Cycling Culture in Barcelona

Our fab intern Melissa Wagner reports on her recent trip to Barcelona:

One of the most inviting things about Barcelona is how convenient cycling and public transportation is.  Priority is given to the safety of both pedestrians and cyclists by keeping them separate from other traffic within the city.

Taken at Park Güell

        Right outside my hostel cycling paths crossed through a tree lined playground separating cycle commuters from cars. Even along the beach where vehicles are not permitted, cyclists have their own bicycle lanes.  Along the most congested part of Barcelona, Las Rumbas, there are three larger shared use sidewalks providing enough space for cyclists and pedestrians to stay out of the busy street.

Taken at Casa Milà

        Barcelona has bikes for hire called Bicing, which are very similar to the Barclays cycle hire scheme here in London.  Walking around Barcelona, it’s common to see people using these bikes to travel around the city.  Unlike Rome, public transportation in Barcelona is organised and easy to use.  Even with the benefit of their efficient Metro network, people still take advantage of the hire bikes and designated paths.  One of the factors that makes cycling so appealing in the capital is that unlike many other parts of Europe Barcelona benefits from beautiful weather all year round.  During the month of February, the weather was on average 14 degrees Celsius and the sun was out and shinning all day long.  We even spent one afternoon on the beach and although it was a little windy, people were brave enough to jump in the chill winter sea!

For more information on Barcelona and great locations to visit on your Holiday, click here

For locations on Bicing, click here (sorry, not in English)

Top rated bike tours in Barcelona:

Fat Tire Bike Tours & Biking Barcelona 

Dunwich Dynamo 2011 – Last minute tips

For those of you braving the dodgy weather tonight to take part in the Dunwich Dynamo, a 120 mile ride from East London to Dunwich on the Suffolk coast, here are my top tips of how to have a safe, enjoyable ride in any weather.

Take real food – for the past two years there has been little left at the rest stop. Electrolyte gels and bars are important but at some point you are going to want some good savory carbs. Try making your own energy bars with oats, honey and fruit or pack a pasta salad. This recipe on BikeRadar.com looks tasty and uses all organic ingredients.

Pack Light – 120 miles is a long way and feels even longer if you have everything and the kitchen sink on your back. If you have a rack take panniers rather than wearing anything on your back. I’ll be riding my road bike this year with my waterproof Cyclodelic saddle bag plus a hip pouch for a few extra items.

Spare Socks – If you can only fit in one piece of spare clothing to change into at the beach make it your favourite pair of wooly socks as nothing is worse than cold soggy feet! I am definitely going to be wearing my Sealskinz on the way there this year  to keep my feet dry on the bike, grab a last minute pair from London Fields Cycles if you don’t already own some.

Go in the Sea – The first year I took part in the Dunwich Dynamo I didn’t do this and suffered from really sore muscles for a good few days after. The past two years I have always gone for a long dip in the sea. There is something about the cold salty water that is great for muscle recovery and you’ll wake up feeling fresh and ache free the next day.

Sunday Lunch – After indulging in the infamous sugary buns and full english breakfast at the cafe on the beach head up to The Ship at the top of the hill leading down to Dunwich Beach and treat yourself to fish and chips. Delicious.

And the obvious if you have a helmet wear it, take good lights (Exposure Lights are best if you have the cash to spare), padded shorts will definitely save you from a sore bum 20 miles in and can be worn discreetly under leggings and a Cyclodelic Sports Dress or your favourite jersey, buy a map at the beginning just in case, make sure your mobile is charged, bike in good nick and you have tools and the ability to fix a puncture (or can ride with someone who does!).

 

Hope to see you all in London Fields in a few hours. I’ll be there around 7PM with my Cyclodelic road bike and leopard print helmet.

Happy Cycling!! Amy x

Stretching the City with Sally Lovett

Backbending for better breathing and perfect posture

Although it depends on the type of bike you ride, most of us adopt a cycling posture of leaning forward and hunching over our handlebars. This rounding of the upper back not only upsets the natural curve of your spine (leading to postural misalignment over time), but it can also inhibit your ability to breathe well. By leaning in on our chest and lungs, we tend to take shorter, more shallow breaths – rather than breathing fully and deeply for a more nourishing and energizing breath.

Try bridge pose for an invigorating back bend which will counter-stretch a hunched-over-handlebars upper back, release tension in the body and open up the chest to make more room for improved breathing.

Begin by warming up the body with a few sun salutations and standing poses. Then, lying down on your mat bend your knees and with feet flat on the floor bring your heels a few inches away from your buttocks. Take your arms down along the sides of your body and move the shoulder blades away from the ears. Press down through the feet to lift the hips away from the floor, draw the tops of the shoulders under the body and interlace the fingers. With fingers interlaced press your triceps and blades of the hand into the mat below you. Try to raise your hips higher with each exhale, keeping the knees parrallel to the hips and breath deeply to open your chest on every inhale.

Stay in the pose for anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly onto the floor. Finish by hugging your knees into your chest as a counter-stretch.

Always be mindful when practicing backbends – listening to any sensations which arise and not pushing beyond your bodies limits.

If you’d like some more yoga tips for cyclists, Stretching the City will be hosting a ‘Yoga for Cyclists’ workshop from 3-4.30pm on Saturday 19thMarch at Pop Up Yoga in Angel. For more details and to book your place visit http://stretchingthecity.com/Workshops.html

 

Stretching the City – Part 2

It’s that time of year when our fair-weather friends abandon their bikes and consign themselves to a few months of cramped buses, tubes and trains. So, for those of you that are braving precarious potholes and peeling freezing fingers off your handlebars, I take my hat (or helmet) off to you – and bring you a yoga ‘sun salutation’ sequence to to keep you warm, flexible and full of energy.

Comprising of 12 flowing postures, Surya Namaskara (the sanskrit term for Sun Saluation) is performed in a single, graceful flow, whereby each movement is coordinated with the breath. It’s traditionally practiced at the beginning of each yoga session, but it can also be a fantastic practice in itself if you haven’t got time for anything else. A single round consists of two complete sequences: one for the right side of the body and the other for the left. Try and work up to five repetitions on each side – you’ll really notice the difference. Different styles of yoga perform the Sun Salutation with their own variations. However, the flow presented below covers core steps used in most styles.

Begin by standing nice and tall in ‘tadasana’. Feet are hip-width apart, spine is lengthened and arms alongside you or hands in prayer position at your heart. Take a few deep breaths here.

Inhale, raising your arms above your head and bring you palms to touch one another. Gaze up at your thumbs and gently arch your back, as feels safe.

Exhale as you bend over, folding forward at your hips. Bring your hands to the floor alongside your feet, bending your knees if necessary.

Inhale and step your right leg back into a lunge, closely followed by your left leg.

Retain the breath as you hold plank.

Lower yourself to the floor on an exhale – first lowering your knees to the floor, followed by your chin keeping your elbows pinned by your ribs and then scooping forward so your chest comes to the floor.

Inhale up to cobra, a light back bend. Use your arms to lift your torso and only bend back as far as feels comfortable and safe. Keep elbows bent.

Exhale, lifting from the hips and push yourself back into downward dog. Push away with your hands and feet – as if trying to rip the mat in two. Raise your tailbone up to the ceiling.

Inhale and step the right foot forward into a lunge.

Exhale, bringing the left foot to join the right and fold forward into a forward bend.

Inhale raising up slowly, keeping the arms extended.

Exhale, and in a slow, sweeping motion, lower your arms to the sides. End by bringing your hands up into prayer position. Repeat the sequence, stepping with the left leg.

 

If you’re keen to learn more about yoga and develop your practice, why not sign up for a 6 weeks beginners course? The course will explore the key postures, principles and philosophies of hatha yoga in a small and friendly group. Courses start in the new year in various locations around Shoreditch and Islington. Find out more and book your place here: http://stretchingthecity.com/Beginners_Courses.html

 

 

Namaste,

 

Sally x

STRETCHING THE CITY

 

Emily’s Monday Fix No. 13 – Cycling Holidays

If like me you live in a city, this week why not plan a break, whether that be to the country side or as far away as Australia. I’m all for adventure and I love exploring and when I combine that with my bicycle I always see more.

On the way to Fiskado with the wrong shoes!

My all time favorite place to cycle is Kefalonia Island situated roughly 30 miles off the west coast of mainland Greece.  The whole Island is very beautiful and green but the northern end is like a second home to me. Surrounded by the Ionian sea there are spectacular views east out to Ithaki and out west to Greece’s most famous beach, Myrtos. Every time I’m there I borrow a bike and ride to the most amazing destinations on the Island, discovering ancient sites and ruins and secluded beaches, all through stunning country ride.

When in Kefalonia I stay in Agria Efamia, a small Village located in a central spot on the Island. Using this as my base I can ride to Myrtos for the sunset, Assos for a 32 minute hill climb challenge or Sami only 10kms away and rich with the ancient history of the three cities and the acropolis of Sami up in the hills. For a more challenging bike ride, Fiskado is very beautiful and the pre 1963 Earthquake, original Venitian style buildings are still standing. Just make sure you wear the right shoes for this one!

Kefalonia has no shortage of other activities too, I love swimming and jumping off the huge white rocks into the crystal blue water and the Greek nights with traditional music and food.  The best thing is that at the end of the day you can relax at any of the locally owned bars and restaurants and be well looked after while recovering from your days fun.

A view of Assos from the Castle

Tips for holiday rides:

Take a comfortable backpack, pannier or saddle bag for long rides and include…

A phone in case of emergency

Check a map first to get your distances right before. Road signs are pretty clear but not always so take a map with you.

Water and slow energy releasing snacks such as dried fruit, nuts and flapjacks

Make sure your bike is checked over and get your tyres pumped up before you leave. I’d love to have my fixed bike with me but having a geared bike helps so much in the rugged conditions while still being challenging.

Definitely wear the right shoes, I rode 3hrs to Fiskado in a skirt and silver flats, hmm big mistake!

Just because your on holiday doesn’t mean you have to soften up! Try setting a goal, test yourself, see great amazing things.. and then pass out on a beach!

For more info and all your travel needs contact Johnny at www.kefaloniatravel.com

Have fun and explore!!

Emily x

Emily’s Monday Fix No 12…Two Wheels Are Better Than Four

Lets do our bit where we can! In the past helping families getting their kids to school, I have almost always been expected to drive the children sometimes only down the road to and from school by car. This means traffic, finding a car parking space, petrol, insurance…etc!  I have been really lucky over the past few months to work closely with two lovely kids aged 4 and 6yrs who are so enthusiastic about riding there bikes that we now cycle to and from school everyday rain, hail or shine!
After initially meeting the family, the children quickly realised my love for bikes. Sienna, the 6yr old girl, was particularly impressed with my colourful tyres and immediately introduced me to her bicycle, keen for us to go for a pedal together. As my first week was during school holidays we had plenty of time to spend together exploring Victoria Park, London Fields and the Canals of the East and by the time school commenced they were very confident little cyclists.
It didn’t take too much coaching for me to feel confident that they understood road rules and safety. Teaching them to stay left and stop at every street so that we can always cross together. The key to Winter cycling success is to keep them wrapped up on crisper mornings by dressing them in gloves, scarves, tights and of course helmets, bells and lights.
With the recent cut of Cycling England leaving the future of Bikeability hanging in the balance, it is up to us as parents, nannies, sisters and friends to make sure that we don’t now have another generation lost to the joys of cycling. With safety always in mind the children have become  familiar with direction, road rules and correct cycling etiquette. In a city that is already leading the way in cycling as a way of life I think there is nothing wrong with ditching the car for two wheels at any time!
BENEFITS ARE…..
Time spent getting to and from school is quicker.
Save money spent on petrol.
It’s greener and saves our planet from car pollution.
Keeps the kids (and you!) fit.
Tires them out at the end of the day.
Exposes children to the popular and friendly bicycle community.
Gets the blood circulating especially in the mornings and will keep them warmer through winter.
The oxygen to the brain gets them alert for a day at school.
…and of course its totally fun!
Make every day an adventure and maybe even start a trend amongst the other parents and children at your school! Cycling for all ages is fun :)
Have a great week,
Emily x

Stretching the City with Sally Lovett

New guest blogger, cycling yoga guru Sally Lovett from ‘Stretching the City’, joins us each month with a special post on yoga for cycling.

Yoga & Cycling

While the rhythmic and repetitive motion of cycling can be deeply meditative, the downside of this action is that the continuous cylces of repetitive motion tax one set of muscles while under-utlizing the rest. So, for example – cyclists tend to have strong quads and glutes, but their hip flexors are tight and weak. By crouching towards their handlebars, cyclists can also be prone to rounded shoulders and back. Over time and distance, these can all create muscular imbalances that can lead to misalignment and injury.

But it’s not all bad news! Through dedicated yoga postures you can stretch and strengthen any problem areas and also gain a greater awareness of any niggles and injuries. Here are four ‘asanas’ (postures) you should try performing regularly after a ride:

1. Low lunge

The low lunge opens the hip flexors, which can be very tight in cyclists and the slight backbend opens up your chest and releases your upper body which is likely to be tight from hunching over your handlebars or carrying a backpack.

2. Downward Dog

One of the most recognised yoga poses, downward dog will stretch out stiff hamstrings and calves, reduce tension in the neck and elongate your spine. Push your heels to the floor and your tailbone to the sky to really increase the stretch.

3. Pigeon pose

Gradually lean your weight forward over your bent leg to enjoy this intense stretch and classic hip opener. . Don’t tolerate any knee pain in this pose – placing a cushion under the buttock of your bent leg should help.

4. Supine bound angle pose

Say goodbye to hunched handlebar syndrome and open up the chest with this supported back bend. Lie on your back with a rolled blanket or bolster under your tordo. Outstrech your arms, bring the soles of your feet together and your heels away from your groin to wherever feels comfortable. Place suport under your knees if need be. Stay here for 5-10 minutes focusing on the breath.

Yogic breathing

Yoga also helps prevent injuries simply by teaching you better body awareness. By being more body-aware, you can get into the habit of self-checks, to see how you’re holding yourself on the bike and any niggles or injuries you may be causing.

Sally Lovett is a London-based yoga teacher, teaching general and beginner level hatha yoga classes under the name of her company ‘Stretching the City.’ Students can join Sally for adhoc drop-in classes or take part in a bespoke 6 week beginners course. The next beginners course starts in Angel on Tuesday 26th October. Visit www.stretchingthecity.com for more info.


Emily’s Monday Fix 11….Cycle Safely

It was around midday and I was helping Andrea move her belongings by bike from her old apartment on Ball Pond Road to our new place. I was perched at the windowsill watching the world go by as andrea packed her things up. Noticing she needed help I jumped back inside and helped her fill one bag…..what seemed like only a few minutes later I heard the sound of an ambulance out the front but thought nothing of it. We headed down stairs to cycle our first load only a km up the road when to our shock we had walked into the most horrible scenario imaginable. A cyclist half underneath a huge heavy tip truck turning left at the lights. They were still. There was one ambulance, and a few pedestrians at this early stage. It seems I had missed the actual accident from the windowsill by only minutes. I could see the cyclist under the truck and their bike not far away, wheels all twisted and bent. It looked like the impossible and certain defeat of life for sure. I could see the face and upper body under the truck wheels, I felt so heavy hearted. It was silent and everything seemed still, it was a very serious accident. There were a few other cyclists walking past, we were all very concerned. You could see we all felt compassion for our fellow rider in trouble. The paramedics began to attend to the injured cyclist, still not moving. It seemed wrong to hang around on the street watching as another ambulance and two fire trucks arrived so we decided to cycle up the road to drop off one load. Coming back 20 minutes later and the whole street all the way to Kingsland Rd was closed. I went up stairs and resumed my place at the window sill praying they would be OK. It didnt look good.

It appeard the truck turning left at the lights did quite a large turning circle around the corner, the driver must not have seen the tiny cyclist on the inside, perhaps there was some confusion as to the direction the truck was going. The truck ended up pretty much in the centre of the intersection turning left.
It was a very sad sight, after over an hour they had the stretcher out, paramedics were under the truck helping ease out the lower half, eventually the rest of the body came out, it seemed the body had not been completely caught under the wheels after all. I couldn’t tell if the cyclist was male or female as their body was lifted up onto the stretcher. Neck and back in braces we saw them lifting both arms, alive and moving! I was so anxious by the whole past hour but so happy to see movement. So, so happy. To watch all those paramedics work so hard and so calmly on saving that life was very moving. There were about 8 medical people there, police to section the road, firemen on stand by in case, I supposed, they had needed hydrolics to lift the truck. I noticed a young man there, possibly a friend, some people from the neighbourhood and a few passing cyclists. All desperately wanting the injured cyclist to live.
Since the accident there has been much support and concern posted on the London Single Speed Fixed Gear Forum, with well wishes of  a speedy recovery. I have since found out from a family member that the injured cyclist was a 23 year old woman who is in recovery.
I often forget as a cyclist on the road how easy it is for our soft unprotected bodies to get taken away in an instant. Although I don’t want anything to stop me from cycling, since that day I have felt shaken. Despite my assertive nature I have clearly been affected by what I saw. If one good thing comes out of this accident it is that I will NEVER go near a lorry or bus again, I will take no risks and I intend to pass this message onto everyone I meet. There is no point trying to rush past HGV’s for the sake of a few seconds because we have to assume that on a bicycle you can’t always be seen.

Tips

Cycle sensibly and assertively to help yourself stay safe.

The picture above illustrates all of a lorry drivers blind spots in red. Look how vulnerable we are. It is pretty shocking to see just how large their blind sport are. I would not like to be a truck driver…
Please be super safe on the roads because its not worth dying today.
Emily x