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.