Thursday, June 19, 2014

Edinburgh Festival of Cycling #edfoc

Could anyone get luckier?

I've just had a weekend in Edinburgh attending the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, which basically is up there with all my christmases coming at once!

Festival organiser Kim Harding asked me a while back whether I'd be in the UK this June, and as luck would have it, I was winging my way over to see family et al.

I jumped at his invitation and at the chance to be part of a panel for the festival's first ever women's cycling forum and to enjoy some of the other festival bits and bobs that were happening whilst I was there - funtimes!

So last Friday 13 June, I beetled down to the Augustine United Church to hear the inspirational Chris Oliver, aka the Cycling Surgeon (Edinburgh-based consultant orthopod).

It was amazing to hear tales of morbid obesity and not being able to climb a flight of stairs let alone ride a bike, followed by dramatic weight loss and weight loss surgery culminating in cycling across the United States last year.

His tale was a cautionary one in terms of life balance and the all-too-easy trap of forgetting that life is not a rehearsal - and the Q&A afternwards reiterated the need to live our dreams in our lifetimes.

Definitely a salutary reminder to eschew chairs and discover bikes!

Naturally following that I needed a bike in this city where 'hardly-anybody-owns-a-car'! - and so who better than the fabulous Dave Gardiner from Laid Back Bikes ...

... and yes he had a bike for me ... no not the one above (with the man himself) ...

... nor this one above either!

... but this one!

A beautiful paper bike in British racing blue (matching the door-next-door), all made and specially painted in Scotland. Brilliant bike, loved it - so cruisy, with 8 gears, and perfect for travelling all over this lovely city ...

... meaning I didn't have to get off to push my bike up any of the Edinburgh hills!

Ok ... I didn't attempt Arthur's Seat ...

... oh and yes it's impressive that cyclists do!!

Drum brakes, dynamos - I was set to do Edinburgh formally ... so come 11:00am on Saturday 14 June, I bounced over the Edinburgh cobblestones to 'rendez-vous' under North Bridge ...

... for Le Tour-Edinburgh Lochs & Castles tour!

Somewhat surprisingly apart from me ... and this guy,

... the other eleven, including the tour leader, were ensconced in helmets notwithstanding that there's no helmet law in Scotland (and/or Britain!).

The insidiousness of helmet-promotion dictating a quasi-requirement to wear one when there is no actual law is just too too weird!

Hmmmn anyway, beautiful ride with the best of weather and the best of pub-lunch stops at the Sheep Heid in Duddingston.

Reassuringly there were plenty of Edinburgh cyclists who didn't weigh themselves down with unnecessary polystyrene ...

... and it was an absolute delight meeting Sally Guyer from the Cambridge Raincoat Company (also on the panel at the Women's forum which was a energetic event with a very bubbly vibe) ...

... and her daughter both of whom as you can see looked stunning in Cambridge Raincoat Company raincoats (future wish-list item for me!).

And this being summer in the northern hemisphere, Edinburgh was still dabbling with daylight at 11pm!

Great weekend, great cycling city, great festival - totally loved it and totally will return!!!


  1. Jan Gehl gave a memorable lecture in and about Edinburgh (and Copenhagen, and other northern cities: I guess for Sue, I should say "sub-polar cities", "cold-temperate cities" or something of that nature, but I can't think of any really large cities with very cold winters in the Southern Hemisphere...

    I like that "Paper Bike" (I have arthritis and need one easy to mount) and those lovely raincoats! But I can't help thinking that those foam hats would be just as uncomfortable in cold rainy weather as on a hot Australian day - they make it impossible to wear the proven head coverings for either climate, protecting from the elements or the sun's rays. And do f-all if you are run down by a HGV...

  2. "The insidiousness of helmet-promotion dictating a quasi-requirement to wear one when there is no actual law is just too too weird!"

    Ah, but that's the way they do things in Britain: no actual law (they haven't the balls to try getting it through Parliament) but instead a process of creeping compulsion by - for instance - making helmet-wearing completely voluntary on group bike rides
    (...except that if you don't wear one you can't take part) and banning any depiction of non-helmeted cyclists on TV and in the print media. It makes me very glad that I live in France now, where the public attitude is that we're not children and we'll make our own minds up on that, thank you very much: with the result that hardly any non-sporting cyclist ever bothers with the bloody things, and if you do see someone wearing one they're usually an American summer visitor.

    To my vast shame, I have to admit that I do actually own a cycle helmet though I've never worn it. I live not far from the Spanish border, and - little-known fact - Spain is the only country in the world apart from Australia, New Zealand and (I think) Quatar where cycle helmets are legally mandatory for cyclists of all ages outside of urban areas. Spain being Spain, the law is only patchily enforced if at all; but British cyclist-residents have advised me that I might come across a Civil Guard, bored and in an even nastier mood than usual, who might pull me over and give me a 250 Euro on-the-spot fine. So the best solution (they say) is to carry a helmet strapped to my carrier and if accosted, claim that I wasn't wearing it because it's too hot, and I'm going uphill (turn bike around if necessary) and I have a notifiable medical condition, and here's a note - in Catalan - from my GP.

    Dead right, lagatta, about the hat: I always wear one when out on my bicycle in summer, because it gets pretty hot down here. In fact, given the high incidence of melanoma in Australia, it would make far more sense on epidemiological grounds to mandate wearing of wide-brimmed hats or pith helmets or something.

  3. "creeping compulsion by - for instance - making helmet-wearing completely voluntary on group bike rides (...except that if you don't wear one you can't take part)"

    Agree about the creeping compulsion in the UK and the self policing it encourages among cyclists and non-cyclists alike, but helmets aren't always compulsory for all events of this kind.

    I did the Palace to Palace ride last September. From Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle - 45 miles in total - it's an annual event organised by the Prince's Trust (

    The participants' pack listed a helmet as one of the essential items. The T&Cs also say "we recommend that you wear a correctly fitting bike helmet". So I phoned in advance to clarify whether one was actually required. The person I spoke to said they wouldn't turn me away if I showed up without one.

    I and my cycling buddy completed the route without helmets, without mishap or question. I'd say we were very much in the minority of riders, who clearly accept the terms laid out or supposed necessity of helmets without question. My informal counts of helmet wearing in London support this view, even among users of the bike hire scheme.

    You've probably already heard about this but regarding banning of adverts depicting non-helmeted cyclists, we recently had the ASA weighing in about a Cycling Scotland information film, making a fool of itself and then climbing down again, and the reintroduction of a 2013 advert for motoring retail outlet Halfords (which also sells bicycles) to coincide with summer/the TdF starting in the UK, this time without the non-helmeted riders.

    Regarding Spain, I've not cycled there, but a friend was recently fined something like €200 for not having his seat belt fastened during a taxi journey. I think he managed to negotiate his way down to €100. I'd say that and the helmet fines are regarded as easy ways to top up a salary.