Author Topic: Hello it's me

Hello it's me
« on: March 10, 2022 »
The following was written for Cycling Plus magazine in 2002 to introduce a column called 'Deeply Unfashionable'.

It's going to be my job to be different. This has never been a problem. I don't fit in anywhere. Don't race. Don't mtb. Don't commute, because that would imply steady employment. Just ride for pleasure, often on busy urban roads. I'm not very good at it, if speed is the issue. But I hardly ever fall off or crash into anything. Perhaps that will be my epitaph: "He hardly ever fell off or crashed into anything. Except that one last time." I don't even use my bike for many errands, not since my last one was stolen. The replacement was a titanium model. "The kind only a bike journo would have," a bike store guy told me, inflating my job description to bursting point. I bring it into shops unless I'm told not to, in which case I prefer to go elsewhere.

Several years ago I wrote for Cycling Today, a competitor. Maybe you read CT. Chances are you didn't, or it would still be in print and hiding behind Knitting Patterns Today in WHSmith. My page was a quiet bylane off the rest of the magazine. I plan to write the same column for Cycling Plus, at least until the editor tells me to stop. "It's just not working out," I imagine he'll say, perhaps as soon as the next issue. "After your piece implying Hilary Stone wears ladies undergarments we even had a death threat. I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to worry. But now you know. Our insurance doesn't cover that sort of thing. We'll be sorry to see you go, but it's for the best, really."

Rather than tease with ominous predictions, perhaps I should give you an idea what to expect. Sure, I've already contributed stories to C+. Those were dates. Doing it once a month is like getting married.

Future engagements aren't going to be like this one, for a start. I don't usually explain myself so thoroughly or simply. This laying of cards on the table in uncomplicated declarative sentences is a fluke. It would be much safer to buckle yourself in for random flights of fancy.

There's going to be some fiction. Fiction shouldn't cause much turbulance, should it? The book stores are full of it, and it seems to sell well enough. You won't always be able to tell what's fiction and what's not, but that's a little like life. I'll also compose multiple-choice quizzes. And give advice. If any of you want my help with anything not already answered by one of the more traditionally qualified experts in this magazine, get in touch and I'll try to help. That's not a promise. That's far from a promise. Your query needs to catch my eye without poking it out. What does that mean? You decide.

I'll write satire, and parodies, and maybe even pastiches – which sounds like and may in fact be a French tyre patch. Only rarely do I plan to attempt something serious. For the most part I'll leave that to sensible people with compelling viewpoints. I admire anyone who can write persuasively and with a style of their own, never mind the topic. A moving treatise on chain lubrication has the power to bring a tear to the eye. A good bike review is a work of art. There's a need for these things, which is why Cycling Plus prints them. And now the editor has set aside a page for less serious matters, which takes an almost breathtaking bravado. "I trust you," he told me, and although I'm making that up it has an authentic ring to it.

Putting together a cycling magazine isn't an easy job. There's all that folding and stapling, and more than a fair share of papercuts. Editing it can't be any picnic, either. I understand that as this issue was going to press Hilary Stone lost an arm-wrestling match to Carlton Reid, and to fulfil the terms of a wager had to agree to wear scratchy lace lingerie while adding the finishing touches to his Retro column. He complained to Tony, who brokered a compromise involving natural fibres. Thus was mutiny averted. I could never do that sort of thing; I haven't the interpersonal skills.

When handing over this space, Tony commanded me to be "entertaining and thought-provoking." If that last paragraph didn't provoke some thoughts I'd be very surprised.

I would now like to apologise to Hilary, who was used for illustrative purposes only. I could have chosen Simon Withers, who I happen to know for a fact has a personal account at Agent Provocateur, but as Simon is production editor and has a great deal of control over my words I opted for the hopefully good-natured Stone instead – who incidentally has forgotten more about bicycles in the time it has taken you to read this sentence than I may ever learn, though for a raise I'll take a speed-reading course.

Like everyone else involved in this enterprise, I love cycling. Unlike most everyone else, I'm not packing any specialised knowledge. And I intend to prove it. Hope you enjoy the ride.

It wasn't used.

Bet you didn't know
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2022 »
The inventor of the tandem never intended it to be ridden by two people.

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, brought a bicycle bell with him and rang it constantly, annoying Neil Armstrong and mission control. He later accidentally left it behind, where it remains to this day.

Helmets are always tested on heads of Romaine lettuce first. Disreputable labs are known to use Iceburg. This is why they should always be washed first.

Another little-know fact about helmets: the testers often give them names and grow attached to them. This is encouraged.

Robert Wadlow, the world's tallest man who ever lived, had a custom-built Raleigh given as a gift to him by the king of Persia. It was later stolen by the world's second tallest man, who was observed to adjust the saddle height slightly before making his getaway.

Immediately after Thomas Stevens completed the first circumnavigation of the globe on two wheels in 1887, he did it again, backwards, playing an out-of-tune harpsichord. He was later found in an asylum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, proposing marriage to a corset.

The inventor of the derailleur got the idea after watching a monkey fall off a donkey in a pantomime.

Nostradamus predicted the increasing use of carbon-fibre in frames and components on the very folio page containing the infamous stanza about the London fire.

Double-butting is the oldest process known to man and is mentioned in the bible 17 times.

A bicycle will not float in the Dead Sea unless a rabbi performs a special ceremony.

Reynolds tubing is impervious to x-ray vision.

More people are injured every year on the internet arguing about helmets than in all road accidents in recorded cycling history.

It only takes two thin spokes to make a wheel strong enough to hold the weight of a rider. The rest are spares but are required under a law drafted in the 1920s which has never been repealed.

A domestic cat can ride a bicycle and will, if given the opportunity; but it does not know how to brake and cannot be trained. Every year dozens of cats are lost over Beachy Head in this way.

A drawing which is clearly recognizable as a bicycle, with a rudimentary Campag rear mech, was found in the paleolithic Lascaux cave paintings in France in 1940. It later disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Those Chinese acrobats who ride dozens to a bicycle are not permitted to fly in groups of less than 1200 on a plane.

In double-blind tests carried out by researchers it has been documented that most cyclists cannot tell the difference between titanium and steel frames unless they are first informed of the price.

The Brompton T6 can be taken apart and reassembled to make a completely different Brompton. The process can be repeated indefinately.

The Dali Lama rides a Cannondale Bad Boy. 'Bad Boy' in Tibetan means 'Bad Llama'.

It has been proven in laboratories that the air that you pump into your tyres has been altered by kinetic forces so that by the time it leaks out it is, on a molecular level at least, indistinguishable from Christmas pudding.

The first recorded instance of the Bonk occurred in 1840, when Jeremy Lungford collapsed and died after piloting his 'hobby horse' up Ditchling Beacon near Brighton. It later transpired that he wasn't dead, only taking a nap.

A bicycle is statistically likely to be more stolen if its handlebars are turned very slightly left rather than right, except in Devon, where the turning must be more pronounced.

The cyclists' favourite food of bananas have little basis in fact.

The fully mature human body contains enough ingredients and raw materials to make a perfectly functional miniature bicycle. Even children under five can manage a unicycle. However, as you get older you lose the ability to properly heat-treat alloys.

Good racing bikes have such little tolerance for rider error that they will kill you if left unattended.

The 'Golden Age of Bicycling' never existed. Cyclists were in fact routinely dismembered and left to their own devices if they were even caught singing 'Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.' Only the foolhardy attempted the second verse.

The original utility bicycle was the brainchild of Hermann Schotelgrabner, a subaltern in the Scandinavian German Millinary. He grew bored one day and drew up plans on his socks (one of which is still extant in the Smithsonian). It was never used.

Optimum saddle height is a myth. Lapsed roundgitudinal forces are typcally far more important.

Tour de France winners undergo a secret initiation involving a malformed baguette and a recording of Placido Domingo. It is not painful but it makes one think.

The Tour de France is not the oldest bicycle race in the world. That honour belongs to the Javanese, whose use of rough-hewn but basically circular stones to kill escaping missionaries - riding on them, steering with their feet - predates the Tour by centuries. They even had yellow jerseys coloured by dye from local butterflies.

If all the bicycles ever manufactured were laid end to end, they would stretch from Land's End to John O'Groats and back 374 million times, even with a side trip to Blackpool, according to the Schwarzchild equations. Others say Schwarzchild was an idiot.

The best way to properly wear in a Brooks saddle is to rub it in room temperature, taking care to avoid arrest.

According to the Guiness Book, the youngest cyclist to attempt to mend a puncture was 13-month old Jason Whippet, who used a bit of velcro from his diaper. Obviously it didn't work.