Saturday, 4 January 2014

She Spoke to Shaz About Bikes in Birmingham

Shaz with has OCR Giant Road Bike

I met Shaz at Bike Lounge Christmas Party in December 2013.   Whilst were waiting for the party to begin we sat and chatted about bikes and biking in Birmingham.

Tell me about your bike and where you got it.
I have a Giant OCR Road Bike, which I got from Birmingham Bike Foundry.   I had dropped by there quite a few times as I was looking for a Road Bike.  I spotted the OCR and I thought I want that bike.  So I took it for a test ride in a car park, and after 5 minutes I knew that I wanted that bike.   I didn't really know how to ride it, so I went out for a bit longer and I got the hang of it.    I previously had a Hybrid before,  but I find riding a road bike so much easier, especially around the hills of Birmingham.

Why do you cycle?
I only learnt to ride a bike about a year ago.   I had some professional lessons for Purrfect Peddalling.   As soon as I learnt to balance and pedal, I just went straight out on to the road. I don't think I really had the skills to be out on the road on my bike at that time. I probably should have gone on cycle routes and quiet roads before going straight to main roads.  I was just excited that I had learnt to ride.
Over the year I have gained a lot of confidence & skills, I know the Highway Code and I adhere to it and I am a much better and safer cyclist for it. 

Where has your bike taken you today?
My has taken me to The Bike Lounge at the Hare & Hounds Pub in Kings Heath,   I live near the City Centre, so my return trip will be about 8 miles.

What is your favourite place to cycle to in Birmingham or the West Midlands?
I really like to cycle to the Licky Hills.   I generally go from my home the Licky Hills along the Bristol Road.    I don't think that this is a pretty route, it's quite a difficult route,  but I really like it because it's really challenging.  I really like the Licky Hills,    It's nice to cycle there, have a bit of a hike in the open air of the Hills and then cycle back.

Tell me something else that you do on your bike other than pedal.
I spend a lot of time thinking when I'm on my bike, especially if it's a nice clear day and a clear route. I Normally think about work or what I'm going to have for my dinner.   Riding my bike gives me so much freedom.   As long as my route is clear and easy with regard to traffic, cycling is such a great way to clear my mind.

What do you think Birmingham could do to make the infrastructure more user friendly for cyclists? I am not a cycle commuter, but I do cycle a lot for leisure. I would say make improvements to junctions, However, I don't think that would make things safer for everyone as we don't all want to cycle on the road.   At the moment I think that only 1% of journeys in Birmingham are done by bike, which is ridiculously low.    So I think we need more traffic free routes like the Rea Valley Route, for people who may be unsure about cycling.   More traffic free routes may give people who are thinking about cycling the urge to have a go.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

She Spoke of The Contents of Her Saddlebag

Having time on my hands over the holiday I decided to get organised in many ways.  This included cleaning my bike chain and also checking my saddlebag for essential contents. 
Having cycled over 1500 miles since last December and having used, lost, loaned and misplaced good few items from my saddlebag, my conscience advised me that I needed to get things sorted.
I had a quick flick around the internet to find a list of essential Saddlebag contents and I came across this list


1.     Identification
2.     Mobile phone
3.     First Aid kit
4.     Patch kit
5.     Spare tube
6.     Mini pump or CO2 dispenser with cartridges
7.     Tire levers
8.     Map 
9.     Multi Tool
10. Energy bar or other small snack

This list came courtesy of: The Beginner TriathleteI thought the list was a really good guide for essential items, however I thought some items listed were about personal choice and some things I had never thought of.  After examining the contents of my bag and comparing it to the list of Ten Essentials.   I don't think I did too badly!   You will notice I am missing 4 items and duplicated and added other items.

  1. Identification:  I never thought of this before reading the list, but will now add this A.S.A.P
  2. Mobile phone: This is always in my purse.   I would not put a cell phone in my Saddlebag as I prefer it to be closer to hand.
  3. Spare Tube: There is no space for this in my Saddlebag, so this is stashed in a plastic bag under my seat.
  4. Map:  I never travel with maps for my regular daily journeys.   If I need map I use the mapping app on my mobile phone.
  1. Multi Tool & Tools:  Whilst Multi tools are great, I find that they are often clumsy to hold and to reach tight spaces.  Therefore, I also carry a small selection small single tools that are often easier for more tricky adjustments.
  2. Disposable Gloves: I have accidentally put my hands in black grease, mud, dog poo and squashed slugs too many times.   I keep 1 pair in my saddlebag and another pair stuffed inside my handlebar ends.
  3. Tyre Levers: I have both Metal & Plastic Coated Metal levers.  Metal lever can distort your wheel rims or tyre beading.  Plastic levers snap too easily. Therefore, I believe the best option is Plastic Coated Metal levers.
  4. Dumbbell Spanner:   10 bolt head sizes in one tool.  A great tool if you have wheel nuts and not quick release.  The heavier the better as it is less likely to break whilst releasing wheel nuts.
  5. Random Nuts & Bolts: I keep odd screws, bolts and washers from other used bike parts.   When I am  tweaking stuff on my bike, I almost always drop & loose small bits.  So I keep random spares for this purpose.
  6. Tweezers:  Great for picking thorns, glass and other random sharp objects out of a punctured tyre.
One of the most important items in my tool bag is my pump.  For me it is important that my pump is compact, easy to use, fits both Shrader & Presta Valve types, and it is fit for purpose.    Having purchased various pumps over the years, I am yet to find one that ticks all of the boxes.
I really like the ease of use and the efficiency of Co2 pumps.  However, I could only find one that fit either Presta Valves.  I have found that hand pumps are very Hit'n'Miss, regardless of how much you pay. 
On a mission to address the "Gap in my Saddlebag,” I took a trip to the shops to see what was on offer.  I managed to grab a combination pump, which can be used manually or with C02 cartridges. Having the opportunity to try out the Air Tool Comb02 in the shop was great.   I hope that it performs just as well when in real time use.

Specialized Air Tool CombO2
Creating a well equipped saddlebag is a relatively easy task, provided you know your bike well & you can gather the tools that fit your bikes components.
Knowing how to put the tools into use to get you out of a situation by fixing your bike on the road side is more tricky than expected.
Having done 3 different bike maintenance courses in the past 3 years, I still don’t feel that I could, quickly and competently fix a puncture whilst out and about.
I can do this at home when I am not under pressure, there is no passing audience and when I can grab other tools if another fails.  So I tend to only do minor adjustments and repairs whilst on the road.  Whilst I do not suffer punctures often, when I do get one, I simply replace the inner tube and then do the repair when I get home.

Friday, 20 September 2013

She Spoke to Johnson About Bikes in Birmingham

I  wanted to catch up with Johnson for a chat for a long time.   However, whenever I see him out and about on his bicycle, he disappears  before I have a chance to say  "Tell me about your bike"

I really admire Johnson's  "No Frills" approach to cycling, his determination to get on  his life using sustainable transport.

Whilst I would normally transcribe interviews, I thought it would be great for you to hear Johnson tell us about his experiences in his way.


Many thanks for your time Johnson.  It was a real pleasure speaking to you 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A Visit to The Bike Kitchen by Urban Cycles

Today was my first unhurried leisure cycle in 4 weeks. I have not been on my bicycle much due to being away on holiday. On my return I felt pretty lethargic and lacking in my usual nippiness and therefore I only did very short local rides to the shops of no more than 2 miles.

I decided to take the Pershore Road route into the city, which was fine, with very few motorists about at 9 am in the morning. I normally like to go fast along the Pershore road, but this morning I could barely reach a consistent plod of 12-13mph. Also being inadequately dressed for the chilly breeze didn't help

On reaching Sherlock Street I remembered that it was the day of the Sunday Market, so I stopped by to have rummage to see what I could find. As usual, there were lots of bikes and bits 'n' bobs to suit every pocket. I spotted a beautiful 1976 Mercian Racing bike for only £60. However, not really having much space for anymore bicycles at home right now, I passed it by with just a envious smile.

I did find myself a a new windproof for just a few pounds from the Halford seconds stall at the market. Problably 1 size too big, but it did the job at keeping the wind off me for the remainder of my journey.

I continued on my journey to the Jewelry Quarter with a rattling and squeaking right pedal. I arrived  at  Urban Cycle's Bike Kitchen event hosted at Urban Coffee in good time and surprisingly with both pedals still fixed to my bike. I was warmly greeted by by +Rosina Mcguigan, Head of Training at Urban Cycles Birmingham and introduced me to Andy
Rosina quickly set to having a look at my bicycle, whilst Rosina tweaked my gears, breaks and pedals, I ordered breakfast and chatted to Andy about East Birmingham and the challenges for new cyclists in the area.

Unfortunately Rosina discovered that my pedals needed more than greasing, and I required a new set of pedals.    To my surprise Rosina & Andy set about finding me a new pair of pedals.  Whilst they were not able to get a pair to fit my crank, they kindly offered to order me a pair.

I was totally impressed with my experience. It was great to receive the  free bike checkup, tweaking and valuable bike maintenance advice from the team at Urban Cycles, who are clearly highly skilled, knowledgeable and experienced in their field.  Like Birmingham Bike Foundry, I so am pleased to find yet another, welcoming, user friendly and accessible service for cyclists in Birmingham.
Whilst I am lucky to have Birmingham Bike Foundry on my doorstep, It's great to have Urban Cycles operating from various locations across the city.

Thanks Andy & Rosina for your time and service this morning.   

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Cycle Craft Event

Sustrans and Birmingham City Council have secured some funding for a new project focusing on redesigning streets around Kings Heath to make them safer and more attractive for walking and cycling.This project has been inspired by the King’s Heath Road Safety Committee, the Live in Hope campaign and the car culture project with local schools and Hall Green Arts Forum.

Sustrans Active Schools & Neighbourhoods Project starts in Kings Heath, in September 2013.   To raise the profile of the Project, I and an a number of other Active Travel Champions will be hosting an event. The Cycle Craft event will run alongside the regular and popular Village Square Craft Market

 Drop in to Cycle Craft to find out more about the project and the great things that the project will bring to Kings Heath? 

Sustrans Travel Advice info stand with new walking and cycling maps, for Birmingham, South West Birmingham and West Birmingham.
FREE Dr Bike – Bring your bike for a free health check
Cycle Chain – Pop-up Bike Shop – buy a refurbished bike
A Ride - A gentle family friendly led ride at 2pm – 3pm
(under 18’s must be accompanied by an adult) 


If you are already a Sustrans Active Travel Champion and you could spare an hour or 2 to help out on the day, contact or 0121 633 5517. You can also get in contact with Lisa if you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Active Travel Champion.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Due to the rain..............

I had all good intentions of going out cycling today, however the heavy rain and thunder storms that fell on Birmingham this morning meant that this did not happen.

Slept in for 3 hours longer than I would normally do,  waking occasionally to still hear rain and thunder and sparing a thought for those riding to work in it, as a regular cycle commuter or as a newbie due to the tunnel closure.   For the Newbies I began to think "This is going to put off cycling big time"

When I did eventually get out of bed  I began to clear up the clutter from the day before.  I then began to add my collection of cycling themed badges and patches to my sun bleached panniers, in the hope of covering up some of the fading.

Whilst searching for needle and thread  I stumbled on an old 2010 Birmingham walking and cycling map.  I then fetched my old button making machine and decided to have ago making some button badges myself.   
Having not done this since 2004 and with with absence of any instruction manual.   I had to turn to YouTube to learn how it all works again.

After numerous mistakes and hash-ups, I finally got the hang of making button badges.  Using popular sections of the Birmingham Cycling & Walking map, a compass and some sticky backed plastic  I managed to create a selection of  large button badges, with plenty of map left to use.

Hours went by quickly and I was totally distracted from the bad weather
Whilst this was not an active outdoor cycling  activity, I  certainly felt a similar feeling of freedom, and an opportunity to loose myself in something that turned out be quite therapeutic.  Also I had a good feeling that I had recycled something that would have been thrown out.

So all in all I still  had a very happy bike themed morning.  The afternoon brightened up considerably, so I'm hoping for a local bicycle meander with the family later.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

She Spoke to Jake & Dave About Bikes in Birmingham

Jake & Dave with their bicycles in Rowheath Pavilion

Tell me about your bike and where you got it?
Dave - I have a Giant bike that I purchased from Bike Pro in Kings Heath

Where has your bike taken you today?
Today our bikes have taken us from Kings Heath to Rowheath Pavilion, which I had not visited before.   It's beautiful here, very nice, so I am very pleased that we have come here today.

Why do you choose to cyle?
 Dave: I choose to cycle because it keeps me fit, saves money and is infinitely less stressful than any other way of crossing Birmingham.
Jake:  I cycle because I love to play football, and cycling every day helps to give me as much stamina as Jack Wilshere.

What is your most regular commutes each day.
Dave - I cycle from Kings Heath to Hockley where I work. This is about 7 miles 1 way.
Jake - I cycle from my house to school each day which is about 1/4 mile

Tell me something you do on your bike other than pedal.
Dave - I sing.   I tend to find myself singing songs that I don't even like.  Songs that just get stuck in your head,  then I'm totally embarrassed that I am singing.   I have recently added a song by Alanis Morissette to my "Cycling Karaoke" collection.    I have also been seen Hurst Street riding my bike and singing   "Mr Boombastic".

Jake - I Annoy my dad Dave.

Dave AKA Mr Boombastic

What is your favourite place to ride in Birmingham and the West midlands?
We  like to use the Rea Valley Route quite a lot.  Jake goes swimming in Bournville, so we often use parts of the Rea Valley route to get there.  It's a nice route to use across the year, seeing the changing seasons in Cannon Hill Park & Highbury park.

What do you think Birmingham could to to improve the cycling infrastructure to make it more user friendly for all cyclists?
It could do an awful lot.  Firstly more attention could be paid to the few Cycle Lanes that already exist.   I get frustrated on a daily basis about the stretch of road with a dedicated Cycle Lane, located as your turn right out of the bottom of Pershore Street and Hurst Street, that is used by motorists as a car park.  
Also a lot of drivers in Birmingham don't have a lot of respect for cyclists.  A lot of facilitates for cyclists is disregarded by motorists. 
The section of road that runs across the middle of Belgrave Middle Way, which is for cyclists & buses only, is routinely and casually used as a shortcut by motorists.   I know for a fact by speaking to people, particularly women, are put off from cycling because of what happens on this section of road, as they feel at risk of an accident happening, because motorists aggressively over take them on this junction, when they are not even meant to drive there.    

For those of you who are not familiar activity of motorists driving across the cycle & bus lane.   Please see the video below