LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I have designed a new apparatus which is in the prototype stage. It is most revolutionary. There are impracticalities, but I am confident I will iron them out. There have been many sleepless nights...
This idea occurred to me in the oddest way, as do all of my inspirations. (Need the reader be reminded that Leo Szilard, the true inventor of the atom bomb, captured his muse whilst waiting for a light to change, crossing a street in London?) No, I did not see a lightbulb, this is a simple layman's device to explain a 'flash of insight'.
One day I was watching a young man ride his bicycle, a common occurrence near where I live. His girlfriend, or wife -- I do not know the exact details of their relationship, merely hazard a guess for posterity's sake -- was also riding a bicycle. She was somewhat slower than him, as is the nature of such things.
Forgive me if I embellish, I can be a foolish romantic at times, but the woman seemed to be gazing at the back of her companion's head with a mixture of affection and weariness.
This sight galvanised me. How is it that we can put a man on the moon, I thought angrily, but remain powerless to unite young lovers?
My wife can attest to my tossing and turning that night, although she sleeps in the other room with the cats. The next morning I cleared my desk and my mind of distractions and set to work.
My failures are too plentiful to recount here, although it would perhaps make an amusing article one day. Suffice it to say, after much trial and error I concluded that the 'double-decker' approach favoured for the old-style bus wasn't going to work. The technical difficulties were too great. After much anguish I placed the riders, one after the other.
How difficult it is at times to arrive at the obvious conclusion!
Details are the bane of the inventor, but also the lifeblood. I cannot reveal here the complete design of my invention, which I call a 'two-person bicycle'. (Perhaps one of your kind readers can suggest a 'snazzier' name? I would be indebted.) Indeed, I am taking no small chance by writing this letter to you. So many have stolen my ideas in the past... But I feel confident that my head-start will propel me to certain success, though it is not fame and glory I desire, merely a humble footnote in history, which reads: 'He cared.'
Thanks for your letter, and the accompanying photograph of your prototype, which as per your request we are not printing 'due to security reasons'. We hope you won't be offended by the general consensus in the office that it looks remarkably like a tandem. Unfortunately, in this very issue of CT you will be dismayed to find competitor's versions of your invention already being advertised for sale. As an intellectual, at least you can take comfort in historical precedent.
This is a very dangerous design feature. I am surprised it has not been on 'Watchdog', but then they waste their time on 4WD all-terrain vehicles and package holidays.
Please warn your readers. I have written to every other cycling magazine but they would not listen; they are fools.
experience is not a novel one, though your response certainly is. We
would suggest that you join a bicycling support group so that you may
have access to the expertise of fellow cyclists.
Remember: every page helps.
PS. I have twelve grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, thanks to CT. At my insistence they all subscribe. It's our way of saying Thanks.
Your letter moved us.
My point is, all the other cyclists were also speeding. Hell, I was passed by a middle-aged guy with a potbelly who lives down the street from me! He must've cruised by doing 50. I know that 'but the other guy was doing it too' will make a weak defence, but it seems unfair to be singled out in this manner.
Our legal experts
can offer you no solace, Janet. While we're not without sympathy, it
must be said that the law's the law, and we disregard it at everyone's
I'm writing to your magazine because I need a new challenge, and some sponsorship wouldn't go unappreciated. What do you say?
to involve ourselves your next outlandish escapade, but here goes: In
Britain there's a city called London, and in London there's a street
called Oxford. Next holiday season, say one afternoon the week before
Christmas, we want you to cycle from one end of this street to the other.
but no cigar
The interview to which you refer was indeed a wonderful profile. Alas, it appeared in the February issue of Psychosis Today. We've forwarded your letter to them. All part of the service.
in the world of engineering tell us that such polymers have a long way
to go before they are fit to be used in bicycle construction. They suggest
you obtain your dream fork from the nearest replicator.
While we like to think of ourselves as helpful in extremis, we cannot promise to reunite you with Donald. The photograph in question is a wide-angle group shot, and the photographer regretfully didn't get everybody's name. All we can suggest is that you continue to faithfully buy CT, and if you see him again, drop us another line.
The small print
is due to natural ink shrinkage (just like when you buy cornflakes,
you know?), and is frustratingly beyond our control. We are reliably
informed by our printers that this phenomenon is, ironically, also the
source of your other complaint. It's known in the trade as the 'snap-back
effect', and is caused by occasional over-compensation by the sophisticated
but still fallible web press on which CT is produced. Thus your unfortunate
condition. Our designer is hard at work on a solution; perhaps we will
succeed by the time you read this.
We think you'll find that bike store personnel are usually a dedicated lot. It surprises us that you've run into so many, uh, bad apples. Be patient with them, Michael, and you should eventually find what you're looking for. Which was...?
That's right: victim.
I design cycle lanes for a living. In fact, I pioneered mixed-used cycle lanes (photo enclosed). I also support my family. My two children, little Effram and Crosby, can fill their bellies because daddy goes to work every day to create what you and countless readers seem to regard as a joke.
Obviously, you have no conception of the planning and construction of these life savers. The endless headaches. Which paint to use. I could go on. The length of the lane is really the least of our worries, can't you see? You just don't understand. I dare you to print this.
While we cannot
truly empathise with your pain, we can award you the letter of the month.
Congrats, and may you find the prize as useful as we've found your cycle
lanes. Everyone should walk a mile (well, at least 20 feet or so, considering
the context) in your shoes. Hi to the kids.
We've been waiting
for somebody to ask this. (Sound of knuckles cracking.) The columnist
in question, in his rare appearances at the office, has told us that
he feels his remit is to provide entertainment of a different order.
In this, we think you might agree, he succeeds. He adds that "We
can't all be useful members of society." As for your request for
Patrick, we are given to understand that he was made an offer he couldn't
refuse. Apocryphal gossip has it that one chilly autumn morning he was
helped along in his deliberations by waking up next to a messily sheared
Cycling Today, May 1999
I've decided to set up shop as an advice columnist, at least for the duration of this issue of CT. Fortunately I have a huge backlog of questions to draw from. Below are some of the most representative of the lot:
Buy the guard
his own bike, but don't feel the need to splash out on full suspension.
Considering that the Tsali costs £4550, I think you've suffered enough.
As for your better half, flowers never go out of fashion. Don't spend
too much on them, though; wives can be sensitive about money.
As the saying
goes -- I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. Bicycle accessory
manufacturers are notoriously secretive, paranoid, even ruthless. Nevertheless,
word gets around. I recently slipped into a top-secret trade show (the
adjoining convention hall was full of arms dealers) and spied a Topeak
prototype which incorporated all the usual allen keys, spoke wrenches,
screwdrivers, etc., but also managed to pack an (admittedly flimsy)
pump, bike lock, and rain cape into a compact package that should slide
right into your, uh, pocket. All in all I counted 57 tools before the
rep started looking a little too closely at my badge and I had to make
a run for it next door, where security was a bit more lax. I stress
that I'm not privy to the release date of this wonder. Sorry to be a
tease, Otto, but them's the breaks.
Got a sneak
preview of this month's story on power-assisted bikes, did you? You
don't sound like you're looking for any advice from me, Jerry. My apologies
for making assumptions, but I assume you're a gritty oldtimer who, if
you broke your leg in the middle of a race, would cinch a toe-strap
around the protruding bones and carry on. As for the rest of us, live
and let live.
"That's not broken--" I started to answer, when he hauled out his stick and smashed it into a thousand pieces. "Looks broken to me," he snarled. "And your lights. They don't look like they meet British Standards. The judges in these parts don't take kindly to that." Whereupon he whipped out a violations book and started writing me up for everything he could think of, from improperly inflated tyres, to riding while under the influence of an electrolyte, to smirking at a CCTV camera. He even called a buddy on the radio for suggestions. When he was finished he shoved the ticket in the general direction of my hand and laughed, "Hope you got a good lawyer, cycle boy." Needless to say, as he drove away I was bristling with rage. My question to you is, is it really against the law to smirk at CCTV cameras?
Not a smart
move. When the next documentary crew gets hold of that it'll make all
of us look bad. But to answer your question, no, it's not illegal. Not
3 years to toy
with the idea
I've always been
a great believer in body wisdom. If it feels right, go with it.
There is a fine line between genius and madness. I think you walk that line. Try to avoid lead-based paints, though to be honest it seems as if you've already had your share.
Today, November 1999