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: 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] or femmepedale[@] 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!