17 December 2008

It's Xmas....

When it comes to danger to cyclists, there is motorists, daft motorists and pedestrians. It is the latter group I fear the most, to be honest. And Xmas time sends pedestrians into overdrive, and makes getting out of town at night a bit of a nightmare. They become more careless, less considerate, more prone to stepping on to the road 'by ear', without looking.

All my possible exits from town are shopping areas (Deansgate, Shudehill, King St / Corporation St). People come out of shops laden with bags and boxes, and they just go for it. I have to be constantly on my toes - it all slows me down.

Reaching Great Ducie St is such a relief - at least then all I have to contend with is motorists.

08 December 2008

Coast to Coast on Ice

Our preparations for the C2C May 2009 continue....

You know the feeling. You are lagging behind your group and come to a fork in the road. After a mile or so the boy scout in you whispers that you can't be following five other cyclists, on a frosty December morning, and find no trace at all on the path. Make immediate u-turn, undo the wasted mile, catch up, find them all waiting for you, set off again...

Welcome to our second C2C preparatory ride: we chose what may well turn out to be the coldest morning of the year. Initially, thick fog seemed would be our main problem. Think again. After my mates jettisoned my sensible suggestion to go to Peel Tower and back, and opted to repeat the route we used last time - the one I found muddy and difficult for my city-leaning hybrid bike (and my definite road-cycling preference). The moment we left the road and headed down to the cobblestoned canal towpath in Radclife I knew there'd be trouble. True enough, going down a ramp I hit a sheet of ice and fell - nothing major, but did find back at home I had a small gash on the left knee. Minutes later it was the other C2C veteran, Ian, who fell heavily on his side - the trouble is, when you are on soil, any ice breaks under your weight and you are mostly OK, but ocassionally you run over a concrete slab covered in a perfect sheet of ice.
So, I started lagging behind - and got lost. Then, Ian and I lagged behind... and yes, though we should have known better, we took the wrong turn at another fork in the road. First thing we noticed was that the slope got steeper and steeper - much more than we could remember from last time. Then we realise the M60 is close on our left - we can clearly hear traffic. What better moment to find we haven't got any mobile phone numbers for the rest of the group (we have been communicating by email). Phone James' wife hoping she won't think anything's happened to him, then get into the 'where are you?' conversation ('I don't know'). We stayed put for long enough and eventually the rest of the group found us. We decided we were too far off course to carry on with the original route: instead we went over the motorway (the trail we'd taken by mistake lead to a footbridge) then down to the A56/M60 roundabout, cross the motorway again at that point and head for Heaton Park, which we crossed in the middle then half-circled on another icy mud-track. Then head for home.
On the plus side, at least we are getting to know each other - and now everybody knows I am not to be in charge of navigating!. More seriously, we will have to improve our planning and communication 'protocols' to avoid this in future. The C2C is signposted in most places... but there are a few points with potential for confusion. As it is inevitable that we become separated or scatter, we are going to need more than one copy of the map. Plus, of course, some are going to want to do off road bits whenever possible, while I for one intend to stick firmly to roads or very good cycle paths, like last time.
(note: the above photo is not mine - it's from Flickr)

25 November 2008

If only I knew more physics...

The other day, cycling in the rain down a long, quiet road, I noticed that the water made a 'line' that, when going in a straight direction, would be fully aligned with the centre of the wheel (see picture, Fig.A). Then I noticed that when I made small adjustments, little turns of the handle bar, the water line didn't follow the direction of the wheel - it stayed in its previous position, like a gyroscopic compass pointing to the true North.

I tried asking my more scientifically trained school friends of all for their input. All I got were recommendations to watch the road and comments about age finally getting to me. How disappointed Galileo would be...

17 November 2008

Cycling with my son

I took my son out on the bike yesterday - nothing out of the ordinary there, but this time we did a bit more than just 'round the block'.

Things have moved on quite a bit since the picture included here - so it was high time to widen his horizons... a little. We went to St Mary's park in Prestwich, then (after the obligatory play on the climbing walls and spider webs) crossed the A56 and went into Prestwich Clough. It was muddy and bumpy, but the afternoon was clear and sunny in that November way, the paths lined thick with golden leaves and flanked by mighty trees and the somber tombstones of a cemetery. Plenty of people about though, so no chance to stop for a much needed 'wee'.

This was me capitalising on the pre-C2C bike ride of three weeks ago, when I first cycled that way, so I had hoped to make it to Radcliffe. Sadly, it was getting dark (and cold) so we bailed out at Clifton Rd and back to Prestwich, more or less completing a circle.

My boy was exhilarated - the world just got bigger! Cold and hungry, but happy. Same with me. Worth every mile.

04 November 2008

Coast to Coast 2009

We have begun our preparations to do the C2C next year. 'We' has grown now from two to eleven of us - at least for the moment.

I didn't take a camera on this first ride - nor was the day a good one for photos. Three of us went to Radcliffe, first down the cobblestoned canal path (I suffered - had just had my bike serviced and parts changed for £78!) then along a muddy cycle path (suffered some more - now I need to clean it to prevent rust and another £78 bill!) and down Route 6 to Prestwich, then back home on normal roads. Couple of hours, good fun, it worked well as a way of getting re-acquainted with touring cycling.

There is, of course, much bread to slice from here to May 09 - logistics, transport, accommodation, which the size of the group makes into a more complex enterprise. More about this in due course.

26 October 2008

Like getting my hair cut

It's one of those things - you know it's going to happen, but you are too busy, so you put it off until an event triggers the inevitable.

Let's face it: I am not very good at maintaining my bike. I clean it every now and then - far less often than I really should. I lubricate what is visible, but the invisible stuff I just daren't tamper with. And twice a year I take it to be serviced, placing it in the hands of competent bike mechanics in the hope they'll be able to undo months of neglect.

Well, next week I shall be doing just that. Yesterday as I hurried home to prepare for the weekend (it's half-term this week, we are visiting my father-in-law) I noticed my wheel has buckled a bit - it is wobbling and needs attention. Just over a year ago I was having to get the wheel trued as spokes kept breaking. A new wheel put that right and I hadn't had any trouble... until now. It cost me 50% of the original bike value (it's a cheap one).

Then, back in April this year, as I prepared for the Coast to Coast, the service had to include a complete replacement of the chain, chainrings, cassette, the works. It cost me as much as I'd paid for the original bike - and it really felt like new.

Anyway, this wednesday I shall be making my way to the shop again, getting the bike ready for the winter.

22 October 2008


Found: an ageing red bike light, conventional bulb (not LED). At junction of Trinity Way/Newbridge St/A6042, and Great Ducie St (aka A56) - just outside the old brewery that's now the biggest open-air car park in the city centre. You know, opposite the back of the MEN Arena.

View Larger Map

There was I, at the traffic lights, a miserable morning as miserable as they come, rain and low temperatures, fingers numb, feet soaked in shoes I must soon change - you know the score, I've moaned about it before. But the discovery of this light cheered me up a bit - something for nothing! Unless it belongs to you, reader, in which case do feel free to reclaim it (you just have to tell me what colour and shape the casing is).

14 October 2008

A somber occasion

Another case of harassment in the city centre. This one a little bit more serious, though I escaped with no more than wounded pride. I was turning right into Shudehill when a teenager in one of those silly little bikes jumped the pedestrian lights just before the bus station, nearly made me fall and shouted some passing obscenity, to which I simply replied 'What?'.

View Larger Map
That was it. For one of these little thugs spoiling for a fight, that was enough pretext to chase me to the next set of traffic lights. I saw him coming but my reaction was not to run away. The pillock got to me. I got down from the bike and placed it between me and him. I wanted to avoid a fight - all the self-defense books will tell you that is the best course of action, especially with a teenager as (a) they may be carrying a knife and (b) even if you prevail, their under-age status will make things difficult for you. So, I went by the book - open hands in front, conciliatory language, stand your ground. The whole thing was over in the time it took for the lights to change to green - the teenager left muttering further abuse, and I was left, shaken - but free to continue my journey.

On the plus side, the incident put a spring in my step, so to speak - I did good time, uphill to my home. On the other hand, I am annoyed, angry, pissed off. Part of me knows I did the right thing - but the other half feels it was unfair, that a little shit got away with it, will be bragging to his lumpen, redneck friends about how he managed to 'scare' a grown man.

Either way, I will be looking over my shoulder for a while. Perhaps I should vary my route out of the city centre - or perhaps I should say 'bollocks' to it and stick to my guns? For to give in to fear is to lose twice.

06 October 2008

A joyous occasion

A fire alarm: what a joyous occasion! At least if it happens when the skies are blue, on a crisp October morning, as the working week begins. And it's a false alarm, the only casualties the timetables dreamed up by bosses and supervisors.

I pass one such building this morning. Employees in cheap suits and Primark skirts file out, merry in conversation, some lighting up a fag as soon as they can see no roof over their heads. Some have coffee paper cups in their hands. Colleagues who were rushing in, thinking they'd be late, slow down and smile as fate, this time, plays them a good card with which to start the day.

03 October 2008

Two pillocks in a little white car...

Not a good journey yesterday. It began sunny, then turned to heavy rain. A woman looking very distressed running after a little dog (hers, I assumed) who runs onto the road and nearly ends up under the wheels of a car - the lady shouting 'someone, catch him!' with pleading eyes. And two pillocks in a little white car (Reg. P??? TGP, white 3-dr Corsa) drive north-bound on Bury Old RdCheetham Hill Rd/A665, invading the bus lane, on a harassement spree - making obscene gestures to passers by, and nearly knocking me off the bike as they rashly overtake me in a corner (except that my 6th sense picked them up just in time).

To be continued?

View Larger Map

01 October 2008

The lady vanishes...

If I leave work at 5pm, I have a 9 in 10 chance of crossing paths with 'the lady'. She must be 'from the continent' - Dutch or German, I wonder?.

She cycles a city-style, proper ladies bike - it used to be a creamy white one, now I've noticed she's upgraded to a black one (or did the other one get nicked?).

She wears no special cycling gear, no helmet. Leather shoes, cords, a quilted coat. I think when it rains she wears a raincoat of some sort. No rush, no silly manouvres around traffic. Down the road she goes, towards Town.

30 September 2008

In only one day

In only one day, I've gone from shorts and sandals to lycra trousers and shoes. In only one day, from calm and sunny and dry to cold, wet, windy, dark and miserable. In only one day we are into winter mode (I know, it is autumn officially, but you get my meaning).

It's not that it didn't rain in summer - it did. But today the rain drops were icy, for the first time since perhaps March. The road is much noisier when it is raining hard - the cars, their tyres on puddles, the rain, the wind. The journey is much more tiring. The difficult, busy junctions much more intimidating.

Stand fast and take heart, spring will come again to rescue us all.

22 September 2008

This great fraternity on wheels...

Yesterday I took my boy cycling to Tatton Park - just an afternoon, taking advantage of the good weather in a safe environment but not without its little challenges for a 7 year old - the odd little hill, which taught him a bit about gears, the odd 'off road' bit (hard on my hybrid, but not impossible).

A fellow cyclist was stranded on the side of the (internal) road, seemingly struggling with a flat tyre. I offered help ("Yawright, mate?"). Then joined in the struggled, trying to appear knowledgeable but realising that, three years on, I'm still a newbie. But there again, this chap had only bought his bike on Saturday and was already venturing on a 20-mile inaugural journey of self-discovery, all on his tot with a pocket puncture repair kit, mini-pump and naught else.

First I display my knowledge by making his presta valve work ("here, you unscrew the tip like so"). Then I dispell the notion he had that his bike was tube-less ("here, you pull the tube out like so"). Then I manage to identify a whooping big puncture, and repair it... and then I make my big mistake, for I fail to look for any more punctures. We just left the guy to put the tyre back together, and cycled on.

When we cycled back past the spot, 30' later, he was still there, this time assisted by seriously experienced hands who had identified more punctures (we was still polite and grateful, good chap).

Eventually we saw him cycle on his way - I hope he made the 20 miles back home, and I hope he, like I did in my time, felt the satisfaction that comes from realising you've joined a loose but real fraternity - the People of the Pedal, so to speak.

18 September 2008

So, it's not just me saying it

The RAC also think texting while driving is (a) a bad idea; and (b) commonly done. So they've done a bit of hard science to prove the obvious:


and are trying to raise awareness of the fact and its possible consequences.

Alas, I fear our weak and timid approach to enforcement will mean any change in behaviour is short lived - a bit like when they started fining drivers for talking on their mobiles.

17 September 2008

Keeping up with the news

A chap in a black Mercedes fails to get going when the lights change. Why? He's reading the paper! I ring my little bell (yes, one of those) with increasing impatience. He returns to planet Earth - but does he put away the newspaper? Does he heck! He just drives on, hoping traffic will stop soon enough for him to resume his reading - only it doesn't, so eventually he does fling the newspaper to the side.

It is more common than you think. Reading the paper, texting, doing your eyelashes: the amount of people who think it is OK to do that while driving, albeit slowly. I notice because often these are the drivers who end up encroaching into cycle lanes, drifting into them when they realise they need to move but haven't got all of their mind on the road.

Maybe I should try it on the bike one day - spread my paper out at the traffic light, and watch their reaction.

16 September 2008

Two mumbled words

A cyclist overtook me yesterday on Heaton Park.  As he did so, he jovially mumbled a few words, in that tone the experienced use to address fledgelings like myself.  He certainly looked a seasoned cyclist - good but not new road bike, all lycra but no helmet, saddle bag not panniers, cleat pedals, a certain tanned and weathered finish to his skin - the works.

If only I had understood what he said to me: the only two words I thought I'd picked up were 'sky' and 'back'... or did he mean 'bag'?.  Either he was critical of my posture as being too upright (I've been thinking about this, you see) and needs either a higher saddle or lower handlebars or both.  Or he meant that the red flashing little light I've fitted to the back of my rucksack points to the sky when I bend forward (I don't ride that upright after all).

Or perhaps he was waxing lyric about the weather, sharing a moment of peace with the universe in the fraught and magical journey of life?

12 September 2008

Big and little s*^#s!

I suffer a minor 'attack' last night. Harrassment is perhaps a better word. On Fountain St. and Cannon St. - the back of the Arndale. I was waiting at the traffic light - yes, I do - and spotted this bunch of kids, must have been 11 or 12 y/o, spraying each other with this kind of spiderman's web can. Then one of them gives me the eye. I know what's coming. You know you can't touch them, they're kids.

View Larger Map

Luckily they had almost run out of the stuff, but I still told them off, politely and hoping the light would change soon. They threw the empty can at me.

Then, still annoyed at this, I get to the end of that road, where I turn right into Shudehill to reach Swan/Miller St and go North to Whitefield. As I often do, I positioned myself in the middle, between the lane that must bear right (so I turn on the inside of it, with the traffic) and the lane that must turn left (so they are out of my way and I of theirs). Alas, this cupcake driving a silver SAAB (T393 NEG) had other ideas, or perhaps he has no idea. I could hear him coming down the hill, chav car, engine rev'd, music blasting. He barged into the left lane hoping to make the light as it changed to green and overtake (or rather, under take) the traffic waiting to turn right.

He didn't count on pesky cyclists like moi. More rev'ing of the engine, the pillock actually tried to go further left than me and then cut across, but there just wasn't the room, so he had to get in line, at least until the next traffic light.

11 September 2008

It's all relative

I'm going down Bury New Road, after the junction with Great Chetham St. , towards the city centre. Now that most car dealers along that stretch have closed, it really is a lovely stretch of downhill pleasure - few interruptions, especially early in the morning, good surface too.

So, I lean forward, apply more leg power to the task, breath purposefully and generally set myself up to perform and give it my best - I attain what I think is my best speed. Just then, another cyclist overtakes me, effortlessly riding past me. In a few seconds he is 100 yards ahead of me. I then try to patch the self-esteem gap ("hey, it's not as if I'm racing him!"). Yes, yes. You and I know only too well that I would have loved to catch up with him - if only I could. The best I could manage was to keep within the same traffic light bracket (now, he did jump red lights!) but after St. Anne's Sq. I really lost him - long may he continue lost.

View Larger Map

09 September 2008

Squirrels and other sneaky little creatures of the road

Today, just as I was labouring to overtake a chavified cyclist, a squirrel stepped on to the road in front of me. It stopped when it sensed I was coming, then darted - not to safety, but further into my path. Don't cry, it was a near miss and neither little squirrel nor yours trully suffered any misfortune. I was left wondering how can an animal with such good reputation be in fact so dumb. Also, I marvelled at how quickly my brain had been able to assess the threat, calculate the possible damage for two or three possible courses of action, and made the optimum decision - to run over the bugger unless it moved ("grey squirrels are not scarce; I am... mmm"). It did moved, and all ends well.

Yesterday I saw another unusually dumb creature on the road. This time, it was a cyclist. Clad in bright yellow helmet (Ok, it's a free country), baggy, oversized jean shorts .... and enormous wellington boots (now, hang on a minute!). Really. I can't imagine a worst way to cycle, unless you are rushing to help people in a mildly flooded area (perhaps he was!). But what irked me the most was that this chap gladly overtook me on my left, at a busy junction - there I was, heeding every seasoned cyclist's advice about positioning yourself well away from the kerb, and this kerbil-gerbil here thought 'oh well' and slipped through!.

And to crown the evening, just then another bloke did it again. This one was dressed incongrously in posh trousers and shirt, with a laptop-type briefcase slung at the back, riding an old racer on too high a gear (ah, newbie) - but, of course, youth made up for his foolishness and he sped ahead of me all the same. Again, he did so on the inside - eventhough I spotted him and tried to close in on to the kerb to let him do it the right way, he wouldn't. Only when I opened up to stop at a traffic light, he took his chances - he was never going to stop at red - and he was off.

Moral of the story? Cyclists, we are our worst enemies, and most of us don't know it. We want to 'encourage' people to cycle more (or so say the self-proclaimed campaigners) but lack both the moral leadership (of good example) and the empathy with our 'target audience' and so achieve very little. Just like squirrels stashing nuts away.

07 September 2008

Days of rain

This weekend I gave my bike a long-overdue wash. The chain and related stuff merited special attention, as after the last two weeks of rain they had begun to show signs of rust. I cleaned them, dried them and oiled them - but everyone tells me general purpose light oil is the wrong thing to do, so I must get myself some silicon-based lubricant, musnt' I?

In October I am planning to put it in for a service, ready for the winter. In the meantime, I've replaced batteries on my LED lights - and next time I will replace the big old lights from my father-in-law, which I like to have as back up.

I'm still wearing shorts, eventhough I've seen other cyclists have began wearing trousers. I'll try to stick to shorts until temperatures fall to single figures. We'll see.

29 August 2008

Cycling in Oxfordshire

On bank holiday Saturday, while staying at my sister-in-law's in rural Oxfordshire, my bro-in-law, my 7-year-old son and I went for a bike ride, from Stanton Harcourt to Witney - a 10-mile return trip.

It was a sedate affair - my bro-in-law doesn't do rushed cycling, there's no pretension of performance, and once I got to Witney I realised that's very much the ethos in Oxfordshire - not only in the city among university students, but in the country among the 'common' folk. Cycling is for everyone, and in their own terms - just a way to get from A to B.

For Luke, his biggest bike ride to date, and something to build on. I was a bit miffed we didn't even break sweat.

View Larger Map

20 August 2008

A worthy bandwagon

Ok, I've been following the BBC documentary on Mark Beaumont and his round-the-world Guinness-record cycle journey.

Ok, it's nothing to do with me - my paltry 140 miles doing the C2C (in 3 days!) are next to nothing compared with the 200 days this chap spent on the road doing an average of 100 miles a day, often overcoming the challenges thrown by difficult environments. But I can't help feeling inspired by his achievement. Time to start planning the next ride!


12 August 2008


You know the kind - those who slow down as they overtake you, give you a dirty look and shout, or move their lips as if they were shouting. They've taken issue with something you've done - the ocassional mistake, but more frequently an offence that exists only in their imagination. Like today - I overtook a stationary bus, and although I looked and signalled this chap felt he shouldn't have had to slow down for me: why can't I just stop behind the bus until it moves on, and waste my time instead of his?

Sharing the road with cyclists? Perish the thought.

07 August 2008

Barcelona and 'bicing'

I'm just back from two hot weeks in Barcelona - and no, I didn't do any cycling while I was there. No need, for a start - excellent public transport, mostly air-conditioned. And no opportunity. But I did look at people cycling and found that Barceloneses do cycle, a lot. In common with much of the continent, they do it without the parafernalia we take to in the UK - they do it in their swimwear and flipflops. Also, they tend to prefer the pavement to the roads, except where there are dedicated bike lanes.

Now, much is being said these days about clever bike rental schemes in cities. I've seen such things in Paris and Stockholm, but can I say that in Barcelona the bikes rented by bicing.com were trully everywhere, ridden by all sorts of people. The design of these bikes is not fancy, space-age grey steel stuff, but it does the job very well - and you know, I actually like the red n' white combination. The photo shows a bloke booking a bike while talking on the phone. The website (in Spanish and Catalan) is very good - you can for instance check live bike availability and stuff. Note that, as they explain, their target market is not the tourists, but the locals - you have to join and pay a monthly fee, which includes some 'free' time, after which you start paying as you go. It aims to complement the public transport system - or, as they put it, it is part of the system!

16 July 2008

Oriental rickshaws

I wish I'd had my camera with me.

This morning, as I got to the junction of Portland St and Princess St, my eye was caught by two yellow rickshaws, gleaming new in the morning sun and neatly parked outside a building that had been under renovation for a while. Well, both rickshaws belong to a new boutique hotel, the Ying Sang Oriental.

The hotel isn't open yet, and I wonder what role the rickshaws will play. Will they be part of a gimmick, to cycle aimlessly around town so people hear about yet another hotel, after so many have sprung up in the last 10 years? Will they ferry guests to restaurants, shops and other attractions in the city centre? Can they carry me and my luggage to Piccadilly?

Watch, as they say, this space. Let us.

14 July 2008

More reasons...

Work on the new Whitefield Morrison's is now very advanced - and this week the road works around it seem to have been completed. It's not too bad - on the main road, Southbound towards the city centre, a new left-turn lane has been added - that'll be something to watch out for, as the cycle lane now sits between two lanes of traffic.

Of course, the proof of the pudding will be when the shop opens and the traffic these roadworks are a preparation for reveals itself in its full glory.

08 July 2008

Everyone who ever doubts that there is sense in cycling to work should have a look at this piece of research by fellow Bury cyclist and blogger:


and then give it a go - why not?

A motorcade

Yesterday I heard the siren of an emergency vehicle. Because I was going down a bus lane on Bury New Rd and the 'normal' lane was jammed with cars, I assumed (correctly) that the emergency people would need to go down my lane - so, I stopped and stood on the side.

It was not one vehicle, but a whole host of them: six motorbike outriders, three police Zafiras and, in the middle, a little black car with someone presumably important inside (now idea who).

The funny thing was, one of the outriders got to where I was, ahead of the others, and stopped, then stared at me. Then it clicked: my stopping and waiting, which I thought a good and sensible civic deed, in the eyes of this chap had turned me into a threat - perhaps he thought my water bottle may conceal some explosives or something? Anyway, it all lasted mere seconds, as the motorcade sped up past me and lost themselves into the distance.

27 June 2008

'Critical' commuting...

Today is the last Friday of the month... it's 'Critical Commute' - cyclists gather at choice locations around the city at 8am, then converge on to a central spot (usually Albert Square - Peace Gardens today as there's a market on in the square) by 8.30.

I turned up fashionably late (not entirely my fault) to find that only one other fellow was there - an old hand, let us say, on these rides. So the two of us cycled into town, to meet a handful of other cyclists. I can't help thinking that the impact of the whole activity is negligible. Even the far more successful 'special' critical commute last 18 June (during Bike Week), which gathered larger numbers and had sponsors with tents offering coffee and free bike tagging and water bottles was, relatively speaking, small beer.

Now, considering how much time others spend promoting cycling and campaigning for it, I do not mind at all joining in these rides and trying to get more visibility. I do it in part to make a minute, microscopic contribution to the cause, but also for networking purposes - to get to know other cyclists, pick up a few tips, let off steam with people who understand you, etc. Today though - save for the chap from Prestwich - all the sociable bods with whom I usually end up chatting seemed to be absent, and the group seemed to be made up of the usual 'core' lot of hardened 'campaign' veterans. I'm sure it is not their intention, but I always feel a bit of an 'us and them' atmosphere when they arrive from Chorlton or other South-Manchester locations.

As for the 'campaigning' claim, I have to wonder. Surely 'campaigning' is about taking a target group of people from awareness to persuasion - and yet much of what I hear (in the GMCC discussion list, in their newsletter, at rides like today's) is hollier-than-thou preaching.

Again, I'm very conscious of the fact I do not devote the time to engaging with the campaign - and so I can hardly fault those who do, if like today I feel excluded from their number!

18 June 2008

3 years later, part II - big tent cycling...

I joined the additional 'Critical Commute' today - additional to the ones held every last Friday of the month that is, and part of the Bike Week celebrations.

I just made it - had to drop the car for MOT and service, so had said I would not make it, but did. It was the largest 'Prestwich' group I'd ever seen - 11 souls in total. We ended up not at Albert Sq, but the Peace Gardens, where we were treated to cycling freebies, free coffee and healthy breakfast, free bike security tagging by the Police and other good stuff.

On the other hand, while this is great as positive re-inforcement for existing cyclists, I wonder if this is the best way to promote cycling among non-cyclists. Drivers and pedestrians will just have seen a bunch of cyclists in unusually large numbers, brightly dressed in the rain, dithering at cross-roads and traffic lights over whether to keep together at all costs (eg by jumping lights) or split the group and then wait for the tail to catch up. The freebies, the gathering, the camaraderie of being with other cyclists will be entirely lost on them.

13 June 2008

3 years later...

Three years ago (14 Jun 05, to be precise) I cycled to work for the first time. As I explained in one of my early postings here, it all started with work offering a cooked breakfast to all cyclists.

There's been ups and there's been downs, but mostly I have enjoyed it thoroughly, and hope to continuing doing so for years to come.

09 June 2008

Manchester congestion charge?

The intentions are good, but the approach is misguided. The road most affected by congestion is the M60 - but this is as much because of traffic trying to get around Manchester as it is due to traffic trying to get into it. The congestion charge as proposed will actually exacerbate this.

Also, like most British cities outside London, Mcr is too 'flat' and scattered to make public transport cost-effective and sustainable. Cities need to be more densely populated: time to give up the gardens!

As for cycling... it surely is part of the solution. Part - not the whole solution. Integrated public transport holds more of the answer - particularly when it is cycle-friendly too.

05 June 2008

The fraternity

You see them catching up with the gossip while waiting at traffic lights. You see them labouring up the street, constantly standing on the pedals. I've even seen them having an espresso on the go, sitting outside Katsouris on a nice summer afternoon, cycling mittens and a cap still on - but no helmet, oh no, absolutely no helmet.

Sadly, I've also seen one of them laying on the road, paramedics tending to him and wheeling the stretcher out of the ambulance, as the habit of jumping red lights finally seemed to have caught up with one of their number.

You've guessed it: bicycle couriers, that's wha'm talkin'ab'ouhp.

They always look so friendly - but hey, only to each other. The rest of us, the bikommuters and hybrid lovers, the lycra-clad performance cyclists, the BMX brigade, belong to the lower rungs of the cycling world. They, in their 3/4 trousers, riding fixed-gear bikes with funny handlebars, live by a code of their own. Let's face it - they don't cycle to work, they work on the cycle! They earn their living out if cycling, and that must surely focus their minds. As one of them says in a forum, the good thing is that you get to ride your bike all day. The bad thing is ... the same thing!

03 June 2008

On my tail

Today, for a couple of miles, I had this chap hot on my heels. Perhaps I should be grateful, as in my keenness to keep good distance my performance was above my average (I'm sure). Why, though, could he not overtake me like everyone else? I gave him plenty of chances, but he didn't take them. He followed me all the way from Cheetham Hill to Prestwich - only when we hit a bit of a slope did he overtake and raced ahead.

20 May 2008


A particularly clumsy radiocab driver turns into Princess St and pulls up just outside the Princess Hotel, completely oblivious to this bearded, pony-tailed cyclist on a sort of racing, sort of courier bike. Cyclist barely avoids certain death. Then he bellows, from the depths of his anger and fury, what must pass as the ultimate, complete insult amongst the folk he hangs around with: "Einstein!!!".

14 May 2008

Coast to Coast

So, we did it! 140 miles, 3 days, hard work but lots of fun. We were blessed with good weather most of the time. We did drive to Carlisle in the end - in hindsight it might have been better not to, or perhaps we should have worked out parking more carefully, as it took us a while to find some - but once we did, finding the railway station and getting a train to Whitehaven was straighforward enough. It wasn't very busy, so the guard was happy to let four bikes in, rather than the theoretical two.
Friday night tea at Whitehaven's Weatherspoon's, washed down with London Pride (3pts) - it wasn't that bad then. The B&B in Whitehaven shall remain unnamed, as I don't feel like recommending it. The landlady was friendly enough, bless her, and breakfast was good old traditional stuff - though she did make us porridge on request. It was the little things - the unwashed tea cups in the room, so-so toilets... perhaps we just didn't like Whitehaven.
At breakfast we met two other 'lads' - they were doing the C2C in two days! True enough, later on we found them at the starting point and they took our pictures - the traditional 'dipping the wheel' C2C shots. We sort of rode together for a while out of Whitehaven, then they pressed on - fitter than us by a long chalk. It was a very smooth ride until we got to a place called High Lorton. Then a long, hard climb began and that set the tone for the following day and a half - if the road goes up, it will go down, and viceversa. We reached Keswick for lunch - a couple of diabolical sandwiches from the Co-op - and then pressed on to Penrith, where we got at about 6.30pm. Along the way, I had an encounter with some llamas - these ones being taken for a walk by some people who clearly held them in high regard (while in Peru they are despised as unsociable and inedible animals).
Penrith was good. We stayed at the Fellfoot Independent Hostel - and found it very good. No TV, but a very friendly welcome and relaxed atmosphere, with people who understood what we were doing. Lavish, healthy, no-fry-ups breakfast - too much of it, perhaps? - and bags of good advice on where to eat and drink in the town, and how to get out of Penrith while avoiding the initial big climb of the standard C2C route. Recommended
Day 2, then, started with a slight detour, then we went on to Little Salkeld Watermill where we had a cup of tea, organic and all. The weather by then was very hot, and the climbs got longer and more difficult, culminating by lunch-time at the Hartside Cafe - the highest cafe in England (1903ft). Lunch at such scenic location made us think, foolishly, that the worst was behind us. In fact, hours of climbs and descends through what I by then had nicknamed 'dead rabbit country' awaited us - Garrigill, Nenthead, Allenheads, and finally, Rookhope and the eponymous Rookhope Inn. This was very good in its own style - a very traditional inn, with en-suite, good food and good beer - and even some very intimate live music by what seemed to be three generations of a family, grandad playing the concertina, mum the Bodhrán, dad the guitar and daughter guitar, ukelele and beautiful voice. Ah, and the family dog keeping us company, especially Ian who seemed to get on well with the little beast.
Sadly, because it was Monday, the inn were short of staff so we had to skip the cooked breakfast we had been looking forward to (they gave us a generous discount in compensation). We ate a couple of nutrigrain bars and set off, fully expecting the great weather of the previous two days to continue. Oh shock, oh horror. As we started climbing the Rookhope Incline (a mile-long uphill path, the list big climb of the whole C2C route) we realised it was very foggy and much cooler than previously. The incline, in those conditions, proved diabolical and we were getting very cold.
Luckily, just as our morale was about to decline, we stumbled upon the Parkhead Station. I wonder if it would have made a better stop, in hindsight, than Rookhope - if only because then one ends day 2 on a (literal) high, then day 3 is all downhill. In the event, it proved to have excellent coffee and bacon & sausage barms, a real life-saver in the circumstances, and friendly staff with Sustrans connections. They assured us the views there are great - as it was, you could only see 15 feet ahead - we just sped away towards the coast.
We decided that, for efficiency, we'd end up in Sunderland rather than Newcastle - the latter is fine if you are being picked up at the end point by the sea, but we had to take a train to Carlisle and it made more sense to reach the sea in Sunderland then train via Newcastle. In the end, we didn't quite touch the sea - yes, there was no 'wheel dipping' ceremony in the North Sea shores, but it is the getting there that counts and we were pressed for time, OK?.
Main lessons from the whole experience:
1. Train more! We did the right kind of training, but nowhere near enough of it.
2. Look after your bike - my bike behaved well but that overhaul less than 2 weeks before setting off revealed plenty of teething troubles - and could have been worse
3. Pack light. No, really: pack light! Ian and I managed to jettison fully half of all our stuff at the end of day 1, which we offloaded on a friend of Ian's who lives near Penrith - this despite the fact
I had carefully compiled a packing list that I deemed to include only 'essential' items (I've also written a 'calculator' to assess time needed for the ride, based on parameters).
People at work have asked me if I feel alright after doing this. I tell you: I feel great! and I would do it all again tomorrow if I could. It was worth every minute.

06 May 2008

The Bill

What a weekend this bank holiday weekend was!. The main 'mission' was to help my father-in-law put together a garden shed for us - one that will allow us to store up to five full-size bikes - enough for all of us in the future, a future that has already begun as my two eldest already need bigger bikes.

Sunday I took the morning though to go with Ian to fetch his bike and have a long 'pre-C2C' ride, which we did and it was a delight, despite of the miserable day. We also used to opportunity to finalise details of the ride - we set off for Whitehaven this Friday, all being well...

... all being well. Monday started with the discovery that my little Vauxhall Corsa, the run-arounder, had been stolen from in front of our house. It ended with my youngest one being sick and poorly (she still is, and I'm looking after her today) and the car being found, with two bent doors and a smashed ignition and steering lock - damage of the sort that wouldn't matter in a new car with fully comp insurance, but when you have a 1992 Corsa, valued (optimistically) at £300 and insure for 3rd party, Fire and Theft only... so now we are waiting with bated breath to see whether the insurers will write the car off (bonkers!). A Scene of Crime Officer is taking fingerprints on the car, outside my house, as we speak.

All this has an impact on my planned C2C ride - I do hope my daughter will recover in time for me to be comfortable leaving my wife to it; and the original plan of me driving both Ian and I to Carlisle to drop the car before continuing on train to Whitehaven may have to change. It may be we do it all by train - perhaps as it should be...

01 May 2008

Sponsor me....

Why not do something that's good for you and make into something good for others? That, I suppose, is the idea behind the 'sponsorship' culture, and I am now a part of it. For my forthcoming C2C bike ride, I have set up a page at http://www.justgiving.com/jsolis in order to support ... Supporting Kids in Peru (SKIP).

So, if you call yourself my friend or my acquantaince or have, by error or chance, stumbled upon these pages, don't just go away empty handed, go empty your pockets as well - it is for a good cause.

25 April 2008

Arse of bicyle maintenance part II: born-again bike

I had planned it carefully, or so I thought: two weeks before the Coast to Coast, I would take my 20-month old bike to its birthplace (the Biking Factory Shop in Prestwich) to have its maker put it through a complete and thorough service - a refit, an overhaul - ready for the big weekend. I even rang the shop to check what time they opened (and noticed it wasn't the usual gentleman who answered, but thought "what the heck!").

Alas, it was not to be. Said gentleman was not in, but a kind but hapless-looking stranger who explained that the shop owner and chief bike mechanic was in hospital (nothing too serious, I hope) and no repairs or maintenance could take place for two weeks or so.

So, plan B then. I took the bike to the Bicycle Boutique - they had helped me recently with something, for free - and I've used them before. I went through my list - full service, handlebar 'grips' (dunno what they're called - the 'horns' useful for comfort in long rides), spares for the journey, etc.

The chap rang me later - the bill was a staggering £126.50!!! I said yes, after consulting with HQ. It is exactly as much as I paid for the bike, less than two years ago! But... why waste a good frame, plus don't have time to find another bike, plus loyalty, etc etc. Not the best month to suffer this waking bill, but there we go - after all, it is my daily form of transport so I must offset it against what I'd pay in, say, petrol, or tram fares.

Coast to Coast? It'd better be good...

22 April 2008

2nd (and possibly last?) training ride before the C2C

Ian and I went for our 2nd (and possibly last?) training ride before the C2C: Unsworth-Heaton Park-Birch-Heywood-Edenfield-Bury-Unsworth. 28 miles approx. Wet day, but very good cycling: must write a bit more about it. Tried a shortcut Ian remembered from his younger days. I foolishly agreed - it got from bad to worse, a cobblestoned downhill mudtrack, knocked a few months off my aluminium-framed hybrid's lifespan.

Less than three weeks till the big weekend...

17 April 2008


I was in Antwerp for the day earlier this week - family reasons, long and sad story that I shan't explain here. It was interesting to notice though both how widespread cycling is as a form of transport over there... and how different the cycling culture is to ours in the UK. I have not been to the Netherlands (really) but I imagine it must be similar over there.

First of all, in Antwerp lots of people -lots- cycle. Bikes are everywhere, either chained to lamposts or simply propped up against them. Second, the 'system' bears them in mind - roads, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings all seem to have made provisions for the folk in two wheels. Third, cycling there seems just a part of life, not the self-conscious 'cause' we seem to make it in the UK. Most bicycles are of the sort designed for comfort and ease of use, and most people ride them without any special clothing - and positively no helmets. Panniers? Yes. Gears? Yes. Lycra pants and special pedals or shoes? Nope. Rather, men in suits, lasses in high-heels, riding upright, no rush, on bikes not built for speed. I sometimes wonder if in the UK, while we are a diverse lot for sure, the 'competitive' end of the spectrum has pulled us all into a mindset where we all hope to exert ourselves, to perform to some degree, favouring an approach that regards cycling as a sport, a self-contained activity. We don't just 'cycle to work' - we use the journey to work as an opportunity to cycle - or even, to train, ie to improve our performance, perhaps with some arbitrary challenge (the C2C ride?) in mind.

Which is all very well of course - but which we should bear in mind when we moan about how marginalised cycling is in the UK, and look towards 'Europe' (esp. Northern Europe) with envy. If we want to make cycling mainstream we have to separate bicycle-based sports from cycling as a mere form of transport - something routine and boring that everybody can do.

Incidentally, I visited Stockholm last July. Thinking about it now, I get the sense - perhaps wrongly - that cycling over there is sort of half-way between the 'continental' and 'uk' styles, ie I saw as many 'urban' cyclists on 'comfort' bikes as I saw hybrid bikes and chaps in lycra pants. And the odd helmet.

09 April 2008

Lagging behind

Last Sunday, going up to Holcombe, a considerably older chap overtook me going uphill. Yesterday, cyclist after cyclist overtook me going up towards Bury from Manchester. Today, another cyclist overtook me going downhill towards Manchester.

Do I detect a pattern here?

06 April 2008

'Power' training

Made a dash to Holcombe Brook this morning, on my own. Felt OK - no easier than a month ago when I did it with friend Ian. Coast to Coast promises to be hard! But we are increasingly committed - have booked accommodation this week!


03 April 2008

Easter gap

Back on the bike for 2nd consecutive day, after two very irregular weeks due to the Easter break. Worried about major road layout changes in Heaton Park opposite St Monica's High School - now it's becoming clear they are creating new lanes to direct turning traffic early on and ease congestion - car congestion, that is.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no rabid anti-car or anti-motorist jockey per se, but I fear once more poor Johnny Cyclist has been conveniently forgotten. All shall be revealed in due course.

17 March 2008

Thank you, Bicycle Boutique (Manchester)

This isn't an advert - just a sincere thank you to Manchester Bicycle Boutique who, this lunchtime, helped me out with one of those small but annoying problems. I had lost one of the screws supporting my rack and mudguard. They replaced it, there and then, at no cost to me!

I have used them a lot in the last year and a half - ever since I heard about them. For me, working in the city centre, their location just off Oxford Road is ideal. If you want value for money, try them. Ring first though - their opening hours are a bit peculiar - I imagine they fit their main clientele, ie students.

They have a website.... or a URL in any case - with email address in it: http://www.bicycleboutiquemcr.co.uk/

I have a phone number for them: 07985 426803

10 March 2008

I reckon we covered 18 miles in 2.30 hours including 15' rest at Peel Tower. This chap I've met the last couple of 'Critical Commute' days, who lives in Holcombe and cycles there and back every day (28 miles total) has my admiration. It is no walk in the park!
Going up hill was damned hard - the path to Peel Tower from the road, I had to do mostly on foot, as I found the wet soil and gravel just too much.

I got a few learning points out of the excursion:

  • Trousers: for comfort, I am going to have to yield to lycra... men in tights, here I come...

  • Top: ditto. For city cycling it is OK to wrap up warm as I do, but for the open road I need to keep light

  • Sun glasses: would be nice
I'm afraid Ian has the edge in terms of performance, both up hill and down. Apart from that, we should be OK to do the Coast to Coast, if we keep training. We'll see.

27 February 2008

I gave chase

At the junction of Trinity Way and Great Ducie St aka the A56 I stopped at the traffic lights. Another cyclist - let us say an upmarket 'chav-biker' - didn't. He narrowly squeezed past me and went on. I don't always do this, but this time it pissed me off enough to chase and overtake. On the next stretch he tried to get ahead on the inside, eventhough we could both see a parked car meant he had to go wide - so in the end he had to get in line behind me. At the next traffic light (we are now on Deansgate - where Harvey-Nichols is) I delayed him for as long as I could, but - and I always knew this would happen - in the end I had to stop for the red light, while he wouldn't. My shouting that he should stop at the red light only got a grin - sort of facial equivalent of the two fingers. Could have been worse - other chav-bikers have been known to swear at me!

To this one, and to all of them, here is my simple wish: may you all end up as chewing gum spat into the urinals of hell.

26 February 2008

Winter defeated

Winter is beating a retreat. Yes, a month still to go until it is officially Spring, but one can see the hopeful signs in the little things: the days are longer and, even when it is frosty in the morning; it gets warmer more quickly - so that by the time I get to work I feel overdressed, the gloves too thick, my jumper one layer too many.

Also, the birds sing at dawn again - many of them, which means they are back - which means the cycle of life begins again. A cliche, I know, but a truthful one.

25 February 2008

To get the washing done in them old days...

My father-in-law once told me how he, as a young apprentice living in Rugby, used to travel back home on weekends - to see his mother and get the washing done! - by cycle.

I know times have changed and traffic in the 1950s can't have been as bad as today's, but the 100+ mile journey he undertook from Rugby to Lincolnshire would be demanding by today's standards, let alone the days of fixed-gear bikes with no special equipment. And he did it back and forth in a weekend - set off on Friday night, back on Sunday.

Maybe I ought to try it one day.

20 February 2008

Another fox in the night

OK, this post is not about cycling, nor is it about Manchester. Over a year ago I reported sighting of a fox cub coming out of Heaton Park. Well, tonight I am in London and had - unwisely perhaps - arranged to meet a friend in St James Park at 7pm. It was dark and foggy, especially once one left behind the main roads and their street lights. What looked like a large cat jumped down from a shed just a few metres in front of me, then proceeded to examine the contents of a rubbish bin. On closer examination, the 'cat' turned out to be an adult fox - who did not look at all concerned about my presence there (more than I can say about my feelings, finding myself in the middle of a park, alone in the foggy evening).

Eventually I found my friend and we went for a drink and a meal. Incidentally, my friend cycles from wherever he leaves in his dormitory town to the station, then arrives to Waterloo and cycles to work (near St James Park). He does so on a Brompton fold-up bike - a beautiful little thing which I would like to try some time.

10 February 2008

The curious incident of the silly driver in the night

Last Wedsnesday night, a girl in a little car tried to do the 'overtake and turn left' maneouvre on me the other night. To give her due credit, she did take some care and perhaps this was her undoing. First thing I knew, this small car is slowly overtaking on my right. Very slowly. The driver - this young woman - looking at me with that 'shall I/shan't I?' face. In fact, she is so focused on looking at me, as the corner approaches fast and I am getting ready to brake (hope for the best, prepare for the worst) that she fails to notice that traffic in front of her has come to a complete stop... and ... crash!

Luckily, because she was going so slowly, I don't think much damage was sustained - wounded pride and angry words levelled at her, I suspect - but there were three big lads in her car so I reckon she had her 'insurance' there (and am glad it wasn't me ending stamped against her windscreen and then having to contend with her small army).

Let this be a lesson to us all...

06 February 2008

Sheldon Brown, for ever more

It isn't often that you become a regular visitor to someone else's web pages, and get to feel that you know the person - that you have a connection, unilateral and unintended perhaps. So it is with real sadness that I hear Sheldon Brown, true cyclists' guru, source of useful advice on all things cycling and writer of warm and life-affirming web postings has passed away.

I can't hope to ever become the source of vast knowledge so aptly and willingly communicated to novices like myself, but I reckon, twenty years from now, if I am cycling as I hope, I will remember Sheldon Brown's website and the inspiration I drew from it in these initial years.

Stanway Rd

Stanway Rd, in Whitefield (or is it Besses O'Th'Barn?) is a special place in my getting-back-home routine. It marks the start of the 'home run' - I've left all main roads behind, there are no more traffic lights and I know that, all being well, I'm 7' away from my house.

It is also a bit of an unusual road. Most of it belongs squarely to the architectural school of standard 20th century red-brick British Conformism, mostly in the shape of semi-detached, 2 and 1/2 bedroom houses - and very nice some of them are too. But there is a whole row of unusual homes, perhaps built in the late 80s or early 90s, which I'd describe as postmodern - they play with some elements of the traditional home, and so there is brick and roof tiles - trendy and almost green, but tiles nonetheless. And yet they try so hard to be innovative - the sleeping quarters apparently are on the ground floor, the living quarters apparently upstairs. The end of the row is a house where they've extended the ground floor and built a conservatory on top, in effect extending the (1st floor) living room and creating a sort of mini-mansion. Whether this kind of design works is another matter. Would I want to have to lug all food shopping up a flight of stairs just so as to feel 'different'? Perhaps not - so, conformism has its good side too?

The road is shaped like a banana, curved gently. I tend to coast on fifth gear until I reach the bend, then it flattens and I have to start pedalling again. When I reach the end I have to be careful - Hazel Rd does get busy some evenings, and it can be difficult to stop properly to avoid it!.

Stanway Rd has something civilised and genteel about it - that's just as well, for as I turn onto Hazel Rd and Ribble Drive the landscape changes a bit - welcome to the 'estate' and chav territory, complete with 1960s pub-cum-'tapas bar' (Enrique's).

03 February 2008

O clouds, unfold!

It makes such a difference. The week before last I managed to do all five days on my bike. Last week, by contrast, I only managed Monday and Friday. Stop for a few days and it all has to start again - the subtle slopes and climbs demand a very conscious effort. Do five days in a row and on the last day you'll be eating miles, taking little hills on your stride.

At least the days are growing longer. I look forward to tomorrow, Monday - only one expected disruption on Thursday, otherwise a full week on the saddle. And must start training for my planned Coast to Coast. Trying longer rides, building up distance until I can manage 30 miles in one effort.

29 January 2008

Be under no illusions...

At last Friday's little conflab of cyclists in Albert Square ('Critical Commute') an experienced cyclist I met answered my question about the Coast to Coast: "be under no illusions"...

Oh dear. My mate Ian and I better up the tempo of our preparations - at the moment we are going about it with the alacrity of snails on loose sands. Meanwhile, I've developed serious doubts about the suitability of my bike - the Tourismo 24 hybrid. On a rainy and very windy night last week, I was forced to use my front gears (whatever the technical name is) and I got the chain badly derrailed - it has happened before. I'm worried about a bike that can't tap into its full range of gears if I'm going to have to contend with very hilly sections.

Should I buy a road bike? I need to decide. Soon. I've been thinking about a proper touring bike - some people argue they are the ultimate all rounders, the thing to have if you cover any seizable distance. We'll see...

16 January 2008


There are nights when 'it' just works. 'It' being... everything! All the traffic lights are green, the wind blows in your direction, the cock-up fairy seems to be on holiday and the bicycle just purrs along nicely, steady on the wet tarmac, the rain having stopped just as you leave work for your nightly commute. Cars make way for you and before you know it you are home. And then you take your son to see Bury FC beat Norwich and get through to round 4 of the FA Cup!

One of those nights. Tonight.

13 January 2008

Preparations have begun...

Fellow school parent and friend Ian and myself met yesterday to coordinate details of our proposed Coast to Coast bike ride - we plan to do it in May 08; we also discussed two or three training one-day rides, logistics, maintenance tuition etc.

We'll see - we are both enthusiastic about it, and our wives are suspiciously supportive.

10 January 2008

The wind that shakes the barley...

Boy, was it windy this morning! Going into Manchester is meant to be the easy journey - downhill most of the way. The wind however was blowing in a straight South to North line - and it was strong.

It took me 55' to do what normally would take me no more than 45'. The return home, up the hill to Bury, seemed easy by comparison - and took less time.

03 January 2008

comment on Matthew Parris' article of 27 Dec

Dear Mr Solis,

Thank you for taking the time to write to me about Matthew Parris's article (My Week, December 7). As someone who regularly rides to work and who likes to go on cycling holidays, I shared your alarm, initially fearing that Matthew had it infor me too. But I think it was immediately clear that he wasexaggerating for effect - and for a good cause: cyclists, as much as anyone else, must share his determination to protect the natural worldfrom litter and pollution.

I have received many similar e-mails and take note of the heartfelt indignation. You may also have seen the piece that ran in the paper onMonday in defence of the cyclist. While I admire the passion of the cycling lobby and myself one of their number, I think we do ourselves no favours when we lose our sense of humour and I hope that you, like me, will continue to enjoy Matthew Parris's excellent writing. That said, two wheels good etc. Yours, James Harding

-----Original Message-----From: Jorge Solis V. [mailto:jorge.solis@ntlworld.com] Sent: 30 December 2007 01:08To: Times CommentCc: Harding, JamesSubject: Comment on M Parris' article "The smug who deservedecapitation"

Dear Sir / Madam,

I'd like to comment on Matthew Parris' article of 27 Dec, "What's smugand deserves to be decapitated?"(http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article3097464.ece)and would be grateful if you could pass the comment on to Mr Parris. I am disappointed at the gross generalisations he makes - I cycle to work every day and know that neither myself nor scores of other regular cyclists I know exhibit the behaviours he so carelessly attributes to all of us. Mr Parris' fundamental mistake is to attribute moral traits to forms of transport (cycling, driving, walking, jogging) rather than to individuals. Not all cyclists are the reckless thugs he depicts - just as not all pedestrians (or indeed drivers) are shining examples of highway-side virtue. Indeed, most cyclists are also pedestrian and motorists!.

Good old Matthew is fighting the wrong battle - he'd do better to directhis anger against bad road users, and in support of responsible, considerate ones - whatever the form of transport employed. He would also do well to acknowledge that, in the UK today, when it comes to road design and 'systems' (how traffic lights work, the location, layout and length of bike lanes), cars and pedestrians are taken into consideration far more than cyclists are. An apology from Mr Parris would be quite in order

Jorge Solis