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Cycling in high winds

Cycling in high winds

I was cycling west along Gorgie Road yesterday, working hard to maintain 20Km/h against a strong head wind (it always looks faster in Km/h than in MPH), when a sudden gust brought me to a standstill and I found myself using all my strength to track stand and not go backwards. Sadly, by the time I came to do the return journey, the wind had moderated somewhat and the tail wind was no more impressive than normal.

Yesterday’s wind may have been strong, but this was not the strongest wind I have ever ridden in, that was in my first year at The University of Edinburgh. At that time I was living at KB in the south of the city and had morning lectures at the Appleton Tower by George Square . As I rode up Causewayside (or as Google insist in calling it Ratcliffe Terrace) that morning, I was rather enjoying the tailwind as I sped up the hill, that was until the traffic light ahead turned red. I applied both brakes fully, only they seemed to have little effect. The cars were now crossing ahead of me, completely unaware of my plight. Both anchors were deployed (my feet were applied to the tarmac) and slowly I was brought to a halt. The gale reached its peak while I was sitting through a geology lecture, and when I came out of the Appleton Tower there was a small crowd of people standing at the corner. I walked up to join them and soon realised why, one person who had tried to get round the corner was hanging on to the railings, so as not to be blown away. When finally the wind had dropped enough, I started to cycle back down Causewayside, struggling to make progress downhill against the wind. Halfway down Causewayside, I found a length of lead flashing about two meters long, which an hour or so previously had been part of a roof and was now lying across the road. I was thankful that I hadn’t been there when it came down.

Head winds and tail winds are not the whole story of course, there are also side winds. These can be very unpredictable and rather dangerous. I have been on occasions blown sideways towards the oncoming traffic, but so far, not into it. On another occasion while cycling down Causewayside I was caught by a wind shear and blown off my bike, but that is a story for another day…

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On cycle commuting

On cycle commuting

I have been cycle commuting for 12 years now and as it is coming up to that time of year when people make resolutions to change their lives, I thought this is a good subject for a blog post. I have been cycling for more years than I care to remember, before going to Uni I had never really lived in a town and had only occasional used a bike to get to and from work. The big change for me came when I first when to Edinburgh University in 1994 as a mature student and I sold my car to free up some funds. In the first week I had a meeting with my director of studies, a great character called Charlie Hinks, and I was bemoaning the problem of getting to morning lectures in George Square (I was living in a student flat at KB). Charlie put down his pipe and said “you had better get yourself a bike then”.

This has proved to be very good advice.

So I took my self off Dave’s Bike Shop in Argyle Place (now a coffee shop) and bought a second hand Dawes Shadow. This was a great bike lasted me for years, it was fantastic to discover the freedom of the city, and just how I could get quickly and easily from place to place. It is important with a bike in daily use to keep it well maintained. Not being much of a cycle mechanic, I used to take it back to Dave’s Bike Shop for regular servicing, until I fell out with Dave and went up the road to the then newly opened Bicycle Works, an outfit which over ten years later I can still thoroughly recommend, these guys really know about bikes!

After graduation I still found a bike was a great way to get about town and that employers could be positive about cycle commuters. For instance at FC HQ had a large cycle cage at the back of the building, so there were no worries about cycle security. Also there is a very convenient cycle path passing behind the building, so no need to cycle down Corstorphine Road in the rush hour. When I started working out at the Bush Estate (just to the south of Edinburgh, home to a range of research institutes, high tech companies and formerly Dolly the sheep), the cycling did drop off. This was mainly due to the poor level of cycle provision by Mid Lothian Council (one of the most backward local authorities in Scotland). As soon as you cross the Edinburgh bypass going south, the road design becomes hostile to the cyclist.

Moving to Aberdeen for three years I found the traffic there was also difficult, as there was a serious lack of cycle lanes. By the time I left things were really beginning to improve. One the plus side, the traffic in Aberdeen is mostly gridlocked and cycling past stationary cars is relatively safe. While in Aberdeen, my old Dawes Shadow died (the head tube snapped), but on a lucky trip to Alpine Bikes I picked up a Norco Volante at a very good price. Sadly they no longer stock Norco bikes, as Norco do make some great bikes.

I was still glad to move back to Edinburgh where cycle commuting is great. I now dread the thought of having to get a car if I get a job in a place where I can’t cycle to. Cycle commuting provides a good daily workout, clears the mind and is so much more relaxing that sitting in a traffic jam. Well those are my reasons, to see some other people’s reasons see here [or rather don’t, dead link removed].

So if you are thinking of making a change of life style for the better, try cycling, you won’t regret it.

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