28 September 2009

Should've got on me bike

Went to the Southport Airshow yesterday. Yes, it's like admitting to liking bullfighting or Top Gear: I shouldn't, but I do. Hadn't been since 2005 - because then, getting there took hours stuck in traffic jams. But I thought this year I would be clever. Think again.

Going in took 2 hours - of which the last 4 miles took 1 hour. Getting out took 3 hours, of which getting out of the car park took 1h15min, the next 4 miles took 45' and then it was fine again.

What I should have done - what I saw others do - is cycle in. Perhaps not all the 45 miles, not with the children (yet!), but easily the last 5 miles. And who knows, one day we could do the whole hog on two wheels. In fact, I saw plenty of cycle lanes, just like in Crosby and Morecambe, so perhaps there's a 'West Lancs' cycle ride waiting for us?

22 September 2009

More cyclists out there?

At first I thought it was all down to pesky 'fair weather' cyclists - those who when the sun shines get the old bike out for a bit of exercise, then store it away at the first sign of rain.

Sorry, I'm talking about cycle parking and shower facilities where I work. In the past, most of the time I had the freedom of the building yard when it came to parking, and a choice of showers as there's one on the ground floor (open to all building occupants) and another one upstairs in my employer's offices (two in fact, since one is designated 'male' and the other 'female' but they are both individual showers, so the distinction is purely academic).

Yet recently I experienced for the first time a queue for all 3 showers - OK, a queue of 1 in each, but it meant a wait of 15'. And I notice that the yard bike racks are busy even in bad weather. So, it must be a sign that more people are cycling than before - or that the building's occupancy has risen. Or perhaps that Manchester College (one of the tennants) is using more of their space here as classrooms. I suspect is all of the above.

Now, it would be fine if it wasn't because many fellow cyclists (and this is an old bugbear of mine) tend to park their bikes in between racks, rather than mount their rides ON them. I know, these racks are not the best and they risk being 'wheel benders' but there's only so much room, yet people merrily plonk their bikes, on the ground, in between two racks. In some cases this is because they've got D-locks and that's the only way they can wrap it round both frame and at least the bike wheel. In other cases, it's just sheer laziness. In all cases, it feels inconsiderate and is a bit of a bugger for those of us who, after the school run, arrive at work that little bit later.

There is of course extra (and more secure) parking in the building's basement, but getting to it is like making it through the 36 chambers of Shaolin - three flights of stairs, four doors, a combination lock. The basement in question is the old factory loos of when this building was some sort of factory, complete with wooden panels separating white toilets against a background of green tiles. Behind so many doors, it is a very eerie place - nobody would hear you scream if you came across a ghost...

19 September 2009

The James Martin Bandwagon

Yes: me too! me too! I too have read about James Martin's silly (and now edited) little article, ostensibly about a modern electric car.

Despite the Mail editing out the description of James Martin callous offence, Mr Martin's infantile diatribe against cyclists has remained:

"God, I hate those cyclists. Every last herbal tea-drinking, Harriet Harman-voting one of them. That's one of the reasons I live in the countryside, where birds tweet, horses roam, pigs grunt and Lycra-clad buttocks are miles away. But recently, there's been a disturbing development.

Each Saturday, a big black truck appears at the bottom of my road, with bikes stuck to the roof and rear. Out of it step a bunch of City-boy ponces in fluorescent Spider-Man outfits, shades, bum bags and stupid cleated shoes, who then pedal around our narrow lanes four abreast with their private parts alarmingly apparent. Do they enjoy it? They never smile. I'm sure they just come here to wind me up.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1211917/JAMES-MARTIN-The-Tesla-Roadster-electric-supercar-thats-fast-Ferrari.html#ixzz0Rb4qJ7Nz"

So, "we" - ie all cyclists - drink herbal tea and jump red lights as a matter of routine, while the likes of Mr Martin, surely, have never broken the speed limit in their lives and drive their cars with saintly restraint and patience?

Just like Nigel Havers before him, here's another moronic part-time journo trying to pander to their ultra-conservative (nay, bigoted) audience, by showing that they 'hate the things you hate' and that they can match their audience's ignorance (of, for instance, taxation - there is no such thing as 'road tax'!).

James Martin goes to show that a flashy car does not make you into a knob - but it helps!

14 September 2009

Missed chance

We went to the Peak District this weekend. Alas, we didn't go cycling - we thought about it, knowing that the Tissington Trail and the High Peak Trail run near Hartington Hall (where we stayed). We decided to keep it simple and spend Saturday walking instead - and Sunday visiting Chatsworth House - the ultimate haven for the terminally aspirational. We felt that packing enough bikes for everyone would be too much hassle for a Friday night, that the weather may not be so good, that renting bikes would be difficult.

Funnily enough, the weather was extremely good, and at the youth hostel we run into friends who had organised themselves and did go cycling - they carried some bikes, hired some and with a bit of planning managed to get two days of family fun on two wheels - why, they even hired a tandem bike to cater for a young lad with special needs, who thoroughly enjoyed it.

I try not to be consumed by shame when I make mistakes - we have vowed to return, properly equipped and armed with knowledge. Our friends' friends were also full of good advice on adult bike rides other than the C2C, so we had a good conversation about, for instance, Brugges to Amsterdam...

09 September 2009

Public humiliation

No speed; no style; no dignity...

I was working at home yesterday so as to be able to drop my car in the garage in the morning and collect it at the end of the day. I had planned to take a local radio cab to collect me from the garage in the morning, but they let me down - so I walked home, 30' in the rain.

By 4pm I realised I had to get the car - they close at 5pm religiously and leave your car in a dark alley overnight. Options:
- Call a taxi and risk being let down again
- Walk 30' in the rain again

Would cycling be an option? Not with a small car: how would I get the bike back home once I had the car? and then I remembered...

Three years ago I bought a cheap fold up bike. Ebay job, £30, this ain't no classic British beauty, no Brompton or such like. But could it rise to the ocassion and be the solution to my problem?
I got it out of the loft, pumped up the tyres (gone flat after 3 years). On the plus side, assembly was very quick indeed - one-two-three job with saddle post, steering and central hinge. Rear brake never worked, but at least the front one did.

So I set off - and how quickly did the bike's shortcomings become apparent! Not tall enough, my legs could not extend well. No gears - I know, I've gone soft but I do like my gears. Tiny wheels, too short a frame, it was more like riding my kids scooter propped on a stool on top of it. With my Altura hig-viz jacket, I must have looked like a circus clown - a group of youths I went past on the way told me as much (and more!).

Sorry, I took no photos.

01 September 2009

Back to school

Schools are gradually going back this week - some not until tomorrow, so roads still relatively quiet. Most of the summer roadworks that turn so many parts of the route into chaos are finished or nearly done. The routine of school time quickly reasserts itself. Once at work, a bit of fair weather had once more flooded the racks with bikes, all slotted in between racks rather than mounted properly on them - so, each bike takes the space of two or even three. Irksome, but infrequent - come the rain, two thirds of those bikes will disappear from view until the next sunny morning tempts their owners back on the saddle (and that only while summer lasts).

Not a lot to report otherwise - must clean & lubricate my bike. Must take the kids out on the bike more. Must teach my youngest to ride. Must start thinking about next year's touring ride - do the C2C for a 3rd time? Or try something else - and if so, what?