26 October 2007

Darkness comes so quickly

I can never get used to this: darkness does not come gradually - one week it's an October indian summer, sunny evenings in mild weather, the sky blue and red for long enough so I can make it home without the bike lamps on. And today, dark from the onset - and this is before the clocks change this weekend!

I don't know if it was the darkness, but it was a bit more eventful a journey than it would normally be. First, I had to stop at a chemist, and my route on from there took me past Manchester's Central Library just as a group of cyclists was congregating for the monthly 'critical mass' bike ride. I thought "great, a bunch of fellow cyclists to cheer me on". Far from it - one of them actually did a 'pedestrian' on me and just stepped across my path as if I didn't have lights on, reflective vest, the works. This time I didn't fall off my bike, but I certainly had to stop in a hurry. Did he care? Did he heck! He looked at me with the contempt youngsters believe to be the cool reaction to their own stupidity, and turned his back on me. Call me prickly, but a bit of courtesy would not have been amiss.

On the road, I had a car overtake me and turn left - luckily it happened to be the way I was going, but I hadn't signalled, so I could have been going straight across in which case I'd have ended under the wheels. And on Bury Old Road I had a big 4x4 screech and beep right beside me, all of a sudden - not at me, but because another car had failed to get out of their way quickly enough.

The truth is, while I am as determined as ever to cycle every day if possible - and I still thoroughly enjoy doing it - my fall just over a month ago has shaken me a bit. Perhaps I was naive before: I knew people had acccidents, but they didn't happen to me, I was sooo careful and sensible... alas, it ain't that simple now, is it?

20 October 2007

After a few drinks following a school disco...

Last night was the school's Halloween Disco - long awaited because us dads had agreed to let the wives take the kids home while we went on (2nd year in a row) into Bury for a few beers.

After those few beers one of the group, who has started cycling 10 of his 26 miles to work, reminded me that we had (jokingly, I thought) agreed to do a major cycle ride - eg the Coast to Coast. But he's been on the website and all, so I was challenged last night to make good on my word. 'Yeah, summer', I said. 'No: spring' came the reply.

So, we better start preparing - body, mind, soul and bloody bike...

New rear wheel

Spokes. I had been losing spokes at a rate of 1 every 6 weeks (average). The first time I took the bike to the shop I bought it from, in Prestwich. Trouble is, it's not really the most convenient thing for me as it is 1/3 of the way to work. So I started taking the bike to the Bicycle Boutique, a little workshop-cum-shop near the University, very popular with students etc (they themselves have expanded recently, taking over a bigger workshop next door).

Anyway, last time they told me they could no longer guarantee they'd be able to true the wheel. Also, I was unhappy at breaking spokes as a matter of routine. So this week I left the bike with them on Tuesday, had a couple of busy days where I needed to drive, and yesterday I picked up my bike, fitted now with a brand new rear wheel (it set me back £30).

I hope this will solve the problem. I really can't think of anything I'm doing that prompts spokes to snap, so my money is, alas, on poor quality in the first place (I did by a cheaper bike!). Not that £30 can be buying me top notch either. Let's wait and see

15 October 2007

Through cloud and sunshine

Look at you, through morning fog and mist
Look at you, emerging from a cloud
Reflective vest, red warning lights and proud
Lycra-clad goddess who makes morning mist lift

12 October 2007

It's different in London

I spent a couple of days in London last week. One evening I managed to spend some time around St James' park, the Mall, Birdcage Walk and all those. Of course we know London is bigger and all that - but really, there's a lot more cyclists on the road as a proportion of total traffic. And in numbers there seems to be variety - both in terms of the type of cyclists - from lycra boys to skirt-clad girls with a handbag slung in a rear basket (can't think of a better way to attract a thieve!). This includes its share of nutters - like the one wearing a horse-riding helmet! There is also great variety in the bikes they ride, from fold-ups (lots of fold-ups) to racers to hybrids to fancy European models made for gently going up and down roads in a flat-ish city.

On the minus side, London cyclists and bikommuters are - on the road - like all Londoners: impatient and unforgiving. True, it is not easy to go through central London, what with all those pesky pedestrians - UK and foreign, and of the latter there's a lot more in London than in Manchester - getting constantly in the way, jumping red lights etc. But one feels that, just like motorists rev the engine at the traffic light, cyclists also have that 'killer instinct'. Perhaps it is because many of them are converted motorists who can't afford the congestion charge?

06 October 2007

3rd party insurance

After my recent nasty-ish fall I have become more cautious in many respects. Not overtly, but it's all about the little things, the going a bit more slowly, trusting pedestrians even less, perhaps ringing that bell a bit more often and with more energy. And I have been thinking about 3rd party insurance. I mean, let's face it: what IF I hadn't manage to avoid the bloody woman whose stupid recklessness caused my fall? She could have been injured - and then, who would pay for the damage, in blood and treasure, but yours truly? And then you hear the horror stories of motorists with good lawyers managing to turn the table on you?

I had the good sense of emailing GMCC's yahoo group - the response was immediate and the overwhelming recommendation from the bunch of people who responded was... join CTC. So I have! Membership includes insurance, and anything else I may get on top will be a bonus.

05 October 2007


I have been thinking about some gadgets cyclists or bikommuters like myself could use, and others that would help with that intractable problem - sustainable transport. Here goes:

- Mask: yes, there already are masks to combat the effects of pollution (enthusiasts of such masks will tell me that my lungs are heavy with the detritus of carbon combustion from bus diesel engines and the like). But what I am talking about here is a mask that will help condense the moisture in the atmosphere (amply abundant in Manchester except on sunny and dry days, either in a hot summer or a very cold winter - both rare). This would help rehidration without the need to carry your own supply.

- Exercise bike: no, not the stationary kind. Instead, this will be a bike that is powered not just by foot pedals, but by the arms - so it provides all round exercise. Not an entirely new concept: the other day I saw a wheelcher for a person that could only move one arm. It was operated by a single lever which was used both to steer and to power the vehicle.

- Generator: you've seen the cycling trainers - rollers to turn your bike into a stationary one so you can improve your technique, get some quick practice at home etc. Why not extend the concept and use this effort to generate electricity? Power your electric shower for instance - either take it in turn with your partner / flatmate to power each other's hot showers, or perhaps more daringly, create a shower where you pedal for hot water!

- Modular car: OK, not a cycling gadget, but if it helps with traffic, pollution etc why not. This wold involve a small two-seater (think 'Smart') which could attach seamlessly (by retracting rear wheels, collapsing the hatch door at the back etc) to another, to make it into a four seater. And why stop at two cars - attach three or four and presto, you've got a people carrier!. It will be easier when fuell cell engines become the norm.