clothes and clobber

My approach to bad weather is to just keep cycling

It’s been a bit dreich in Edinburgh these last few days. The weather has taken a big huff, and is currently gusting itself into exhaustion. Looks like we’ll have to wait until Wednesday for the watery sunshine of late autumn to reappear, so in the meantime it’s worth remembering that when you’re cycling there’s no such thing as bad weather – only bad kit.

My urban armour

How to combat crap weather – become a gore-texasaurus

To combat the wind and wet, I’ve finally cracked out the winter gear. You can still cycle through the worst of the year without turning into a MAMIL-esque wannabe.  My garment arsenal consists of gore-tex boots from Clarks, waterproof trews, fluffy buff, Vulpine winter storm cap, waterproof gloves and winter waterproof jacket. This keeps me snug as a bug in a warm and cosy rug and conveniently goes over whatever normal everyday clothing I’ve got on.

I was out today in double-dot rain and 45mph gusts and felt totally invincible in my urban armour. My other half ventured out with me in the appalling conditions too, and decked out in waterproofs head to toe he took to the jaunt like a duck to water, which was quite fitting really seeing as we were cycling through a deluge. Other than utterly slaying the weather, the best part was getting into the house and stripping off our outermost layers of proofing; underneath our gore-tex forcefields we were both bone dry.

It’s all about mentality and kit. So long as you know you are conquering Scotland’s hostile climes in your winter get up, it doesn’t matter how much of a hissy fit the weather takes. The elements literally roll off you.

So do your worst, winter. I am ready.


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!

Why my bike fit was money well spent

Kitt, the new road bike, is an exciting and terrifying mystery to me, as noted in this previous blog post. To that end I’ve been devising a couple of different strategies for us to become friends. First and foremost on the list was (obviously) get out on a ride.

So last week astride my new steed I did the work commute, taking in hardcore downhills, tram lines, multiple traffic lights, cobbles, lots of taxis and buses, the odd HGV, right turns, potholes, kamikaze dogs and paths. I figured if I could manage a three mile cocktail of city centre riding whilst doubled over a waif-like breath of fresh air then things would be all right.

I managed it in one piece, albeit very slowly. It wasn’t even close to a comfy ride.

Here’s where the bike fit comes in. There’s a fantastic little bike shop close to my work called Bike Craft. The guys in there are great and whenever I’ve had any bike-related mishaps or questions they’ve been beyond helpful. They also fit you to your bike. I have realised that this is the best idea ever.

Bike Craft Edinburgh

My road bike fit was comprehensive. I did about two and a bit hours of three and have credit left on the fit to redeem once I get the confidence to go clipless. Already a massive thumbs up on the customer service front.

Chris, the owner and fitter, answered all my beginner questions in plain English. He showed me different kinds of cycling shoes – road shoes with carbon fibre soles, triathlon, MTB, leisure shoes and all the assorted pedal and cleat bumf that goes along with it. He demystified the trim function on my front derailleur. He gave me a 101 on turbo trainers (you need a different kind of tyre for them due to friction – who knew?!). He explained bike frame geometry. Importantly, he didn’t make me feel like an idiot.

And that’s not even the fit itself. My feet were examined. My knees were scrutinised. My inseam was measured. My hip, hamstring and back flexion was assessed and I discovered I have the hips of an eighty year old but the back of a sprightly imp. There was this massive protractor thing that checked angles. I got asked loads of questions that gave me the excuse to talk about cycling and all my creaky body parts.

Then I was put on the bike and there was lots of faffage (that’s my technical term). The stem was reversed to bring my position a bit more upright. The brakes were tweaked so I could actually pull them. The seat post was moved several times and the saddle adjusted. The saddle is now the correct height and I can leave it the hell alone; a small but significant change, as the saddle quandary was giving me nervous indigestion because I was convinced my over-zealous screw turning was crushing the carbon seat post.

So all in all, it was well worth doing. I have come away from my fit slightly less terrified and a whole lot happier with my space-age bike. It’s a lot comfier too.


Now all that remains is for me to practice and get out on longer rides. My beady eyes have been keeping an eye on the weather in the hopes that an ideal winter road cycling day will appear soon…


The road bike has arrived

Due to a bad Sunday night habit of sitting on the couch, tablet in hand and online bike retailers saved as bookmarks, I now have a road bike. The January sale prices were so good that on the spur of the moment I decided to take the plunge and join the ranks of the skinny tyred amongst us.

It wasn’t a very well considered decision; I have four bikes already in various locations across Edinburgh so the n+1 equation has some logistical challenges. Still, in my head the mantra “start the year as you mean to go on” kept repeating itself over and over like the world’s worst and most expensive ear worm.

So two weeks later I am yet another bike heavier (but only marginally, mind you – I feel like the bike and I will just blow over in the wind). And beautiful it is, too, in a kind of sporty, carbon-fibery sort of way. But at the moment, I can’t actually cycle the bloody thing.

specialized ruby

The jump has been quite considerable. Goodbye flat bar, hello drops. The brakes are completely different to use and maintain. The gear shifters are a mystery and there’s some weird front derailleur stuff going on with a trim function thing that mystifies me. I’ve lost the step-thru easy leg swing. My granny ring has gone as the bike sports a compact chainset. It is completely impractical for anything except riding fast and long. I haven’t even attempted clipless pedals – that feels so far down the line as to be unthinkable right now.

But I can tell that it’s going to be good. Better than good. Once I get over the fear, make friends with it and get used to the new position I think it’s going to be pretty exciting.


I’ve called the bike Kitt, after the car with an attitude in Knight Rider. I am channelling my inner Hoff, so watch this space and hopefully soon I will be at one with the new bike and we’ll be besties!

The great discovery of overshoes

There is no way November is an autumn month. Not in Scotland. It’s wet and gloomy and oh so cold and dismal. As far as I’m concerned winter is officially here. Not that I’m getting off my bike or anything. It’s just that winter cycling presents its own set of challenges, and in my second year of embracing the cold and wet, there are lots of things I’ve learned.

Take, for example, the extremities. My hands and feet suffer. They are cold. While my trunk is roasty toasty due to layering prowess, my neck is a sweaty mess of buff mixed with collar, and my eyes are too busy gushing water for me to notice how numb my face is, the poor toes and fingers are not happy.

A decent pair of winter gloves coupled with liners and those microwave hand warmer things have given my paws a bit of relief. But my other paws have been freezing. Despite multiple pairs of socks, winter boots and the fabulous suggestion of wrapping my feet in tinfoil like some horrific baking accident, I’ve found it difficult to keep the old plates of meat even lukewarm.

So, as my cycling evolution from enthusiastic pootler progresses to bike-crazed madwoman, today I hit a milestone in my increasingly bike-demented journey. I have finally discovered the magic of the humble overshoe.

Now, stop right there. I know what you’re thinking. “Well, it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? That’s what overshoes are for, you daft woman…”. And you’re right. I am a daft woman. But I’ve avoided wearing them unless absolutely necessary because of this reason:

My sexy overshoes

My sexy overshoes. (About as sexy as a deep vein thrombosis.)

Yes. They are the ugliest things going. They are furry condoms for your feet. Look at them. Ugh, they are so visually awful I’ve avoided them at all costs, despite having purchased them at the start of the year. I do like my cushion, though.

These overshoes in particular have provided me with a case of ankle muffin top. Once all the velcro has been velcroed, my legs spill over the top of the overshoe as a godawful cliff of fat, wobbly ankle. So I’ve generally not been too keen on sporting them as I nip about the town, otherwise sensibly clad and without all that official “lycra cycling gear” that sets you apart in people’s heads as a creepy weirdo on a bike. (As an aside, non bike people I’ve chatted to think cycling clobber singles you out as some insane red-light-jumping, old-lady-hitting speed freak.)

However, today I finally succumbed to the furry feet condoms. And now I understand why folk think they are furry feet condoms with a purpose. My tootsies were warm the whole way home! And a lovely, pleasant warmth also – not sweaty heat that creates a cheesy stench comparable to the compost bin, but rather a cosy central-heating-and-cuppa warmth for my entire 6 mile journey.

The brogues vs the overshoes

The brogues vs the overshoes. Can there ever be a happy relationship?

So I kinda “get” them now. But they still look atrocious and I’m not happy with that at all because (and call me strange) I like to wear regular clothes when I cycle around town. You know, so that I look like an actual person and help to demonstrate that cycling is a normal thing to do. Overshoes definitely don’t give that vibe.

Surely there is a market for women that want cosy trotters but don’t want to look like they have highly visible bin bags wrapped around their ankles?  If you know of any nice/cool/fun/a bit less fugly overshoes, please do let me know. Please. I’d probably buy them!