) Unavailable between 7.30am and 5pm. Please leave a message and I’ll get right back to you.

d) A fantastic resource for advice on the kitchen garden.

e) Know a great Dadaist vegan restaurant nearby.

Ok, a bit of road trivia. When turning right at a roundabout:

a) Shiiiiit. I guess I could ‘be like the car’ as I’ve heard that’s safest, but, I don’t know. Maybe I should get off and cross at the traffic lights-oh-god-it’s–too-late-and-I’m-in-the-wrong-lane!

b) What’s a roundabout?

c) Power on through. Indicate to the driver your intention by turning your head in their vague direction. If they don’t know they should HAVE MORE RESPECT.

d) Keeping to the left-hand lane, you should be aware that drivers may not easily see you. Take extra care when cycling across exits. You may need to signal right to show you are not leaving the roundabout. Watch out for vehicles crossing your path to leave or join the roundabout.

e) Roundabouts? Lame.

Your first bike was a:

a) I dunno, it had two wheels?

b) An AWESOME Little Tikes red and yellow car.

c) Not good enough.

d) A wooden one that my father made.

e) Skateboard.

What’s your dream job?

a) Ask me in ten years. Hopefully I’ll have some idea by then.

b) Doctor! No, Actress! No, DINASAUR!

c) To be my own boss.

d) Greenpeace Activist.

e) Graphic Designer/Independent coffee shop owner

To wind down you:

a) Listlessly surf the internet and watch old episodes of your favourite TV program.

b) Drink lots of Robinsons and ask to play video games.

c) Hit the gym, finishing off with the steam room.

d) Catch up with the gardening.

e) Me and my friends are working on this synth-World Beat-African thing…?

You live in a:

a) Rented flat in the city centre.

b) Bigger room than my sister’s!

c) A place that’s ideal commuting distance from work.

d) A cottage next to a farm. It has a lovely kitchen and at night you can hear the cows mooing.

e) A loft apartment (paid for by your parents).

Mostly As: HYBRID BIKE

Congratulations! You are probably right in the middle of a midlife crisis in your late twenties! Do I get a road bike or a mountain bike? Do I cycle to work or walk? Am I a Socialist or a Libertarian? Do I eat jelly or ice cream? The hybrid bike: the perfect bike for someone who’s not quite sure what they want but really hope they figure it out soon. A jack of all trades and master of none, you start various projects in the hope that you’ll get back to them some day. The crushing weight of expectation heaped on during your early twenties has now manifested itself in an overwhelming feeling that Something Needs to be Done – NOW. Make a decision and take the first step and get yourself a hybrid bike. If only it had an inbuilt CD player so you can learn Spanish on the way to work and become that translator you think you might be good at… Cycling Style: I don’t know!

Mostly Bs: KID’S BIKE

Well done, you are 5 years old. Complete with stabilizers, this is the perfect bike for the truly reckless cyclist. Let’s face it, you can barely read and have only just figured out how to write your name in crayon. You have no respect for cars and continually flout all rules of the road by cycling on the pavement. Highly excitable and completely illogical, your cycling style matches your personality. Will you cycle straight ahead or suddenly turn around in a circle? Who knows? And neither does the person behind you – that’s the fun! In time you may upgrade to a BMX bike and turn that untamed energy into something even more likely to break bones. The best accessory for your bike is a Ben10/Barbie bell. Just make sure you’re back home in time for tea, ok? Cycling style: DINASUARS!

Mostly Cs: RACING/ROAD BIKE

This bike means business. You mean business. You cycle harder, better, faster and stronger than the rest. You bike in the rain. You bike in the snow. Weakness is for losers. That’s why you are on your way up to being at the top of your game. The 6am starts clear the mind and it beats the rush hour traffic. You are a winner. A winner in Lycra. As profiled in previous blog entries, this person will overtake you on a quiet cycle path. They will overtake you on a road. They could probably overtake a goddamn motorbike. Cycling Style: ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY.

Mostly Ds: TOURING/CLASSIC BIKE

I love you guys! Never happier than when stopping off on a grassy verge after a 20 mile jaunt with a flask of warm tea and some sandwiches, you are amiable, benevolent and like to attend peaceful protests opposing city bypasses. A regular contributor to the letter page of the local newspaper, you only get really riled up when litter louts damage fox dens or a new wind farm is built within a 20 mile radius of your house. When you buy your touring bike, please do not hesitate to upgrade to one with a straw basket on the front for holding baguettes and the wild flowers you just picked in the meadow. Cycling is not just a wonderfully wonderful past-time; it’s a genuine way of life. You recycle everything where possible, cook fresh from the kitchen garden and get the rest from Waitrose in your 4×4. Cycling style: Simply marvelous.

Mostly Es: FIXED GEAR BIKE

THE bike for the wannabe hipster, where cycling isn’t just about getting from point A to B, it’s also a smug fashion statement. Willfully anachronistic, these people will ride their brakeless, gearless bikes whilst listening to their iPod, because twice the danger = twice as cool.  Brakes? Screw ’em, If I wasn’t meant to stop, then so be it. If I pedal backwards, I go backwards; such is life. You meet traffic lights with sneering derision and like to advise the motorist next to you on the best independent coffee shop to get a latte and write on your Macbook. Amongst your friends you are articulate, witty and intelligent, and can recommend a great book on Kant’s transcendental idealism; other people think you’re a bit of an arsehole. The only thing you wish your bike would have is a display rack for your sketchpad and vinyl, but that would totally ruin its simple elegance. Cycling style: Studied nonchalance.

So there you have it – everything you need to start your cycling journey. Unless it’s a mountain bike. For services rendered, £9.99 will now be charged to your account. It’s not even going to the CF Trust, how about that?



Push it to the limit (limmmiiiiiiittt!)
May 27, 2010, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Guess what? I cycled to the shops the other day and it was easy. I tackled an incline and did not break a sweat. I can confidently change down gears when nearing traffic lights. I can turn right!

I also still have 40 year old men nonchalantly whizzing by me at 200mph. Damn you, you and your thin tyres and thighs of steel. You and your white hair and white shorts. You are making me feel bad! I swear these guys who cycle past me with such ease probably cycle 300 miles and then stop for breakfast. They’ve probably just cycled in from their daily commute from goddamn Penzance, and then finish that off with a nice, relaxing gym sesh. God. I read a book about people like that once. I think it was called American Psycho. Ah, who am I kidding, these are healthy men, only slightly unbalanced by their desire to ride out middle age. And it’s not their fault that I can’t help but compare my capabilities to that of Lance Armstrong, just because I’ve finally got my seat at the right height and have learnt better pedal technique. Tour de France? Pfft! That’s only like, 2,200 miles. You try the Tour de Londres a Paris. It’s waaay harder.

I understand that sounds a touch bitter. But these are 40 year old men and I’m in the Prime of my Youth (TM). I really should be running circles around them! So here’s where the confession begins. I am very lazy. One of my favourite activities is sleeping. Before this, on Saturday mornings I did not get up and Get Things Done. I slept, and I enjoyed it. I’d watch tv with a bowl of cereal, scrap that, with a PACKET OF CRISPS, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. I would spend evenings surfing the internet and watching episodes of Star Trek and go to bed with feelings of guilt and a promise to do something more productive tomorrow, like start to write that novel or cure CF. Little things.

I won’t deny that the constant need to be doing things, yet lacking the outright self-motivation to do it off the bat, has been part of the reason for signing up for the bike ride. I’ve got to do it now – there’s no turning back. There’s no ‘I can’t be bothered’. Between now and August I will be cycling and that’s that. My only hope is that once I hit the finish line I won’t be finished. Will I carry on cycling once there is no longer a specific reason to do so? Or will I have to promise to cycle to Australia, just to keep up the momentum? Will the bike go rusty in the shed or will I cycle as the weather gets colder, keeping up the pace with the 40 year old men? All I know is that I enjoy cycling – its solitary nature, the rush of wind in my face, the rocking horizon. I won’t be cycling through snow though. I’m not that insane. Oh, I did once when I was at university. I started off in the bright blue and 2 miles later I was a pedaling white blob, a 2 wheeled snowflake. Not recommended!

And yet these men, and let’s face it, they usually are men, would probably see a 2ft snow drift outside their window and, unlike any sane person, would think ‘well, that’s going to add, what? 10 minutes on to my journey – better put on some thermals! A blizzard is not a warning, it’s a challenge! Once I’ve downed this protein shake, I’ll put some Phil Collins on the iPod and I’m good to go! LET’S DO THIS!’

…Yeah. No matter what happens, I’m digging out £1.50 for the bus, thanks.



Cycle Video
May 16, 2010, 10:49 am
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , , ,

Yes, I’ve been pretty quiet over the past few weeks. Let’s just say that when you need to find a new place to live, quick smart, other things tend to take a back burner. A curious side effect of training is that when looking for new places to live you are no longer just looking for a new home for you and your loved one, but also a place for your two wheeled friend. Sure, the bathroom has a jacuzzi, the bedroom has a walk in wardrobe, the kitchen comes complete with personal chef, gratis, – BUT WHERE DO I KEEP MY BIKE?! Lucky for me, and lucky for you, (because I’m egotistical that way) I have found somewhere to live and the training and blogging now continues – huzzah!

The first blog that I bring to you is truly a multimedia treat – two in fact! The good people at Donside Pictures have very generously donated their time and effort to helping me to bring two videos for your viewing pleasure. A special mention must be made to Michael Cox for filming and editing these films – without him you would have just got an over exposed shaky cam image of me falling off my bike. Off camera.

The first film, ‘Cycle Jen’, offers everything a good training montage should: bikes, bandanas and slow-mo, and comes with a guidance rating of U, although there is some sand related mild peril involved.

The second, ‘Cycle Craig’, offers an insight into those unsung heroes of CF – the partners. I have been going out with my boyfriend Craig for nine years now, and I think filming this video has been quite cathartic for him – especially since we filmed it after a long winter where I really did spend most nights keeping us both up coughing. Thankfully that’s sorted now and we now both look forward to a long, restful night’s sleep. Now, if only we could stop Craig’s snoring… I rate this one for this one 12A for the swearing and excessive salt abuse in food cookery. Do not try this at home!



25 miles
April 28, 2010, 11:06 am
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , , , , ,

25 miles. Yeah you read that right! 25 miles. That makes me over a quarter of the way to Optimum Biking Peak Capacity Efficiency. Things learnt so far. My bike seat’s too low, cycling is hard and, try as I might, I don’t have an inbuilt GPS receiver in my head. These are important things to learn, to be sure, and I can’t help but wonder what other golden nuggets of information I will have learnt by the time August comes to pass. Enough knowledge gained through cycling and I could retire to a mountain and people could queue to hear my wisdom. In return for food I could offer them such gems as ‘do not wrap your bike lock around the handlebar post, for, surely as the sun rises in the west, your knees shall knock against the lock’ or ‘cycling up a hill requires effort. When effort cannot be found, change the destination and freewheel to paradise.’ I would wear my cycling helmet and a high visibility jacket at all times and hand out fluorescent wheel spoke rattlers as souvenirs.

Enough delusions of grandeur. As has become painfully apparent, I probably wouldn’t be able to find my way to the mountain in the first place. In the absence of a super dooper mega computer phone (what gives, Orange?), my route planning currently consists of staring intently at Google Maps, learning the route’s rough shape and desperately trying to remember the names of the roads I should be going down. This frees up my mind from pesky thoughts like bike coordination and the Highway Code to concentrate entirely on ‘ok, looking for Springfield Road, Springfield Road, Springhill Road, Binghill Road, oh crap… there it goes. Ok, looking for Bunghill Crescent…’ I’ve recently said that my ultimate ambition is to become the voice of Sat Nav. Perhaps, in the pursuit of this ambition and to better navigate around easily forgotten street names, I should just program myself to repeat ad nauseum ‘at the end of the road, turn right.’ I might get some funny looks from passing motorists but at least then I’d give off the impression that I know where I’m going, which in that case would be an endless loop around the block.

Regardless, my bike ride on Sunday clocked up roughly 25 miles. The plan was to cycle from the Lang Stracht to Crathes and have a cup of tea with my parents at the castle. Yeah, well, best laid plans and all that – I made it to Drumoak. Could I say that I would have made it had I not got hopelessly lost? Could I say that? Could I have done it sooner had I not chosen to cycle down a track fit only for mountain bikers? The wise Jen says perhaps, perhaps. What sequence of events found me frustrated and tired in the middle of nowhere, unwilling to cycle a meter further but knowing that the distance travelled is the distance still to come? I think I was doomed when I chose to push my bike up a 35 degree rocky path rather than cycle it. As I’m pushing it up, a man dressed up to the cycling nines pedals effortlessly past me, and takes the time to actually tell me that I too could have easily cycled it. Go away cycle enthusiast psycho man! Who are you to tell me what I probably could do, you jerk? You in your Lycra and pedal clips – slightly overdoing it for a family friendly track on a Sunday afternoon, don’t you think? This is not the Tour de France! Yeah, so perhaps I was a little distracted and failed to correctly follow the signs for the Deeside track, and ended up cycling onto someone’s farm. Luckily no one was actually there, or, knowing me, rather than admit my mistake to a wary farmer, would have probably just offered a really awkward hello and turned around as if that was the plan all along.

So, GPS in the head please. Then, when I am up that mountain handing out my wisdom and someone wants to know where the souvenir shop is I can tell them: ‘at the end of the road, turn right.’



this post is brought to you by Orange

Before I begin this post proper, I must send a big thank you to Al Robertson, who very kindly pointed out that my bike was a death trap. No joke guys, the quick release lever at the front was in the open position. Enough bumps and jumps and the front wheel could have come flying off and me with it. And I know I didn’t sign up to become a stuntman, neither is this about raising money to see how many bones I can break between now and August. I have also booked my bike in for an MOT at the local bike shop, so hopefully I won’t find out there’s anything else amiss, like the back wheel is made out of jelly or someone cut the brakes. You know, minor things like that. So thank you Al, bike-man extraordinaire.

Apart from suicidal dogs, volcanic ash and menacing twigs, potholes and dips, the bike training has been going well. As an aside, how cool is the volcanic ash of DOOM? Being in no way affected by the various plane cancellations I can sit back and marvel at the unfolding events. I wonder what the benefits for the environment are of a blanket flight ban? No jet planes spewing out fuel, no contrails dimming the planet (I saw a Channel 4 documentary on this once so it must be true) – we should just have a volcano exploding all the time! My god, I don’t think we’re thinking big enough – let’s set off the super volcano at Yellowstone and rid the world of global warming once and for all!

All hail the Icelandic volcano, destroyer of planes, saviour of the world. What’s more, several geologists have also promised us some beautiful sunsets as a result. I could do with a decent sunset at the moment, because it doesn’t half make bike rides feel more significant and inspiring. Even without the sunset, cycling along the flat railway track, with views of the city gradually escaping to the austerity of the awakening spring Deeside landscape – all greens, rust and golds – has reminded me of why I used to love cycling. As golden bands of sunlight flicker through the trees in zoetrope fashion, I have marvelled at the sense of peace and beauty that cycling through the country can bring.

That and feeling like I’m stuck in a goddam Orange mobile phone advert.

The fact that the soundtrack to most of my bike rides so far has been Joanna Newsom’s new album has really compounded that recognition. Curse you mobile phone advert, with your “we’re not really a big faceless corporation, we’re your friends” schtick. Look! There’s a girl riding a bike through the country in a white summer dress! What’s this unique individual going to do next? Why, she’s cutting out paper doll chains on the grass and staying in touch with friends with her new Sony Ericsson! Isn’t that just completely charming? Isn’t that! Of course, we’re not going to do anything as crass as mention or show the mobile phone because, hey, that’s just awfully consumerist and we’re you’re friends! We just want you to say in a voice over “I like holding hands, riding my bike and talking with my friends.”

In fact, you’re not even going to know it’s an Orange ad until the Orange logo appears at the end. During the course of the advert you may have also guessed it was advertising your friendly local just-been-bailed-out-by-the-government bank or your happy local chain supermarket. Orange – as individual as you are.

Yeah Orange get on your bike and stop ruining my bike rides with a sense of overfamiliarity. Unless of course you want to give me the latest camera phone so I can take photos of the bike ride. Give me a free one and I might just paint my bike orange. I’m not a consumer statement, I’m me. Ah, but Orange is just an easy target. If O2 or Vodafone can offer a better deal, I’m listening. In return for a free phone, I’ll be a good spokesperson for you. I like listening to Joanna Newsom, riding my bike and staying in touch with my friends. Vodafone/O2 – let’s go further.



No dogs were harmed in the making of this post
April 12, 2010, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , , ,

So the cycling has begun proper. The main lesson learned so far is merely a reaffirmation of a long-held belief; namely that dogs are mind bogglingly stupid. This may seem a touch mean-spirited, but after spending some time both in city centre traffic and along the old Deeside railway track, I can safely say that dogs are a danger to a cyclist’s health. Cars and buses, on the other hand, are our intelligent and benevolent masters.

When cycling along the railway track yesterday, one can only speculate on what made this dog run up to and stop in front of my wheel, forcing me to display an almost Herculean strength in my hand muscles when breaking. Perhaps it was a twig the dog’s owner had thrown. Perhaps it was a bunny it had glimpsed in the bushes off to the left. Perhaps it was the warning bell I had helpfully rung, not realising it sounds far too much like a goddam whistle to be of any kind of stop signal to a Border Collie. Who knows? It is a mystery that may never be solved.

Tell you what though, it’s not just the descendants of sheep or gun dogs that you need to be wary of. The worst incident yet was not ten minutes into my first bike ride along the railway track. There I am, cycling confidently along and keeping an eye on everything in my path – particularly a largeish brown barrel shaped dog standing on one of the old platforms looking directly at me. The dog sees me, it knows what I’m doing, and yet, with the grim determination of a Beachy Head leaper, plows straight into my front wheel with a doggie yelp. Not in front of it, not behind it – slap bang into it. I encountered several dogs along the track of a similar disposition so the problem must be widespread. Someone should set up a helpline for these poor suicidal dogs, convince them that bike-wheel death is not the only answer to the endless daily inanity of chasing after bones, sniffings cats and eating Pedigree Chum.

This dog was fine, by the way, and probably pleased about scaring another cyclist, the malicious hound. It’s probably giggling with all his other doggie mates RIGHT NOW, comparing cyclist injury records and swapping trophies – a reflector light here, a kneecap there. Yeah, I know your game, Dog. After that, I was nervous about any approaching obstacle for several miles. Uh oh. twig. Twig. twigtwigtwigtwig. TWIG. OH GOD A TWIG! GETOUTOFTHEWAY!!!!

Public footpaths are just far too dangerous. When ready, I shall take to the haven of the roads. Of course, I understand that this naive embracing of the car is possibly not an attitude to be maintained over the coming months. I’ve heard that 4x4s crumple, not cuddle, when being overly playful. If I get covered in a car’s drool, I’ll not only be grossed out but also highly flammable. Something tells me that a dog may mangle my arm but even a car as small as a Ford Ka could mangle MY LIFE OK. In the meantime I shall keep to the relative peace of the old railway tracks. And take a taser. I KNOW WHERE YOU WALK, DOG!