fitness

Cycling around Loch Katrine

I’ve been working from home a lot these last few months as I manage the Edinburgh Cycle Challenge (remember to register and win prizes, hint hint). As a consequence my daily 14 mile bike commute has been suffering.

In an effort to combat my lack of miles I’ve been trying to squeeze in some more leisure rides. Last weekend I was fortunate to ride with Lothian Cyclists around Loch Katrine, and boy was I lucky. The weather was absolutely spectacular, company great and the bike ride one of the best I’ve enjoyed in Scotland to date.

Looking across Loch Arklet

Looking across Loch Arklet

The route was about 32 miles or so in total; I took my hybrid bike as I was a bit concerned about icy surfaces. Me and Kitt are buddies, but I’m still not 100% confident on the road bike so erred on the side of caution. The good thing about the hybrid is its love for hills – starting with a climb up the Duke’s Pass was no problem for the granny gears.

Climb up Duke's Pass

Climbing up Duke’s Pass

The Duke’s Pass (Sustrans NCN7) was a supremely enjoyable climb. Amazing views and a couple of hairpin bends but no desperately mean inclines meant I was happy as a clam as I pedalled up the hill. Of course, the downhill was great fun – it just kept going and eventually I rolled to a stop at the eastern shore of Loch Katrine. The Trossachs Pier is home to a wee coffee shop and the lovely Lady of the Lake steam boat.

Trusty hybrid at Trossachs Pier, Loch Katrine

Me and my trusty hybrid at Trossachs Pier, Loch Katrine

After a quick pit stop, we cycled on the private road around the north of the loch. The road has no traffic and is very beautiful…

Bike on north shore of Loch Katrine

Can’t complain about that view

Looking south to Ben Venue

Looking south to Ben Venue

The west side of Loch Katrine is home to Strontlachar Pier. This is where we took a wee break and enjoyed a bite to eat before resuming the cycle back to Aberfoyle, past Loch Arklet, Loch Chon and Loch Ard. The return leg was just as stunning.

On the return to Aberfoyle

On the return to Aberfoyle

The two piers on Loch Katrine

Decisions, decisions…

I was happily knackered after my 32 mile loop. I tended to sit at the back of the pack, partly due to the hybrid (everyone else was on road bikes), partly due to me gawking at all the incredible scenery, but mostly due to my lung-and-leg power. It was a clear indicator that my fitness is lacking after fewer commutes these last few months and a winter avoiding longer rides with mileage and hill climbs. There’s only one thing for it. I will need to cycle more…

For those interested, here is the Route on Strava. I highly recommend this loop. It’s a bit awkward without a car as there is no train station. Saying that, if you have the car or can hitch a lift you’ll be hard pressed for better bike riding within an hour and a bit of Edinburgh 🙂 My crappy iPhone photos can’t even get close to the scenic quality of this route. Srsly, IT WAS SO GOOD!

Encouraging new bike riders with the Edinburgh Cycle Challenge

I’ve been a very busy bee recently. For the next few months I’m project managing the Love To Ride Edinburgh Cycle Challenge, a three week cycling event from 1 – 21 March funded by City of Edinburgh Council.

The aim of the game is to encourage new and occasional cyclists to get on their bike, log rides via the website or app, and win some great prizes in the process. Of course, regular cyclists are more than welcome to get involved, too.

If you live or work in Edinburgh, all you need to do is:

  1. Register yourself (and workplace) for free on the website: www.lovetoride.net/edinburgh
  2. Encourage colleagues and friends to take part.
  3. Ride a bike anywhere for 10 minutes or more between 1 – 21 March, log the ride online and win some great prizes.
  4.  Workplaces across Edinburgh compete on leaderboards to get the most people on bikes!

It’s really easy to get involved and offers a range of benefits for individuals as well as employers. A ten minute bike ride is accessible to most people, and even if participants don’t have a bike they can borrow one and enjoy a short trip somewhere they feel comfortable. Plus, it’s all about participation and not distance – cycle 1 or 100 miles and there’s the same chance of winning a prize.

The challenge also fosters a bit of friendly competition between businesses and individual departments within organisations. The leaderboard is a fun way to encourage more colleagues to jump on a bike and rediscover the joys of cycling.  But even if your workplace isn’t interested in getting involved, you can sign up as an individual and still take part. There’s no reason not to register, really! 🙂

What’s particularly interesting about the challenge is the behaviour change model that encourages more people to get cycling. On average, around 40% of non-cyclists that participate in the challenge start to ride a bike after the challenge finishes. The model is well established and successful. Take a look at this video to see how this works in practice.

But back to Edinburgh. This March’s Cycle Challenge prizes include:

  • a beautiful Gazelle Esprit bike from Hart’s Cyclery
  • B&B stay at the Cramond Mill
  • 100 cinema tickets
  • bike gear from Wee Cog
  • goodies from Route Clothing
  • massages from Blue Morpho
  • memberships to CTC
  • tickets to the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, as well as a day’s cargo bike hire and some snazzy mugs
  • lunch for four at the Cramond Falls Cafe
  • Rich Dyson photography workshops
  • and more to be confirmed.

There are plenty of prizes up for grabs, and all for just ten minutes on a bike.  If you know anyone in the city that’s been toying with the idea of cycling or just needs a bit of a nudge, then this could be just what they need to rediscover the joys of travel by two wheels.

With the myriad of benefits cycling brings for you and your colleagues, what’s to lose with the Edinburgh Cycle Challenge? I’m encouraging organisations and individuals across the city to get involved, so I’d be delighted if you wanted to register and take part.  It’s free and good fun, so register here and get on your bike!

How much money I saved in 2015 by cycling

It’s pretty much the end of the year, so I’ve got my final figures for my Great Edinburgh Bike Experiment. I’ve been doing posts quarterly on this, and by my last estimates in August I was up £653.77 against the fictional car. I’ve now totted up the remaining year, give or take a few days as it’s the 27th today and there are a few journeys left in December.  But hey, what are a few days? Let’s tot up September, October, November and December…

Autumn and winter’s numbers

  • Total journeys: 101
  • Total distance: 855 miles
  • Total calories: 27,719 kcal
  • Total climb: 22,702 feet

Bike expenditure in last four months

As it turns out, riding the same bike almost every day over two and a half years means that things need replaced. And so it was over autumn and winter, when all the proverbial buses came at once and I had to replace both gear cables, both tyres, chain, cassette, two brake block sets, one brake cable, and the rear brake completely due to it being cheap to begin with and eventually falling off. Combine that with a service to get everything sorted and I was down £130. Ouch. That’s a big wedge out of my potential savings.

However, when cycling thousands of miles over bumpy, pockmarked Edinburgh roads you’re going to have to expect wear and tear. This is now my third chain and cassette and umpteenth brake block, so it goes with the territory.

As for bus fares, I have been spending a bit more on buses these last few months due to some rotten weather. So I am down £30 for this, too.

Total expenditure – £160

Public transport equivalent

  • I substituted £142.50 worth of bus fares in  September, October, November and December. It wouldn’t have been more economical for a Ridacard over these months, so let’s just go with the total.
  • Public transport cost = £142.50

Car equivalent

  • Monthly car running cost – £39.16
  • Petrol cost for 855 miles – £73.92. The majority of journeys I’ve been doing are in the city, so I’m going to round it up to £80 to account for congestion.
  • Total running cost = £230.56

Gym equivalent

  • Total cost – £122

Grand totals!

  • Public transport (£142.50) + gym (£122) – expenditure (£160) = £104.50 savings
  • Car (£230.56) + gym (£122) – expenditure (£160) = £192.56 savings

2015 grand totals

  • Bike vs Public Transport – £633 in pocket

  • Bike vs Car – £846.33 in pocket

  • Total miles cycled – 2,454

So that’s it, folks! Over the course of the year, I have managed to save almost £850 against my fictional car. I am pretty happy with that, especially as my fictional car has been perfect and required no repairs or anything on its fictional MOT.

In conclusion

I think I will write a bit more about this over the next week or two. It’s been incredibly interesting to tot up my cycling and compare it against potential spends on running a car. Of course, this crude experiment has done nothing to try and understand the other amazing benefits afforded by cycling. No mention of:

  • carbon savings
  • societal benefits by riding a bike (bike riding offers a wealth of plus points in this sense)
  • my physical health and fitness
  • my mental health
  • the “feelgood” factor

More on this soon.

 

 

The Great Edinburgh Bike Experiment – June, July and August

Summer has been and gone, and with it three months of my Great Edinburgh Bike Experiment. At the end of May I was up £331 against the fictional car, so let’s see where I’ve managed to get to with warmer weather and more favourable cycling conditions in June, July and August.

Summer’s bike numbers

  • Total journeys: 116
  • Total distance: 737 miles
  • Total calories: 29,925 kcal
  • Total climb: 27,088 feet

My bike and I managed to climb to the peak of the south summit of Annapurna in the Himalayas this summer by visiting friends, getting to work, going to yoga and so on. The 10th highest mountain on our planet, Annapurna stretches 26,545 feet to the heavens, so I’ve also started a 500 foot decent. This is considerably more climb than the last quarter – over 11k feet in fact. Just goes to show that summer is the cyclist’s friend.

Annapurna's south summit

I cycled to the top of Annapurna’s south summit. Thanks to creative commons twiga269 for the use of the image

Bike expenditure in last three months

  • No bike maintenance over the summer period – the bike was happy as a clam, just like me.
  • £21 – Bus fares in total. I didn’t take the bus much over summer at all because my knees have been behaving.
  • Total = £21.00

Public transport equivalent

  • I substituted £219 worth of bus fares in June, July and August so the £51 monthly Ridacard would have been considerably more cost-effective.
  • Ridacard cost = £153

Car equivalent

  • Monthly car running cost – £39.16
  • Petrol cost for 737 miles – £91.82. The majority of journeys I’ve been doing are in the city, so I’m going to round it up to £95 to account for congestion.
  • Total running cost = £251.64

Gym equivalent

  • Total cost – £91.50

Grand totals!

  • Public transport (£153) + gym (£91.50) – expenditure (£21.00) = £223.50 savings
  • Car (£251.64) + gym (£91.50) – expenditure (£21.00) = £322.14 savings

Year to date totals

  • Bike vs Public Transport – £528.50 in pocket
  • Bike vs Car – £653.77 in pocket

To the end of August I am up over £650 on the car. That is definitely not to be sniffed at, especially with four months to go. The summer period was always going to give numbers a boost because of the better weather, longer days and any excuse to get on the saddle. I’m starting to wonder if I might hit £1k savings by the end of the year?

With £650 in pocket, I could buy an old banger of a car to wipe out my gains from cycling, pay half of my yearly council tax bill OR buy the EBC Revolution tourer for £550 and have £100 left over to buy a nice wee lightweight tent and a couple of nights’ campsite pitch fees…

revolution-country-traveller-15

Hmmm… 😉

 

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… 😉

 

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…