Archive for December, 2009
Some people just have it, like my wife Julia. While I am familiar with the Copenhagen Cycle Chic Principles usually speed wins out over style.
However this doesn’t mean that I look out of place in all environments as the admiring glance from Daisy shows.
While I am quite happy to appear foolish in the name of visibility, there are limits. Having your photograph taken moments after climbing off the turbo trainer and posting the results on flickr is a bit beyond the pale!
Happy new year and safe cycling folks
I wish he wouldn’t throw his bike on the road like that! Brilliant simple storytelling.
Nesh (adj) Dialect
1. sensitive to the cold
2. timid or cowardly
(from Old English hnesce; related to Gothic hnasqus tender, soft; of obscure origin)
The snow is going from Sheffield, slowly but surely. The CTC club run to Hathersage was going to go ahead this morning. Without me unfortunately. It could have been the cold but it could equally have been the red wine last night. This was worrying because all of that hard earned fitness from the summer is ebbing away. Nothing for it but to brave the turbo trainer. 60 minutes of mindless torture should preserve a little fitness without the risk of falling off.
I have five tips for turbo training:
1. Start with an easy cadence – you still have to warm up and at least ten minutes is needed to get your mind used to the idea that it has been parked for the next hour.
2. Put a towel over the front of the bike. You are going to sweat like crazy and if you don’t then you are not doing it right.
3. Drink plenty of water
4. Have a good soundtrack. Here’s mine:
A pretty standard fast transatlantic mix, it finishes with the distinctly odd ‘Thank You, Lord’ by Hellwood which is a Johnny Dowd/Jim White occasional pairing. I like it because by the time I hear Dowd’s dulcet tones I know the suffering is nearly over.
5. Finally, if the turbo unit is anything other than a fan (now pretty rare), don’t touch it after you have finished. All the energy you have expended has to go somewhere. A bit will have been sloughed off as noise, but the bulk will be heat retained in the unit. That’s why some designs have fins to cool them down.
I know some people do, and they seem to enjoy it
One of the things this cold snowy weather in the UK brings home to you is the extent to which we have a car culture. It is assumed that the roads will be kept clear for motorists. Motoring lobby groups such as the AA fill the airwaves with strident comments about the extent to which Local Authorities are up to the challenge. The press release they used to get the media invites mentions the number of extra call outs they receive in wintry conditions. But the ‘right to drive’ discourse is so predominant that there is no mention of the fact that some of the call outs and accidents might just possibly be the result of motorists not having the skills to cope with the weather, or not necessarily changing their tyres before they get dangerous, and above all that the sensible course of action might be not to drive at all and leave the roads for those like the emergency services who have an absolute need to be on the road. And the argument is backed with two favourites of mine:
‘He (Edmund King, AA President ) also pointed out that a post-code lottery exists as regards how much of a priority some local authorities place on keeping roads free of ice and snow.’ No shit. And what exactly is wrong with a post-code lottery. Maybe some Local Authoritiess decide that at the margin education is more important than grit. Life is a post-code lottery. It is about time we grew up and realised that fact. And recognised that we in the UK are the bloody winners. If you doubt this, you might want to swap your ticket with someone in Swaziland. no snow there, just life expectancy of 39.6 years.
The second is the reliance on economics and old favourite, the cost to the economy: ‘In February the chaos on the roads had severe effects – it is estimated to have cost the economy £1.2bn’ This figure is a repeat of an estimate made at the time by the Federation of Small Businesses, who are no doubt very pleased that this hoary old crap is being repeated. The underlying methodology with these type of estimates is flawed. It assumes that when people can’t get to work sales are lost. The approach is flawed because it doesn’t take account of displaced demand and second order effects. If I as a consumer wanted to go and buy a widget and Grunnings Engineering is shut because of the snow, it is possible that I might go along and buy the same widget on the next clear day. After all I still need the widget. Alternatively maybe I only wanted the widget, I didn’t need it. I can’t buy a widget as Grunnings is shut and I can’t get to my workplace. Maybe I’ll just turn the heating up and spend the widget money on keeping warm. Grunnings’ loss, is British Gas’ gain. Net cost to the economy, zero.
On those really cold days, when you wonder if you will get caught in the snow on the way home from work it’s good to remind yourself of sunnier times
OK so it wasn’t the Tormalet, but 18 hardy individuals set off on the Sheffield CTC Christmas Mystery Ride last Sunday. For me is was a first chance to really stretch the legs and open the lungs for about a month due to ‘building work’ at home. It was a clever route devised by Alison Marsh with two significant climbs, one immediately on leaving Sheffield was followed by the descent along Froggatt Edge. The second came out of Beeley and was one of those climbs that made you feel alive – 3.7 km and an average gradient of 6% it was great to settle into a rhythm and feel warm, genuinely warm for the first time that day.
After a superb lunch of soup, sandwiches, cake and Christmas pudding with 4 cups of tea at the Cafe Nostalgia which had been booked out for Sheffield and Bolsover CTC groups, it was downhill all the way home (well nearly and in a good way)
Paul Fournel’s excellent book ‘Besoin de vélo’ is available in English with the title translated as ‘Need for the Bike’. It explores the psychology and culture of cycing – mainly in France, but many of the insights are universal. The cyclist’s relationship with the wind, which never helps as much as it hinders. The texture of the road, something motorists will not understand. And descending. For non-cyclists descending must seem like the easy bit, but of course it isn’t. For Fournel ‘..descending is the opposite of letting yourself go’. Yet if it is a descent that you know, that you have done a thousand times before Fournel says ‘you can sing on your way down’. I know what that feels like and now in dark December it makes me think of days when the ascent was murderously hot and the descent a cooling respite.
We don’t have many days like that in the UK and maybe for that reason they stick in your mind. But it is precisely the feelings that are provoked by those memories which makes me think that the translators have got the title wrong. It’s literal. Correct enough. But the real need is to ride. To test the legs, to feel the sensation as you struggle for breath up a hill and to hear the sounds of your tyres on a quiet road. That’s what keep us coming back.
So after all the rumours, we discover it is true. And there will be a British team in the Tour de France next year with genuine prospects.
Perhaps now he will be able to afford a new haircut.
I’ve posted before about how fabulous the Paris Vélib’ scheme is. Virtually indestructible bikes scattered around the city to pick up and drop off as you need them.
There are three essential things to know about hiring a Vélib’ bike as a tourist.
Firstly, check out the bikes in the stands – choose one that has inflated tyres, that you can adjust the seat height and that generally looks OK. Things that can go wrong include broken rear brake cables, broken mudguards that snag the wheels – the bikes are only virtually indestructible – there is a number on the top of the bike stand – make a note of it. Read the rest of this entry »
My usual response to this question is that it doesn’t actually rain that often and anyway it doesn’t really matter if you are well prepared. This month I have seen the first part of this answer severely tested. Apparently the wettest November since Novembers began, it did start to get a bit tiresome.
However it give the opportunity to test out my preparedness. And full marks go to:- Read the rest of this entry »