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.