A Race Around the World

Just found out that the latest person to break the world record for cycling around the world in the fastest time (Vin Cox, 163 days, 6 hours, 58 minutes) is organising a race around the world. It will start from London in February 2012, 160 days before the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
Tempting, very tempting. Obviously I wouldn’t win even on a regular bike. But I do wonder if Guinness World Records would make a record for fastest time cycling around the world on a Brompton folding bike?

Going to have to look into this a bit more…!

Dunwich Dynamo 2010

After the brilliant time I had last year for Dun Run, I had to do it again this year. Eight of us from my cycling group attempted it, Bea, David, Mark, EJ, Maggie, Paolo, Monica and myself.
The group

Last year around 1000 took part, with around 500 people on the coaches back organised by Southwark cyclists. This year was expected to be the biggest ever – by Wednesday SC had already sold around 600 tickets, and then a Guardian article about the ride was published, linking to ticket sales. Overnight 150 more were sold, before Barry stopped the sales because it was getting silly.

Loads of bikes

London Fields, for the start, certainly felt busier than last year, and throughout the night the roads seemed to have more cyclists. The weather was excellent, warm, with a slight tail wind, and no rain.

The ride went well, although 1 mile from the start my bracket for my front lights broke, and I had to have them on the handlebars for the rest of the night.

Along the Lea Bridge Road, with heavy vehicle traffic plus all the cyclists, our group got separated, but Bea, David, Paola and myself were still together. The night progressed as expected, with, fortunately for cycling, but unfortunately for story telling, very few incidents of note.

Waiting for others to catch up

At 1am, just outside Finchingfield we came to halt, with a few cars stopped, and a lady with a torch walking back along the road asking cyclists to stop and wait. Ahead, we could see the blue flashing lights of an Ambulance, and hoped no one was seriously hurt. Around 10 minutes later we were off again. From the fact the cyclist in the Ambulance was speaking to the paramedics, and the Ambulance wasn’t racing with sirens to the nearest hospital, I expect he’ll be ok.

At the halfway point, we missed a turning to the village hall, and so had our own picnic on a pub bench with the cheesiest songs playing for a lock-in party. For the rest of the night I had the Mr Blobby song stuck in my head!

What I saw most of the night

Just after Little Waldingfield, we missed a turning after following some other people. Bea had gone past David, EJ and myself before we could shout to stop her continuing. Fortunately, we were in the one part of Suffolk with mobile signal, and Google maps showed us a nice back-road back to the official route. This was the darkest time of the night, with cloud cover to stop the moonlight, and in a tree tunnel along a single lane road. It was quite a spooky.

With 50km to go, and at the bottom of one of the few hills, my knees finally realised I wasn’t joking when I asked them to cycle 200km, and refused to continue. A couple of Ibuprofen for the pain and inflammation in my knees and a Red Bull for the tiredness had me going again. And not just ‘going’, but flying it seemed. The next 30km went very fast indeed, but I paid for it later.

Somewhere there was a house selling bacon rolls and tea. Would have stopped but had a really good rhythm and momentum going, but ploughed through loudly sighing ‘bacon rolls’.

I have new cycling shoes, some Shimano SPDs, which are great. But I’ve never ridden this far in them. For the last 20km, the padding over the metal plates that the cleats bolt on to had become too compressed, and the balls of my feet were pushing down onto what felt like nails. For the rest of the ride I had to pull up on the back-stroke rather than push down on the forward stroke.

Finally I saw the infamous “Dunwich” road sign, and as the final KMs passed I mentally ticked off the landmarks on my commute to work. “That tree was London Bridge, and this one is Southwark Bridge Road, Blackfriars Bridge, Waterloo”. Finally I made it to Westminster Dunwich at around 6:30am, a little later than I hoped, but I felt in much better condition than last year.

Just before Dunwich I met Maggie on her way to Darsham station to find a train. EJ was already at the finish, and we welcomed our group members as they trickled in. A nice cup of tea and a sit down with a full English breakfast, then a lie on the beach before the coaches back. This year four furniture trucks of bikes and 15 coaches! The coaches were excellently organised, and by 4pm I was back at Smithfield market, my bike was unloaded first off one truck (last on, first off!), and I cycled home.

Unlike last year’s knees of frozen treacle, I still felt good, and sped back home racing taxi’s away from traffic lights (honestly, I did!). Maybe next year I’ll go for the Dunwich and back double!

RGS Talk

So last night I gave my micro-lecture at the RGS, along with 5 other young geographers. It was a really nice evening, learning about different people’s interests and experiences in different parts of the world.
I think my talk went ok, there was only one point where I remembered wrong which slide was next, but everyone laughed at all the right times!

Thanks again to everyone came along.

I’m giving a talk at the RGS!

It’s been a while since I blogged anything. Anyway, now I’ve got something very exciting to talk about.
At the end of last year I applied to be one of the speakers at the Royal Geographical Society’s Young Members’ Micro Lectures. I auditioned a couple of weeks ago, and have been accepted!

My talk will be titled ‘Around the World to Istanbul: A Travelogue of Errors’. It’s on Tuesday 9 March, and tickets are £10, or £7 for members, and that includes 5 other very interesting talks as well, not just me!

Apparently tickets are going fast, so if anyone wants to go, buy one quick!

How to take a bike by train in Europe

So when I was booking the trip I was nervous about taking my bike on the train in Europe. I’d heard stories about TGVs just not accepting bikes, about the Eurostar bike service taking 24 hours. Fortunately I persisted.
Eurostar now has a bike service where your bike travels on the same train. It costs £20, and you have to book in advance at a different office to the ticket office. The leaflet also has lots of dire warnings about accepting no responsibility for incorrectly packaged bikes. Well, I turned up to the baggage office, handed over my bike and everything was fine. Arriving in Paris and I immediately went to the middle coach where the bikes were hanging. Signed a form to say it was in good condition, loaded the panniers back on and away I went. Simple. Cost £20 though.

On to the TGV Est from Paris, which AFAIK is the only TGV line that accepts bikes, and also simple. You can’t book a bike ticket online, and SNCF, the French rail operator aren’t very helpful. But give Deutsch Bahn’s UK ticket office a call. They speak English and are very helpful, and have no problem booking bikes on to French trains.

At Gare de l’Est again I was nervous. What if the DB guy was wrong? What if it’s a different TGV with no bike space?What if the French rail workers are unhelpful? I needn’t have worried. On TGV Est bikes go in coach 11. My seat was booked in coach 11. There are 4 seats at the side that fold up to allow space for 3, maybe 4, bikes. I wrestle my bike on and settle in, then a german couple gets on with their bikes. Not a problem, due to clever seat bookings we get to sit next our bikes.

The only problem came getting off. The train was 5 mins late into Karlsruhe, so it was a short stop to get 3 bikes and luggage off. One of us stood in the door holding it open as we passed the luggage out in a chain and manouvered the bikes out.

I then had to get the inter-regional express train to Konstanz. There were becoming more and more people with bikes on the platform. I’d been told by the DB booking centre that you can’t reserve a place, it was first come first served, but that it “will be fine”. Hmm, but what about all those bikes. Well, the inter-regional express train turned up, with 6 coaches, 3 could take 12 bikes each. Plenty of space.

Moral is, forget what you know about British trains and bikes, Europeans have this sorted. Simple.