Month: June 2015

The Great Edinburgh Bike Experiment – March, April and May

I’m a bit behind with my Great Edinburgh Bike Experiment. The stress of the house move got in the way of regular updates and I’ve only now looked at all my data.  This is cool in hindsight, because any savings and my mileage will look more impressive…

The bike numbers from the last three months

  • Total journeys: 103
  • Total distance: 490 miles
  • Total calories: 16,102 kcal
  • Total climb: 15,644 feet

This means I cycled to the top of Mount Churchill (a badass volcano in Alaska) while commuting to work, grabbing bottles of milk and undertaking other quaxing activities.

mount churchill

Credit to Game McGimsey and the Alaska Volcano Observatory / U.S. Geological Survey for showing you where I cycled to the top of in the last three months.

I’m not gonna brag or anything, but as mountain climbing goes, I’m not too disappointed with that ascent. I also managed about 6 feet of descent. So I’ll need to get wheeling down it again over the next few months…

Bike expenditure in last three months

  • I heard a weird squeak on the hybrid, so the bike shop guys gave it a wee service. £10 down.
  • £47 – Bus fares in total. Dumb knees! These fares also included journeys I wouldn’t have taken by bike anyway, but let’s just leave it at that to make things easier…
  • Total = £57.00

Public transport equivalent

  • I substituted £162 worth of bus fares in March, April and May. So the £51 Ridacard would have been marginally more economical.
  • Ridacard cost = £153

Car equivalent

  • Monthly car running cost – £39.16
  • Petrol cost for 490 miles – £47.83. Now, the journeys I’ve been doing are in the city, so I’m going to round it up to £55 to account for congestion. I think that’s being generous.
  • Total running cost = £165.31

Gym equivalent

  • Total cost – £91.50

Grand totals!

  • Public transport (£153) + gym (£91.50) – expenditure (£57.00) = £187.50 savings
  • Car (£165.31) + gym (£91.50) – expenditure (£57.00) = £199.81 savings

Year to date totals

  • Bike vs Public Transport – £305 in pocket
  • Bike vs Car – £331.63 in pocket

The first five months of the year have me up just over £330 on the car. Maybe by the end of 2015 I will be almost £800 better off in my highly unscientific experiment. I am being let down by my knees, which are eating into my costs via bus fares…

So far, I could buy a nice new telly with my savings, go on a last minute week-long holiday, eat 44kg of Dairy Milk (it’s 2 for £3 in Tesco) OR buy this Charge Plug…

Charge-Plug-0-2015-Single-Speed-Bikes-Silver-BYCHM5PLUG0XSSLV

Decisions, decisions… 😉

 

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Clipping in, finally

Well, it only took about three years of solid cycling, but I finally clipped in last week. I got some cash for my birthday and decided there was no better way to treat myself than by buying a fancy set of Shimano pedals (£50!!!! Has the world gone mad? My first bike only cost me £80!) and a pair of corresponding shoes that would encourage me to fall over repeatedly.

For those that read the blog and don’t go in for all the cycling nomenclature, a brief explanation of clipping in is when you literally clip your feet to the pedals of a bike so they are stuck on. You buy these shoes with little metal bits on the bottom that slot into the pedal (aka cleats). Bizarrely, when you clip in to your pedals, the corresponding phrase is to go clipless. Which all sounds very weird and bonkers and makes no sense.

specialized shoes

My new Specialized shoes, complete with cleats and excellent shoelaces.

When I try to explain my newfound clipped in-ness to non-bike people they rightly look horrified, and couple their looks with lots of comments about things being dangerous or silly or both. It is clearly strange to non-cycling people to glue your feet to a bike.

I’ve been practising with my new Specialized shoes, which, by the way, are spectacularly ace. I love them. The cleats are on the sole but you hardly notice they are there. Passers-by don’t think you’re some crazy bike person with clippy cloppy road shoes on. They just think you’re a regular nutter with crazy purple trainers.

Specialized cycling shoes

Check out the cleat…

I am starting to get the hang of it now, because I’ve gone in at entry-level. The cleats are for mountain bikers rather than the road shoe milarky, they are set to be as loose as possible and the pedals I bought have one side that is just regular and flat. This means that if I get the fear, which is regularly, I can just ride about on my run-of-the-mill standard pedal instead of being quite literally attached to my bike and freaking out.

So far, I’ve fallen over three times. Thankfully, the errors happened on an enormous grassy mattress that I cycled out to at Blackness Castle. I had a small audience of castle visitors who watched me faff about and topple over, and they accompanied the entertainment with applause every time I took a fall. At least it was a beautiful place to embarrass myself.

Blackness Castle and forth estuary

My trip to Blackness Castle, including multiple tumbles.

Anyway, now I’m getting the hang of the things I’m quite liking them. I’ve noticed that hills are easier to climb already, and can see why riders favour them so. Roadies must see enormous benefit from longer rides.

I’m not sure about being glued to the bike in the city, because the environment is so unpredictable and I can’t unattach myself quickly yet. But once onto the open road I totally get why they exist.

Next step? Get clipped onto the road bike!

What volunteering a couple of hours a week can achieve

This week is Volunteers’ Week, an annual campaign that celebrates the incredible impact of millions of volunteers across the UK. As a third sector person I’ve been well aware of the importance of volunteering for a long time, having read endless press releases and infographics about just how much volunteers add to the economy and local communities. However, until recently I never practised what I preached. I’m a recent volunteer convert.

I’ve only been offering my time in the last year or so, but I’ve come to realise just how satisfying a volunteering role is. For readers unfamiliar, I am a cycle ride leader for Belles on Bikes Edinburgh.

Along with a handful of amazing Edinburgh ladies, we have built a busy, friendly women’s cycling group from scratch over the past year or so. We launched the group officially at the end of June 2014 with small grants funding support from CTC and Cycling Scotland, and have accumulated around 280 members, led around 40 rides across Edinburgh and the Lothians and encouraged approximately 460 participants to explore and discover new parts of the city and its surrounds.

This has been achieved in our own time and it’s great fun. Some of the Belles think that the ride leaders get paid for the work we do leading rides. But of course, we don’t. We plan, recce and risk assess each route, ensure that the women on the ride are in a safe environment and, maybe most importantly of all, plot in an acceptable cake stop on route 😉

Goodbye cake. You snooze you lose

By the time I remember to take a photo of cake, it’s usually a scene like this…

Some people ask me why I would spend my spare time planning and running rides for strangers. Which is a good question, I suppose. But the answer is pretty straightforward. I love cycling and think more women should do it. My bike has opened up freedom, fitness and huge opportunities for me, so I think it’s only fair to share the happiness.  Within Belles, women gain confidence, learn new low-traffic routes, meet new friends and improve their health. What is not to love about that? Of course, I get the added warm, fuzzy feeling from hearing positive stories and feedback. It’s a win-win situation.

Belle looks across the Forth

One of the Edinburgh Belles snaps a photo across the Forth

We have recently been successful in gaining some funding from City of Edinburgh Council and plan to extend our offering, with some basic bike mechanics classes, events at Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, training opportunities and more for the Belles members. So there’s plenty to be getting on with!

The Edinburgh Belles is a perfect example of how a local, grassroots approach can pay big dividends. On average, I spend maybe a couple of hours a week with Belles and the results are pretty wonderful:

belles residential

The Belles leaders’ residential in Stirling – volunteers from across Scotland, all encouraging more women to cycle!

 “Very much appreciate what all you leaders do and I just turn up and tag along, sometimes even when I don’t have my name down but adamant that I do. Lol. I enjoy it so much I’ve bought another bike!!!!!! Many thanks” – Belles member

If you don’t already volunteer, imagine what you could do with your time if you offered your enthusiasm and expertise to a cause you cared about 🙂 Doesn’t need to be cycling – could be anything! I highly recommend giving it a go…