Cyclejen's Blog


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.

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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.



It’s Snow Good
March 31, 2010, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Cycle Jen Main | Tags: , , , ,

How do you like that title eh? Damn good title. Not even sure what I’m going to write now. If you come up with a pun worthy of a Sun headline, I think that’s the job done. I’m pretty sure that’s how they must figure it there. Perhaps they respond to breaking news by first passing the story through a punometer. If it can’t rhyme with something or you can’t just resort to turning your story into a nationalistic appeal, like ‘Pothole Britain’, then it’s obviously not a story. Perhaps this is why Cystic Fibrosis often  doesn’t make the headlines – it doesn’t rhyme with anything and ‘Cystic Fibrosis is Stealing our Jobs’ just doesn’t have a nice ring to it.

So we’ve got a good title. Let’s add some filler content:

With the mercury dropping below 0c in various parts of the region last night, Aberdeen is once again frozen in the icy grip of winter. A completely precedented 8″ of snow fell, sending areas with already shaky power lines into predictable blackout. In no way typical of the everyday Aberdeen commute, traffic chaos has hit the North Anderson Drive this morning, resulting in heavy tailbacks, while a jack-knifed lorry closed the south bound carriageway at Portlethen.  Several lucky bastards from Huntly have been unable to come into work and resume the relentless drudgery of their piss-poor office job, at a cost of an estimated £3 billion dollars to the taxpayer. Bethel, an auxillary nurse from Kingswells, asks the council why they can’t do more to prevent weather: “I’m absolutely disgusted. I’ve been waiting for someone to clear my driveway for hours now. What do we pay our taxes for?” Jennifer, from the city’s west end, has been unable to ride her bike out of fear of slipping on the ice. “It’s no big deal,” says the office-worker, “I’ll just pick it up again next week.”

The snow is just one instance of horrific weather set to grip the North East in the oncoming months. Justin Reid from Aberdeen Council’s Zoology department predicts an onslaught of ‘awakening insects’  and a dramatic increase in noise pollution due to ‘birdsong’. Pollen counts will also rise dramitastically, and a lethal heatwave is forecast to last for 3 days in June, all at a cost of £200 billion thousand to the taxpayer. Pubs with outdoor gardens are preparing well in advance with bulk orders for whatever heavily marketed Irish cider bullshit will be popular this year.