Cyclejen's Blog


75 miles, cha cha cha
July 26, 2010, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , , ,

Apologies about the title. I really feel I hit my title peak at It’s Snow Good. After that it’s just been downhill all the way. It’s a weight on your shoulders, once you’ve come up with a spectacular title – I kind of understand how Einstein felt after he cracked general relativity. A lot of pressure, let me tell you.  Still, I already know what the title will be for my last blog entry before I do the challenge. I promise you, it’s a real show stopper, worthy of a Pulitzer. Do they do Pulitzers for titles? They really should. The subsequent post, I’m sure, will just be AAAARRRRRGGGHHHH MY LEEGGGGSS! In the meantime you’ll just have to put up with some treading water.

The title is to the point. The point being 75 miles. I don’t think anyone’s ever cycled that far before, in the world, ever. When Neil Armstrong first landed on the moon and said that whole ‘one small step for man’ malarky, he hadn’t reckoned on bikes, otherwise he would have just muttered ‘small fry’ under his breath instead. And the best thing is, I did it with people! 13 people, to be exact. It was all part of a charity bike ride for the British Heart Foundation that was organised by my employer. I signed up as I knew it would be a great opportunity for a doing a trial run. I have to say though, I did find it kind of difficult not to sound like a posturing arsehole when I told the other participants that I would do it, you know, for practice.

Still, it was an interesting day and great to be doing it with real live people. So far on bike rides I’ve been making do with singing and talking to myself. I’m not kidding. Admiring the scenery will only get you so far; after a while, you’re going to have to invent company. Luckily, I’ve managed to avoid being caught by car drivers or, worse, other cyclists babbling on to myself. I’m incredibly glad that no one came close to seeing me breathlessly singing Cyndi Lauper’s version of ‘I’m Gonna be Strong’ whilst attempting a particularly nasty hill. I’m also glad I’ve not yet been responsible for any car crashes caused by car drivers bursting into hysterics at the sight of a sweaty, struggling cyclist flapping her mouth open and closed like a fish drowning in air, and then hearing ‘AND TAKE IT LIKE A MAAAAAAANNNN YEEEAAAHHH!’ in doppler effect as they whizz by.

Thankfully, my parents’ willingness to meet me at various stopping points for mental and physical refreshments has prevented me from becoming a deranged lunatic. Although, after the events on the Dundee-Aberdeen bike ride, I’m now not so sure. In nearly all respects the bike ride was typical of what you would expect. People brought their bikes, we pedalled for a bit, we ate food, we chatted. Some were faster, some were slower, all types invited. Punctures occurred and gears jammed, but all in all we all made the distance in one piece. I have what I hope are real memories of the leisurely pace we took out of Dundee and the burn on my legs as I climbed an incline that stretched for several miles. I remember the sun, the sea and the wind on my face. What makes me doubt the existence of any of this is the mystery of the Man in White.

To give a bit of background, this event was initially promoted by posters dotted around the workplace. A general email was sent out, those who wanted to participate replied, a group of six was formed to represent the Aberdeen contingent and, after fine tuning details over the course of a few emails and going for a few shorter rides together, we were good to go. What none of us knew was that all this time a mysterious entity had been watching from the sidelines. We only became aware of this person when, whilst having lunch at a tea room in the middle of nowhere, one of the Dundee office’s people told us that a man who called himself the head of cleaning services was in the car park after furiously cycling 51 miles from Aberdeen to join us. Apparently, he had turned up at our initial Aberdeen meeting point, only to be told by the security guard that we had already left for Dundee. He then proceeded to the bus station and attempted to get on the Megabus and was naturally denied due to the fact that he had a bike with him and no reservations. With no thought whatsoever of taking the train, he decided his only option was to cycle down to Dundee, in order to take part in the cycle ride back up to Aberdeen.

We waited in anticipation for this man to come into the cafe. Who is the head of cleaning services? Is there a cleaning services department? If so, why haven’t they cleaned my desk for the past two years? The room hushes as in walks a thin, small framed man in his early 40s, dressed in a tight white t shirt and the tightest, whitest shorts I have ever seen. It takes every ounce of effort not to immediately zero in on the (let’s call a spade a spade) genital bulge that’s in plain view. A doctor could take one look at his shorts and immediately determine his sperm count. It makes me think of those plaster of paris figurine kits I used to have when I was a kid, but before they were painted – alabaster white and lumpy. Well, that’s that childhood memory ruined. More astonishingly, this man gives no outward sign at having apparently cycled 51 miles in three and a half hours. He sits, has lunch with us, informs us that he works as a contractor on the night shift and has decided to do the bike ride after seeing the poster. He waits around with us for lunch and then proceeds to zoom off back to Aberdeen, and we never see him again that day.

However, I suspect we may never see him ever again, and I’ll tell you why. Being a contractor, he did not have access to work email. Therefore, he couldn’t have known to even appear in the car park at the time originally organised, let alone an hour later as was subsequently arranged. Furthermore, I cannot think of any way he could have known we were stopping to have lunch at that particular tea room. The car park was hidden back from the road, so he would not have seen the company vans. How did he know we were there? This man has to be some kind of ghost or prophet; I can see no other explanation.

Is he the bike Messiah? After all, when a lady came round with a raffle to raise funds for the tea shop, all he said was “I don’t gamble, but I will donate.” Does his white outfit represent the purity of the true cyclist’s spirit, unencumbered by any worldly constraints? Come to think of it, I’m not even sure he ate any food at the tea rooms. Or perhaps I have succumbed to road loneliness completely and he doesn’t actually exist at all. Perhaps none of the 13 people I rode with exist. Or worse, perhaps I am just a construct in the mind of the Man in White, who has made us all up to save himself from the crushing loneliness of cycling for so far, for so very long. Maybe he’s doing London to Paris and not me. Perhaps you too are constructs in his head to distract him from the lactic burn in his legs as he reaches the peak of a 3000ft climbOH GOD WHO’S TYPING THIS  THING?!

If you are real, Man in White, please get in touch to prove you’re not a figment of my imagination or I of yours. Please explain your apparent telepathic and superhuman cycling abilities. And the shorts, is that just aerodynamics then or what? Finally, Man in White, just in case you really are real, please do not take it personally if  I go to sleep tonight with a knife under my pillow. Amen.



Read all about it
July 26, 2010, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , , ,

So, um, I guess the moral of the story is, is that if you whinge enough you will eventually get what you want? Right?

Click here for the Press and Journal’s article on the bike ride!



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?



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!



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.