Gone for a Burton

I go for a cycle with one particular friend about once a fortnight. He uses his bike as his main form of transport and we try and do a 25 to 30 mile ride at a fairly slow speed with a planned nosh stop half way, trying to go somewhere different each time. We wanted to try getting to Burton, going on route 54 through Alrewas to the Wychnor turn then taking the footpath along the A38 up to Branston. IMG_1559 Next to the Little Chef were these lambs. Don’t think they will make it on the menu there but certainly somewhere. I have been following the exploits of Phil and his #30daysofbiking posts and new he lived Burton way, so asked for a recommendation for a pit stop. More of that later. Phil is riding each day in April and also raising money in memory of his late mother. It reminds me of the booklets I made for my friend I was cycling with today. I still have  few left if anyone wants to purchase one, all proceeds to St Giles Hospice. IMG_1537 I knew there was a tunnel under the A38 near Branston Water Park, a lovely well lit underpass. Like Tamworth there seems to be lots of bits of cycling infrstructure in Burton. Not living there I can’t say how useful it is but as we cycled from Branston into town to test them out there weren’t many other bikes about. IMG_1543 Lunch was at the highly recommended Helen’s Bakehouse & Tearoom where I had a lovely veg soup with warm cheese scone and a piece of bakewell to take home. I reckon this place was like this long before the recent vintage/shabby chic fad came about and will be long after. Warm, friendly and tasty, with tea cosies knitted by a customer. IMG_1547 We needed to be back so after a quick peek in the Market Hall we set off back the same way. This month I will end up cycling on 27 of the #30daysofbiking, I was away for three and couldn’t manage a ride on those days. On average over the year that is about how often I use my bike, so around 330 days of biking each annum, taking into account those days when you don’t fancy  it and those when the weather makes it not worth it. The point of #30daysofbiking I think, is how many of our journeys could be done by bike as an alternative to another form of transport. It also throws up really interesting stories like the ones experienced by Phil during the month. IMG_1562 Passing back through Alrewas I popped a coin in the honesty box for a jar of blackberry and apple jam on a garden wall on Post Office Road. Another ride with lots of chinwagging along the way. Who knows where it will be next time, but with weather and company like today it will sure be fun.

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Quite a surreal evening ride tonight. We met at Speakers Corner and before we had chance to leave a strange chap came staggering by mumbling something about ‘breaking up for the holidays’ clutching a gnome.

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We headed off through town to take a look at the new Southwell Mott car park on the Walsall Road.

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Finally, a bizarre sight outside a hostelry on Bird Street awaited as we made our way back.

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It seems like a dream. Did it really happen?

 

Cycle Rides For All to Fisherwick Lakes this Sunday

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The April Cycle Rides For All is this Sunday to Fisherwick lakes, a round trip of about 8 miles from Freedom Cycles at the bus station in town. Last months ride was cancelled due to heavy rain (only the third time in six years). But let’s think positive thought and plan to bring your bikes at 10AM for a free check over and join the trained volunteers as we ride to the Lakes (photo above from last years ride).

To find out more please call Freedom Cycles on 01543 411633 or Karl Sproston at Lichfield District Council on 01543 308846.

Growing with Lichfield Re:Cycle

At the risk of repeating myself, yet another busy week for Lichfield Re:Cycle. With the spell of good weather we have had there has been a steady trickle of donations and requests for the services of the project. At the moment we are working on eleven bikes for various people, from a family of five to a couple who are looking to cycle for health, to a Mom and her two kids looking to go out together. More people are waiting for bikes when those have been done.

IMG_1437We went to visit a young lad in North Lichfield who had got himself a new bike recently but was having problems getting the gears to move the chain onto the smallest chain ring. We offered to visit him and show him how to make the adjustments needed, taking him through the process step by step. As we were talking it turned out that his neighbours turned to him for help with pumping up tyres and making small adjustments on the fleet of neighbourhood bikes. We thought wouldn’t it be great if in each road there was someone who you could turn to for help and advice for your bike? A project like ours would be very happy to give training and advice to people who could fulfill that role in their community.

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This bike above came in this week. The next day I went to visit Iain who had offered us an adult hybrid bike. We chatted and it turned out his son could do with a new bike, something with gears to replace his single speed bike he is rapidly outgrowing. Offering to help out and maybe clean a bike or two I immediately thought of the red 24 inch wheel bike we had just got. Rather than project volunteers do all the work and Iain’s son wait a few weeks until they got round to it, we could just give it to Iain with some watered down degreaser to crack on with it. The bike is fine, just needing a really good clean and lube. Then as soon as it is done one of our mechanics can visit Iain and give it a check over and service and potentially within days it will be ready for his son to enjoy.

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This week we collected this fantastic donation from George. He has recently bought himself an electric bike and has done many miles on this Claud Butler mountain bike with wonderful swept back handlebars. We have someone in mind for this already.

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We have started to turn some of the many small bikes we are given (but are more difficult to rehome) into a fleet of balance bikes, this one is going to a family with two young daughters this week. We continue to try and collect every bike offered to us but it is hard for us to go too far out and we have been concentrating on the donations within Lichfield that we can walk to and ride or push back.

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We met with a new volunteer mechanic this week with bike shop experience. There are many talented people out there and lots of goodwill from people. When I started this blog two years ago in April 2013 the phrase I used at first was community cycling culture. What I love about this project is how it is making connections between people and communities while supporting those who will benefit most from working with us. We have made an application for funding to be a totally mobile, bike powered service and tool library that can come to the places people want at times that suit them. With some better tools, some training maybe and somewhere to store the donations we can grow the project further into more of the nooks and crannies of Lichfield.

Friday night ride out

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The last Friday of the month is traditionally (though not in Birmingham for some reason) the night for Critical Mass rides the world over. We tried a few last year in the same spirit, the Lichfield Dérive. So this Friday, seeing as the weather and light are improving, all are invited for a fun ride around town in a joint ride with the Dérive, Lichfield Fixed Gear and any of the #30daysofbiking folk that fancy. Meet at 6:30PM at Speakers Corner.

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I regularly cycle to Bridgtown every few weeks. Having rode my fixie and got used to riding harder for the last few weeks I went for it today on my geared bike and managed to get there ten whole minutes quicker than the last time I went. I met a very talented friend and as my bike is left on the street within view I just took a cheap cable lock for it. Stupidly I picked up the wrong lock so didn’t have the key for it and broke my golden rule of always keeping my lock locked when not in use so that if you forget your key you don’t get into a pickle.

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So when the inevitable happened my friend showed some skills from a possible misspent youth and managed to pick the lock for me in seconds with a bobby pin. Perhaps we should include this as an essential tool in our upcoming urban maintenance demonstrations for Lichfield Re:Cycle? Or perhaps just the importance of getting a decent lock or locks? Just this week I heard of a bike being pinched from Lichfield City train station.

As I left Bridgtown I found part of the reason why I had got there so quick, a stiff breeze in my face that I hadn’t noticed when it was on my back. Riding with a free wheel on such an up and down route is easier when you take speed from the downs  into the ups. I am determined to try it fixed wheel at some point this year when I have got a bit more stamina. There are a few good long drags including up Abnalls.

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On the way back I decided to close the gates behind me on the short access only section through Spade Green. The person who has been copying me into emails in the campaign to get the route improved and the restrictions enforced by police action has been encouraging people to use the gates for the purpose they were installed for. Apparently abuse is common when you do, but no one came while I did them, though they would have only been closed for a couple of minutes at either end as I was passed both ways soon after closing them. The mechanism on the one at the Lichfield end has been broken so just a loop of string holds it closed.

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One bike at a time

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As the Lichfield Re:Cycle project develops it’s fascinating to see how it meets the needs of different people. This week we have worked with a young person in Whittington who was walking into Lichfield and literally wearing out his shoes to save the £4.20 bus fare. We got him sorted with a bike and one of our trustees donated a track pump. We got some lights and a lock from the local PCSO and he was sorted. As we pulled away from his house after dropping it off he hopped on the bike and was away. I’ve spotted it locked up in town twice since and posted a photo on the #30daysofbiking page above.

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Also this week we helped Ben and Rebecca by loaning them bikes for the Easter holiday. They are visiting from America and will be back again in the summer. Mum cycles and we will be looking for a large framed bike for Dad too so they can cycle together. We also had some helmets to loan them.

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Our volunteers went to Curborough Community Centre last Tuesday and there they met two people whose children will hopefully be getting bikes through the project to replace ones that they have outgrown. The core of the project is finding the right bike for each person, making sure they are as confident and capable of riding and maintaining it as possible and that income is not a barrier to giving cycling a go. I think it is something that has got a lot of potential.

Scouting for bikes

Last night the Lichfield Re:Cycle project finished the last of four Tuesday night sessions in March with the 5th Lichfield Scouts, helping them to work towards their Cyclist Activity Badge.

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Splitting the group in two we we did two sessions with each. The first was looking at basic bike maintenance and adjustments including each of the scouts bikes getting a good check over with plenty of minor repairs done. The other session was a practical one in the car park practicing some skills and playing some fun games. We also covered helmets and lights while outside in the dark.

As well as skill sharing and demonstrations, the other main part of the project are the donated bikes we receive that volunteers service and repair before they go out on free, long term loan to people who will use them.

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Scout leader Matt was in need of a bike to be able to complete the ride and we were also able to give a bike to Scout Ross as well.

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When the nights get lighter we will go back and do some more confidence building around cycling together. To achieve the award the group need to do a 30k off road ride and we will be giving them advice on route planning as well. Thank you to the seven volunteers who came out to do the four sessions and to the 5th Lichfield Scouts for the very generous donation of £40 from troop funds to the project and letter of thanks signed by all the Scouts.

Getting a habit – 30 days of biking

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Today is the first day of the annual 30 days of biking pledge that thousands of people across the globe take. You’ve still got time to make the pledge here. All you need to do is try to use your bike each day for the month of April. I did it last year for the first time and will post some more photos of things I get up to this year. I might not post every day but I will try and ride every day. It is a habit that is worth picking up.