Author Archives: Mei

East London Bicycle Fun Times

Stopped by my favorite bar/cafe/bike workshop/event space/art & cool shit shop/bunting gone wild establishment yesterday…

Look Mum No Hands is located on Old Street back near my old hood, and it’s a truly excellent example of integrated boundary-smashing bicycle excitement. Check it out.

You can get your tires fixed while you sip a Square Mile coffee or drink a beer and eat quiche and peruse pretty bike greeting cards or read a bike book. Plus, as I may have mentioned, they have bunting.

I covet these posters by Dynamo Works, particularly the one all the way on the right: ‘It is the unknown around the corner that turns my wheels.’ 

If that wasn’t exciting enough, I’ll be heading back on Saturday to peruse and do my best to only buy one poster at ARTCRANK: a bicycle art party! I love it when people combine my favorite things.

Even better, passing by Look Mum on the way to a meeting, I spied a new bicycle shop next door! So I went by after lunch. Hello Bicycle Man!

I puttered around looking at the cycles and had a great chat with Omar, who runs the place. I think he’s the bicycle man, but perhaps there are several? Anyway, Omar sells really interesting Dutch bikes – not just ‘Dutch style’ but really innovative and well-designed bikes that hadn’t been offered in the UK yet. They’re not all to my taste, but there are some fascinating and very insightful little tweaks on a lot of the bikes.

For example….ever forgotten your lights? Or lugged around a heavy, cumbersome, and annoying lock? Well, you won’t have to anymore with these crazy VANMOOF bikes.

See that unusual top bar? It’s got FRONT AND BACK LIGHTS AND A LOCK embedded inside. Even better, the lights are solar powered, so they charge whenever the sun hits them and you can charge with a USB cord if it’s dark! That is some serious design thinking there.

The chain lock pulls out of the top of the bar and clicks back in on the side of the bar, as you might be able to tell below.

Also, I quite like their explanatory sticker about the bike weighing about as much as a small pig. I’m a fan of those small amusing human touches.

This bike is innovative in another way: what better way to deter a thief than having a massive serial number staring them in their face? It’s probably no more than a slight deterrent, but apparently one of the main problems with London bike crime is not so much recovering stolen bikes, but more the difficulty of reuniting them with their owners. Pretty hard to forget to write down and register your serial number when it’s welded in big numbers to your bike.

I liked this more typical Dutch bike – if I were going just based on looks, I’d buy one of these guys. 

Perfect for tootling around in a pretty dress and sticking a basket full of flowers and cheese and wine and a tall baguette on the back. Hmm. I see an exciting bike picnic approaching.

This next bike is the only German to intrude on the room of Dutchies – apparently it has a carbon fibre chain which doesn’t need grease or oil, doesn’t stretch, and only weighs about 200 grams.  Nimble doubts the veracity of this statement. What is certainly true is the egregiously expensive price tag. But even if it’s not to my taste or anywhere close to my budget, it’s an interesting innovation anyway.

So, Bicyle Man. I like it. Sadly, I’m not in the market for a new bike at the moment, but it’s nice to have it right next door to Look Mum for perusing pleasure. After all, just about the only thing Look Mum doesn’t do is actually sell bicycles.

Bye Look Mum and Bicycle Man! I’m dreaming of the day when I can run my own bar/cafe/everything bicycley and awesome shop. Until then…


The Harris Tweed Ride in Glasgow

We’re off to do touristy stuff with the mum in Glasgow and take a minor detour to check out a restaurant menu (no surprises there) and what should we randomly run into but the inaugural Harris Tweed ride!

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I’m so sad that Nimble and I missed the London one being out of town this year, and we could have joined in this one in the ultimate tweedy locale.
So sad.

I got some photos of some dashing young riders.

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As if there weren’t already such coincidence running into the tweed ride, turns out the route is going to all the places we’ve already visited in our 3 days here. The fabulous Stravaigin restaurant, the always-fantastic Cafe Gandolfi – it would have been a tweed-clad tour of all our favorite spots.

About an hour before the tour started, there were about 15 people enjoying tea & cakes, but there are apparently 100 expected for the day. Already 2 Colnago cycles!

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Nimble will be jealous. We’ll see if we can encounter them later in the day at another delicious stop. Until then, I’ll be riding a double decker tourist bus instead of riding my bicycle….sigh. Maybe we can still incorporate some tweed…


The Epic London-Wales Journey: Day 4, The Final Frontier

Wales. It’s where we’re going. As you can see above, it’s spectacularly beautiful and just might be one of the best places to cycle on the planet. However, we don’t know that yet, because we’re still lying in bed in Bristol.

It’s my birthday and I’ll lie in bed after cycling 55 miles if I want to.  Now that we’re on Day 4, I will begin to bestow upon you some key things we learned after 4 days in the saddle and here it starts.

Words of Wisdom #1: Assuming you are not completely broke or a total masochist, go B&B over camping, 100%. I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciated a comfortable bed, a great night’s sleep, and a hot breakfast after a day on the road. Nothing’s worse than biking for hours on a hard saddle, then trying to fall asleep on the hard ground. Unless it’s waking up the next morning with a sore everything, taking a cold shower, and eating energy goop for breakfast when you could be having this:

Obviously, we continued on our 4 days straight of Full English Breakfasting, cooked to order by the wonderful Rich of Colliters Brook Farm. Go to Bristol and stay there and tell him Mei and Leo sent you. You won’t regret it.

He gave us excellent directions to get our asses over to Wales via the beautiful Clifton Suspension Bridge over the Avon Gorge.  Apparently the symbol of the city of Bristol, it’s a beautiful place for cycling, running, walking, boating, or just enjoying the view.

We followed alongside the picturesque waterfront for miles, the river on our left and the immense sheer rock face on our right, cruising past the old Clifton Rocks Railway built into the side of the gorge (a secret transmission site for the BBC during WWII!)…

and crazy people who can juuuuust be spotted trying to climb this insanely large wall of rock.

If you go to Bristol, make sure to visit the area. Gorgeous.

We meandered up the coast along the water, bypassing beautiful stretches of countryside…

as well as the old industrial estates of Avonmouth, trying not to get hit by large trucks hauling shipping containers while taking photos of the amazing old flour mills.

We both really loved getting to see so many different areas of England, from some slightly rundown city centres to the tiniest of villages to the crane- and truck-clogged industrial byways to the wildflower-laden country roads to the golden corn-strewn farmlands. Which leads us to:

Words of Wisdom #2: It’s old news to some, but a new truth to me:  cycling is by far the best way you could possibly travel. You get to see so much more than traveling by car or train, but you get to fly along the roads so much faster than walking by foot. You breathe in the sea air and the earthy farm smells as well as the truck exhaust fumes and really feel connected to the land and the places you pass through.  Cycling for 8 hours is definitely tiring and at some points exhausting, but you feel a sense of accomplishment every time you pull in for the night and you’ll sleep better than you ever have in your life. Best of all – you can eat as much as you want. I consumed three massive full meals a day – which always seemed to include chips – and fueled the cycling by sneaking quite a lot of chocolate bars in between.

Speaking of which, we stopped at Shirley’s Cafe in Severn Beach for homemade apple cake and candy bars. Oh, the joys of touring.

Soon after, we found ourselves approaching the Severn Bridges between England and Wales – victory in sight! 

There are two Severn Bridges, but it’s the ‘old’ crossing that you can walk and cycle across.

We met friends Danny and Tim (aka our Welsh guard) halfway across the bridge and they took celebratory photos…

continued with us along the bridge…

then escorted us off into our ultimate destination….WALES!

And off to Casnewydd we went, panting in the wake of our Welsh guard, zooming through tunnels…

down country lanes walled with green…

past cows and sheep and horses and my first glimpse of stoat roadkill…

back onto National Cycle Route 4, which we had first encountered 2 days and 130 miles ago

past some of the Roman ruins for which the area is famous…

and on down the Lon eiciau, 200 llath ahead

It’s amusing, in hindsight, that we celebrated upon crossing the bridge to Wales, because some of the roughest times were once we were in the country.  I had been told it was a 40 minute ride to Danny’s home in the historic and picturesque town of Caerleon – but that’s 40 minutes in Danny time and he cycles at minimum 20 miles a day. That’s not much though – he used to commute 40 a day and has done 80 a day touring, all of which means that he scampered up the Welsh hills like a happy bunny while I put my head down and sweated, groaned, cursed, and battled my way to the top. It was worth it for these views though…

And then, finally, Newport! My knees and back and crotch and shoulders were thankful.And even better, just a few minutes later….our final destination of Danny’s gorgeous back garden, where we were welcomed with an enormously large hunk of beef ribs in its 6th hour of slow cooking on the grill. Massive amounts of cycling + even more massive amounts of food = massively brilliant. 

And to top it all off – surprise birthday cake and champagne, all arranged by my amazing boyfriend and the best touring partner-in-crime a girl could ask for. Which brings me to my final takeaway:

Words of Wisdom #3: Tour with someone you really, really, like. It’s constantly hard work, both emotionally and physically challenging, and you need someone who you trust to support and push you through it. If you’re extra lucky, it might be someone who will carry your heavy lock and fix your fidgety gears, keep you fueled with chocolate and gross electrolyte drinks, share the beautiful sights and difficult times, give those much-needed words of encouragement when you’re on your last legs at the top of a very very steep hill, and laugh with you at the amazing and the ridiculous moments you find yourself in when biking across a country.

And of course, you need someone to take cheesy congratulatory self -photos with when crossing the border. Couldn’t have done it any other way…

… and cannot cannot wait to do it again. Can we leave tomorrow?


The Epic London-Wales Journey: Day 3

Day 3 is characterized by hours of travel along what must be the loveliest and definitely the steepest roads in western Britain. This is what my thighs tell me, and obviously they would know. I laughed quite a long time when we came across this sign:

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It all started with an opera singer wakeup in our cute and quaint litttle B&B in South marston, just east of the vast conglomeration of industrial estates that is the town of Swindon. The bed was amazing, but the real exciting part was the latter B: another full English breakfast.

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in our own little nook…

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and then off we pedaled, past the lovely back garden that would have been nice for lounging in.

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But we had places to be!

Spectacularly green country roads…

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awkward motorway intersections where we wandered off-road to stay off the truck-heavy and death-likely M4…

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and, somewhere in the grey areas on the map between the major roads, we found beautiful plateaus at the top of tall hills, rich with green corn stalks or golden wheat sheaves or other unknown plants.

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These are the tiles of saturated color you see out the windows of planes amd wonder how the ground can look like a golden chessboard.

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We passed lots of little villages we had never heard of, some on downhill journeys that we zoomed past in a literal blink-of-the-eye.

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Lunch, because we’re eating like athletes, was a cheeseburger with fried onions, onion rings, and chips (the English kind). Oh, and Leo’s chips.

The most notable aspect of Chippenham, our lunch location, was the exit.

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The afternoon consisted of riding ridinh riding and stretching…

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stretching…

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stretching…

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and more stretching…

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as well as moments of amusement amidst the hard work.

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Also moments of celebration for still being alive and in one piece.

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We finally hit the outer limits of Bristol in the late afternoon and popped into a bike shop to pump our tires

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and check out the baby bike gang.

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The ascent into the city limits was long and grueling, along a stretch of road alternately named ‘Hill Street’, ‘Two Mile Hill Road’, ‘Bell Hill Road’ and ‘Clouds Hill Road’. Hilarious.

This photo makes the stretch of desolate pedestrian walkway look a little more romantic than abandoned.

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By that point, having not eaten a candy bar for at least an hour and pedaled up several mountains since lunch, I was verging on exhaustion. We were in the middle of the city and supposed to be sleeping at a farm. We must have had miles to go before getting back to the countryside!

but that’s the beauty of England – a short ride from the city centre later and we were again surrounded by lush fields of green.

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And then we turned into the gravelly drive of Colliters Brook farm, without question the loveliest B&B around, run by the loveliest man around.

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Rich hooked us up with a massive suite to store our bikes in the old farmhouse.

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We looked out the window at the charming view…

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then promptly ate an entire pizza each and fell asleep. 55 miles down, only a few more to go.


The Epic London-Wales Journey: Day 2

We begin with the most important energy source of the trip: the full English.

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Day 2 kicks off with a grey sky but it hasnt opened up on us yet. We find ourselves alternately on country roads, dirt paths, alarmingly large dual carriageways, and what has not yet been recognized as the LARGEST MOUNTAINS west of london.

Here we cross a motorway where Leo’s fear of heights kicks in..

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And then a really honestly terrible smelling cornfield once we duck off into the farmland…

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and more gorgeous fields and farms on all sides.

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We’re basically just meandering west with an occasional glance at Google maps on the iphone to make sure we’re on track and avoiding the major roads. It’s mostly working (with a few terrifying exceptions) and we’ve discovered some spectacularly perfect cycling roads.Smooth tarmac, beautiful scenery…the only problem is when they go up. and up. and up.

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On the bright side, what goes up must come down and there’s nothing like whizzing down a massive hill with the cornfields and forests stretching on either side, wind whipping past your bike and bugs slamming into your face.

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Some major highlights so far:

A house that appears to be made entirely of chocolate…

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and one with a thatched
roof originally from the 1600s. We ran into the owner outside, who kindly informed us of the history of the house as well as the fact that we had just passed by the childhood home of Kate Middleton.

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That house is about as old as America.

Besides the sightseeing and the wonders of nature and all, one of the best things about touring is that you can eat absolutely as much as you want. Or thats what I tell myself.

We were disgustingly lucky to come acoss the Lord Lyon pub just as we hit lunchtime hunger.

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This award winning pub has a vegetable garden, chickens, and an old school Land Rover that will actually pick you up or drop you off at home after 5 too many pints. They hand make almost everything from bread to pies to tarts and it’s reflected in the sensational quality of the food. In honr of our British countryside tour, we picked the ploughmans deli board with pork pie, vintage cheddar and piccallilli, the lord lyon egg mayonnaise and some proper triple cooked chips dusted with spices that just might be the best fries I’ve EVER eaten.

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Hours of biking justifies mass carb-loading.

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We saw all sorts of old architecture and this beautiful church and graveyard…

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But we couldnt linger anywhere to make our next stop too late, so back on the road we went.

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I had a few gear problems, but was luckily traveling with an amateur mechanic.

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Lucky me. However, he’s traveling with a world-class navigator who also happens to be amazingly good-looking, so I think he wins.

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We ran into some exciting bicycle parking:

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and more breathtaking views.

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Finally, more crotch unhappiness, knee soreness, and shoulder twingeiness later, we arrive at the Old Post Office Guest House. Victory!

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In we walk and our gregarious opera-singer hostess immediately envelops Leo in a massive embrace to her 48 DD bosom (yes, she told us). We’ve done another 40 miles today, but I think that might be the real victory.


The Epic London-Wales Journey: Day 1

It’s the morning after the first leg of our London-Wales ride, and I’m quite happy to report that we are still alive. Slightly bruised (me, having let my bike fall on..myself), slightly battered (pain in the crotchal region, no thanks to the padded shorts) and broken (ow a bit in the knees, ow a bit in the back) but overall alive and kicking and ready for day 2.

Tally for day 1, London to Reading:
41 miles
1 bug-in-the-eye incident
1 ‘oh shit we’re on the motorway’ incident
2 rabbits, many horses, abundant cows
3 kennels and 2 catteries!
2 energy bars, 2 sausages, 2 biscuits, many tomatoes consumed on the road
1 damson crumble made from damsons picked in the courtyard of the country pub while we ate our chips and vinegar.

And in photos:

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And now we’re off for day 2! Just a few more awkward butt stretches, repacking of the 3 panniers, 1 rack bag and 1 handlebar bag, and 2 massive full English breakfasts, and on we ride. See you in Swindon!


Cycle Cycle Tel Aviv

I just landed in Tel Aviv and what do I see immediately upon arriving in the city?

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Another brilliant urban bicycle scheme – and, as I came to notice, in a city with wide streets, ample bike lanes amd what appears to be a very cycling friendly populace. In my several hours of exploration by foot, I saw dozens of cyclists, all in street clothes, and only one helmet perched askew on top of a very very small child.

So far, my ideal bike city. It’s home for a nap, then off to rent me a bright green bicycle, confusing Hebrew rental terminals be damned.

I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes. Do try to contain your burgeoning excitement.