During Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 I wrote a piece for online cycling magazine notinthepeloton:
To make the most of the COVID-19 lock down, I decided it would be a good idea to teach my son how to ride his bike without stabiliser wheels. The community hall car park is locked and empty, so makes the perfect practice area.
After initially trying to keep him focused on where he is going by himself, I soon realised that his urge to be destructive could be used for the greater good here… I told him to use his bike to crush the cones, which worked like magic. He was so busy thinking about crushing cones, he forget to think about cycling. This way, he rode for close to an hour with minimal support and had great fun.
It took a few attempts, but it looks like he’s now got it. Time to buy him a new bike… #ProudDadMoment
In March 2019 I started commuting to work by bicycle regularly, building up slowly from once a week to now 4-5 days a week. During the past 12 months and riding about 2000 km, I have learned and observed a number of things which I feel are worth sharing. I have listed them below in no particular order.
- Not all motorists are dangerous lunatics out to kill cyclists
Contrary to what seems to the the prevailing opinion among those who commute by bicycle, I found that on the whole, most drivers are fairly considerate and realise cyclists are vulnerable road users. I have had many an occasion where cars stopped to let me enter onto a main road, or where they stayed behind me patiently until they could overtake safely. These drivers will always get a thank you from me. Ofcourse, there are the few rotten apples who think they are more important than anyone else (not just cyclists) and have cut be off or performed a dangerous overtake. One of them lost an expensive wing mirror because of this as they did not leave me an escape route after cutting across me… it was crashing into the curb or into the mirror, I chose the latter.
- Rain is annoying, but not for the reason you think
Having cycled through the winter, I have dealt with a fair share of rain. Although riding on a nice sunny day is always better, rain is really not that bad if you dress accordingly: a good waterproof jacket, and a change of clothes at work/at home make it very manageable. The one thing that is very annoying though is visibility. As someone who needs glasses on a daily basis, I have learned that rain drops on glasses in the dark are very annoying. They prevent you from seeing what is ahead, and any headlight coming towards you will effectively blind you for a few seconds. If anyone knows of a good solution please do let me know.
- Winter is hard on bikes, very hard
I have had to up my maintenance game significantly during the November – January period. The combination of wet weather, crud on roads, gritting salt and oily lubricants are incredibly tough on any moving parts. Both front and rear wheel hubs have had to have a full service after 6 months from new, and a full drivetrain deep clean is a weekly affair instead of a monthly one during the summer. Additionally, caliper brakes require a weekly decrudding as everything sticks to them. On the plus side, I have gotten a lot quicker at doing the weekly maintenance, and used it as an excuse to buy a decent set of bike tools.
- Clothing is key, and layering is the secret
During colder months, it is tempting to go for thick jackets and warm jerseys. However, I found that during my 45-50 min on the bike I get quite sweaty, so using multiple thinner layers is more effective. As a side-note, I have found that cycling clothing can be quite expensive, but that there are really good value items from cheaper brands that do very well too. My favourite brand for clothing at the moment is Triban (a mid-range Decathlon brand), which I find does really good value for money jerseys, jackets and tights. Slightly more expensive is DHB, which is still fairly good value for money. Cycling kit doesn’t need to be expensive, but I feel that paying a bit extra for a good quality jacket and scrimping a bit on a jersey works better than the other way around.
- Cycling improves both physical and mental health
I have noticed that when I cycle to work, I arrive less stressed, and when I cycle home from work, I am more relaxed when I get home. More importantly, my family have noticed too, which encourages me even more to jump on the bike when the weather is less than ideal. My mental health has seem improvements since I started cycling, probably because riding for 2 hours a day gives me time to unwind, and I don’t have the luxury to be distracted by work-related thoughts when riding. Physically I feel fitter, although I have a few minor bike related niggles that started playing up. However, these should be easily solved by having a look at my position on the bike, so I will be looking for a professional bike fit over the next few weeks. It is not cheap, but as I spend 8-10 hours each week in the saddle, I think it is important that I am comfortable…
There are ofcourse other lessens learned, such as “falling off hurts, even at slow speeds”, but the above were some of the more regular thoughts I have had about my cycling commute. My 2020 goal is to complete the Cycling Weekly 5000 mile challenge, and to complete my first 100 km ride over the summer, hopefully commuting by bike will help me achieve these goals. Anyway, enough ramblings for now. Thanks for reading, and watch out for the next post.
UPDATE: My GTNetwork18 presentation can be found here.
Next week (22 November 2018) I will be presenting a paper at the inaugural Grounded Theory Network symposium at Liverpool John Moores University. The paper will focus on the justification of Glaserian grounded theory for investigating evidence-based practice by higher education course leaders. It should be a good experience, and a great general rehearsal for a manuscript I am preparing on the topic. For those interested I have made the abstract available here and the actual presentation here.
In addition to the presentation, I have also been invite to represent Glaserian grounded theory on a discussion panel and answer audience questions from my perspective. This is slightly more scary, as I am early on in my GT journey. However, it will be a good exercise and it has forced me to pick up the methodology literature again. Fingers crossed!
NEWS FLASH: My formal #ARUEdD research proposal has been approved by the university! After preparing for it for the past two years as part of phase 1 of the EdD (best thing ever!), I feel relieved and excited that it is finally there. I am actually starting EdD Stage 2. Next on the list is to get ethical approval for my project, and then it is time to start collecting data. Scary stuff! I look forward to talking to colleagues and course managers in other institutions. I am passionate about this project, because it affects me personally, and I think the outcomes may make a real difference to those in my role.
If you are interested in the project, I have added the proposal to this website. Please find it here.
Another snippet of good news: my #EBCMgt review paper with Dr Philip Howlett has been published a few days ago in International Journal of Educational Management (find it at DOI: 10.1108/IJEM-09-2017-0250). A blog post about it is on its way, and related conference material can be found here.
My third Knowledge Summary for Veterinary Evidence was published last week. It is on raw feeding and periodontal health in dogs, and is the result of joint work with James Oxley, who is a Writtle University College Animal Science graduate and is currently working as an independent researcher.
The paper can be found here: http://dx.doi.org/10.18849/ve.v3i3.153
On to the next one!
On 26 July I will be presenting the following poster at the 12th Anglia Ruskin Annual Research Student Conference. Click on the poster to get a copy of the corresponding abstract. Alternatively, click here.