Month: June 2016

What to do when the world is imploding

Even people who have been living under rocks have heard about the steaming broth of self-inflected doom us Brits have ladled upon ourselves in the last few days.

It’s difficult for me to articulate the dismay and sadness I felt upon Brexit.  Along with 75% of Edinburgh’s residents, I voted to remain as part of the EU on Thursday and woke up first thing on Friday to news I did not want to hear.

So, in an attempt to remember that the world is still turning and that life is still good, I went cycling with friends in Dumfries and Galloway at the weekend.

Even on a dark day the sun shines and reminds us that life is good

On a dark day the sun shines and reminds us that everything will be ok when we’re on a bike ride.

And indeed, a bike ride with friends was the tonic I needed. It was Sally’s not-my-birthday ride and over the course of the day we explored some of the beautiful and chronically underappreciated cycling opportunities that Dumfries and Galloway offers.

Hill climbing is a good way to get EU despair out your system and replace it with clean and refreshing gulps of air.

I hadn’t appreciated the scale of Dumfries and Galloway. When you look at it on the map at the foot of Scotland, it doesn’t really register that this particular foot has the shoe size of Sasquatch. It’s very big, indeed. Fellow bike rider Rhian told me that the local authority is around the size of Northern Ireland.

Rural cycling at its best.

Rural cycling at its best.

Not surprisingly, D&G voted to remain part of the EU on Thursday. This was due in part, I’m sure, to the agricultural industry that is part and parcel of rural living. Us cyclists had the farmers to be thankful for, too. With so many small access roads and a network with practically no traffic, riding a bike in this area was an absolute delight.

Wide open spaces to explore on two wheels. What a delight.

Wide open spaces to explore on two wheels. A changing landscape from hilly moorland with lochs to patchwork fields, farmland and dense woods.

 

Woodland riding, with plenty chat thrown into the mix

Woodland riding, with plenty chat thrown into the mix.

I was tickled by Sally’s apologies for the weight of traffic on some of the “busier” roads. By Edinburgh’s choked car standards, the “busy” roads around Dumfries felt like idylls. I figure there needs to be a convertor for traffic levels from rural to urban areas 🙂

We did around 48 miles over the course of the day. We stopped for lunch, tea and cake and various photo opportunities to appreciate the landscape and nature. I’ve been getting more into birds recently, so Sally named some of the common ones for me so I’ll know for the future. We spotted wagtails, bullfinches, wrens, curlews, swallows, larks and an enormous buzzard that took a fright and ensuing flight right in front of us as we tootled past.

We also spotted a storybook hare with ears that looked like they’d been dipped in dark chocolate. There was a fair bit of accidental bug-eating, too. One kamikaze fly took to bullseyeing itself in poor Suzanne’s peeper and, when she extracted it, the blimmin’ thing was the size of a raisin.

Looking from the top to the bottom

Looking from the top of the hill to the bottom

My ride around Dumfries and Galloway made me feel very happy on a weekend where many people around the UK were feeling the exact opposite. A humble bike ride can cure many ills, as these smiling faces demonstrate. I had a wonderful time experiencing a part of Scotland I’d never visited before. I came away from my weekend knowing that life’s simple pleasures can refocus the mind. Even the sporadic and heavy rain showers felt positive and life affirming.

Bikes are happiness machines.

Bikes are happiness machines.

 

Joyful selfies

Joyful selfies. Thanks to Suzanne for this snap.

I will absolutely have to return to the area with my bike. It’s exciting to think of all the beautiful places I’ve still to find on two wheels.

We're just little things in a big world and there's still a lot to see. Thanks again to Suzanne for this amazing photo.

We’re just little things in a big world and there’s still a lot to see. Thanks to Suzanne for this amazing photo.

So, despite all the madness, it’s important to remember that we are alive and can choose to be happy. Get on your bike, go for a ride to a place you’ve never been before, eat cake and be with friends and remember that things can still be very good indeed 🙂

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Welcome to the Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland

Women’s cycling is growing, diverse and inspiring. Why then does the mainstream media (and many people I chat with) lump women into one homogeneous group? Why do we see so many all male panels dominating the cycling conversation? Why is it that women are considered secondary and unimportant when it comes to cycle sport? Why are we constantly talked about but not really listened to?

Female voices are too often not heard, despite there being a plentiful supply of amazing, articulate and talented women that work and volunteer within cycling or are actively involved within the cycling community. The Women’s Cycle Forum Scotland aims to change the status quo and demonstrate the diverse and incredible talent, leadership, opinions and experiences of women who ride bikes.

Now officially launched as a membership organisation, I’d urge you to join WCFS. All are welcome – we only want our members to share our objectives as an organisation. Basically, if you think women need more representation within cycling and want to contribute to that, here’s the joining info. I am a member of the committee along with a brilliant bunch of ladies and look forward to helping to further progress women’s cycling in Scotland.

We had an amazing launch event as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling last night. Lee Craigie and Jools Walker were our keynote speakers, providing a snapshot of exactly the kinds of diversity the Forum wants to highlight within women’s cycling.

Lee Craigie on her very recent MTB time trial adventure on the Highland Trail 550.

Lee Craigie is the founder of The Adventure Syndicate and all round inspiring lady. You can read more about her adventures, work and successes here. She talked about how women make excellent endurance athletes, yet we are badly under-represented within endurance events and sport. She brought her epic Shand MTB to the event – there’s surely no better mascot for women’s cycling than a mucky, laden bike-packed MTB 🙂

Jools Walker, aka Lady Velo, is a cycle chic blogger from London. She got back into cycling in 2010 after a 10 year hiatus and hasn’t looked back since. She champions the accessibility of cycling in all its forms and made sure to impress upon the attendees of the launch that there were plenty of people who told her she “wouldn’t like” fixed gear riding, or road riding, or riding clipped in. But hey, guess what – she didn’t listen to the naysayers. There is no prescribed way to be or ride your bike – women on bikes are awesome regardless.

Fangirling to the max with Jools

I’ve been following Jools’ adventures for quite some time on Instagram, so was super duper chuffed to meet her and get a chat in the pub afterwards 🙂

Both Lee and Jools are clearly passionate about women’s cycling, and that enthusiasm at the launch event definitely ignited ideas, plans and aspirations.

So let’s keep up the momentum. Come and join us! We are still in the early stages as an official organisation so are looking to firm up events, activities and opportunities. We are very keen to hear from people that would like to get involved, share skills and peer mentor each other. Hope to hear from you 🙂

For more on the WCFS launch, check out this Storify.