17 December 2008

It's Xmas....

When it comes to danger to cyclists, there is motorists, daft motorists and pedestrians. It is the latter group I fear the most, to be honest. And Xmas time sends pedestrians into overdrive, and makes getting out of town at night a bit of a nightmare. They become more careless, less considerate, more prone to stepping on to the road 'by ear', without looking.

All my possible exits from town are shopping areas (Deansgate, Shudehill, King St / Corporation St). People come out of shops laden with bags and boxes, and they just go for it. I have to be constantly on my toes - it all slows me down.

Reaching Great Ducie St is such a relief - at least then all I have to contend with is motorists.

08 December 2008

Coast to Coast on Ice

Our preparations for the C2C May 2009 continue....

You know the feeling. You are lagging behind your group and come to a fork in the road. After a mile or so the boy scout in you whispers that you can't be following five other cyclists, on a frosty December morning, and find no trace at all on the path. Make immediate u-turn, undo the wasted mile, catch up, find them all waiting for you, set off again...

Welcome to our second C2C preparatory ride: we chose what may well turn out to be the coldest morning of the year. Initially, thick fog seemed would be our main problem. Think again. After my mates jettisoned my sensible suggestion to go to Peel Tower and back, and opted to repeat the route we used last time - the one I found muddy and difficult for my city-leaning hybrid bike (and my definite road-cycling preference). The moment we left the road and headed down to the cobblestoned canal towpath in Radclife I knew there'd be trouble. True enough, going down a ramp I hit a sheet of ice and fell - nothing major, but did find back at home I had a small gash on the left knee. Minutes later it was the other C2C veteran, Ian, who fell heavily on his side - the trouble is, when you are on soil, any ice breaks under your weight and you are mostly OK, but ocassionally you run over a concrete slab covered in a perfect sheet of ice.
So, I started lagging behind - and got lost. Then, Ian and I lagged behind... and yes, though we should have known better, we took the wrong turn at another fork in the road. First thing we noticed was that the slope got steeper and steeper - much more than we could remember from last time. Then we realise the M60 is close on our left - we can clearly hear traffic. What better moment to find we haven't got any mobile phone numbers for the rest of the group (we have been communicating by email). Phone James' wife hoping she won't think anything's happened to him, then get into the 'where are you?' conversation ('I don't know'). We stayed put for long enough and eventually the rest of the group found us. We decided we were too far off course to carry on with the original route: instead we went over the motorway (the trail we'd taken by mistake lead to a footbridge) then down to the A56/M60 roundabout, cross the motorway again at that point and head for Heaton Park, which we crossed in the middle then half-circled on another icy mud-track. Then head for home.
On the plus side, at least we are getting to know each other - and now everybody knows I am not to be in charge of navigating!. More seriously, we will have to improve our planning and communication 'protocols' to avoid this in future. The C2C is signposted in most places... but there are a few points with potential for confusion. As it is inevitable that we become separated or scatter, we are going to need more than one copy of the map. Plus, of course, some are going to want to do off road bits whenever possible, while I for one intend to stick firmly to roads or very good cycle paths, like last time.
(note: the above photo is not mine - it's from Flickr)