Monday, 14 November 2011

skirt vs. bike

Our reflections on skirts and biking, earlier on in this blog, took an interesting extra development for me today when my skirt took a run-in with my bike.

The moment itself conformed to certain damaging feminine stereotypes: me, in a flowing purple skirt, carrying home lots of groceries on a bike (on a crisp autumn evening in Paris, I could go on); the only jarring aspect in the picture being my turquoise racing Bianchi (perhaps it should have been a Dutch shopper with hand-painted flowers). Slightly wobbly on my aluminium frame with a carton and pannier full of organic vegetables, tofu, bread and yoghurt saved from the bin, I was steadily making my way across the city back home. Nearly at destination, I felt a sudden whirring, smelt a burning smell and noticed a sharp break on my back wheel. In a narrow street of parked cars with cars rushing by my elbow, I pulled suddenly to a stop. Struggling to get off the frame, my front wheel lifted up with the weight of vegetables on the back and noticed I was somehow attached to the bike. Craning round, I found that the end of my skirt had become completely trapped between the rear brakes and the wheel and no amount of tugging could pull it loose; that is, without letting go of the precariously-balanced bike which was placed in a line of rushing traffic. I tried to inch forward; that didn't work either, as the rear wheel was completely blocked, and there was no chance of me lifting my frame and myself, with 30 kilos of vegetables on the rear, without toppling into the traffic. I realised my only release from this perilous situation would necessitate removing my skirt. It's November, so I had leggings on, and I awkwardly began unbuttoning my skirt and lifting up my right leg from its billowing folds while holding my loaded bike between my legs with one hand. I struggled one leg over, then released the other and stood holding my bike, pinned in by the evening rush of vehicles. I then hauled it onto the pavement, somehow or other, and grabbed the skirt with both hands, giving it an almighty tug to free it of the bike. The material was wrenched free, leaving a trail of dusty, ripped threads along the skirt, but no holes. I considered the wilted purple garment in my hands a moment, then tucked it under the bungee cord holding down a bottle of milkshake on the back. I made the rest of the journey home in leggings, vowing I'd think twice before wearing that skirt again.

I've been mulling over my discovery of possessing a bike-unfriendly skirt. What place has it in my wardrobe, despite its five years of loyal service, if it can't get on with my bike? Because my bike and I are always out together, and long purple skirt won't be coming between us.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Handsworth Bike Club – can you help?

Since the early 1980s Handsworth Bike Club has been an important part of the lives of hundreds of children growing up in the area. Fixing bikes, teaching maintenance skills, and giving kids a safe, friendly place to hang out and learn to ride for the first time. The club is a valuable part of the local community.

Sadly, a lack of volunteers is currently threatening the Bike Club’s future; there is a desperate need for individuals to come down and help out, without which the club with be forced to close. In order to help prevent this Birmingham Bike Foundry is currently seeking people interested in giving some of their time to the project.

The club has its own playground area and lockup, with tools, bikes and parts, which it operates from. Helping out will involve relatively basic repairs, passing on mechanics knowledge, helping kids to start cycling, and generally just hanging out and having fun! Opening is currently irregular but is usually on Saturdays or Sundays. The project is fully insured.

If you are interested in volunteering all you will need initially is an interest in both working with kids and cycling. Some level of maintenance skills would be beneficial, but we will be able to help you get up to scratch with your mechanics if you’re not there already.

Once we have expressions of interest we will take all potential volunteers for a Saturday at the club. After that we hope to determine who will be willing and able to offer some time volunteering (we’re not suggesting every weekend!).

If you think you might be able to help please email us using, letting us know a bit about yourself, e.g. relevant experience, maintenance abilities, other useful skills. And please, spread the word!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Summer of cycling – what we’ve been up to

Here at Femme Pédale we’ve been enjoying the summer and taking part in all manner of rides and events …

Vélorution Universelle

In July a group of us from the UK took a trip to Paris to visit FP writer Una and take part in an absolutely amazing cycling event. Vélorution are a collective of cyclists campaigning for the use of the bicycle and on the numerous economic and political issues this opens the door to. This summer they brought together thousands of riders to reclaim the streets of Paris.

On our first day the biggest mass ended with an evening of fun and music in front of the Eiffel Tower. The next, we headed north to go swimming in the Seine and then bask on its banks. We saw some amazing bikes, met some wonderful people, and managed to survive cycling on the right hand side of the road.

Try and spot us in the video!

Dunwich Dynamo

The originally large contingent of us taking part in the Dunwich Dynamo was tragically cut short by the tyrannies of illness, work, and medical degrees, so a few weekends ago it was myself and the two Bike Foundry boys who left London at 8.30pm for a long night.

The Dynamo is around 120 miles from London to the coast, overnight. Not gonna lie, there were some less than fun moments. The multiple punctures, missing the half way stop point because we failed to see it, circa 110 miles thinking I’d lost everyone and sitting at the bottom of a hill eating chocolate because there was no way I was getting up it otherwise.

In spite of all this, definitely an incredible experience. Riding in the dark

for so long with nothing but hundreds of bike lights, the moon, bats, and the odd town, completely abandoned. Extremely surreal. The relief when the sun started to rise was intense, just to be able to see properly again seemed amazing! We finally reached the beach at 5.30am after nine hours of riding, flying the flag for step-through town bikes and fixies in a sea of lycra and roadies.

I have to say a big thanks to the boys for, y’know, just being cycling comrades, and to Southwark Cyclists, the group responsible for the Dynamo taking place.

In other news, we have been getting ready for the forthcoming Birmingham Bike Foundry shop (more on this very soon!), taking part in very sweaty Nottingham to Birmingham rides, building new bikes (soexcitedsoexcitedsoexcited), Critical Mass-ing…it’s business as usual in Birmingham.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Going the distance

Last Saturday, a group of Femme Pédalers and friends set off on a 75 mile jaunt from Birmingham to Oxford. For some of us, this was a relaxing amble in the countryside, and others (ahem, me) quite a long way to go in one day; all of us had a great time. I'm pretty new to cycling distances of more than about 30 miles in one go, and have learned some pretty useful lessons this summer about how to stay happy on long rides. Here's what I've gathered, along with some photos of our day out.
  • Make sure your bike's ready to go; it doesn't need to be super expensive or have lots of bells and whistles so long as it's in good condition. Our friend Jane did 35 miles of the ride with us on a stylish but heavy old three-speed Raleigh, which goes to show that it's not what's between your legs, but what you do with it that counts. Before you leave, do a quick M-check, making sure that everything's in good working order and well oiled, and pump your tires up.
  • Get a backpack or pannier, and make sure you've got a pump and spare inner tube (tool-wise, a decent multi-tool might also come in handy), a waterproof, a a jumper, and a small first aid kit.
  • Plan a route: I like ordinance survey maps, the Sustrans site, and the Cyclestreets journey planner, but a standard road atlas will do the trick. If you stick to country back roads, you'll be able to enjoy joyous car-free miles. Stay flexible, and don't mind too much about getting lost. It's also useful to note if there are train stations at various points, in case you need an escape route.
  • Get ready! Have a decent meal and limit your alcohol intake the night before setting out and try and get a good night's sleep. A couple of Saturday's riders came out on three hours sleep, and didn't seem to appreciate the early start as much as some of us did.
  • Get dressed! Comfy clothes and trainers, with no flowing, loose bits that can get caught in chains and brakes are best; pay special attention to make sure that there's nothing that will cause discomfort to your bum and crotch a few miles down the line (see Nan's useful post on the subject), and at least consider padded shorts.
  • Get fed! Don't eat loads just before or during the ride- it'll make you sluggish and crampy. Make sure you've got lots of small snacks which release energy slowly; bananas, nuts, oatcakes and so on. Flapjacks are always a hot favorite.
  • Drink. Make sure you're carrying enough water, and remember to stay hydrated.
  • Choose a pace that suits you, and that you can maintain. If you need to get off and walk on hills, do it.
  • Enjoy yourself. Stop off at interesting places (half way, we hit Hook Norton brewery, found out how they make some of our favorite beer, and had a tasting session) and see new bits of countryside. Don't stress if you get wet, muddy, or lost; you'll make it home in the end, and the hot shower will be that little bit more pleasurable.

Friday, 3 June 2011

DIY Bike worshops in Canada

During a visit to Montreal and Toronto in January-February of this year, I took the opportunity to visit some of the various well-established bicycle coops and projects dotted around both cities. This was such an inspiring experience from the point of view of someone interested in setting up similar projects in Europe that I’d like to share some of the things I saw and advice I heard.


Cycle culture is vibrant in this city which boasts several thriving bike courrier companies, N. America’s first city bike rental scheme (they take them away in the winter to stop them getting buried in the snow) and around ten DIY bike co-ops. In the car park of Concordia University in downtown Montreal, there is a hidden-away but thriving hub of not-for-profit bike repair. Like many places in the city, it has a dual identity: Right to Ride or La Voie Libre, and is a project partly funded by the university. It opens its doors every evening during the week and longer hours on weekends.


Ontario’s biggest city is also a hub for the not-for-profit bike sector, and while there I was able to visit one well-established co-op and one which is just starting up.

Bike Pirates were running their women and transsexual Sunday workshop session when I called in. The spacious and well-ordered interior of their workshop nonetheless manages to feel homely, with plenty of posters, slogans and artwork on the walls, as well as a cosy kitchen at the back. Colour-coded tool boards surround the half a dozen work stands, with useful hand-painted displays about various aspects of bike mechanics placed here and there. Cup of tea in hand, I put a few questions to Ainsley about how the project was run. Once again, it relies entirely on volunteers and at the minute there are only two of them, dividing up the week’s shifts between them. The project makes enough money to buy parts and pay the rent – that’s it. Opening hours and attendance are drastically reduced in winter, but not everyone is put off by the snow and ice: the much anticipated yearly I-cycle was scheduled for the following weekend, where hundreds come to watch intrepid cyclists do laps of an ice rink on wheels. Bike Pirates is part of a lively cycle culture and lifestyle in the city; it’s not just about fixing bikes, but also riding them, growing things and eating together (they have a communal garden and often cook for everyone at the workshop sessions).

An organic outgrowth of Bike Pirates, Bike Sauce spent a few years in the pipeline and moved into new premises – a former funeral home in East Toronto – last Spring. Once again, the space is well laid out, with plenty of room for work stands and tools sensibly placed and labelled all around the room. Anibal, one of the founders, was happy to down tools and explain the technicalities of setting up the project over a cup of coffee. Making it clear from the beginning to local bike shops that you’re not competition is really important, he says. As he pointed out, the DIY sector is not taking money away from bike shops, which make most of their money from sales of new bikes and repairs for those who are not interested in learning about fixing their own bike. Setting up a good relationship with local bike shops from the beginning is vital – they achieved this by going round to introduce themselves, with a business card explaining briefly what they’re doing. This way bike shops know who you are and what you do, plus they have your number on hand, so will happily pass you on unwanted parts rather than dump them. Bike Sauce began advertising themselves and gathering parts and tools long before they actually had a dedicated workspace: they stocked things and worked out of a member’s garage in the meantime. Anibal is wary of government grants and from the beginning wanted Bike Sauce to be able to generate the cash it needs for survival through its own activities, rather than growing complacent (and being accountable to the city or the government) on grant funding. This seems to be working, though the real test will be the bike sales in Spring, which is just around the corner. If you come in to repair your bike, rather than paying a yearly membership or a flat rate for a session, Bike Sauce ask for a donation each time you come in: as much or as little as you can afford. Your time is also valuable: you could volunteer at a repair session or come to a bike build, where salvaged bikes are repaired for sale.

Even with such a proliferation of not-for-profit bike projects in Montréal and Toronto, cycle culture remains marginal in Canada as is the rest of the world. In some ways this is a blessing: it allows for the creation of vibrant sub-cultures based around a common marginalised passion and it allows cyclists to remain radical, outside the establishment, to question the status quo. Even if Bike Sauce could have benefitted from funding, Anibal was against it, preferring to remain free, not wanting to be bought. In a world still so dominated by the capitalist ethic, it is nigh-on impossible to set up a successful project whilst remaining outside the money-making rat race. These projects exist, yet they struggle; they are barnacles [1] on the great sick ship of capitalism. Some projects rely on outside organisations for survival; Right to Ride needs Concordia University’s space, funding and goodwill. Others like Bike Sauce, have deliberately chosen to remain outside this. The not-for-profit bike repair movement will never interest investors; but it is a growing force questioning the values by which we judge societal worth. When everything else grinds to a halt, one thing is for sure; bicycle wheels will still be turning.

[1] Alternative use of term ‘Barnacles’: the Bike Pirates’ term for people who turn up expecting help to fix their bike, sucking energy and not putting much back into the project

Monday, 16 May 2011

The fling was flung, here are the pictures!

Big thanks to everyone who came on the Spring Fling ride, and nice one to Fin for the pictures.We had a really great day and we hope all you did too. Dare I say it, best FP ride yet?

As always, send us any ideas for rides, and watch this space for the next event...

Monday, 9 May 2011

Postcard of woman cycling on Birmingham's Hagley Road, 1905

Thanks to Connecting Histories for this picture, please have a look at the site for more details about the postcard and what they do.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Trixi mirrors: sign the petition

April saw yet another death of a female cyclist in London. Paula Jurek joined the increasingly long list of women knocked off their bikes and killed by left turning lorries.

Heavy goods vehicles are proportionally more likely to be involved in collisions with cyclists due to their lack of peripheral vision, a factor which can be remedied by trixi mirrors. These mirrors are installed at junctions and can be used by drivers to get a clear view to their left as they make turns. They are cheap, easy to install, and prevent accidents.

A limited number of trixi mirrors are used in London, but the process of installing new ones has stumbled to a halt, and those that remain are often in poor condition.

Please take some time to sign this petition calling for more trixi mirrors in London, with a bit of luck we might see them in Birmingham too someday.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Bikes and Bits: Don't get your knickers in a twist!

Lately I have been complaining a lot about my bike, it's too big for me and I get sore wrists and shoulders on long rides. I can cope with this because I'm too lazy to sort out a different bike, I just whinge a lot. However, last year, on a ride to Knowle, I experienced discomfort on my bike which I never want to go through again: an attack of the nether regions! That's right, I got some serious vulva pain and I want to (over)share my experiences of how to avoid it. Riding a bike without giving your sensitive areas proper consideration can be exceedingly uncomfortable and very off putting, so it's worth addressing, especially if you are new to cycling.

There are loads of saddles marketed to women but lots of them are ridiculously huge, jelly like contraptions which are not suitable for long rides. Then there are those that are marketed to women as a confidence trick; they are exactly the same as the boys' version, just a bit shorter in the nose and more expensive. This article, which I think is American, offers lots of good saddle selection and general bike fitting advice. I use a Brooks B17 about which I have no complaints, in fact I have a possibly misguided faith in my leather saddle as helping to protect from vaginal complaints by virtue of it being a natural, breathable fibre? Leaving saddles behind though, in my experience the first thing you need to get right is underwear, whatever saddle you use.

Regardless of what style of pants you wear, the bottom bit of your knickers that sits over your vulva is usually double layered; what I think is essential for cycling is that this double layer of fabric is stitched down on all sides. Sometimes the fabric will be unsecured at one end or at the sides and over time it will crinkle and wrinkle and, when you are cycling, will form an uncomfortable, lumpy layer against your labia. (My downfall on the way to Knowle).

Laura advises that as a teenager, she occasionally made the mistake of long rides in a g-string. Do not do this. The bigger the knicker, the less you chafe. On longer rides, some people have trouble with seams rubbing as well. To avoid this, and fabric bunching up, we usually go for seam free undies. Biking can result in, ahem, a hot and sweaty undercarriage; pants made from natural fibres like cotton and bamboo can help keep things daintily irritation/thrush free. Cotton can be quite thick, however, and so one of the worst 'lumpy labia' offenders. Watch out for that.

Of course, you can always go for cycling shorts, especially if you're starting to go further. They're designed for minimal chafing, and come with a special pad, called a chamoix (because it used to be made of goat leather) that cushions your genital area and bum. If you're shy of the lycra warrior look, they're perfectly comfortable worn stealthily under regular clothes. You might feel like you are wearing a nappy but it won't be obvious to others, we promise. One thing to look out for when purchasing shorts is the elastic on the end of the leg, if it's too tight you get uncomfortable little sausages at the tops of your thighs. Cycling shorts should be worn without underpants, but keen users recommend slathering your bits in vaseline or any number of specialist anti-chafing potions like nappy rash cream.

Hopefully this will help you have a pleasant vaginal experience while out on your bike, although, as far as I'm concerned the mythical bicycle instigated orgasm is a patriarchal fantasy designed to stop women cycling on 'moral' grounds. Sorry girls, can't help you achieve that one!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Femme Pédale’s Spring Fling - here's the plan

We start off with a few miles along the Rea Valley/No. 5 Sustrans route enjoying the lovely Cannon Hill and Hazelwell Parks. At Lifford Lane we get off the No. 5 and take a nice little shortcut that brings us out in Kings Norton, avoiding the busy bits of Cotteridge.

We keeping going through Kings Norton along Primrose Hill and approximately 5 miles after leaving MAC we’re in the countryside. We keep heading south along Icknield Street until we get to the excellent Coach and Horses pub. They’ve got a lovely garden and seem very bike friendly (eight bikes there this Sunday, not including ours!), so, seems like a nice place to stop for a drink and a munch.

Having refreshed ourselves it’s left along Weatheroak Hill and Hill Lane, then up Chapel Lane and Middle Lane heading north towards the city. Once we get back to Kings Norton we cut back to Lifford Lane and then we’re on the No. 5 again back to MAC (the slightly rubbish map shows the countryside section of the ride).

The route is around 15 miles and we’ll be setting a nice gentle pace. There are a couple of ups and steep downs, not recommended if this is the first time you’ve got on a bike in a few years, but otherwise fine. We’ll be checking your bikes, especially your brakes, before we set off, so you’ll know that everything is in good working order.

How does this sound? Any comments from our gracious readers are very much appreciated. If you don’t feel so confident about things like junctions and roundabouts please let us know (on the day is fine), we will support you in whatever way you like, from buddying up to get across, to completely stopping traffic. There’s nothing big or scary on this route, but one thing I’ve learnt recently that’s worth remembering is that you always feel a lot more confident cycling in a big group. And it’s more fun!

So remember…

May 7th – 1pm – Midlands Arts Centre

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Who needs Venice

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure in taking part in a canal bike ride organized by Val from Pushbikes, Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum and Saheli. For me at least, it was not a pleasant start to the morning: I forgot that the clocks had changed overnight. Halfway through my toast realization dawned, cue frantic cycling and confusion due to not checking where I was meant to be going. Oopps.

I was just about in time to help with some seat post adjustments and dérailleur tweeks, and then we were off. We split into groups to account for differing pace and experience; the group I was in was joined at Fazeley Street by another party cycling from the Midlands Arts Centre and we continued on together, enjoying the old-industrial beauty of Birmingham’s canal network. Interrupted only by a puncture, repaired at lightning speed by Rob, we made our way smoothly into Salford Park (I almost fell off my bike but I don’t think too many people noticed).

The two groups re-joined, and after a yummy lunch courtesy of the organisers, it was back on to the canals. As all 30 riders cycled the final stages together the sun finally came out and there was that great care-free balmy Sunday feeling in the air. It felt really excellent to be cycling in a big group away from all the pressures of traffic, and to be cycling for the pleasure of it rather than to get somewhere on time.

So, big thanks to Val and Pushbikes, Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum, and Saheli – who actually provided a lot of the bikes used on the ride. It's so great to learn about a women's organisation that is doing such important work and sees cycling as a part of this. It made me really happy that so many women were out on the ride, especially those who weren't regulars on two wheels. It's really enjoyable seeing others making the transition from cycling being something that is scary and hard work to something that they can feel confident about and enjoy.

Also, a heartfelt thank you to the lady who leant me a pair of gloves!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Femme Pédale’s Spring Fling

Ladies, get out of the city for an afternoon and join us for our next women's bike ride.

May 7th - 1pm - outside Midlands Arts Centre (Cannon Hill Park).

Expect an easy pace with experienced ride leaders offering lots of support to less confident riders. Enjoy around 15 miles of cycling out into the lovely countryside around Birmingham, with plenty of stops along the way. We will give your bike a full safety check before setting off, leaving from and returning to MAC (please note, this is an on-road ride).

Bring water and snacks, your bike, and some friends!

We are really excited about this ride and want it to be as open and accessible as possible. Any questions, any reassurances, anything at all...let us know!

See you on May 7th!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

An ode to the petite reine

After the juddering wooden, Dandy Horse,
And the rattling Boneshaker – even worse –
Otherwise called the French velocipede,
In a Coventry workshop there came a new breed,
An invention of which we’d never seen the like:
JK Starley’s incredible Safety Bike.

The basic principles of the sewing machine,
A chain drive powered by feet, not steam,
Caused all other two-wheeled models to abort
And cleared the way for revolutionary transport.
Workshops mushroomed in Coventry town
And through the midlands, till all around
Frames were welded, steel tubes grafted,
Wheels carefully built, components crafted.
And soon all sorts of people found a way
To buy a bike, saving up a few months’ pay.

Men and women, rich and poor
Threw all distinctions to the floor
In adopting the new two-wheeled contraption
They opened the door to freer social interaction.
Women, for the first time, claimed the right
To cast off their skirts, heavy and tight,
And wear trousers, or rational dress,
To be free and mobile, like all the rest.

By the beginning of the twentieth century,
The bike had gained its place in society.
Although some rich families had a motor car,
The bicycle was more popular by far.
Cycling around was only sensible
In a world where the bike was indispensible.

At this moment when cycling could rise no higher,
A journalist, hoping to start a media empire,
Dreamed up a race of mythical proportion
A trial demanding superhuman strength
And thus threw a simple object into wild distortion
By pushing men to pedal all of France’s length.

The race that Desgranges inaugurated
Had nothing in common with the Tour today
These men signed up to be flagellated
By stages of up to 450 k.

They were on fixed gears, like all bikes at the time,
With a low ratio on one side, so when they had to climb
They’d hop off, switch their wheel around
And ascend, then switch it back to go down.

If a spoke snapped or they got a flat
No team car arrived with an identikit
The rule was, they had to fix it by the road side
One racer even re-welded his frame mid-ride.

The Tour grew more and more epic every year
Even after the derailleur, it stayed fixed gear.
They battled the Alps and the Pyrenees,
For 30 days brought France to its knees
In admiration of the men who took up the fight
To battle the mountains, long into the night.

To quote Roland Barthes, a myth was created
Cycling stopped being normal and became heroic
And all around the world the word was propagated:
Cyclists were strong and brave and stoic.

And within a generation the damage was done
Desgranges and his men had carefully spun
A scared image of the simple vélo
And made heroes of these men in yellow.

All this was timed nicely with the rise of the car
Ford pumped them out, they travelled wide and far
Everyday cycling was pushed to the margins
The tick of the freewheel drowned out by engines.

Perhaps it takes more than a media stunt
To explain why cycling is now defunct
To justify the aggression, the sarcastic wave
The car-drivers’ heckles of “wow, you’re brave!”

But today, when you jump on your bike
Let the others choke and splutter all that they like
Remember the bike’s the real transport solution
And each turn of the pedals is a revolution.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


This is utterly relevant to our cause, cos Carrie Brownstein from Sleater Kinney is involved, and I bet she kills on two wheels.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Wheels of Change - Sue Macy

I was selling some books on amazon and ended up buying this instead (still not sure how that happened).

Looks good eh! The history of women and bicycles.

This will soon be finding its way to the Birmingham Bike Foundry library, so give us a shout if you'd like to borrow it.

Susan B. Anthony: "(the bicycle) has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Repairing a puncture? Why, what an obviously sexual experience!

There's a cycling purchase I made a few months ago which I keep meaning to write about (and it’s not in praise of). Knog porno patches.

So, I ran out of patches after an unfortunate affair involving tire levers that seemed to have mysteriously sharpened themselves (in case you're wondering, there is a limit to how many times you can patch an inner tube before it becomes unusable). A fellow Birmingham Bike Foundry-er said something along the lines of 'Hey, we're doing an order, why not get a Knog puncture repair kit? Everything they make is awesome' – I believe meaning lights. Little did I know...

Porno, as you might expect, means pictures of naked ladies. On patches. My first impression was that this was slightly odd, but maybe there was some kind of message here, something along the lines of women should be happy with their bodies whatever shape and size, we shouldn't be ashamed of being sexually liberated, go women cyclists-you rock...second impression, yeah, it's really not about that.

A quick google reveals that most of the marketing around the patches focuses on them being a bit sexy and a bit naughty.

A few choice quotes:

"It's proven that these saucy patches are lurking between the tube and tyre of over 90% of parish ministers' pushies. Oh heavens, another puncture!"

"A lab test revealed that if you give these kinky self-adhesive patches to girls they’ll fix their bike puncture quick smart and ride away with a bike as sexy on the inside as the outside, and that if you give them to boys they’ll stick them on their nipples. Nuff said."

Feel free to say I'm being uptight (it wouldn't be the first time), but I'm not really onboard for images of naked women being used to sell puncture repair kits, regardless of how clever the marketing is. It seems to me that images of naked women should be used to sell products relating to being a woman and being naked (do you think the Knog designers repair punctures naked? Personally I’d feel a little exposed). There is no empowering undercurrent here, this is just women’s bodies used to make money.

Even if you don’t see the design as problematic from a female perspective, is it really necessary to sex up puncture repair? I’m failing to see the point.

It should be noted, the patches feature naked cartoons, not actual photographs, but I don't think this really changes the issue. The cartoon women all seem to have skinny, shapeless bodies with tiny breasts…further weirdness. I believe there is also a male version, but I'm yet to properly see the images as they seem to feature less on internet marketing.

Looking at the rest of the kit the contents are less sexualised, but definitely not so useful in a puncture situation. The patches are pre-glued, so vulcanising solution and chalk are not necessary. There is a bit of sandpaper, but a crayon for marking punctures is absent. The tire levers are frankly crap. I’ve found that they just aren’t rigid enough to use on racing tire beading, and they do not have the useful little hooks that clip onto spokes. Unless you’re one of those people with steel hands who need a lever once in a blue moon, you’re not going to find these make for an easy time.

So - sexist, a bit tasteless but harmless, silly and impractical...or a great product? Any ideas?

Monday, 21 March 2011

Canal Ride next Sunday

Hi everybody, a word from Pushbikes, Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum and Saheli on a canal ride taking place next weekend…

“A 12 mile ride starting and ending at Farm Park in Sparkbrook.

Traffic free for most of the way on the Birmingham and Fazeley & Bham and Worcester canal.

The aim is to encourage more people to use their bicycles: as well as being fun, its healthy and cheap!

It's free to join the ride and there are 18 bikes to borrow at no cost- but these must be booked by 22nd. The towpaths are in good condition but can be uncomfortable on fast road bikes with narrow high pressure tyres: commuting, hybrid, touring & mtb bikes are fine.

As most folk will not be regular cyclists we're planning to ride in two groups: - one riding slowly and carefully and walking the trickier bits - a faster group of experienced cyclists. Each group will have a leader & two 'sweepers' to ensure no one gets left behind.

We recommend you bring tools and have insurance - it's usually included in household policies - though this may not be possible for many. The experienced riders will provide any reasonable help on the day with punctures etc.

You'll also need to bring something to drink and your lunch as the route doesn't pass shops or cafes.”

Please check out this link for more info:

Also…it’s Spring! Well, I’m not sure if it technically is but it’s definitely warm and sunny. Time to do some more rides. Keep reading for details of the next Femme Pédale event – any suggestions for where to go? I’m thinking countryside.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Bicycology come to Birmingham

Last weekend Birmingham played host to Bicycology, a collective of cyclists formed via a ride to the 2005 Gleneagles G8. The group has continued to meet and put on various rides and events; their activities range from film screenings to building bike powered generators, and from bike jewellery to accessible long distance rides

Their weekend gathering, before Bicycology went into important planning mode, kicked off with a public film screening at The Edge – Friction Arts in Digbeth. There were plenty of Birmingham cyclists in attendance; it was great to see a big range of people and bikes come together for an evening dedicated to being on two wheels.

The topics of the films put on (chosen using an innovatively democratic selection process) included street trials, amazing bike tricks, the building of tall bikes and other odd creations, asylum seeker-bike workshop projects, the best cities for cycling, and many more. Good stuff!

So, big thanks to Bicycology for the evening, and for adding to the amount of cycling stuff taking place in our fair city. Looking forward to finding out what you're going to do next!

For anybody who wasn't at the film screening, please check out the collectives' website.

As well as some interesting info about how Bicycology came to be and what they do, there are some excellent guide pages you can download. You've got your mechanics guides, bike arts and crafts, alternative energy, anarchy...what more could you want?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Birmingham Critical Mass - THIS FRIDAY

Location: St Philip’s Cathedral, (Pigeon Park)
Day: First Friday of every month
Time: 17.30-6.00 meet then ride.

Critical mass is a bike ride takes place in cities all over the world.

It's group of people who decide to ride around town together in the same direction,
there's no leader, and there's no set route.

With enough cyclists the ride goes 'critical' and the bikes can ride together in safety.

Anyone can do it, you don't need a great bike, in fact it's any non motorised vehicle at all.

Let's get a Femme contingent on the ride!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Best Birmingham rides? Any suggestions!

I have come to a realisation, an average week's cycling for me (daily trips to work and the city centre) probably isn't doing all that much for me in exercise terms. I'm not saying it's pointless, I'm definitely fitter than I would be if I didn't cycle at all. The thing is, the routes I take are generally pretty flat, and seldom more than 5 miles each way; I'm rarely getting out of breath!

New vow, unless we are once again hit by crazy snow, I will do one proper ride a week. Right now I'm not talking 70mile plus day long adventures, just a few hours good riding. Question is, where? Femme Pédale readers/riders, please help!

I've tried out the city's Sustrans routes, good for getting from A to B, but I'm really looking to get out into the countryside a bit more. Today I have cycled from Stirchley to the Bittell Reservoirs (see seasonally inaccurate pic), Lickey, and then back via Cofton and Longbridge. I'd thoroughly recommend this ride, very scenic and some not insignificant hills to get your heart going - if you're me anyway. However, riding somewhere new every week really appeals.

So, where do you like to cycle? Please leave any suggestions in comment form, and hopefully I'll soon be posting some pictures and accounts of rides in the lovely countryside surrounding our city.