26 February 2009

That competitive spirit

You must have been there: cycling, slightly uphill, then you sense someone's behind you. Then a tranquil ride back home turns into a war of wills until:

a) You regain your distance and leave the challenger well behind

b) You react too little too late, the challenger rides past you without breaking sweat

c) You struggle for a bit, but in the end yield to the inevitable, honour preserved having fought the good fight

I'm usually into (b) or (c). Of course, it can get more complicated. More than once I've been 'chased' by newbies who, for instance, try to 'under' take, passing between the kerb and myself - they must feel 'safer' that way. Very irritating. I have in those cases tried very hard to keep ahead without getting too close to the kerb myself, until a widening on the road would enable me to let them past. Pillocks!. Usually, these newbies' speed is down to straining hard on their top gear, 'walking' on the pedals for far longer than it is sensible if you want your knees to remain serviceable when you are 50.

And there are the cheaters. Yes: those you leave behind because clearly you are the stronger cyclist. Then you stop at the traffic light... and they don't.

The funny thing is, I always say to myself 'I'm not the competitive sort, I'm just commuting' but most of the time the desire not to be out-done kicks in.

Ocassionally, I'm overtaken by the friendly sort - they tend to be the serious performance, tour-de-Manchester cyclists, who glide effortlessly past you, often smile at you, perhaps even share some comment or witticism. Bless them.

20 February 2009

My noble Lords...

According to the Hansard, the House of Lords debated walking and cycling on 16 Oct 2008. The starting question, put by Lord Krebs (a real name), was "What steps they are taking with local authorities to encourage walking and cycling in urban areas?".

I'm not being political here (not in the 'party' sense) but I'm left feeling we shouldn't put too much hope in this kind of debate producing much of use to real cyclists - or walkers.

Yes, it is good that cycling should be on the agenda and that Parliament should worry about 'cycling' and 'walking' levels in the UK being well.

Yes, one noble Lord did manage to correctly identify that not feeling safe when cycling is the main deterrent (the point David Hembrow is always making).

But it all seems to have fizzled out into statements that either reinforce prejudices or seem detached from reality - or at least, lacking in a holistic view of reality. Take this utterance:

"the big challenge for us is to see that children and adults alike feel confident in riding their bicycles on the streets and taking them out into those superb national parks and other areas of rural beauty and extremely healthful living that my noble friend highlighted"

So, it's not about cycling to work or cycling to school or to the shops - rather, it lumps cycling firmly on the leisure sector, as a pastime to be made enjoyable. Perhaps I exaggerate.

Then, a Baroness what's-her-name interjects with a spiteful-sounding

"My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us how many successful prosecutions have been brought against cyclists who have jumped red lights?"

Never mind that she's just been told the UK ranks very low in cycling levels in Europe! Let's focus on cycling as the problem, rather than the problems for cycling!

And although this quote is about walking, it surely gives a good picture of the level and relevance of the debate I'm referring to:

"My Lords, a lot has been said about cycling but not as much has been said about walking, although all the evidence shows that the amount of walking that people do is declining. I know what keeps me walking: it is my dog. Perhaps the Government should consider encouraging more people to keep dogs."
(Lord Hanningfield - own blog an'all!)

So there you have it, my noble Lords and Ladies: forget cycling, it's dog walking the nation needs.

11 February 2009


I left at 7am today, lights on and flashing. And then at some point in the journey, it hit me: daylight! The worst of winter is over, at least as far as cycling in the dark is concerned.

I still cycle in the dark on the way back - though sometimes when I leave my desk it is still light, by the time I've changed and walked into the yard, the light is almost gone. But that too will change...

09 February 2009

Learning to cope

This year's snow and ice did affect me. Having slipped on ice back in December, I was a bit coy about cycling on snow or icy roads. The problem was not so much the main roads (which make up most of my route) but my road and those around the house.

In the end, common sense did prevail. I walk the kids to school, for instance, then walk on to the main road and then I get on the bike. It takes a bit longer, but spares me the frustration of driving or using public transport. And what with going soft in your heated car and all that.