REVIEW:- Temple Cycles – Leather Lock-on Ergo Grips

I’ve been riding my Brompton for over 18 months and with my average Brompton ride being approximately 8 miles, I’ve been looking into replacing the standard foam grips for something that will ease the discomfort on my palms. Having researched various different options I decided to go with a pair of leather grips from Temple Cycles.

Temple Cycles are a niche producer of bespoke and traditional steel framed bicycles, each one is built to order and all have that classic retro look. In addition to the bikes they have a range of accessories that complement that classic look, the Lock-On Ergo Grips are part of their leather collection.

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The grips are made from an acrylic sleeve wrapped in Italian leather, which is lovely and soft to the touch, aluminium bar ends, alloy locking clamps and stitched seams. The are available in two colours Honey (a light tan) and Chestnut (a dark brown), as you can see I went for the Chestnut.

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The hardest part of fitting the grips to the Brompton was removing the standard grips. I was hoping to remove them without damaging them, but the glue was too strong and I had to resort to cutting them off.

With the foam grips removed and the glue cleaned up, it was a case of sliding the new grips onto the bar, it was a little tight, but with a twisting and pushing motion the grips slid on.  I needed to move the right hand brake lever about 5mm towards the centre of the bar to make enough room for the grip to fully fit. Once on and in position you just need to tighten two allen screws on each grip, you will need a 3mm and 4mm allen key. The locking mechanism is simple, but very effective, the grips don’t slip or slide around at all.

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The extra width of the Ergo grip provides that much needed support for the palm of my hand, which has increased the comfort levels dramatically for me.  Previously I would nearly always wear padded gloves to ride the Brompton over longer distances, now I just love the feel of that soft leather. In fact, it makes me want to ride the Brompton more than ever.

If you are looking at replacing your standard Brompton grips or any other set of grips/bike for that matter, I can recommend these grips for style, quality, ease of fitting and more importantly comfort.  So far, the only thing I can find to fault them on is that I would have preferred the 3mm allen screw the other way up, so that I could see the screw head rather than a small hole, but that is purely down to aesthetics and a mild case of OCD on my part!

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The leather and design really suits the Brompton, I especially like the stitching and it seems right to install a British made grip (albeit Italian leather) on a British classic bicycle. I just need that matching Brooks saddle….

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Avro Vulcan Photoshoot

The delta winged Avro Vulcan, the UK’s once nuclear bomber, will take it’s last flight in October 2015. When the last airworthy Vulcan, XH558, lands at Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster for the final time it will truly be the end of an era for British aviation.

Whilst we will never again hear the famous Vulcan howl as it roars overhead, wowing the crowds with its graceful moves, it is still possible to get close to these impressive bombers. XH558 will be kept in active ground running order, carrying out fast taxi runs at Robin Hood Airport and while another Vulcan, XM655, has been pulling in the crowds since 1997 with her annual fast taxi runs at Wellesbourne Mountford airfield in Warwickshire.

Avro Vulcan XM655 - Dan Grant
Avro Vulcan XM655 at Wellesbourne Mountford, Warwickshire, UK

Vulcan XM655 is cared for by the 655 Maintenance and Preservation Society (MaPS) and is the youngest surviving Vulcan of the 136 that were produced, being the third but last off the production line in 1964.  She retired from active service in 1984 and landed at Wellesbourne later that year.  She remained untouched until the late 1990’s when 655 MaPs was formed with the aim of returning her to active ground running.

The volunteers of 655 MaPs give up most of their Saturdays to maintaining and preserving her for future generations and keeping her active for as long as possible, many of these volunteers are ex-RAF personnel who served on Vulcans.

XM655 is open to visitors on Saturdays between 10am and 4pm where you can take a look around the aircraft, take photos and even get a tour of the cockpit for a small donation.  Cockpit tours are free for members of XM655MaPs on production of their membership card.  Annual membership, at the time of writing, is £15 – more details are available on the XM655 website.

Another way of getting up close to the most powerful surviving Vulcan bomber at Wellesbourne is through special events. I attended one of these events on Saturday, organised by TimeLine Events and facilitated by 655MaPs, making the aircraft available for an afternoon and late evening photoshoot.  All of the photos in this post were taken by me during this one photoshoot.

The weather forecast for Saturday afternoon was heavy rain, although it would hopefully be drying up during the evening.  I arrived at Wellesbourne at 3pm with full wet weather gear, camera (including a new rain cover) and a tripod. The rain was hitting the windscreen and the cars wipers were on full, I pulled onto the airfield at Loxley Lane close to XM655’s hard standing area and onto a grass area set aside of parking, hoping that the rain would stop so that we would stand a chance of getting all the cars off the field.

It was a wet dreary autumnal October day, nevertheless the volunteers of 655MaPs had been working hard throughout the morning and in the rain preparing the aircraft and the site just for a group of people to take some photos. Not forgetting the hog roast stand from Food Yule Love selling the all important cups of coffee (and tea), jacket potatoes, pulled pork rolls complete with stuffing and apple sauce.

Wellesbourne is an active airfield and they had agreed to close the taxi way from the main runway in front of the hard standing.  The Vulcan had been moved onto the taxi way, with towing arm, genuine tug along with the ground power/generator.

Avro Vulcan XM655 - Dan Grant
XM655 on the main taxi way at Wellesbourne Mountford

Following a safety briefing, an outline of the days events and with the rain easing off we set about taking our photographs.

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XM655 service and access equipment was on hand to get different vantage points.

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Just as I made to the top of the access stairs viewing platform the sun broke through the clouds and made an appearance, allowing me to capture the aircraft in a late afternoon golden light with the oranges, yellows and reds of autumn foliage as the backdrop.

Avro Vulcan XM655 - TimeLine Events Photoshoot

A group of re-enactors, dressed in period clothing were on hand to make the scenes that little bit more authentic, replicating the 1960’s/70’s when the Avro Vulcan was a nuclear deterrent and maintained in a readiness state known as Quick Reaction Alert (QRA)

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Avro Vulcan XM655 - Getting ready for take-off

With the sun setting behind us the clouds started to break leaving a lovely clear sky as the new backdrop, Neil Cave and his team from TimeLine Events setup the lights illuminating XM655 from various angles.

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Towards the end of the evening, XM655’s Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) was fired up and her navigation, anti-collision and landing lights were switched on for that unique photo opportunity, giving the impression that XM655 was again on Quick Reaction Alert and at any moment she would taxi off to the runway and off into the night skies….

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Even with the rain it was an excellent day, in fact without the rain I wouldn’t have taken my best photo of the day, XM655 in the evening sun with it’s reflection in the standing water (first photo in this post).  The only negative thing I can say about the whole experience was that there seemed to be too much emphasis on setting the scene with the re-enactors, whilst they do make the scene, I would have preferred the opportunity to take more shots of just the aircraft.

I would recommend this type of photoshoot/event to anyone interested in aviation photography.

A selection of my XM655 photos are on Flickr

Why I’m Supporting Pumping Marvellous

Six weeks ago I started the CoeurCycliste blog and social media accounts with the aim of raising awareness of heart disease, with the hope that I can prevent someone else from having a Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack) due to their lifestyle choices.

On Twitter, I began following various heart charities and foundations, especially as I had just started my random monthly coffee money donations. Out of all of the charities I followed the Pumping Marvellous Foundation, a patient led Heart Failure charity in the UK, was the only one to reach out to me and take an interest in me and what I was doing.

Pumping Marvellous

Over the next couple of weeks, without me asking, Pumping Marvellous promoted my blog and  introduced me to fellow heart patients. Some of who had also taken up the challenge to fight heart disease through running and cycling raising funds for charity.  I was very impressed with the work they are doing and what it offers its beneficiaries, some of which are listed here: –

  1. Supporting – heart failure patients, family, friends and carers
  2. Advocacy – representing the opinions and needs of heart failure patients
  3. Self Management – help on how to self manage a heart condition
  4. Partnership – working with clinicians and decision makers to improve the care for people with heart failure
  5. Access – working with stakeholders in heart failure towards universal access of the best drugs and interventions
  6. Awareness – key to increasing the quality of care

As a result of this one single connection I have met one of my aims, offering HOPE to real heart patients that there is a future after such a life changing event.

I previously supported the British Heart Foundation and raised just over £1600 for them in a couple of cycle rides.  Please don’t get me wrong, the British Heart Foundation are doing fantastic work in the field of research. However, I now feel that the smaller charities need funding just as much, if not more so. Especially those working hand in hand with patients and families at what can be one of the most difficult periods in someones life.

More out of interest than any real need I looked at the public annual accounts submitted to Companies House for both the British Heart Foundation and Pumping Marvellous for the last reporting year (March 2014).  The BHF income for the period was £275 million whilst Pumping Marvellous income was just £103,500.  I now really wish that I chosen to support them earlier, my £1600 would have equated to nearly 1.6% of income compared to the 0.0006% of the BHF income.

I am proud to be a supporter of and fundraiser for Pumping Marvellous, they cannot do the much needed and valued work without funds.  Therefore, I have challenged myself to cycle from London to Paris in less than 24 hours.  This challenge coincides with the 5th anniversary of my heart attack, it’s not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s what makes it a challenge.

It would be fantastic if you could help me and Pumping Marvellous by making a donation. Knowing that people have given their support and hard earned money makes each mile (I’ve got 190 of them to cover) that little bit easier!  If you would like to donate you can do so on my JustGiving page or if you are in the UK you can text DANG72 followed by either £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070

 

Please donate, however small, it will mean so much to both Pumping Marvellous and myself.

Go on, you know you want to 🙂

Thank you in advance!   Please note – I am self funding the challenge, so all of the money donated will go to Pumping Marvellous.

For more detailed information please take a look at the Pumping Marvellous website and twitter feed on how they are helping not only patients but their families, friends and carers as well.

Dan (@CoeurCycliste) – Fundraising for Pumping Marvellous

Dan

Remain active over the winter, get outside and enjoy yourself.

With the temperature starting to drop, the evenings getting darker and the sportive season drawing to a close many people will be thinking of packing the bike and cycling kit away for the winter.  If this is you, please think again, you can easily continue to ride throughout the winter, you just need to plan ahead.

The change in conditions means that you aren’t likely to get a personal best or be hitting your highest average speeds. So enjoy the slower pace, grab a map, a camera and go out exploring, turn down that road you always pass, find new routes and the enjoy the views and ride.

I came across this lovely little lane, with it’s tunnel effect of trees and leaf covered verges, completely by accident one day whilst out cycling.

Autumn Lane

Another day, I got to enjoy a frosty morning with the mist slowly being burnt away by the rising sun, casting long shadows as I cycled through this avenue of oak trees.

Autumn Morning

The low evening sun with it’s golden light illuminating the landscape, gives you that added incentive to climb up through the valley to find the highest vantage point.

The Meon Valley from Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill

“There is no such thing as the wrong type of weather,  just the wrong choice in clothing” – I can’t remember who said it or where I first heard it, but it is so true.

Plan ahead, check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. You may need to invest in some winter specific bike clothing, but it’s money well spent. I would say at a minimum you should have a windstopper jacket, lightweight showerproof jacket (that you can pack away into a jersey pocket), a pair of roubaix lined bib tights, overshoes, full finger gloves, neck warmer/buff and a windproof skull cap.   If you’re looking for a skull cap I would recommend the Pearl Izumi Barrier Skull Cap, it’s the best for keeping your head and more importantly your ears warm!

Talking about the wind, its generally going to be stronger during the autumn and winter months. Plan your route accordingly and head out into the wind, that way you will have a tailwind for the return leg making the second half of your ride easier. If you want a quick and easy way of checking the general wind direction and speed, take a look at Earth it’s a virtualisation of global weather conditions that is updated every three hours.

Earth: A Global Map of Weather Condtions

If you have the right clothing you can just about tackle any weather conditions, the only time I won’t ride is if it is icy.  Wear what you think is appropriate for the conditions, but think layers.  It’s easy to take off a layer if you get too hot.

I’ve even cycled to the top of Butser Hill (the highest hill in the South Downs) in the snow.

Selfie at the top of a snowy Butser Hill

Again, think layers, here I’m wearing bib tights, a thermal long sleeve base layer, a normal cycling jersey, windstopper jacket, lightweight showerproof jacket, buff and skull cap.  If anything I was probably too warm climbing, but remember it’s colder on the descent.

The top of Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill
The top of Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill

The last item to consider is your bike.  You can ride any bike over the winter, but think about the effect the water and salt will have on the components over time.  I rode my normal road bike over the first winter, but ended up having to replace the headset and a wheel (quick release skewer seized in the hub) so I generally do pack it away and use my old mountain bike over the winter unless it’s dry and sunny. The most important thing is to clean and lubricate the bike after every winter ride if you want to keep it running smoothly and maintain the components.

Harvesting Lane, Butser Hill in the Snow

With my London to Paris ride coming up in April next year I’m going to need to put the training miles in over the winter so ideally I need a road bike for the winter.  I could have gone out a bought a winter road bike, but over my time cycling I have gained a nice collection of spares as certain parts have been upgraded.

I went out I bought a second hand frameset, a cheap set of bars, a stem and a saddle for approx £95 and built up my own winter trainer bike, the only item left for me to do now is add some mudguards and maybe look for a good set of winter tyres.

My Winter Trainer
My Winter Trainer

If you haven’t got a collection of spares, look at the second hand market, there’s some great deals to be had.  Just check the frame is in good condition, look for any dings and dents, rust etc, ask the seller if it’s had any crashes and check the frame/serial number of any potential purchase against a database of stolen bikes, such as Check That Bike and Bike Register

Remember it doesn’t need to cost a fortune, it’s a bike for all those days when the conditions aren’t suitable for your best bike.

The main point is to remain active over the winter, get outside and enjoy yourself.

I’m Going to Cycle London to Paris in 24 Hours!

Well, I’ve gone and done it….  I’ve just signed up to cycle between two iconic capital cities – London and Paris.  Most of these challenges are done over 2 to 3 days, so I’ve decided to do it in 24 hours!  This will be my hardest and longest challenge to date with 190 miles to cover.

I’ve cycled in both cities before, but never between them.  I’m looking forward to riding with a group of like minded cyclists challenging themselves with the same goal.  It will be good to see the sights of Paris again, hopefully the traffic will be quieter on the Champs-Elysées this time and I might get to cycle along it.

Paris

The fully supported London to Paris 24 Hour Sportive (approximately 80 to 100 riders) will set off from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich at 4pm on Saturday 30th April, from there we will head out of the city towards Surrey, climbing over the South Downs and onto Newhaven for the ferry to Dieppe.  The ferry leaves at 11pm (we need to be there for 10pm though) it’s a four hour crossing so hopefully allowing a couple of hours sleep.

Once we dock in Dieppe – at 4am because of the hour change – it’s a 120 mile ride through the French countryside, slowly the sun will rise and its onwards towards to Paris – arriving hopefully before 4pm (UK time).

I will be cycling for the Pumping Marvellous Foundation a patient-centric heart  charity focused on improved patient outcomes. Their services and products improve the ability of heart failure patients to self-care, recognising the early symptoms and self-interventions and steps that can be taken to alleviate common symptoms.

Please take the time to read more about the foundation on their website

If you would like to support me and make a donation I have set up a Just Giving page. I’m self funding the ride, so all the money raised through donations will go directly to Pumping Marvellous.

Just Giving Sponsor Me

It’s just over six months before the ride, so the commitment and training starts here…  Keep an eye out for updates on my blog and twitter account @CoeurCycliste with the hashtags #L2P24  #TeamMarvellous #GetOutside

Thanks for reading and please consider donating.

What’s your excuse not to cycle to work?

I once thought about cycling to work, this would have been sometime around 2009 and before my heart attack, I was living close to Heathrow airport and working in Central London approximately 20 – 25 miles away.

The thought occurred to me on one of my morning commutes – a short drive of about 2 miles to Hatton Cross tube station, park the car, jump on the Piccadilly line tube to Hammersmith, walk to the Hammersmith and City Line (just enough time for a Starbucks Double Tall Latte and cigarette) for another tube ride into Central London (going home was the reverse including yet another visit to Starbucks) – the thought lasted the time it took me to park the car and walk into the tube station. It consisted of the following points:

  1. I live too far away, so it isn’t really an option, what are you thinking
  2. The roads in London are far too busy and dangerous to cycle on
  3. I’ll get all hot and sweaty, there’s no showers at work
  4. Not enough time, I’ll be late.
  5. It’s cold this morning, imagine cycling in this…

Thought dismissed as completely impracticable, although with hindsight they aren’t valid reasons not to cycle to work and are just excuses, the lot of them…..

Fast forward five years, post heart attack, it’s now 2014 and I’m still working in Central London once or twice a week, but now I’m living 120 miles away in Worcestershire. By this time I had been cycling for three years, fully addicted to it and looking at increasing my time in the saddle. Then I got an email at work saying that the company had signed up to the Cycle To Work Scheme, the website had a big banner with “Save up to 42% on a new bike!” emblazoned across it.  It’s wasn’t long before that lost thought from 2009 resurfaced, You could cycle to work? After all you always need a new bike – except this time I really did live too far away.

As a cyclist and recovered heart patient, I took the time to find the solutions to all of the excuses on my list and started cycling to work.  If I can find a solution living 120 miles away from my place of work, I’m sure you can to.  You don’t need to be cycling in everyday of the week, twice a week will bring the health benefits – try it you might actually enjoy it and end up a regular commuting cyclist.

Life’s too short for regrets and if onlys, but if I did make a list of them dismissing that cycle to work thought in 2009 would certainly be towards the top – just take a minute to think about the health benefits 30 to 45 minutes of cycling a day would have made to my fitness and health, would I have had a heart attack at the age of 38?

As the saying goes – “Where there’s a will there’s a way” – if you really want to do something you will find the time and the means to do it.

Solutions to the Excuses: – 

1 – I live too far away?

Having moved to the Midlands my journey to work was slightly different now, but it still consisted of a short drive to a train station and tube journey across London.

Cycling the entire distance was obviously completely impracticable and out of the question, but I could ride to and from the stations removing the car and tube from my journey.

That was distance resolved, although it presented another problem with bikes on the train. My normal train would only take a few bikes and it was generally full each day, I ran the risk of getting to the station and not being able to get the bike in the carriage.  I had seen other commuters carrying folding bikes onto the train and their small sixteen inch wheels are a regular sight on the streets of London.   I’ve always been fascinated by the Brompton bicycle, especially watching other commuters folding them in seconds from a full bike to small neat square package.

Decision made I got myself a Brompton on the cycle to work scheme.

Folded Brompton
My Folded Brompton Bicycle

I can already hear the excuses starting – “That’s fine for you, I don’t travel by train to work, I have to drive in” – Well, I’ve thought about this one too and have a solution.  In fact, I even used it myself for six months.  The trains into London were getting expensive, I found it much cheaper (and surprisingly quicker somedays) to drive into London, park outside the congestion zone and cycle the last 3 miles to the office.  Admittedly the Brompton does make it easier to get a bike into the boot of a car.

If you are serious about wanting to cycle to work (you’ve read this far, so I take it you are) look at your current journey, could you park 3 to 5 miles away from work and cycle the last little bit?  As you get stronger and fitter you can start parking further away and cycle more of it, you might even end up cycling the entire distance.  You will also find that you start saving money, the further out of town you go the cheaper the parking charges will be and you will also be using less fuel.

2. City roads are too busy to cycle on.  

Once you take the plunge you’ll find it’s not that much different than anywhere else you ride, but the key is to find the quieter roads, cycle paths and lanes.

Take Oxford Street as an example, it’s packed with buses, taxi’s, pedestrians and set after set of traffic lights.  It was the most direct for me so I’ve cycled it many times and it’s certainly doable, although you do need your wits about you.  If you take the roads that run parallel to it, you will find there’s much less traffic making it so much easier. As you can see from the two Strava rides below, the quieter roads extended my commute by less than a quarter of a mile and just over a minute.

Oxford Street - 3 miles 19 minutes
Oxford Street – 3.2 miles in 19 minutes 28 seconds
Side Roads - 3 miles 21 minutes
Side Roads Parallel to Oxford Street  – 3.4 miles in 21 minutes 37 seconds

If you don’t know the area that well, take a look at a map from Ordnance Survey, check the route on a day off to make sure it’s suitable – you don’t want to find yourself cycling down a muddy bridleway on your way to work, coming home is a different story!

OS Shop

3. I’ll get all hot and sweaty, there’s no showers at work

The key here is to cycle at a slower pace, after all you are commuting to work and not racing for that PB (Personal Best) or KOM (King Of the Mountain) on a Strava segment.  Easing off the pace will still increase your heart rate and be beneficial to your health, you just don’t build up a sweat.  Take advantage of the time, it’s less stressful than driving and gives you time to clear your thoughts before you get to work, take the time and enjoy the ride.

Plan your week in advance, carry a change of clothes with you or perhaps drive to work on Monday with your clothes for the week, cycle Tuesday to Thursday and then drive back in on the Friday to collect your kit.  If you do carry your clothes try to avoid a rucksack on your back and opt for a bike that can carry your bag for you. Doing so stops you getting hot and sweaty behind the rucksack.

You could also try products such as Muc-Off’s Dry Shower that you can use to freshen up when you get to work if you can’t get a shower, you’ll smell of coconut for the day, but that is preferable to the alternative.

Speak to your colleagues and employer, if you can sell the benefits of cycling to work you might be able to convince them to install a shower. If they have signed up to a Cycle to Work scheme they probably already know the benefits a cycling workforce will bring them and may have already thought of adding showers. They might just need someone to show them there’s an actual need for them to do it.

4. Not enough time – I’ll be late

In my case, this just wasn’t an issue.  It was actually quicker for me to cycle the 3 miles through Central London than to take public transport.

One afternoon a colleague said that he could get from the office in Holborn to London Waterloo train station before me by taking the bus.  Unfortunately it was a day that I didn’t have my bike with me, not a problem I said I’ll use a Boris Bike instead (a public hire scheme for bikes in London introduced by the Mayor Boris Johnson). I was a member of the scheme and had my access token with me – challenge accepted! We both left the office by the main entrance at exactly the same time, he headed off in the direction of the 521 bus whilst I walked to the nearest Boris Bike dock in a road behind the office.

I didn’t do anything differently from normal and seven and a half minutes later I was docking my bike at Waterloo and texting my colleague to say I’ve arrived – I quickly got a text back saying that he was just about to cross the Thames and that he couldn’t believe I was already at the station. An easy win for me and the bike.

Office to Waterloo on a Boris Bike
Office to Waterloo on a Boris Bike

You will find taking the quieter side roads and cycle paths will avoid most of the rush hour traffic, if you do come across queuing traffic you can normally easily pass it on a bike anyway.

Having said that, you may find that it does take a little longer by bike, if it does the easy answer to this is to get up earlier!  You will better for it in the long run.

5. It’s cold this morning, imagine cycling in this… 

I’ve cycled in almost every type of weather there is, snow, rain, hail, sun, wind and even -3 degrees celsius at 3am in the morning on an overnight 100 mile charity cycle ride.  I can say with confidence that there’s no such thing as the wrong type of weather, just the wrong type of clothing.

Cycling in the Rain
Absolutely soaked to the skin, but loving it! – (Sportive Photo Ltd)

Investing in various types of clothing is money well spent.  The real tip is to wear layers, get a decent baselayer that will keep you warm and then add layers depending on what the weather is doing that day, such as a waterproof jacket if it’s raining.

A cycling adage springs to mind – dress for the ride and not the car park – by that I mean think about what the weather is going to be like once you’ve warmed up and into the ride itself, wrapping up at the start might make you far too hot later on.

I now love riding in the colder weather, it’s amazing how soon you warm up once you start exercising.  If you’re still cold, you’re not pedalling hard enough!

Now let me ask that first question again,  What’s your excuse not to cycle to work?   Tell me in the comments below or on Twitter and I’ll find a solution to it for you!