30 July 2009

Do you know anything about trailer bikes...?

I have a kid's trailer bike - or is the right term a 'tag-along'?. You know: a bike's rear-half, with wheel, seat, pedals, chain and a fixed handle-bar to hold on to. We got it from friends and I've used it once. The hitch is... well, it is the 'hitch' - the attachment that secures the tag-along to my bike's seatpost. It is too wide for my seatpost, I suspect because it was meant to come with some sort of plastic packing that got lost along the way.

I tried to pack it with bits of my old rubber inner tubes, and it seemed to work... but alas, only when going in a straight line. Any bends would cause the hitch to shift to the side, and because of the way it articulates with the tag-along, the more the hitch was out of aligment with my bike, the more the tag-along tilted. This happened, luckily, away from traffic one day I took my kids to Tatton Park (yes, I drove there - spare me the sermon).

My eldest gave me a shout at some point, for I had no idea there was any problem. My poor youngest was holding on precariously, the tag-along tilted at an angle behind me. Another bend and she'd ended up on the ground. Not something a 4-year old is likely to forget (or forgive) in a hurry.

Last summer we gave family cycling a miss - it was, if you'll remember, such a washout, and what with the two weeks in Spain (rented car for 1 week) etc. So, yesterday I naively went round a couple of shops with the 'hitch' in my hand, looking for alternatives to fit my bike. It is not, I fear, as simple as that. "Make and model of the tag-along?" No idea - it's a rusty old thing we got from friends. "Ah, well, there are different attachments depending on the manufacturer". And as for a new tag-along, they are, in my view, too expensive for what they are - half-bikes which won't carry heavy loads and for not very long.

The answer is probably to grasp the nettle and teach the little one to ride - off with the stabilisers!

23 July 2009


Blue little van, unmarked, driven by youngster in blue sweatshirt. Plonked on the cyclists green 'start line' at the junction of Princess and Portland St. I often use the red light time to shift to the right hand lane, so I can more easily turn when I get to Whitworth St (the next set of traffic lights) - at that point the right lane is 'right turn' only, and normally there's too much traffic for me to shift from left to right just by sticking my right arm and being 'assertive'.

Most motorists don't mind - I can see some feel I'm going to 'delay' them or that somehow I shouldn't be there, but on the left and out of sight. But once they overtake me (on my left - there's plenty of room) that is the end of it.

Not today. Today the chap in the van was of the redneck persuasion - territorial and with a big, big chip on his shoulder. How dare I get in front of him? It took him but a second to overtake me, but not without looking at me and shouting abuse like I had just taken his lolly. Poor baby.

20 July 2009

School is out

Ah yes. The summer holidays have an effect on my cycling routine. No school means some days I have to work from home (yes, really) so I can either look after one or more of my progenie, or deliver them to 'playscheme'. It just wouldn't make sense to go all the way into Town only to head back home by 3pm. Luckily my employer (in these times I should say 'my current employer') gives me a lot of flexibility in that respect.
So, today I said 'sod it' and went for a 40' ride after dropping the kids - so what if I start work 40' later? It's still 10am - my normal 'start work' time on Mondays and Tuesdays. I cycled to the end of Heaton Park and back. Just enough to give me a bit of a workout and keep my joints from rusting as they so quickly do nowadays.
The other thing about the summer holidays is that there is less traffic - but is it just me, or this year not as many people have bolted abroad as soon as the whistle went? I feel that, say, two years ago, Manchester on the Monday after the end of the school term was more like a ghost town. Now, while the usual mad race for the school gates is off, the roads were far from quiet. Yes, I did see quite a few cars with rooftop boxes, so perhaps it is next week I'll notice the difference, once all those Mancunians who have opted for UK seaside holidays this year have gone.

09 July 2009

Shedding a load...

For four years I have always carried a rucksack on my back when cycling to and from work. I did it because I wanted somewhere to put my valuables (now you know!) - my Peruvian instinct telling me that a pannier is all very well but it could possibly be nicked at the traffic lights or something. Sometimes the rucksack came in handy for extra loads, esp. in the winter, but more often than not it just filled up with stuff because it was there - the trully essential items didn't amount to that much.

But with the recent hot weather, I decided it was time to try something different. Why not load more in the pannier (those pieces of paper from work, my lunch, etc) and keep the valuables in a 'bumbag'?

After a week, I'm wondering what took me so long - how much unnecessary sweat my back has produced, for lack of ventilation.

I'll still carry the rucksack for longer rides, to carry my hydration bag (or perhaps I'll get myself one of those nifty little packs with a lower footprint). It may be that in the winter I come to need the extra room if I have to carry, say, a jacket or coat to work. But on any other weather I can't see myself going back to the old rucksack.

07 July 2009

Poetry in motion

Many an unsung poet the English language has! Take for instance the anonymous bod who penned the following verses:

Bollards in motion!"

A veritable urban haiku! In this case, a safety announcement used in various Manchester city centre locations to warn motorists about the moving, sensor-activated telescopic bollards that open restricted roads to buses only, and on which distracted or stupid drivers have been known to end up.

Of course, they are no obstacle to us cyclists - unlike pedestrians who mistake the absence of motorised traffic as a license to roam the road at their leisure and completely disregard us.