A year ago I made a dream come true and bought a Pashley cycle. It’s bright, shiny and beautiful. Its bell makes the perfect ding-a-ling – and the wicker basket would be big enough for Toto, should he ever need a lift.
It’s my pride and joy, but it didn’t have a name – until now. I’ve decided to christen it Joanie, in honour of Joanie Clothing, who sent me some absolutely beautiful clothes to style this post. The Joanie Gals are full of light-hearted fun with a vintage twist – their clothes were made for cycling like strawberries were made for cream!
What have I learnt after a year with my bike?
Cycling gets me from A to B, but it also makes me feel happy in a way that walking or driving never does.
There’s something uniquely wonderful about gliding along under your own steam. Cycling is very democratic – you don’t have to be particularly fit to do it and it’s great low-impact exercise. With minimal effort, you can push those pedals around and feel the wind in your face. The sound of the wheels swishing, that blissful feeling when you free-wheel for a few seconds: it’s good for the body and good for the mind.
Yes, you can wear a dress while cycling!
I’m never going to be a lycra-clad gal. It’s just not going to happen. Cycling in loose skirts and dresses is much more me – and it’s surprisingly comfortable and practical. Of course, windy days can be a bit challenging – sometimes a bit of knicker flashing is inevitable! Try wearing cycling shorts under your dress, or if the fabric is loose enough, hold the two halves together with a peg to turn your skirt into culottes.
Worried about safety?
The best advice I’ve ever had is to remember that you have every much as right to be on the road as a motorist. In return, you need to behave like a motorist too. Remember those hand signals you learnt in cycling proficiency at school? You need to use them. Always be aware of what’s going on around you and never forget to check over your shoulder before you pull out or move across the roads. I basically assume that drivers won’t see me, unless I make it absolutely clear what I’m doing.
Maintaining your bike
Cycling is much more fun when it doesn’t feel like hard work. A bike with flabby tyres and a rusty chain is never going to bring you as much joy as one that glides effortlessly along the road — so use some simple maintenance tips to help your bike work with you instead of against you. Even if you don’t want to DIY, knowing what to look for means you know when to ask for help from a bike shop.
Keep your tyres properly pumped
Firmer tyres help prevent punctures — but more importantly, they make cycling much easier, and you can go faster for the same effort. Spend £15-30 on an upright track pump with a pressure gauge: it makes it really easy to get this right. Look on the side of the tyre for the maximum pressure, then aim to get them that hard. You’ll probably need to pump them up once every week or two.
Firm tyres go hand in hand with a smooth-running chain
If yours is rusty and stiff, get it replaced, then treat it to a weekly dose of chain lube. Not too much, though… if you use something like this Finish Line product then you want no more than one drop for each link of the chain. Turn the pedals backwards whilst you drip it on — and put something underneath so the stray drips don’t end up on the floor!
Check your brakes
If they don’t work properly, don’t ride the bike. Pull them on and try to push your bike along; the wheels shouldn’t go round if you’re squeezing the lever hard.
Try a different tyre. Puncture-resistant brands like Schwalbe Marathon are really tough — they’re great for city cycling because they’re very hard to damage. A bike shop will help you choose (and fit) the right ones for your bike.
If you haven’t ridden your bike for a while, or if you’re not sure it’s properly set up, then get it serviced by your local bike shop. It’s much easier to keep everything running properly once it’s in good order: just follow the tips above and you can’t go far wrong. You shouldn’t have to put up with problems that stop your bike bringing you pleasure. Fixing bikes is much, much cheaper and easier than fixing a car!
What I’m wearing:
All c/o Joanie
My bike is a Pashley Sonnet Ladies Hybrid Bike
Thank you to Joanie for sending me such beautiful and comfortable cycling clothes!