Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cycling, humour, ladies, maintenance, skills, tips, women
Good morning, and welcome to Bike Maintenance For Ladies, episode 37 in an occasional series. Observe the picture above*. There’s a lot we can learn from this neat demonstration of how to change a bicycle puncture.
First, note that the bicycle has been removed from the road, away from passing traffic, and leant gently up against a rock or tree stump. Do not lie your bicycle on its side, especially with the chainset downwards; you risk scratching the paintwork and damaging your derailleur. NEVER balance your bicycle upside down to effect repairs, as this will scuff the saddle and ruin your handlebar tape.
Protective sheeting has been put down to protect the floor from dirt and debris – although if you keep your bicycle scrupulously clean, as in the picture, you’ll find less maintenance is required overall.
Always carry spares and tools. If, like this rider, you prefer to ride without mudguards, you may feel a seatpack detracts from the clean lines of your machine. Simply use your spare inner tube as a hair scrunchie until required.
The rider has removed the front wheel carefully and propped it against her knee, saving the spindle from potential damage caused by contact with the tarmac. Observe how she lines up the valve on the replacement tube with the hole in the rim. Tyre levers are not always necessary: a good strong set of gel fingernails makes a perfectly acceptable substitute.
There are, however, some points for improvement in this demonstration. Firstly, the rider does not appear to be wearing socks. This is unhygienic, allowing the bacteria naturally present in sweat to propagate unfettered in your trainers. Secondly, road riders should always wear a helmet.
* Thanks to @JEmptyloo on twitter for sharing the picture.
Tags: advice, barbershop, German, humour, language, music, phrases, singing, skills, white rosettes, women
I’m off to Munich this weekend, with my lovely fabulous barbershop chorus, the White Rosettes. We’re guests at BinG!, the German barbershop convention, and we’ll be singing on stage three times over two days, then finding as many opportunities as possible to sing in stairwells, in corners of the bar and so on. I used to speak fairly good German, so I thought I’d put together a set of useful phrases that my fellow Rosettes could employ over the weekend. In true barbershop style, I’ve provided teach tracks. Mach’s gut!
At the hotel
Do you have room service? Double egg and chips, please.
Haben Sie Zimmerservice? Zweimal Spiegelei mit Pommes, bitte.
I’m having a disco nap and do not wish to be disturbed
Ich mache Schläfchen und möchte nicht gestört werden.
Please could I book an alarm for nine thirty. No, that’s correct. I am English. That’s early.
Ich möchte einen Alarmruf, bitte, um neun Uhr dreissig. Doch, das stimmt. Ich bin Engländerin. Das ist für mich ganz früh.
Making conversation in the audience
They haven’t got enough blusher on
Sie brauchen noch ein bisschen Rouge.
I liked the choreo but the sequins were distracting
Die Choreographie hat mir gefallen. Ich fand die Pailletten verwirrend.
Is that David Wright over there? I’ll be right back
Ist das der David Wright dort drüben? Ich bin gleich wieder da.
At the afterglow
My doctor has expressly forbidden me to drink beer
Mein Arzt hat mir ausdrücklich verboten, Bier zu trinken.
Three gins, please, and easy on the tonic
Dreimal Gin, bitte, und nicht zu viel Tonic.
Shall we sing a tag? Do you know ‘Clouds On Fire’?
Wollen wir einen Tag singen? Kennen Sie ‘Clouds On Fire’?
Are you going to bed already? It’s only four o’clock!
Gehen Sie schon ins Bett? Es ist aber nur vier Uhr!
And a good old-fashioned blooper reel. In case you thought this stuff was easy.
Tags: 2015, advice, eddie izzard, electoral reform, fangirling, general election, humour, marginal seat, safe seat, spoiled ballot, tactical voting, voting
Still agonising over your choice tomorrow? Help is at hand! Follow my simple voting guide and place your cross with confidence.
First question: Is your constituency a safe seat? (You can check here.) Yes? Congratulations! You’re one of the lucky ones – FREE to vote with your heart! Go, examine the manifestos in minute detail! Quiz your candidates mercilessly at the hustings!
Of course none of this will make a sod of difference because the outcome’s already certain, so (unless you happen to support the outgoing MP, in which case you have my permission to look slightly pleased with yourself) you might as well wrap your voting slip round a brick and chuck it through the UKIP candidate’s window. In fact, that’s probably a more effective gesture than using it to vote.
So, you’re in a marginal constituency? DAMN. This should be the sexy scenario, right? Every-body wants you! Every-body wants your love! Leafleters and canvassers are all OVER you. Lock up your baby in case someone tries to kiss it.
The SINGLE good thing about being in a marginal constituency is EDDIE ACTUAL IZZARD might show up.
Other than that, it’s rubbish. If you like the outgoing MP, you have to fret about all your neighbours suddenly deciding they’re going to vote for the Stop Costa Coffee Coming To Little-Itching-Under-The-Armpit party, letting the rival in by mistake. If you don’t like the outgoing MP, you have to vote tactically, which is like that time you were in the school play and you had to kiss Martin Notyourtype while your real love, David Blindtoyourcharms, flirted carelessly with the third years.
But! you cry. There are other options! I could spoil my ballot! Or maybe not vote at all!
Firstly, spoiling your ballot: No. No. Believe me, over-worked up-all-night vote-counters are NOT separating that pile of dog-eared scraps into ‘people who are definitely making a considered gesture about the inequity of the first-past-the-post voting system’ and ‘people who don’t understand that you only vote for one person’. Really. You’re wasting your time.
Secondly, not voting at all: They’re all the same, right? You can’t tell them apart! Except, well, you can. They may all be bastards, but there are degrees of bastardry. As Dave Walker points out in his cartoon, even if you don’t vote, plenty of people will, and you might not like their choices. And also, Emmeline Pankhurst.
So, there you go. I suggest you hold your nose, vote, and then join the Electoral Reform Society. Or move to Scotland. The SNP have definitely pledged to get rid of midges and snow. Definitely.
Tags: advice, biking, Christmas, cycling, gifts, humour, presents, tips
Every December, cyclists helpfully leave their copy of Cycling Monthly open at the ‘On Test: Fifteen Windproofs To Blow You Away’ page, and drop oh-so-subtle hints while wandering round the Ratha Coffee Club, in the hope that some lovely, sparkly new bicycle kit will find its way under the tree.
What they forget, of course, is that this conversation happened a few weeks previously.
Significant Other: Right. Christmas. New waterproof? You’re always complaining about that one flapping.
Cyclist: Ah. Nice idea. But not unless it’s, well, you won’t be able to afford it, and I’m pretty sure they’re sold out in my size anyway. Apart from in fluoro. And I don’t want fluoro.
S.O.: All right. Jersey, then? You said you wanted a new longsleeve one.
Cyclist: Ah. Yeah. If it has a full zip. And you can work the zipper with one hand. And three pockets, and a separate zipped pocket, a waterproof one. And the arms are long enough. And it’s not too long at the front. And you’ll need an XS, and they always sell out first. Unless it’s Italian, in which case it’ll be an S.
S.O.: Hmm. How about some kneewarmers? Those ones are full of holes.
Cyclist: Well, if they have those wide grippers, maybe. And they don’t make my legs look like a string of sausages, or cut off circulation in my calves. But they mustn’t slip down, either. And no daft colours. And not Roubaix. I mean, Roubaix kneewarmers? Who thought that up?
S.O.: Base layer?
Cyclist: Oooh. Well, I’d love a shortsleeve merino one. As long as it’s proper merino, not that itchy stuff. And the sleeves need to be long enough to tuck into my armwarmers, but not so long that they poke out under my jersey. And it’s got to be nice and long at the back. But not too long, or it’ll bunch up, and people’ll think I’m wearing pants under my shorts.
S.O.: Look! These t-shirts are great. Funny! And you like that colour.
Cyclist: Yeah! That’s an MTB, though. I don’t ride MTB.
S.O. [patiently]: Okay. Socks?
Cyclist: I dunno. They have to be right. Not too long, not too short, not too thick, not too thin. They need to go with my new shoes. No, not those ones: they’ve got LOGOS on them.
Cyclist: Um. They don’t all fit my bottle cages. And those ones, they’re really hard to get open with your teeth. Not those, either: the necks are so narrow, you just get Science in Sport all over the kitchen.
Tags: advice, Christmas, humour, tips
For those of us who like riding up the occasional hill without having to get off and push, Christmas is a scary prospect. All that rich food! All those weird bottles of sticky stuff that Auntie Lil brought back from Kos! All that sitting about watching It’s A Wonderful Sound Of Bridget’s Friends, Actually, Arthur!
At this time of year, fitness magazines like to lecture us on how many miles we need to ride in order to burn off each Miniature Hero, but what can we do if the family have trapped our bikes ENTIRELY by accident behind a teetering mountain of hastily-wrapped Christmas presents? My handy list maps Christmas treats onto a range of festive household activities, so that you can maximise your caloric expenditure while going about your normal holiday business.
- Repeatedly blowing up spare bed that has a slow puncture you can’t locate: 1 medium glass mulled wine
- Two-minute cold shower ‘cos the boiler’s conked out and nobody can look at it until at least next Tuesday: 1 pig-in-blanket
- Filling the bath with twenty-five kettles’-worth of water: one spoonful brandy butter
- Peeling and chopping vegetables for sixteen people while singing along to Phil Spector: 1 turkey thigh
- Stumbling around the living room with your uncle who says he knows how to jive: 2 roast potatoes
- Sweeping up broken ornaments elbowed during above-mentioned ‘jive’ session: 1 prawn vol-au-vent
- Particularly rousing game of Pictionary: 1 small glass brandy
- Scrabble argument over whether ‘NOPE’ is a word, involving five people, three dictionaries and somebody tweeting at Victoria Coren: 2 dessertspoonfuls gravy
- Running upstairs to get your reading glasses, then coming down again because you forgot what you went up for, then going upstairs again to get them, then remembering they are on your head: 1 portion bread sauce
- Turning house upside down looking for things you can cannibalise 6 AAA batteries from, to avert toddler tantrum: 1 glass dessert wine
- Going through the Hoover bag looking for Luke Skywalker: 3 Brussels sprouts
- Lifting an eight-year-old into the wheelie bin, demonstrating how he has to jump up and down to crush the rubbish, then calling fire brigade to fish him out again: 3 roast parsnips
- Hoovering dog hair off the bed that Fenton won’t go on, no, really, he won’t, he’ll just sleep right here in his basket, honest: 2 Quality Street
- Maintaining cheery demeanour for three days in the face of parental passive-aggression: 16 mince pies and a bottle of Bailey’s
Tags: advice, biking, contemporary, cycling, cyclocross, humour, music, opera
If you followed me for the cycling content, you might be a bit bemused by my sudden foray into classical music overenthusiasm. Relax! Music is just like biking. It’s all about finding the right event. Use my handy guide to decide which type of musical offering will suit you best.
1. Opera is the audax of the classical world. Characterised by incomprehensible content and sections that are much longer than they look on the map, you’ll need endurance, a comfortable saddle, and a plentiful supply of snacks. Short naps are advisable.
2. Groovy contemporary ArtMusic installations: Think of these as cyclocross. Hard work, loud and excitable, you’ll spend more time than usual on your feet, but they’re over quite quickly and someone might hand you up a beer.
3. Recitals. Held in small, intimate venues, recitals are like criteriums: a chance to get up close to your favourites. You might even get an autograph; you should bring a CD for this, as Sagan-style body-part-signing still guarantees ejection from most concert halls. And when the performers surprise you with a ‘spontaneous’ encore, remember to act like you didn’t know it was all worked out in advance.
4. Introduction-to-the-orchestra afternoons, community gamelan projects, Gareth Malone-style choirs, etc.: these are the Go-Rides of classical music. Designed to get people participating who’d otherwise be sitting in the pub, diehards will insist grumpily that they always raced with the Cat 1s and it never did them any harm.
5. Early music conventions: these are Tweed Rides. Everyone goes to enormous lengths to source genuine equipment and use it in an authentic way. This generally means looking impressive, but getting a bit overheated and suffering unexpected chafing.
6. ‘Modern’ programmes, including anything that uses video, audience participation, or the good bits from otherwise dreary works: These are essentially sportives. They’re fun, accessible and popular, so purists will look down their noses at you for not doing things properly. Look on this as an added bonus.
Tags: advice, crushes, diet, exercise, humour, tips, weight loss
Weight-loss solutions abound. Crazy cabbage-soup diets apart, most of them involve sensible eating, exercise, and giving up the stuff you like. However, in an exclusive preview of my new bestseller, I share with you the secrets to losing weight without effort, privation or inconvenience.
1. Fall in love. This is the very best way to lose weight. The stomach-inverting sensations of lust are only a hair’s breadth from nausea, and you’ll be far too busy mulling over underwear choices while anticipating your next tryst to think about prosaic things like food. Furthermore, once in your sweetheart’s arms, you’re limited to eating what you can reach from the bed.
2. Develop a crush. If you can’t fall in love with an actual real live person, an intense, distracting crush is a fine substitute. Mooning around the crushee’s neighbourhood humming On The Street Where You Live burns off excess calories, and all those hours spent youtubing ancient Japanese chat shows mean you’re bound to forget to have lunch. Moreover, when you realise you will never charm him/ her into following you home after a chance encounter in Pret at King’s Cross, the inevitable crash will catapult you into heartbreak, which is the next best weight loss method there is.
3. Fall out of love. Heartbreak is rightly fêted for its appetite-suppressant qualities. Just as your day is suddenly a black-and-white Wim Wenders film, so the contents of the fridge lose their technicolour appeal. Kindly friends try to tempt you from the doldrums with cake and prosecco, but you are immune to these gastronomic charms. Well, maybe not the prosecco. Go on, then. Just a glass.
But what of those of you who are happily ensconced in amiable relationships, with no hint of discord or need for distraction? Are you doomed to middle-age spread? Fear not! There are solutions for you, too.
4. Get really, REALLY nervous about something. Stage fright, performance anxiety, interview stress, dental appointments, even talking to your in-laws on the phone can all helpfully induce the racing heartbeat, room-pacing, obsessive fidgeting and sweating conducive to weight loss. True panic may result in queasiness, a well-known side-effect of which is being unable to finish your sandwich. Talking of which…
5. … Catch stomach flu. I lost 6lb in three days. No kidding. If you can’t bear this solution yourself, persuade your partner or child to develop it. Clearing up after them will put you off eating, probably forever.
Tags: advice, beauty, easy targets, humour, magazines, sitting ducks, skincare, women
According to a free health ‘n’ beauty mag I picked up in a well-known chemist’s, my winter skincare routine depends on what kind of a chick I am. The choices on offer are:
- Office Girl
- Night Owl
- Fresh Air Fanatic
- Busy Mum*
I spent some time wondering whether my post-midnight twitter addiction qualifies me as a Night Owl, or whether running down the hill to school at the last minute having lingered over Just One More Chapter makes me a Busy Mum. I’m in the study right now, writing this: am I an Office Girl? I quite like riding my bike, but it’s a bit cold at the moment, so maybe not Fresh Air Fanatic. Modern life! So complicated!
Eventually I decided to write my own advice, instead.
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cycling, terminology
As you know, this blog has become quite the go-to destination for the nervous newbie. Here, you can ask the daftest of questions, safe in the knowledge that I probably don’t know the answer either. This time, I’m turning my attention to cycling terminology.
Like any hobby, cycling has its secret handshakes and obscure rituals. Many of these are reflected in arcane language. This creates a feeling of smugness in participants, and baffles outsiders, who slink out of bike shops ashamed at their inability to distinguish Rego from Ergo. Ever happy to help, I present here a dictionary of common cycling terms, so that you can approach your next bike-related conversation with confidence.
Aero: Sadly, this has nothing to do with chocolate, and won’t help you with bonking. Aero positioning is trying to minimise your frontal area so that you are less affected by wind resistance while riding. Popular aero tricks for everyday cyclists include doing your jacket up.
Bonking: This isn’t as delightful as it sounds, either. ‘The bonk’ is what happens when you don’t eat or drink enough and suddenly decide, half way up a hill, that you hate cycling. And sunshine. And cheery people. Cures for the bonk include the café stop.
Café stop: This is an opportunity to refuel and rehydrate on long rides, and get out of the freezing rain while secretly wondering if there is a bus from here that goes anywhere near home.
Frontal area: This isn’t as exciting as you might imagine (you may sense a theme developing, here). Your frontal area is the bit of you that there is more of when you sit up, and less of when you lean over on your bike. Maximising your frontal area is recommended when wearing hi-vis, and is easiest to achieve on a hybrid.
Hi-vis: Short for ‘Hi, I’m a visiting student!’ Refers to any clothing that is fluorescent (in the day) or reflective (at night). Mostly worn so that daydreaming motorists can’t claim SMIDSY.
Hybrid: Although it’s tempting to graft bits of washing machine on to your tubes, this is best left to the professionals. A hybrid is a bike that’s a bit of both: frame and wheels like a road bike, but with handlebars like an MTB. Therefore, hybrids are the teenagers of the cycling world, prone to identity confusion and writing bad poetry.
MTB: Multi-Terrain Bike. Or maybe Moun-Tain Bike. Perhaps it’s My Terrific Bike. Nobody seems to be sure. It’s the one with the flat handlebars and the knobbly tyres, anyway.
Road bike: This is what your Dad used to call a ‘racer’. Drop handlebars, narrow tyres. Modern road bikes come with pre-installed race face.
Race face: Serious expression, compulsory on road bikes. Best employed when chasing down retired schoolteachers on three-speeds.
SMIDSY: Sorry, Mate, I Didn’t See You. An abbreviation of the more accurate SMIDSYBIWTTCTCDWEASCTASWMK (Sorry, Mate, I Didn’t See You Because I Was Trying To Change The CD While Eating A Sandwich, Checking Twitter And Steering With My Knees).
Tubes: Every bike has several tubes. These are easily distinguished through clear naming. The top tube is the one at the top. The down tube is the one that goes down. The seat tube is the other one that goes down. The tubes that hold the wheel on are called forks, unless they’re the other ones, which are called stays. You should always carry a spare inner tube, unless you’re riding tubular tyres, in which case you should always carry a spare wheel.
Wheels: You need two of these, ideally the same size. Both should be kept on the ground at all times.
Well! I hope that’s cleared a few things up. Cheerio for now, or, as we say in cycling circles, ‘Is that your back tyre hissing?’
Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cycling, questionnaire, race, racing, skills, terminology
After I raced and MEDALLED and PODIUMED last weekend, curious readers have inundated* me with requests for advice. If no-hopers like me can race, maybe they can, too! What do they need to know? Do I have any tips? I’ve put together this handy questionnaire, so you can test your understanding of race etiquette and tactics. Consider your answers carefully.
1. What is through and off?
a. Something that happens if you don’t pay attention while you’re knitting
b. Working with other riders in a line, taking turns on the front
c. That thing where you jump your skateboard up and slide along the edge of a bench
2. If someone shouts ‘Get on my wheel!’ what do they mean?
a. Ride closely behind me, to shelter from the wind!
b. Here! You can have a go on the unicycle, now
c. Let me win, and I’ll leave you my fortune!
3. When you’ve taken a turn on the front, you should swing off. What does this mean?
a. Do a little slalom through the dotted lines, to demonstrate your bike handling skillz
b. Throw a punch at the nearest spectator
c. Move to the side to let the next person come to the front
4. When riding into the wind, you should adopt an aero position. What does this mean?
a. Sit up straight, so you can eat your chocolate without choking
b. Get right down over the handlebars so there’s less of you in the wind
c. Ride along with your arms sticking out going NNEEEAAAOOOW
5. In long races, you may need to refuel. Does this mean:
a. Ride no-hands and boss your gel like a PRO
b. Get someone to hand you up a Subway every three laps
c. Pick up a couple of bags of charcoal for the post-race barbie
6. Before racing, you should make sure you are adequately hydrated. Does this mean:
a. Take on isotonic fluids in small but regular quantities
b. Have a couple of shandies, and a Berocca chaser for the vitamins
c. Get someone to tip a bucket of water over your head
7. In sprints, you should always hold your line. What does this mean?
a. Don’t let go of the bungee attaching you to that fast guy
b. Mid-race coke-snorting is inadvisable, and best left for the after-party
c. Don’t veer all over the road
8. If you win, which is the correct podium arrangement?
a. 1st puts two arms up, 2nd puts right arm up, 3rd puts left arm up
b. All jump up and down waving excitedly, kissing medals etc.
c. 1st looks ecstatic, 2nd looks murderous, 3rd looks confused
9. If you win, which is the best podium speech?
a. I’d like to thank God, my agent, my mother, my mechanic, my tyre sponsor, my hairdresser and that person who comes to all my races but never says hello
b. You like me [sob]. You really like me!
c. Mum! MUM! Press the button on the top! No, the big button! The other one! Did it make a noise? No, that’s just it focusing. Press it harder! Did I have my eyes closed?
10. If you lose, which is the best excuse?
a. The sun was in my eyes
b. Knew I should have run tubs instead of clinchers
c. Oh! Were we racing?
* One person asked me, anyway