Monday, 29 June 2009

Hiding in the shadows

One of the things I learnt from riding in the winter is the importance of visibility. I've been conscious in the past, that despite my large old style lights, I was not visible enough. I supplemented them with bright modern flashing LED lights because when I'm driving a car I notice the flashing lights of cyclists (assuming they are bright enough).

In summer, things are different. Without lights and with brighter weather, we assume we are able to be seen much easier. Often though, the reverse is true. Sunlight creates contrasting bright and dark patches along a road and drivers' eyes will automatically adjust to the brightest area of vision. They may be wearing sunglasses. This makes seeing into the shadows more difficult and it is easy to overlook a cyclist in the shadows. I try and counteract this by wearing bright clothing but often wonder if it is enough.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Gear review - Altura Airstream Windproof shell

Altura make an extensive range of clothing for a variety of cycling activities. This jacket is part of their Airstream range and is a general purpose cool weather long sleeve top that is windproof at the front and breatheable at the back. The windproof material is polyester in yellow and the breathable back, side and rear of sleeves is in black polyester fleece with spandex. There are three rear pockets and a full length zip at the front with a fleece lined collar. It is available in a radiant yellow or a more subdued blue.

Like most shells, the fit should be close fitting and the Altura Airstream works well in this respect and the stretchy back gives a snug feel. When I first put this jacket on, I liked the feel of it as the front feels light and airy and the back feels warm and cosy. Out on the road, the jacket performs well in medium temperatures. It would be too lightweight for really cold weather unless working hard. Slower riders will find it most suitable as a three season jacket. The arm length is generous and allows for stretching out over the front of a bike. The yellow jacket provides excellent hi-viz capability from the front but the back of the jacket is all black and very little of the yellow is seen from the rear - just the shouders. Wearing a bright rucksack helps but also decreases breatheability.

I've had this jacket for a few months now. I always look forward to putting it on for the morning ride. When it's a bit chilly for bare arms, this jacket does the trick without being too warm. With the pockets at the back also being made of fleece, it keeps the lower back warm too.

Altura have a large range of clothing with models that change frequently. I checked a few online stores and there appears to be limited availability in some shops but I did find all sizes and colours available in others.

Likes: Excellent close fit, warm feel, wind resistance.
Dislikes: No zip pocket, no silicone hem grippers, could be slightly longer at the back. Lack of hi-viz from rear.
Rating: 4/5

Price: SRP £45

Sunday, 21 June 2009


Circumnavigation of the Isle of Arran is a popular ride. People come over from the mainland for the weekend. There's plenty to do and see. Arran is desribed as Scotland in minature as it has mountains and lochs, (raised) beaches and a distillery.

Here at Blackwaterfoot, we're looking toward Kintyre the long peninsular of the mainland that juts out southwest towards Northern Ireland. That's tomorrow's destination. From there we head over to Islay, a flatter island with many of the famous malt whisky distilleries. In my research, I've also discovered there is good coffee and it is home to a number of enthusiastic cyclists.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Isle of Arran

The Scottish Isles are serviced by the legendary Caledonian Macbrayne Ferries. With thirty vessels in their fleet and a new Islay ship under construction, they provide a lifeline to the island communities of Scotland and a wonderful tourism opportunity for casual visitors. This is especially true for cyclists, who pay the single person rate and bicycles go free. The 55 minute crossing one way from Ardrossan on the Scottish mainland is £5.45. A car and two passengers would be over £50.

This is the MV Caledonian Isles, a 90m vessel capable of carrying 951 passengers and 70 cars. The space on the car deck for bikes can get a little crowded, particularly at weekends. Today we arrive after coming up the Ayrshire coast from Dumfries and Galloway.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

On tour

Last weekend the weather returned to more normal summer expectations (opposed to normal reality). It's actually been better than forecast with only a couple of thundery showers so the shorts are out again. Right in the middle of Bike Week, we're setting off on a cycle tour in Scotland. This follows our experience last year when, as touring virgins, we went to Germany.

Logistically a trip to Carlisle and cycling across the border is a lot simpler than getting ourselves to southern Germany but the aim last year was to keep the cycling easy until we had a measure of our capabilities. I intended to do some writing about last year's tour and still might but this tour is already upon us.

We'll encounter larger hills and probably some westerly winds but hopefully the mix of weather will be favourable. Above you see one of the places we intend to get to, Brodick on the Isle of Arran. From there, the intention is to cross Kintyre and get the ferry to the Isle of Islay. I'm looking forward to chatting with fellow cycle tourists and enjoying some traditional Scottish hospitality.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Bad example

You could observe that this cyclist is setting a good example because she is wearing bright clothing, riding carefully and making a clear hand signal of her intention to turn right. But then you notice the no right turn sign, which spoils the example as she's making an illegal right turn.

So many other drivers also take this illegal turn, that she's hardly likely to give cyclists a bad name. I once saw a motorist do this whilst not wearing a seatbelt and using a mobile phone. How many points on a licence is that?

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Where did summer go?

Since my ride at the start of the month, when June set out with the promise of being a sizzler, the east wind kicked up, rain set in and temperatures dropped. It's felt like winter this last week or so with the thermometer reading as low as 5C. Last year I think I wore shorts every day in June and July but they're back in the wardrobe now. Things are looking up as this week progresses. At least it's dry and the skies are brighter but the sun has been seen very little and temps have been around 10C. It was sufficiently unseasonal last week that this buggy rider had its cover on., It was spotted on the pavement (sidewalk in US), which is considerably safer than on the road.

Bike Week cometh

Yes, next week is Bike Week in the UK. Across the nation there are cycling events aplenty to feast on. Locally these are the ones I know about. There may be others.

Friday 12th June
Cycling Roadshow
Market Sq, Lancaster 12 - 4pm
Visit the pre Bike Week Cycling Roadshow to pick up lots of advice & information and get your bike checked out by Dr Bike.

Saturday June 13
Family bike ride
Witton Country Park, Blackburn 1 – 2pm
Meet at the Stables Courtyard for a leisurely afternoon bike ride to the beautiful village of Pleasington.

Sunday 14th
Bike ‘n’ Brunch
Millennium Bridge (Lancaster) 11am
An easy family friendly ride along one of the district’s prettiest cycle paths to the Crook o’Lune (and back).
Enjoy a tasty egg bun from Woody’s whilst enjoying the view or bring your own picnic. Free hot/cold drink courtesy of Celebrating Cycling Team

Sunday June 14
Ride organised by Blackburn and District CTC.
Whalley Abbey, Westgate at 9am.
Going via Fountains Fell Top including a track in the afternoon. Lunch at Horton in Ribblesdale, Afternoon Tea at Airton.
Contact details: Anne and Tony Stott, 01254-232537

Monday 15th June
Short Ride
Stables Courtyard, Witton Country Park, Blackburn 1:30 - 2:30pm.
Develop your skills and fitness with a short ride along the cycle ways from Witton Country Park to Pleasington. (Trikes are available).

Monday 15th June
Getting started
Stables Courtyard, Witton Country Park, Blackburn 2:30 - 3:30pm
A session ideal for beginners. Great if you want to learn to ride a bike or build up confidence on two or three wheels (Trikes are available).

Tuesday June 16
Family Bike Ride
Witton Country Park , Blackburn 6 – 7pm
Meet at the Stables Courtyard for a leisurely evening bike ride to the beautiful village of Pleasington

Tuesday 16th June
A Family cycle ride from Solaris to Fairhaven Lake. 6-9pm
Solaris Centre, Harrowside, New South Promenade, Blackpool FY4 1RW
Family /Children's short ride
01253 476261

Wednesday June 17
Towpath Trails
Stables Courtyard, Witton Country Park, Blackburn 9:30 – 11:30am
A longer cycle ride leaving Witton country Park and exploring the countryside around the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the River Darwen Valley. Recommended for confident cyclists as the ride includes towpaths, quiet roads and hills.

Wednesday June 17
Around and About
Stables Courtyard, Witton Country Park, Blackburn 12 – 1pm
A cycle ride along the cycle ways from Witton Country Park to Pleasington to develop your skills and fitness (Trikes are available)

Wednesday June 17
Getting started
Stables Courtyard, Witton Country Park, Blackburn 2:30 - 3:30pm
Do you want to learn to ride a bike or build up confidence? If so, this session is ideal for beginners wanting to try out cycling on two or three wheels. (Trikes are available)

Wednesday June 17th
Bike 2 Work Day
A Lancaster district wide event encouraging all employees to cycle to work. Today is definitely the day to try cycling to work. Why not try riding in with a family member or colleague to get you started? Breakfast on the Bridge Come and pick up some free breakfast at the Millennium Bridge in Lancaster from 7am-9am, available to all cycle commuters. Whilst you eat your breakfast why not talk to us about the range of information and advice available to cycle commuters in the district.

Thursday June 18
Cycling into Railway History
Stables Courtyard, Witton Country Park 9:30am – approx 3pm
All aboard for a steady paced ride into railway history. Cycle from Witton Country Park to Whalley with our guard…sorry guide – Brian Haworth, keen cyclist and Community Rail Development Officer. Leaving Witton Country Park the route will take in the Leeds & Liverpool canal before veering off onto the trackbed of the former Harwood Loop just before Cunliffe. We will then follow the trackbed into Great Harwood and onto Martholme Viaduct. From here we cycle on to Whalley and view the spectacular Whalley Arches from close quarters. This cycle ride can be extended to Clitheroe and riders will be offered the opportunity to return to Blackburn by train.

Friday June 19th
After Work Bike Ride
Millennium bridge, Lancaster 6pm
Join up for a fun evening bike ride to try out the local cycle network and perhaps one or two local hostelries.

All week 15-19th June
Cycle fair
Royal Preston Hospital, Sharoe Green Lane, Fulwood, Preston 8am-5pm
A display of the cycle facilities available will be on display at both of the Trust's hospital sites.
More info: 1772 522700

All week 15-19th June
Blackpool and The Fylde College Bike Week
Bispham, Central and Ansdell campus, Ashfield Road FY2 0HB 10:30am-4pm
Breakfast challenge, bike training, bike safety, work place challenge, bike stands and information.
01253 504288

The Tour - hits Southport

For anyone following 'The Tour' cycle race series, the next round is in Southport today. It's kind of crept up on me after seeing the one in Milton Keynes on ITV4 the next one I watched was last night when it covered the event in Blackpool. That was run on Tuesday. Tonight it is Southport's turn. Events kick off at 3pm with cycling demonstrations and exhibits. It's televised on ITV4 on Friday evening.