Author Topic: Cycling/Life


« Reply #20 on: November 15, 2019 »
Remember my advice column on No? This was back when David Cameron hadn’t yet tricksied himself out of Number 10,

Charles Saatchi was showing the world how not to treat domestic goddesses no matter how much "arrowroot" they've got stashed in the kitchen,

and Extinction Rebellion was just a book about dinosaurs revolting over the new world order.

Lacking clients, it behooved me to cherry-pick from fora, my remuneration enhanced by the knowledge that if at least one person was helped, including an advertiser, it would balance out those bewildered readers who fled to the comforts of reviews and the latest roadie rage.

The magazine rack: not all tortured prose

It was a cozy niche, like all the others I’ve carved for myself over the years. Unfortunately it only lasted as long as it took for the editor to realise that "The audience isn't quite where we thought it was." (Oh no, I've revealed my source.)

I was reminded of the urgent need for advice by a recent discussion on a FB community group. Names have been changed.

Here's my card. It's printed with an apology for being a cyclist.

Deep Throat: May I introduce the new WEAK-KNEED WHEELERS, a small, friendly cycling club serving all surrounding areas.

Mary Lighthouse: Please wear high viz clothing so you can be seen, not dark clothing as you are putting your safety at risk.

Deep Throat: Good advice. Most riders wear something that is high viz - jerseys, gloves, helmets, socks, etc. We also run daytime lights and the ride leader and anchorman (at the back of the group) always wears a hi viz jacket and helmet. Rider safety is paramount to us. That’s why helmets are compulsory on our rides.

Mary Lighthouse: Not enough cyclists think of how vulnerable they are and should make themselves as visible as possible. Too many cycle with no lights, wear dark clothing, probably because they think they look cool, don't want to wear helmets and don't know how to ride safely on the open roads. I'm a keen cyclists and drive 55,000 miles per year. Some of the things I see and have seen would apal most people.

I don't normally rabbit on about cyclists in this group, but as we don't get mentioned that often, this seemed like a good place to add my two bitcoin, after giving the club a friendly reception.

blah blah blah
Lights? Definitely, when necessary. Hi-viz? Up to the individual. No thanks. I’ve been riding around here for quite a while without it. It’s the responsibility of motorists to be paying attention.

I drive too. Not quite 55k miles a year, but enough to know the main problem is people not giving cyclists enough room, which has little to do with what the cyclist is wearing (though see this study) and everything to do with impatience and lack of knowledge about how much space we are allowed. If you read the Highway Code – rule #163 – you'll note it's the same as a car. You should be on the other side of the road when passing. I realise that's not always practical, but people need to do their best.

If anything’s appalling, it’s how close cars and lorries sometimes pass, apparently without a thought to what should happen if either road user wobbles.

Helmets? Definitely up to the rider. If you're hit by a car, it's unlikely to help much; in any case they're not rated over about 12mph.

The frequent implication is that the cyclist is the problem. Sometimes, yes, but mostly not.

Safety is largely a matter of having respect for other road users and pedestrians, and not being inattentive behind the wheel. All the hi-viz & helmets (first rule of cycling: don’t fall off) in the world won’t help if the motorist isn't paying enough attention in the first place.


This got not a single response – on a medium which thrives on reactions. Either I struck everyone dumb with unassailable logic, or my point of view was so off-kilter that I became, effectively, invisible.

SMIDSY: for some of us it's a way of life.


Radio gah
« Reply #21 on: December 04, 2019 »

Extra-linguistic cues are apparently why we don’t like sound of our own voice. All the rubbish that comes out of our mouths probably doesn’t help.

Speak for yourself, you say?

Very well.
A link to a recording can be made available.

PM me. Supplies limited. Does not affect your statutory rights.

That's a radio discussion from 2006, after which the BBC banned me from the airwaves, or so I imagine.

It's so painful that after digging it up for the purposes of light entertainment, I refused to listen past the first few minutes I managed after writing this to confirm my worst fears (and incidentally my guess that nobody can resist Rodney King).

Not sure where to rate my voice confrontation on the list: perhaps slightly better than #8, squealing brakes on a bike.

I have prepared a transcript. Bear in mind that memory is notoriously fallible.

Not Nolan: Welcome to today's show, Petrolhead vs Lycra Lout.

Petrolhead: Thanks for having me.

Lycra Lout: [inaudible]

Not Nolan & Petrolhead: SPEAK UP!

Lycra Lout: Please don't call me that.

Petrolhead: My name actually is Mr Petrolhead, so I don't mind.

Not Nolan: Moving right along, why can't we all get along?

[sound of raucous laughter in studio]

Not Nolan: That was a joke for my producer. Lycra Lout, why are you always at the centre of controversy? Why are we powerless to frame it any other way?

Lycra Lout: It makes for good radio.

Not Nolan: So are you going to play ball?

Lycra Lout: Probably not.

Petrolhead: You brought me in for this? Yet another example why cyclists are so bloody annoying.

Not Nolan: We're experiencing technical difficulties...
Where did you find this guy? This is even more boring than the segment we did on pillow fights in nursing homes. Wait, is this mike still hot?

Oh to be "a magnificent figure of a man, over six feet tall, handsome, with flashing eyes and a gloriously resonant speaking-voice" like Orson Welles! At least the voice part, otherwise none of my clothes would fit.

The camera adds 10 poundcakes


An almost allegorical daytrip
« Reply #22 on: December 14, 2019 »

Killing time on the train platform. Sorry Lib Dems, Canterbury didn't go orangeyellow.

Santas Claus were coming to town. And so was I.

"Are you part of my paid group?" Asked almost at the end of the Around the world tour that I innocently joined midway. Er, no. He was nice about it though.


That's a wrap
« Reply #23 on: March 27, 2020 »
Today we went to a nearby farm shop. It came with instructions.

• Take a deep breath and keep holding it

In the afternoon I finally set myself to the task of replacing the brake cables on my Langster, learning two important lessons:

1. I cannot wrap handlebars
2. I don’t want to learn how


This is not the after picture I was anticipating.

Not going through that Eeeek again.


Things have changed
« Reply #24 on: June 05, 2020 »
“You can hurt someone and not even know it,” sang Dylan. It took this particular coronavirus to get many people to appreciate that.

Early in my London cycling days I bought a stretchy black Respro®, only wearing it long enough to get tired of feeling like Darth Vader.

Because I do try hard to maintain distance, and isolation is more or less my natural state anyway, I’ve not felt the need to cover up. WHO and government advice keeps a-changin' along with the times, so it looks like a mask is in my near future.

My wife has taken the lead on this, scouring YouTube for advice. We had a false positive with the sock solution

which proved way too small. Doubtless we'll end up with a drawer full of options.*

I’ve got a nice old neck wrap, often used for winter rides, which also turns me into a bandito:

This would get me on a train if I was desperate enough to board one, but probably wouldn’t pass inspection in surgery.

There goes another one

Back in Ohio, where I have family, the governor insisted on widespread adoption of masks, but later said it was “A bridge too far… People were not going to accept the government telling them what to do.” When enough people can’t breathe, things change.

* We didn't. Basic surgical masks for the shops, N95s for anything longer.


Proof of life
« Reply #25 on: October 23, 2020 »
The oddly eerie grunting in the fields beyond the skeletal hedgerow set the hairs on the back of my neck on end as I walked to the village at 1.00 am, killing time before the debate.

It sounded like pigs, though as far as I'm aware, there are no such domestic ungulates in these parts. Maybe wild boar (really). Or something else.

Watching Biden and Trump would be the true temporal crime: 90 minutes of extreme violence to the brain cells. It’s a ritual of self-abuse, more foreplay for la grande mort early next month. Can't in good conscience vote for either, or for much of anybody (ugh), in that country or this one.

The village was quiet, as you might expect. I went as far as Chaplin’s, pining for the days when I could get a regular shearing. On the way back down the high street I passed a few feet from somebody's head. No, they weren't a fresh victim of a werepig; they were watching TV in their cozy sitting room.

I go out fairly often on a bike, but seldom get close to people. Thanks to a recently diagnosed blood condition, I may be susceptible to infections, so…

Fridays rides are not an option, even if I could squeeze into one of them.

There aren't many folks outside my little bubble that I get near enough to chat with. Ocado and Sainsbury’s drivers. Bloodsucking nurses. I had my chance when a BBC salesman stopped by recently, but alas it's best not to give them the time of day.

My annual visit to Ohio

is of course not going to happen. It's a shame, because I was hoping to be there to commiserate with my family whatever the outcome.

On the walk home the werepigs started shadowing me again. The accoustics of the weald played spooky tricks in the darkness, the grunting at one point seeming to come from the vicinity of a house where I now suspected they change back to human form.

I made it to my front door unmolested by those terrible gnashers,

and watched the debate. It was forgettable. I got some sleep, then went looking for pigs. They were nowhere to be seen. Q.E.D.

That's not all
On reflection, it was probably sheep, who can sound surprisingly porcine as they snuffle about. They were a little ways off and in the opposite direction from where the sounds seemed to be coming from, but it's the only thing that makes sense.



City mouse, country mouse
« Reply #26 on: October 30, 2020 »
25 years ago Therese and I landed at Heathrow, having slipped the surly bonds of New Jersey. We came thanks to a temporary work experience visa. So much for temporary.

After a spell up north, we ended up in a flat with the Thames outside the window. It was great.

Slipping the surly bonds of Enfield

The neighbourhood went downhill after the wobbly bridge went up: too much footfall. Not a problem where we are now. We've taken to shaking our fists at tresspassers (there aren't that many, but one is too many) on the fields in front of the house.

Figuratively, of course

Too many s's? So be it.


All Hallow's Eve
« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2020 »
On my ride today:

Would've been even better with a helmet.