Wednesday, 16 December 2009

I Learnt With Laurence!

I've always imagined there might be a few followers of this blog who also can't ride a bike. However, I never expected to find out about their personal stories, let alone for one of them to contact me.

Well, I was wrong, one girl who has been enjoying my blog for a while approached me and told me about her own experiences learning to ride. This is her story:


Tiffany Fletcher is 22-years-old and hasn't been near a bike for seven years!

Tiff told me: "When I was 4 I could ride a bike, it was a junior sized bike at nursery. However, one day when I was 8 or 9 I went to get on a bike and I just couldn't ride it... they say you never forget how to ride a bike. Well I did!

"For the next few years I managed to get out of biking situations, I used the 'I am a girl, I don't want to get dirty' line for years. It wasn't until I started dating that biking situations got more difficult to get out of.

"When boyfriends found out I couldn't ride a bike it became their mission to be the one to teach me, this usually ended up in an arguement because I am basically unteachable.

"I get so nervous that I'm going to fall off I usually start crying and beg them to never try to teach me again.... and I never normally cry over stupid stuff like that.

"Yet I have helped teach my nieces and nephew on tricycles by teaching them to pedal, but for me it just never happened...

"Learn With Laurence has made me realise that it really is a taboo subject and that by not learning how to ride a bike, we felt different from everyone else.

"But it is so good to know that there are other people on the same boat (or bike rather) like me. And with a little encouragement, and a push in the right direction, they could probably still learn to ride a bike too.

"Your blog is an inspiration because we follow you through every biking step you take, the falls and the tumbles and all the other pitfalls inbetween. I am just glad you had the guts to admit it."
Can you ride a bike? Are you learning with the help of my blog? Or just plain enjoying it?

Maybe I should think about making some 'I Learned With Laurence' T-Shirts... or would that be too cheesy?

Look out for some more learners sharing their stories soon!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Have A Wheely Good Christmas!

Ah don't you just love Christmas - the festive joy, togetherness and of course the presents.

Well this Christmas, my house took part in our third annual secret Santa at university and as you may have read on my Twitter - I have received my awesome present early!

Coach Woodward was my secretive gift giver this year and has given me a cool pair of Oakley gloves to help me with my biking. He had to give me my present early, so I had the chance to use them before the deadline for my blog.

                                 My snazzy new gloves

Apparently they will help keep my hands warm, help my grip and combat the pain I get in my thumbs from gripping the handle bars too hard.

But most importantly they have lime green on them - my favourite colour!

Look out for another post soon as I try out my new gloves.

The Box Technique

Apparently you need a licence to ride a bike. A flaming licence, as if going through all of this hassle wasn't enough I have to get a piece of paper from 'The Man' so I can ride my bicycle.

Well 'The Man' being The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents...on second thought, it might be worthwhile doing.
This week I tried the classic technique again, that instructors dish out on your cycling proficiency. I made a box with cones in a car park and I had to stay within those cones.

It sounds easy, however when you're challenged to make quick and sharp turns when normally they're slow and wide, it becomes very frustrating.

If you start with a size that you can comfortably ride around in, then slowly move the cones inward to decrease the size of the box and increase the difficulty.

When we set up my box, one end was marked with a big curb with a lampost in it. So I was forced to make the turns successfully at that end otherwise I would be launched off the bike.

    The pesky curb- where I crashed so many times- on the Bottom left.

I tried to ride around in a figure of eight in the box, this meant I had to control my speed when entering a turn. Also I had to keep looking forward instead of giving into the temptation of looking down, whilst riding in a big circle.

Look out for some videos and pictures of the box technique soon. Unfortunately it was too dark for pictures this time.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Future-Biking-And Me

Coach Ali proposed an interesting concept to me. As I have been making so much progress with my biking, maybe I could consider it as a mode of transport in years to come?

I currently have a car, which is my main mode of transport between my home in Kent and my University in Staffordshire. However I plan to move into London when I graduate to chase my journalistic dreams and riding a bike may be the cheapest, healthiest and possibly fastest way to get to work...

This would pose some problems though:
  1. Is cycling in London really safe, with all those bendy buses crushing people?
  2. Can you realistically cycle to work, all sweaty and in a suit?
  3. Would I need to wear one of those snazzy pollution/swine-flu-masks? (see below)

                                   I AM YOUR FATHER

    It seems riding around on a bike can even lead to becoming a bit of a hero. Boris Johnson rescued a woman from some menacing hoodies.

    Maybe I could become a vigilante on a bike blog idea...Fight Crime With Laurence?

    Do any of you cycle to work? Or used to cycle to work? Apparently my uncle started riding to work when his car was out of action and shifted his beer belly in a few weeks...

    I may definitely need to consider it then, my diet of cheap Asda meat, snakebites and Subways is doing nothing for my physique.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Wax On-Wax Off

For every exciting thrill and success in learning to ride a bike there is a boring, gruelling and monotonous job waiting.

Whether this is fixing a punctured tyre and slowly looking for bubbles, as you gently squeeze the entire circumference of an inner tube in a bowl of water.


Looking around an entire shop for new helmets, trying on every single one and assessing it for shape, size, weight, safety, price and how cool your big bulbous head looks in it.


Scrubbing down a muddy bike with hot saopy water after a ride.

Well this week I shall be doing exactly that- washing my bike. Unfortunately not in a wet white t-shirt like some reader requested...I know you must be devastated.

Me washing down 'old Bertha' outside our house...
& yes as you can tell by the traffic cones & broken bed-we're students.

To wash down a bike, let the mud dry and then use the soft side of a sponge to wash the downtube and then rest of the bike liberally with warm soapy water!

If anyone actually had to look that up before doing it then you should be ashamed.

Look out for another biking trip this week!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Re-Learn With Laurence

There may be some of you reading this who can already ride a bike, well in actuality you probably all can. Otherwise 20-year-old oddities such as myself would be very common indeed.

In this blog I am trying to help those who have only just began to learn or are teaching someone else. However, I have come across some techniques that experienced riders did not know and could help more than just beginnners.

The term under-rotation is one I picked up from IMB magazine and Coach Woodward.

When you are braking on the bike or trying to have any element of control over it in my case, try tipping your pedals back, so you heel points further towards the floor. This allows you to control the momentum rather than merely trying to battle it.

The easiest way to describe it is how it is mentioned in the article:

"If you were walking down a hill or a steep path you wouldn't do it on tip toes and leaning forward even if you were to run down it you'd dig your heels in- so do the same on your bike."

So if you dip your heels to gain more control you'll fall off less. Nuff said.

Look out for some more biking tips soon!

I Hate Biking

It's been a while since I last went out. So the age old saying was truly being tested. Would I actually forget how to ride a bike?

Well seeing as I couldn't actually ride properly in the first place, it would be magic if I remembered now.

I can still push off without the help of the waddle walk and I can pedal sitting down reasonably well. However it seems my sudden rush of success in the beginning has soured the stage I'm at now. Actually getting good.

I can't turn for toffee, I either bank too sharply and fall off or take the corner wider than Rik Waller's waistband. In one epic scrape I speared my thigh with the handle bars, leaving me with a dead leg and in need of a good sit down.

The problem became really apparent as Coach Woodward made me do a half lap around the Ashley car park eveytime I left a makeshift square we had made. My awful turns became even more apparent to me as Coach Ali pointed out every time I left the circle with great pleasure!

This is how wide my turns are - in obese Pop-Idol failing form.

The problems don't end there. At this moment in time, here is what I'm trying to conquer:

  1. I CAN'T TURN! I know I already mentioned this but it is kind of important, unlesss everywhere I want to ride to happens to be directly in front of me.

  2. MY HANDS HURT! Whether it is through sheer mortal fear, or my powerful kung-fu grip, I keep clutching the handle bars too tight. So eventually my arms ache and my thumbs throb like I've been thumb wrestling with Hulk Hogan.

  3. I CAN'T STAND UP AND PEDAL! I critically injured my knee about 4 years ago. I rotationally dispaced it whilst playing with a bouncy ball in my 6th form common room. Pathetic, I know.

    Since that day I have done it 4 more times - mainly whilst dancing. Again Pathetic. However this has left me without the strength and stablity to stand up and pedal fast.

    So I have objectives to combat my failings. When I'm trying to turn I need to lift the opposite pedal, so it doesn't scrape on the floor, throw me off and scrape my face on the floor. I also need to perfect leaning into my turns more instead of over steering with the handle bars. 
    Similar to changing lanes on the motorway it needs to be a slow and gradual turn, however leaning in is a technique I am struggling with. 
    Whilst I am holding the handle bars, my fingers hover over my breaks just fine- according to Coach Woodward. However I grip the handles too hard and feel like I've got arm pump and have to take a break. So to combat this...I just won't do it. 
    Hopefully as I get better, I'll be less inclined to soil myself and hold on for dear life. Fingers crossed. 
    Finally to combat my pedalling problem, I'm going to tape up my knee, put on my knee support and just go for it. Apparently after you get the standing and pedaling part sorted everything clicks, according to Coach Woodward. 
    If I am ever hoping to get into mountaing biking, I'm going to have to man up and do it!

            Me, rocking the knee pad at Wireless 2009

Overall I still have a way to go. I intend to go into overdrive soon to make some fast progress on my biking and hopefully head out on to the open road! Look out soon for some knee support action, teaching how to turn and washing my bike.

Finally massive congratulations to Coach Woodward a.k.a George Woodward over at mymtbblog as he has got a job at International Bike Magazine! Who knew blogging would actually pay off!

Saturday, 5 December 2009


"A picture says a thousand words."

As you will know, if you have followed my blog for long, I have a habbit of using and abusing famous catchphrases and cliches. I have no intention of stopping now, the image below sums up how I am feeling right now.


There seems to be a split with people that ride bikes:

*The ones that can just ride in a park or on a field.

*And the ones that can ride on roads, through traffic and as a means of transport.

What is the point in being able to ride a bike if you can't take it out on the road, ride down a dirt track or race it against your mates? Am I being short-sighted?

Well I am currently despairing because as I almost at the stage where I can ride around a field, stop and start and not fall off.

However alot of people seem to stop at this stage, I have worked so hard just to get this far but is it really enough. Can I ride a bike now? Have I done enough just to jack it all in? Has Laurence finally learnt?

Well, I want to push on and learn, so that no one can question my riding abilites, in the end, I want to actually be quite good.

But still, tell me what you think.

Is just being able to ride a bike around a field enough? How much can you do? Should I carry on?