Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Brake for CAKE! December 12th

Don't forget our fun family friendly cake orientated bike ride this Sunday! See you there.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Stylish cycling


I think it's cool the guardian does frequent features on bikes and cycling lifestyles. I especially like encouraging the culture of the bicycle, for example in this article which lists the top 10 cycling novels.

personally I find the selection of women's clothes pricy and not very pretty, but maybe it speaks to certain female cyclists. In any case I'm not sure a reflective sailor bib is going to draw new female recruits to the cycling world...

Friday, 19 November 2010

We weren't joking when we said Birmingham is a crap place to cycle!

Some of you may have seen this Midlands Today report on Birmingham Cycling already, but if you haven't it's worth taking a look...

P. S. note the single woman amongst all the shots of cyclists.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ladies Brake for Cake!

So, here is the latest fun filled event/extreme weather endurance test from Femme Pédale:

Meet up for Birmingham's female cyclists,
Cannon Hill Park Bandstand/Tea Rooms,
Sunday December 12th, 1pm.

Join fellow female cyclists to share bike stories, problems, and triumphs.

We want to know what women cyclists want, and what we as a group can do about it!

Cyclists of all abilities welcome – no matter if you ride everyday, or once in a blue moon.

If the weather is good, join us for a wintry picnic in the bandstand, if it's poor, a cup of tea in the tea rooms! Afterwards there will be a gentle cycle ride for those inclined through Cannon Hill Park along the Rea Valley Cycle Route. Both the event and the ride are child friendly.

P.S. If you'd like a pdf of the event flier, please email, and there might be a prize for the most realistic bike cake...

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Cycling in Paris

This is officially a blog for women cyclists in Birmingham and the midlands but as many issues around cycling are international (and I like to maintain my link to my former home) I thought I'd make a long-overdue offering.
It has been a joy discovering a new city by bike. The freedom of moving across the varied and vibrant places which make up Paris, my Ato Z always to hand for the inevitable (but thankfully less and less frequent) moments when I get lost, has allowed me to appreciate the city altogether differently than if I'd opted for the underground solution to moving around. The character of different quarters, the individuality of each place and most importantly the transition between them becomes apparent by bike in ways in which can't be achieved by the teleportation effect of motorised transport. And it is officially quicker than anything else (independently verified by my race with a scooter and the metro to the pub last weekend).

Of course, here like elsewhere, we're still the minority, and the discriminated minority at that. Drivers don't give you enough room, busses cut you off, motorbikes and scooters swerve dangerously into cycling lanes. The most shocking thing that's happened since arriving here was being stopped by a young policeman for cutting through a red light. He dangled the vague possibility of an 80 euro fine before me as he unashamedly flirted his way through one of the most bizarre conversations of my life. I was completely taken aback by such an unprofessionalism but have since discovered that sexism of this type is common currency amongst French police officers.

Yet being in a minority can have its advantages. Since arriving here I've been warmly welcomed into a community of like-minded cyclists - women as well as men - who are interested, like me, in fixing bikes, teaching others to do likewise, campaigning for better provisions for cyclists, etc. If our numbers weren't so small I wouldn't have had the chance to feel integrated so quickly, in such a big and anonymous city. The mutual support network cycling creates is perhaps one of the most international and valuable aspects to the "little queen" (as the French affectionately term the bicycle) that I can think of.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Reclaim the Night - bikes and beyond

For those not familiar, Reclaim the Night marches started in the 1970s as a response to the insecurity the majority of women felt then, and continue to feel now, on the streets at night. The movement has evolved to focus on the wider issues of rape and male violence, and this Saturday scores of women will march through Birmingham's streets, continuing this important campaign for safety and equality.

Wait...did I say march? Why am I talking about marching when this is a cycling blog? Marching is effectively glorified walking, and as we well know, cycling is much more awesome than walking.

To answer my own question, if you'll excuse me, Reclaim the Night may not be a cycling event, but it addresses many of the issues we face as female cyclists, and of course, simply as women! (And also we kinda stole the name for our rides).

The spaces that we ride (or walk) through everyday, are often those in which we do not feel safe. This could be because it's late at night, because we experience physical danger from aggressive drivers, or verbal abuse because of our sex.

We also feel unsafe because we are told we are unsafe; as a group we are disempowered by society's view of our inherent womanly weakness. I don't know about anybody else, but I'm really sick of being told that I'm more at risk because of my unfortunate possession of female body parts. Whether it's where or when we can walk at night, or the fact that female cyclists or more likely to be causalities in bike-car collisions. The truth is that in some ways we are more at risk, and this really needs to change, but so does this perception of the weak defenceless woman handed down to us.

Whether on wheels or feet it feels really great to come together and say that we should not be at risk because we are women, but also to say that as women we can be strong, we can and will take action to reclaim the streets as a place where we are, and feel, safe.

So...before I start going on about 'sisterhood' and whatnot – here are some practicalities!

Reclaim the Night – Birmingham – October 16th

Meet 7pm Victoria Square for a women only march

Mixed sex rally and after party with music, food and stalls

Friday, 17 September 2010

A Bicycle Parade

Halariously, if you're organising any kind of ambulant gathering in Northern Ireland, you've got to fill out an 8-page application form to hold a parade (two pages of which are dedicated to the list of pipe bands who will be attending, with names and towns on origin). So, in order for a few of us to cycle in opposition to a new dual carriageway and in support of a railway (yeah, we don't have one) this weekend, I had to go to the local police office, fill out the form and have a brief meeting with a sargeant (who also called me later on that day, to make sure we'd be cycling in single file).

This is is typical of Northern Ireland's discomfort with a) activism or political belief outside sectarianism or mainstream politics b) bicycles - not the vehicle as such, but more the idea of riding one along any road where cars are present. Such an odd sight is the bicycle here that today on my rounds in town I spotted not one other cyclist (despite the rare sunshine) and I was also the object of a random scream at close quarters from young men in a car (this happens quite a lot) as well as a surprised word of encouragement from a friendly pedestrian.

Tomorrow's ride will take place along a 27 mile section of the A road soon to be made redundant by a brand new, £840 million dual carriageway to snake along within a stone's throw from the existing road. By cycling, I hope our bicycles, balloons and colourful attire will bring attention to the madness of investing in such a project at this time and highlight the alternatives which do deserve investment: cycling and public transport. An article in the Belfast Telegraph last week displayed some awareness of the country's unhealthy obsession with cars: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/love-affair-with-cars-driving-us-towards-disaster-14936618.html but didn't go as to as to suggest cancelling existing road projects, which those in the deprived North West consider it is their right to have.

The capacity for bicycles to play a role in environmental activism is huge: they will also be a key part of the solution to travelling when the fossil fuels finally run out. Yes, we will travel shorter distances, and if we want to go far, well then we'll have to set aside a few days, but we'll be happier, fitter... and more in touch with our local communities.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Rainy Night Ride

Big thanks to all who came riding with us last Friday. We got absolutely soaked and had to stop in the pub half way - but hey, for once the weather delivered what we promised! We plan to experiment further with tempting fate until we find a way of securing sunshine for every ride in future. Igor took photos and I'll post them soon as I get them from him - thanks Igor!

Next time we're going to do a daytime Sunday ride since it's starting to get dark and we would like to include families - if you ride with children get in touch with your top tips for an enjoyable all ages ride.

Tool club is tonight, 14 Rea Street South in the Bike Foundry workshop. It's for independent spannerers - bring your bike mechanic knowledge and make friends with our tools.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Tool Club!

Yes, it's that time of week again. Drop in from 5-8pm to get help with your bike woes and use our tools. See here for what we did at our first session. Let us know how we can help you so you don't end up like me before I started learning some bike maintenance:

AKA absolutely clueless!

We are currently working from Muthers Studios, 14 Rea Street South in Digbeth. View map here.
Contact us at info[at]birminghambikefoundry.org or femmepedale[@]gmail.com. x

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Standing up to street harassment

101 Wankers is a new-ish blog in the mold of Holla Back, which deals with the invective hurled at one female cyclist in London. From misogynist filth to dangerous ignorance of the highway code, it details an unpleasant aspect of pedal powered life that we all contend with. It could make for pretty offputting reading for the more timid novice cyclist. Yet the blog also shows the very positive side of life in the saddle; it talks about cycling solidarity and when the author's bike was stolen, LGFSS message board users offered to sort her out a new one. It is sad that the simple act of getting on a bike whilst female seems to make one a target for abusive behavior. It is also brilliant that getting on a bike whilst any gender gives you the opportunity to join a huge gang of rather more community spirited people (of course, getting on a bike doesn't necessarily prevent you from being an arsehole either).

I was reminded of this cycling through Oxford a few days ago, when I received reverse street harassment from a small child. He stopped on the pavement and sang at the top of his voice: "LADY ON A LOVELY BICYCLE! I AM GOING TO CROSS THE ROAD SAFELY! LOVELY AND SAFE!" It was ridiculously saccharine and totally awesome. The kid reminded me that I've been lucky in having spent a lot of time in places like Oxford, York, and Cambridge, where 15 to 25% of journeys take place by bike (not to mention Holland. I have never had so much as a dirty look there. Gotta love the Dutch.). It's not that you don't get hassled, but the hassle is so much less frequent. This makes me feel that the more of an everyday presence bicyclists are, the less acceptable it is to bully them. Wherever you are, taking a journey on your bike doesn't just get you from A to B, it makes life a little bit more lovely and safe for all of us.

By the by, if you'd like to enjoy some cycling solidarity with some lovely, safe, community spirited people, our Reclaim the Bad Weather ride kicks off this Friday at 7pm, starting from Birmingham Central Library. All levels and types of cyclist welcome; all you need is a bike, lights, and possibly a waterproof.

Monday, 6 September 2010

(How to Avoid) Riding Around With One's Bum Hanging Out

A recent survey of my wardrobe has revealed that my increased rate of cycling, whilst filling me with joyful good health, has taken a sad sartorial toll on my trousers. Virtually all of them, from baggy to skinny cuts, have rips and worn patches, generally concentrated around the rear and crotch area. They look as if I have had some sort of appallingly embarrassing and traumatic accident, rather than a summer of pedal powered fun. One answer to this problem is to wear a skirt or (gasp) cycling shorts, tights or baggies. However, much of my cycling is everyday and spontaneous, and often I'm not willing to go home to grab a change of clothes when my plans suddenly change. So, the jeans will have to be mended repeatedly. I learned the hard way that quick and dirty mends with whatever fabric is lying about and a bit of running stitch can fail disastrously. Here's my guide to bombproof mends to rips in those "difficult" places.

You will need:
A patch, made of quite heavy fabric (you can use some jeans which are beyond saving, or pick something cheap and cheerful up from a charity shop). The patch should be at least 2.5 centimetres bigger than the hole on all sides.
Sewing scissors, pins, needle and thread (in a contrasting colour to the trousers for the adventurous)
A sewing machine, if you have access to one.

1) Turn your ripped up trousers inside out (take them off first).
2)Pin your patch over the rip.
3) Turn 'em right way out again.
4a) If you don't have a sewing machine, cover the whole area of the rip with a good, solid darning stitch (in this case, these are just fairly tight lines of running stitch, with the stiches in each line staggered against the ones in the last line).
4b) If you do have a sewing machine, you can use a darning stitch setting to cover the whole area of the hole OR
4c) You can also use a zig zag stitch to sew the edges of the tear to the patch. Use multiple lines of stitching to make the mend extra strong and reinforce the area.
5) Turn the trousers back inside out, secure the end of your thread nice and tightly, and trim the edges of the patch down to size.

That's it. The trews will live to fight another day.

Of course, the best way to avoid this kind of nonsense is to dispense with clothes altogether. Economical, but a little chilly.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

As always, safety first!

As those of you who are acquainted with us will know, here at Femme Pedale we always put safety first. Well, it's in our top ten.
Couple of safety issues have reared their ugly heads recently – although these particular concerns seem almost redundant in the current lovely weather.

1. Lights – annoying but necessary
I know this is thoroughly depressing, put its starting to get dark earlier. Without lights cars, who seem to regard us as invisible fairly often anyway, have no chance of seeing us. I mention lights specifically thinking about the next Femme Pedale ride, 'Reclaim the Bad Weather Bike Ride' – with a 7pm start time, if you're coming, bring your lights!

2. Brakes in the rain – a story of personal tragedy
I've broken my bike, argh! This is a cautionary tale of why you should make sure BOTH your brakes actually work. So I'm cycling along in the rain, decide to pull over, apply my brakes – BOOM – my bike's balancing on its front wheel. (I'm told this is a 'nose manual'.) Landing on my feet with cat like grace (ahem) I then realise I've bent my forks so far back my wheel's almost touching the frame. Bike's out of action, and now I sadly watch all the people having fun cycling around in the sun.

Really should have fixed my dodgy back brake.

Anyway, bring your lights, make sure your brakes work, and join us...

September 10
th – 7pm Central Library (also finishing point), for

Reclaim The Bad Weather Bike Ride!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Off cycle tripping

At this late stage in the summer (or is it early autumn already?) I've finally loaded up my bike to head off into the hills and eventually get back to Ireland. I'll be on the go for a week or so and will try to update you on my progress or at least let you know how it went when I get to Ireland. I'm sadly leaving the midlands for France in September but will be avidly keeping up with this blog and the progress of Birmingham Bike Foundry from afar.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Be a bike training guinea pig...for free!

Birmingham Bike Foundry are developing a new Bike Basics training course, and we are in need of some test subjects.

In exchange for three hours of your time, and a little feedback for us at the end, you can learn how to perform an 'M' check to ensure your bike is safe to ride and identify common problems, make basic adjustments to your bike, and repair a pesky puncture.

In future we will be charging for this course, so this is a great opportunity to get some essential bike maintenance training for free.

The session will be help at 1pm next Thursday (26th August) at the Birmingham Bike foundry premises: Muther's Studios, 14 Rea Street South, Digbeth.

If you would like to take part please email us at femmepedale@googlemail.com. We will take the first five interested and contact you to confirm your place. Men are welcome too!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

It's Puncture Time!

I've had a ridiculous spate of flats this past month so I thought it was time to update the old puncture repair kit. Afterall, it's impossible to do-it-yourself if you don't have the right tools for the job!

Things you might need:
  • repair kit which should contain, in order of use; a crayon to mark where the hole is, a small piece of sandpaper or other rough material to prepare the inner tube, rubber patches, rubber vulcanising solution (glue that sticks rubber together) and a little bit of chalk or talcum block to stop sticking to the tyre afterwards. Sometimes kits come with tyre levers, if not...
  • at least two tyre levers, maybe three if you have a tough tyre to get off
  • spare inner tube if the old one is beyond repair
  • 15mm spanner  to take off your wheel (most rear axles use this size, sometimes the front will need a 14mm. You can use an adjustable spanner if that's all you have but you will cause excessive wear on track nuts after a while.
  • then of course you will need access to a pump to inflate the darned thing again...

What every cyclist should know about flat tyres is a useful article if you're unsure of where to begin but expect a Femme Pedale guide to fixing your flats to follow! x

N.B. Pink was the available colour in decent tyre levers, this was not intentional to match my bedspread.

Our First Tool Club

On Thursday, Birmingham Bike Foundry had our first tool club (this is where for £10 a year you can have access to our workshop and tools for one evening a week and work on your bike under our mechanics' guidance). It's a really useful way of building up your confidence with your maintenance skills but not having to worry about messing up your bike or buying expensive tools. Anyway, this is an anecdote not an advert! I decided to help out at as many as possible to build up my own confidence and to be on hand for those ladies who want a bit of help or bike-related chatter. Our first customer was the lovely Kay, who had been bought a bike for her birthday but found that she didn't like the old-style gear setup and wanted to convert to a single speed to make life easier for herself on her short, flat commute to work. Kay decided she wanted to learn how to do it herself so she came along to the workshop to use our tools and get some advice. Not afraid to get her hands dirty, she took off her gear changers and gear cables and then using a chain breaker/chain tool she disconnected the chain to take off her derailleur. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to take off the cassette this time round but we have a shiny new freewheel to put on next time. Kay put her chain back on, wielding the 15mm spanner like a pro and is now happily cycling around (albeit it in the rain) on her new single speed!

The next tool club will be on Thursday 26th August from 5 until 8pm at our workshop in Digbeth, it's a drop-in session but it's always useful if you e-mail beforehand and let us know what you need help with. I'll be floating around, doing a good job of stripping stuff off and cleaning up old bikes whilst trying to learn how to put things together properly. Oh, and I'll definitely be getting some mudguards back on my two-wheeled friend!

Hope to see you there. x

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Reclaim the bad weather bike ride

The past few days have brought pretty unpleasant cycling. I took my mudguards off on Tuesday as they are a bit broken and have been rubbing on my wheels - I thought I'd cope with few days mud-guard free riding, to give me a chance to get hold of some new fixtures and fittings. WRONG. I spent the whole of a 2 hour meeting on Thursday night with a wet through, muddy bum. I'm just glad those chairs were wipe clean.

With the inevitable approach of another cold, wet autumn how can we keep our cycling momentum going and avoid leaving the bike in the shed until spring? This is my list:
1. Get some mudguards.
2. Get some waterproof trousers.
3. Get a bunch of girls to ride through the rain with you!

As such, please stand notified that the second reclaim the bike ride will take place on 10th September and we really hope it pisses it down!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Back for good

The Femme Pédale bike gang has been a little out of touch with our blog this summer. We feel pretty bad about it but wait till you hear what we've been up to! First of all we have all been learning new skills as mechanics and Bikeability instructors which has been very exciting; we're looking forward to delivering courses to keen cyclists in our city through Birmingham Bike Foundry. We have been working hard at getting BBF off the ground - you may have seen us out an about, at Stirchley Community Market or with our pedal powered smoothie maker at Cocks Moor Leisure centre. The Bike Foundry now has a workshop space in Digbeth and our mechanics are locked away refurbishing our first seven recycled bikes. We have a new website, which will appear in the next week, the address is www.birminghambikefoundry.org, you can find out about courses, see pictures of the bikes we have for sale and read about upcoming events.

We have also been enjoying a lot of sunny cycle rides, and are planning our next group ride. We hope that lots of you will join us, details will go up this week. Remember you can get in touch with us a femmepedale@gmail.com with suggestions and contributions, questions and comments. The five of us have taken a vow of weekly posts from now on, we promise! We'd also like to start a regular cycling group, for short rides, bike chats and maybe some polo - watch this space.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Isn't it nice to have some company on the road?

The fair weather cyclists are out again in force and even on the potholed car-tailored streets of Coventry I now pass several cyclists on every journey. I even found myself in a two-wheeled tailback a few days ago. A greater presence of cyclists on the road makes us less invisible and encourages motorists to look out for us, since they're seeing us more regularly. It also creates a good cycling atmosphere, with a solidarity between those who choose to bike, enjoying the sunshine (and those fair weather cyclists perhaps thinking that they should fish their bikes out of their sheds more often...).
But it seems to me that the summer's brought not only a rise in cyclists but also a spike in heckles and comments, of the bike-ist (the word for bike discrimination?) as well as sexist kind. Is it the sunny weather that disposes men in white vans to compulsively whistle or holler at women on bikes? And what impulse makes people (teenage boys, often) want to make unintelligible, distracting noises at cyclists as they fly down a hill? Yet the ubiquitous comments are often harmless, or even funny. Sometimes I get an almost encouraging 'Come on!' with clapping as I'm pedalling up a hill, or 'Isn't the Tour de France over? (No...)' as I nip past a pedestrian. I think what the increase in comments shows is that (as well as the fact that good weather makes people chatty) people find a sgnificant number of bikes on the road a curious and novel phenomenon. The increased presence of bicycles in the summer has a knock-on effect, as people take notice and begin interacting with us. If the numbers of cyclists on the road stayed constant and even increased rather than dipping back down again at the end of the summer, the novelty and therefore the heckling would wear off, as cyclists became a part of everyday life, as much as cars.
The same goes for the sexist comments: women cyclists are still in the minority, so verbal abuse will continue until our numbers our stronger, until we become a 'normal' part of everyday life. There's little I can do (apart from shout back) about the other category of heckles I get (again due to being in a minority): my ginger hair. The scientists say we're only going to get fewer, so that will mean more abuse, until we begin selective breeding...

Friday, 9 July 2010

Recycle Your Old Bikes

Contact Birmingham Bike Foundry and get involved! x

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Ladies who like to Race...

There is an alleycat race on Friday 9th July in the city centre. Alleycats are all about speed, finding stuff/completeing tasks and being sneaky with your shortcuts to get back first! I quote: "Nobody should end up in the canal, the race has three short canal stages, up and over a bumpy bridge or two to slow the riders down a bit, then back on roads for the fast bit." I've never done one before but it looks like alot of fun (even if I'll be the slowest rider)! If I can get the night off work, I'll definitely be showing my face so I hope some more ladies will too...

For more information check out the thread on the Fixed Gear forum. x

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Femme Pedale are famous!

Well not quite, our escapades are just being blogged in Spain by Urban Bixi Magazine! x

Saturday, 19 June 2010


Wow, what a great turnout we had considering the weather was absolutely rubbish! But the rain held off for the most part and we had a lovely ride through town, Edgbaston and down to Selly Park finishing with a rest stop at Midlands Art Centre for some much needed refreshment and flapjacks courtesy of our very own Lauren. Thankyou to everyone who came along, it was great to meet new cyclists and we hope to see you again soon. We're going to plan a longer ride for next time so if you have any ideas for a nice route, please do send them in!

Here are some some photographs courtesy of Igor who skidded and photographed his way through the ride:

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Night Ride Route

Sorry, bit of trouble embedding the map earlier!

I rode this route on Tuesday and I hope the weather is as nice on Friday! Starting from town we're taking 'quiet roads', so-called by the Birmingham cycle map. There's a little bit on up-hill, quite bit of down, nothing drastic. There are couple of roads (top of Broad Street, Bristol Road) we'll get off and cross at the lights but generally we'll be on the road and as a big group we'll be able to look out for each other.

I will say that in inviting you to ride with us, Femme Pédalers accept no responsibility for your safety when cycling - please bring helmets and lights and ride with your common sense intact. We will go at a pace that includes everybody - no racing ahead - and are happy to make stops if necessary. If you are not comfortable with riding on the road, we thought we could send a party up the canal route and meet at the Rea route and head to the mac together.

Looking forward to it! See you 7pm for a 7.30 start; our publicity has been a bit confused so we'll have a meeting point at centenary square and one outside the central library too. Look for ladies on bikes with flourecent rosettes (there might even be enough to share).

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Leamington Peace Festival Ride

Hello all!

There will be an informal bike ride to Leamington Peace festival on Sunday 20th June with some Birmingham Bike Foundry members, friends and enthusiasts. We are leaving at 10am from outside the Fighting Cocks public house in Moseley. It should be a lovely ride for those who want to do a middle distance. It will take approx 2.5 hours not including the obligatory rests for snacks and chats. But don't forget to come to Reclaim the Bike on Friday beforehand! x

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Think of the Children?

The other day, listening to a radio programme about working in high finance, I heard a female banker speaking about how she feels that it is perfectly understandable that companies are reluctant to take on employees of her own sex. We are, of course, far less reliable than our male counterparts. Apart from prompting me to give the radio a threatening look, this also got me thinking about why women are considered less dependable employees. The answer, of course, is our annoying tendency to reproduce. But apart from maternity leave women also tend to carry out the more mundane child related tasks, say…The SCHOOL RUN! (Dedicated Dads, please don’t take offence! I generalize for the purposes of valid point making, I hope).

So, the school run. I wonder how much more ‘reliable’ female workers would be deemed if they didn’t have to tackle the chaos that dropping kids off at school can be; even if the kids aren’t driven everyday, it could take just a few late mornings due to missed school buses to build up a reputation.

The answer to the school run problem should be get the kids on the bikes, but lets be honest, in how many parts of Birmingham would you feel safe letting a child out the house in the morning to bike the mean streets on the way to school. We go on about how bad drivers and road layouts make cycling more dangerous generally, but imagine if you were half the size, half as fast, and a lot less confident. There are obviously some kids who are self-assured enough to cycle to school, and going on the pavement is an option, but you don’t see many of them, which I think is pretty understandable.

The lack of kids cycling doesn’t just bode ill for mums dropping them off at school. Although some people (myself included) do start riding bikes as an adult when not having done so as a child, you can assume some link between not cycling as a child and not cycling as an adult. Also, the more kids get used to being driven about, the more future drivers we have on our hands who have no idea what its like to bike in traffic and as such drive like a complete jerk. Let’s look at it like insurance for our collective old age; when I’m the wrong side of 70, pootling around on a shopper with a cat in my bike basket, I want to be around nice friendly drivers!

So, to conclude this ramble, a lot of the things we want to do at femme pedale and Birmingham Bike Foundry will benefit both kids and adults – but I’m going to try to ponder the kids aspect a little more than before.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


I am putting together a great list of bike blogs so that we can take inspiration from them and share the treasures we find of course! I spend far too much time looking at nice bikes whilst at work, I'll start posting some more on Mothergirl. x

Reclaim the Bike

 Courtesy of my questionable brain power and Fin Bike Foundry's clever translation to the computer.

Look at our lovely flyer (it doesn't quite fit)! Now there's no excuse not to have the date in your diaries!! Check out the Facebook group for more information. See you next Friday for a lovely ride around Birmingham. (Disclaimer: Central Library, Chamberlain Square NOT Centenary Square as publicised previously by my awful geography).


Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Reclaim the Bike - Women's Evening Ride Friday 18th June

Calling all ladies!!

Get on your bikes and join us for an evening ride around Birmingham. Meeting at 7pm outside the Central Library, (Disclaimer: Chamberlain Square NOT Centenary Square as publicised previously by my awful geography) on Friday 18th June. Reclaim the night and feel empowered by the freedom of cycling as well as meeting lots of other lovely women cyclists. You don’t have to be the best cyclist, you don’t have to have the best bike. In fact if you have any issues with your bike, we will take a look beforehand. It is not about cycling the route the fastest way and you can leave at any point. What is important however, is that you get back on your bike and join us!!

Free rosettes and badges to all. 


PS. Men are welcome to join in too but we're aiming to encourage more women cyclists to get back on their bikes so tell your wife/girlfriend/sister/lady friend to come along too!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Bicycle Treats

I found this take on the old 'Keep Calm and Carry On" poster earlier today. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath when some idiot pulls out in front of you or steps in your path. It's all you can do not to shout/swear/take a good kick at their bumper!

Some other goodies I found:

These ladies were cycling in 1898!

Cyclists Reclaiming the Roads...yeah!

I know this is quite an old video now but I used this strip of Bedford Avenue nearly everyday when I lived in New York last year and it was pretty dangerous with cars turning and people walking in the street. Brooklyn used to be an amazing place to cycle and I think it's brilliant that these guys took it upon themselves to reinstate the bike lane. I am not condoning vandalism but if anyone wants to do this on the Pershore Road/Rea Valley route, be my guest! x

Critical Mass

On the first Friday of May at 6pm, I quickly made my way to St Philip's Square in the city centre. It was the first time I'd been able to make Critical Mass since moving back to Birmingham and I was pretty nervous having only taken part in the London CM as part of a big bike gang. I'd totally forgotten it was that evening and was sitting in the pub (not drinking!) when I bumped into another Bike Foundry member and they coerced me into going with them. Luckily, I'm always on my bike so I went along to see what it was like.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about; "Critical Mass is a monthly bicycle ride to celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists' right to the road. The idea started in San Francisco in September 1992 and quickly spread to cities all over the world. Critical Mass has a different flavor from city to city -- there's a big variety in size, respect of traffic laws (or lack thereof), interaction with motorists, and intervention by police. So if you want to know more about Critical Mass, you'll really need to find out what your local ride is like. Critical Mass has no leaders, and no central organization licenses rides. In every city that has a CM ride, some locals simply picked a date, time, and location for the ride and publicized it, and thus the ride was born."

I arrived to find a group of fifteen or so cyclists grouped around the benches. I floated around the edge of the group offering awkward smiles whilst CM regulars exchanged news, jokes and took photographs. We waited for any late comers and then left around 6.30pm. The pace was quite relaxed, people chatted as they cycled and I realised I was concentrating so hard on not cutting anyone up/crashing into another bike (silly worries because I am of course an excellent cyclist) that I barely noticed the route we were taking. I finally lightened up and found I was having fun! We cycled down Broad Street blocking two lanes of traffic and then circled the Five Ways Island twice. It felt great to be cycling as part of a big group and to be making such a blatant statement.

We came back down Broad Street and took over both lanes again, everyone spreading out to block traffic trying to squeeze past. A few cars beeped but nothing out of the ordinary. As we went along, cyclists on their evening commute joined us and asked what we were doing. A cheerful man on a red frame said he wished he didn't have to get home as he'd love to ride around with us! I chatted to some people about the London rides and about their bikes - there was a great mixture of  different kinds of bicycles and different  kinds of riders. I noticed another two ladies besides myself. One of whom was a friendly young girl riding a traditional looking step-through which seemed to be single speed or more than one gear as I noticed her stop and start. The other lady had a lovely pink fixie, I wanted to ask if she built it herself but I was too intimidated! There were also racers, commuter bikes, mountain bikes and a chap on a strange small push-bike which seemed to look quite tiring but good on him for going for it! 

Unfortunately, I had a deadline the next day and had extended my 'little break' quite considerably so once we cycled towards my normal route home I peeled off and waving my goodbyes vowed to come back in June. There was absolutely no need to be nervous and it felt really liberating to be able to ride down the middle of the road safely. Now that the sun is shining and the nights are lighter, there is definitely no excuse for any cyclist in Birmingham not to come along!! As its states on the flyer, you don't need to have a great bike...in fact any kind of non-motorised transport is welcome.  So what are you waiting for?! Critical Mass in Birmingham is the first Friday of every month (not the last Friday like some cities) and meets in St Philip's Square at 6pm for a 6.30pm start. 

See you in June? x

PS. thankyou to Igor for the photographs!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Weekend of Cycling Pursuits

I had an inspiring weekend which brought back to my attention the multi-faceted, revolutionising, liberating invention which is the bicycle.

On Saturday I was part of a critical mass/ plane stupid ride from Birmingham City Council to Birmingham International airport. Despite the rain, I was one of a cheery bunch of waterproofed cyclists dancing along the A45 to the tunes from a bike-powered sound system. We were a relatively small group but were nonetheless able to make a real impact on drivers heading to the airport and on arrival at the airport itself. We had a police bike escort for the first mile or so but then they got tired and switched to 4x4s (more's the pity, the cops on bikes seemed to be enjoying it). Read about it more on the Plane Stupid blog. This was a reminder to me of the power of bikes in demonstrations and geared me up for the planned 'reclaim the bike' ride coming sometime soon!

On an entirely different note, on Sunday I went out with a touring club in Coventry for the first time which was an interesting and wonderful experience. 75 miles along winding countryside roads, past lakes and hills I never suspected to find in the midlands (and probably wouldn't have otherwise). The bike remains, as it was hailed at its beginnings- a democratic means of discovering the countryside. I was privileged as a newcomer to the midlands to be out with a group of seasoned tourers who know the best bike routes, the best hills (up and down!) and the best views. There was (as, sadly, you might expect) a significant gender imbalance in the group- 6 men and 2 women - but most noticeable of all was the age gap: I was the only person under 50. Respect to these hardened senior cyclists but where are the young folk? Sheila, the other woman on the cycle was telling me fondly of the days 30 years ago when they'd have dozens of people of all ages out on the weekly cycle. But it's nice to know some things don't change - just like 30 years ago, the contribution for the ride remains just 5p...

Friday, 30 April 2010

That's How We Roll

As Laura has established what we don't ride, lets talk about what we do:
  • Jess rides a single speed blue and white Raleigh, although she's going to flip that hub and ride fixed gear soon.
  • Laura rides a majestic Dutch bike, a Gazelle Toer Populaire to be precise.
  • Una rides a Peugeot racer and also has a blue Condor on which she has toured the world.
  • Lauren has recently started riding a 7 speed blue racer which has sailboat and sun set decals...jealous!
  • I (Nancy) ride a fixed yellow Peugeot racer and I have a green Raleigh Caprice shopper which is also fixed at the moment but I'm going to swap it over to single speed when I get round to it.

Quite a diverse list, defying even our own by-line since Una has a diamond frame. One trend though is age; only Laura has a recently constructed bike and she has ambitions of creating a single speed number which is not too heavy to take on the train. I'll take bets on the age of her new baby, my bid: at least 10 when it pops out.

This is no coincidence. Part of what the Bike Foundry wants to do is make affordable, good quality bikes available in Birmingham. The bikes that Jess, Lauren, Una and I ride all come from a bike workshop in Coventry which accepts donated bikes which are not being used, has volunteers come fix them up, and then sells them for a reasonable price. The idea is that more bikes are available locally and less quality frames rust away in sheds, back gardens or landfills. Now, by rights, since I don't live locally, I shouldn't have bought this beauty, which Amy, who volunteers in Coventry, found in a back garden, but I'm very glad I was allowed to. And I feel sort of vindicated by being involved in starting something similar here.

Anyway, meet Monte Carlo! Pretty cool, right Originally a 6-speed racer with a rear derailleur, I converted to fixed gear (no gears, or more accurately, only one - a fixed ratio between the small back sprocket and the larger chain ring) and yes, I heart my bike.

I make concessions to speed and the classic 'fixie' look with full mudguards and a luggage rack but they don't add a lot of weight and are very practical. The Brooks saddle and moustache handlebars (see below) were gifts. I especially appreciate the saddle which, if any ladies are riding synthetic and suffering, I'm convinced protects from cystitis.

Old frames are good for fixed gear and single speed conversions as they're more likely, I think, to have horizontal drop outs on the back forks, which you need to create the right chain tension - they make your back wheel position adjustable. It also means you can ride a good looking vintage bike but make it light, faster and easier to maintain. You can get lots of useful tips about converting on Sheldon Brown. It doesn't suit everyone (especially if you live somewhere with many hills!) and I'm not evangelist, but for me it's been a good way to take control of my bike - I can do pretty much everything that needs doing to keep it running, any problems are easy to identify, which is not always the case in more hi-tech hybrids or mountain bikes.

What do you ride& why? Want help with a conversion? Femme Pédale wants to know! You can now email us: femmepedale at googlemail dot com (hope you get our spam defender).

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Los Coňos Interview!

Jess Duffy, Fin Skillen (Birmingham Bike Foundry) 

L-R: Sarah, Jo, Ali

~ As promised, the interview with the lovely ladies is all done but I thought seeing as the Birmingham Polo teams were playing against them on Sunday at the UK Championships in Manchester, I would wait to get the gossip! As it happens they drew 2-2, those girls are gooood. Unfortunately I couldn't make it but I'm not sure who I would have been cheering on anyway! The full write-up of the interview is on it's way ~

Friday, 16 April 2010

Bicycle ride around Canon Hill Park for mac sings:

All credit must go to Lauren for pointing me in the direction of this post on birmingham cyclist; despite working at mac it had seemed to escape my attention that they wanted cyclists to take part in their opening events! But never fear, I got in touch with the people who know people and they are very happy for the Birmingham Bike Foundry and Femme Pedale and all our lovely members/readers to take part! So if on Monday 3rd May you find yourself at a loose end, please join us at various locations around the park for some bicycle rides, chats and maybe even a few demos! Approximately 2pm - 4pm. Although do send us a message for confirmation. Lovely stuff.


Bikes bikes bikes bikes bikes....

Just been linked to Chris Gilmour's website and his beautiful life-size sculptures made entirely from cardboard and glue. Obviously the bikes caught my eye, they are ridiculously detailed....I wonder if they actually work! Not very practical but lovely to look at. 

In more detail:


Reclaiming the night...with a bike?

The danger of walking alone at night is something that most women are forced to consider now and again, if not on a weekly basis. Unfortunately these concerns are not simply generated by media hype of a ‘broken Britain’ populated by muggers hiding behind every street corner waiting to jump the vulnerable or unwary. That it is not safe for a woman to walk alone after a certain time is a fact that we all have to incorporate into our lives. This isn’t just an issue of getting home from nights out, if you’re working late, or just needing to pop out to the shop or meet a friend, personal safety is something that all too often needs to be considered.

So, what are we to do? Well there’s always the public transport, but aside from the fact that buses and trains do eventually stop running, not everybody feels safe sat alone late at night. Personally I do generally feel okay on Birmingham’s public transport, but I can see why you might not. Waiting alone at stations or stops, worrying friendly strangers who insist on sitting next to you and asking for your number, and the eventual half dash from your stop to the front door.

Then there are taxis, but to be frank, who can afford to fork out every time they need to travel late at night? Of course sharing taxis back can work out great price wise but there’s not always someone going in your direction. Although it’s not an issue I’ve particularly heard discussed in Birmingham, there have been well publicized cases of attacks on women by taxis drivers. Companies with exclusively female drivers are a great idea, but this is a choice I’ve never seen advertised or have been offered. 

This entry seems to be going down a pretty depressing path (sorry!), but hope can be found...in a two wheeled format! Since I first became comfortable with cycling on roads I’ve felt safe biking home at pretty much any time of night. Firstly, a person on foot is going to have a pretty hard time catching you. Second, when on the road you become part of the traffic. Although many drivers may not see cyclists as proper road users, I imagine most pedestrians do. When you’re on your bike you’re not a lone women who can be stopped and harassed, you’re only moderately more approachable than a motorized vehicle. Also very important, cycling is free!

Personally, I’ve found cycling at night very liberating; being able to travel without being reliant on other people or the depth of your wallet can feel great. But this isn’t to say that cycling is the solution to all transport related problems. For example, I don’t think drunk cycling can be reasonably advocated, no matter how tempting it can be. In addition, I know some women who, justifiably, will not cycle through certain areas after dark, parks being the prime example. Of course there are also still incompetent car drivers to look out for. Finally, cycling at night is great, but we should never give up the fight to be able to travel in safety in any manner we want, and at any time we want. Campaigns like Reclaim the Night are as important now as they ever were.

Next entry: how to use your bike as an offensive weapon against potential attackers!

Friday, 9 April 2010

More bike sales!

There is a cycle jumble being held in Kidderminster on April 24th! You can get some really good bits and pieces for your bike from these events so its worth a look. Hopefully there should be a group of us going so if you're worried about getting lost, send us a message!

Forest Glades Leisure Centre

Bromsgrove Street
DY10 1PP

Sellers: 08.30am table £8.50, NO COMPLETE BIKES inside, might get 'elf & safety visit
Buyers: 10.00am

Contact: Doug Pinkerton 07778 429313

All the details I could find. See you there!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

I don't mean to be sexist but...

I was struggling over a burst inner tube in the car park at my work; I only had one tyre lever, and was making do with some teaspoons to get the tyre off the wheel. A senior manager, resplendent in lycra ambled over from his very nice custom road bike and volunteered a hand. I was mildly annoyed; not at his community-spirited overture, but because he opened the offer "I don't mean to be sexist, but you look like you could really use some help". I asked to borrow some tyre levers, and instead he took the job off me, lavishly complimenting my attempt; "You don't see many women trying this". Patching an inner tube is hardly an exotic achievement, and I have seen several people of a distinctly feminine persuasion carry it off with aplomb. I am sure this guy genuinely didn't want to come across as sexist, but by tainting an entire gender-way with my (non-girly based) clumsiness, he kind of did. Now I feel self-conscious doing repairs in public, in case I accidently shame my sex, like a Victorian matron accidentally flashing a few inches of calf.

This reflected a more general issue I've experienced as a female cyclist. Unpleasant as the heckles and shouted abuse can be, open aggro is easily identified and acted against. The errors of the well-meaning can also be off-putting; these mistakes can be made both by over-focusing on sometimes narrow ideas of feminine needs and by totally ignoring the existence of clued-up lady cyclists.

One off-the cuff example of this I found today was this bike: the Giant Chixie. It pretty much the only off the peg fixed gear/ single speed bike designed specifically for women on the UK market. The best I can say for it is that it isn't pink; otherwise, it is a messy abortion of a bike. I'm not a huge fan of chunky aluminium frames, huge riser bars or brightly coloured deep profile rims at the best of times- together they look like a toy belonging to a myopic and offensively twee child. The advertising guff witters on about running it as a "true fixed", which according to Giant means sans brakes. This is both illegal on public roads, and positively dangerous without foot retention on the pedals (not supplied with the Chixie, naturally). The name is an obvious fucking disgrace. Giant doesn't make the best looking rides, but you would expect the market to come up with at least one other fixed-gear bike for women; perhaps one that expects them to have adult tastes in both aesthetics and performance.

Another stupid example is this bike rack (heh- rack/rack!). It's meant to be a mudflap girl. The image of a bicycle chained to female objectification in metal form is fairly depressing. Adding to the miserable effect is the fact the designer was David Byrne, who is generally quite awesome, and has done a lot of bike advocacy. The project of fun bike parking was a good idea- positive, public and attention grabbing. However, this one of a dozen-odd designs just seems lazy and juvenile; almost as misguided as the New York authorities, who didn't comment on this, but vetoed another bike stand in the shape of a bottle of fortified wine, on the grounds of "poor taste". Giant porn silhouettes are installed by the NY Department of Transport; real women fade into the background. Byrne's design would have to be a hell of a lot wittier for me to let that slide.

There's sort of a point to all this- basically the points that Nan, Jess, and Una have already put across well- we need to be acknowledged as a positive and normal part of bike culture. It seems that there is as much work to be done on those who share our enthusiasm for two wheels as anyone else.

Shameless Plug

The word on the street is that Bobbin Bicycles will be holding a sample sale on Friday- they do gorgeous old-fashioned bicycles and nice accessories, which are usually too far into the Islington price range for my distinctly bedsit budget. Anyway, it's definitely worth a look if you're in the area- sale bikes start at £120 and panniers at a fiver.

In the same viciously acquisitive vein, I have just got hold of a massive roll of scotchlight-esque reflective fabric tape, which I hope to sew into safety-boosting rosettes and sashes. Ideas for fun, high-visibility craft projects would be most welcome.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I was musing on clothing issues today...

When the bicycle first appeared, in the 1860's, there was a huge debate on the "appropriateness" of women riding bikes. I saw an interesting exhibit about it in Coventry Transport Museum. To the upper-class Victorians who could afford bikes, the idea of women wearing more practical clothing ("rational clothing", they called it at the time) was scandalous, and there was significant resistance to women being allowed to put on trousers and ride bikes around.

I can't help but feel it wasn't really about clothes, though. A bike is an amazingly liberating thing. What these women's fathers and husbands were really frightened of was women having a certain amount of autonomy, being able to leave the house as and when they pleased. Biking is something you do alone; a woman who owned a bicycle was therefore someone who had the means and capacity to decide where and when she wanted to go by herself.

Today, the issue of clothing still seems to represent a barrier to many women cyclists. I have heard many female friends say that its impractical to take a bike when you're wearing a skirt, that their clothes will get covered in oil, that they're not wearing the right shoes. Personally, I find myself able to adapt to most clothing and don't choose specific clothes to wear when I'm biking. But perhaps that's helped by the fact I don't wear heels. But I actually quite like cycling in long skirts, which leads me to wonder what the Victorians' problem was. Short skirts present more of a problem; but a good solution is shorts underneath, to avoid having to check that your skirt hasn't blown up every five seconds!

Like in Victorian times, clothing issues still seem to prevent women from cycling. Yet just like 150 years ago, it's not really about clothes. There are deeper, more insidious issues at play about the way society views female cyclists. Somewhere along the way, women (more than men, the statistics suggest) pick up that cycling isn't right for them. We should fight this misconception vigorously like the women who demanded their rights when the bicycle was born.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Travel, safety, comfort and - most of all - pleasure.

This is the sign our friend Ken made for the Birmingham Bike Foundry. In his own words it describes what the Bike Foundry wants to do - make biking in Birmingham better, so more people do it! This blog falls under the auspices of the Bike Foundry; we thought it would be fun to do something written for and by women cyclists for a few reasons...

Women are underrepresented as cyclists. In 2008 a National Transport Survey said that the split was 72% male to 28% female. British Cycling says that 2.3% of all British women cycle each week, compared to 6.8% of men. What's that all about?!

More worryingly, according to this BBC article many more women than men die as a result of accidents involving lorries. Confidence seems to be a part of this - women are less likely to weave through traffic to get ahead at stationary traffic lights, they bike close to the curb so cars don't give them enough room and are less aggressive in making sure drivers take notice. We know this is a generalisation but from personal experience as female cyclists who are on the road everyday, we definitely see the truth in it. We (Nancy & Jess) are far more likely than our male friends to avoid the Pershore Road during rush hour and take the Rea Valley cycle route instead. We also experience a lot more abusive language and behaviour than the boys - a lot of it sexual, which is pretty gross.

We think if more women are on the road, have better maintenance skills and safety awareness then we can make things safer for ourselves and for all cyclists - critical mass!

We don't think women cyclists need special clothes or girly coloured bikes to be encouraged to cycle (although that can be part of the fun) we just need to be part of a stronger and bigger community of cyclists which includes more women. We hope this blog will create a network of current Birmingham cyclists and maybe encourage a few more women to get in the saddle. I bet that guy who yelled 'Get a bus pass you cunt' at me the other day, wouldn't have done it if I was with my bike gang.

Love Jess and Nancy & all the girls at the Bike Foundry.