Street Riding

“I’m just off to ride my bike in town”. A phrase so lacking in machismo it hints as ladies clothing in your wardrobe. And yet it’s a precursor to a splinter riding activity that has much to recommend it.

What’s good; It’s close, it’s easy to start and hard to finish, it embeds useful skills for trail riding and it hints at urban rebellion. What’s bad; you feel old and sometimes a little stupid. It’s the clothes you see, cooler friends than me (that’s everybody) pull off the jeans and hoodie “Urban Grungy” look while I’m reduced to sporting a pair of Fox Huck Pants superbly disguised as those polyester trousers you wore at school, clashing horribly with a jey riding jacket. I tried a hoodie once but when even my own kids were almost crippled with laughter, I reassigned it to the cat basket. Accessories include knee and elbow pads, helmets and the smallest bike in your shed.

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Driving is officially “Hell on Wheels”

At some previously undocumented point, cycling became my primary means of transport. Since I spend so much time commuting and so little time driving, this should be largely self evident. What’s more interesting is the way my perspective has flipped by switching from four wheels to two.

Twice this week I’ve re-aquainted myself with the joys of motorised travel and its’ not been a pleasant experience. Firstly the tetchy reunion of me and my car keys took far longer than expected as they’d virtually carbonised at the bottom of the key basket. Then in a moment of early onset Alzheimer’s I couldn’t remember how the radio worked. Or the lights. And the ventilation system was just a set of symbols I randomly prodded until the windscreen cleared.

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Life is just too weird sometimes

First on registering at http://www.technorati.com/ I find that 27.2 million blogs await my perusal. Twenty Seven point Two million. Take a moment to consider that – that’s a whole lot of people with too much time on their hands. What did we used to do rather than avoid our families, shun contact with real humans and, essentially, waste our life? Ah. I’m beginning to see 🙂

For amusment, I typed in “pickled hedgehog” and as I sort of suspected, the results were distubing.

Talking of disturbing and pointless, take a look at the ten oddest things to do with a USB port of which only the last is very very odd. The rest are mainly solutions looking for problems or the experiments of a diseased mind. I thought it was great.

But don’t get me started on the “cluetrain” which I’m not going to dignify with a link. I assume cluetrain was chosen as pretentious_bollox.com was already taken 😉

A 1000 miles is a long time in commuting

I kept a diary of my first couple of months commuting, mainly for my wife to read to the kids when the inevitable death by BMW finally happened. Now less scared and more scarred, a veteran of over a thousand miles and sixty instances of playing “the running man” with bicycles, things have changed.

I’m a little fitter, a lot more confident and completely engaged in the battle of good (that’s us riding bikes) and evil (that’s everyone else trying to kill us). I’d only offer the glove of friendship to a fellow non cycling road user if it gave me the opportunity to slap him across the chops. I’m bored of the cold and sick of the dark. If I’d started December 1, not June 1, I wonder if I’d still be doing it. I think probably not.

Still having driven round the M25 this weekend to watch the rugby (more on this later), it’s clear that my right to whinge should be negated by the awfulness of the alternative.

It should be, but it isn’t. I shall whinge on 🙂

Here’s the extract. I culled the rest on the grounds that you’ve suffered enough.

Merino wool – stinky by design.

Tonight I caught the early train.

A swift and potentially career limiting exit allied with a spirited pedal to the station bought me just enough time. Time which I spent hastily locking the bike – engage smug mode: with my frame attached lock – and dropping the majority of my worldly possession while wrenching the key from my pocket. The remaining small change was enough for me to sprint breathlessly up the platform before ram raiding the train doors messenger style.

So yeah, I caught the early train but so did everyone else. This is the service that runs snail to harrow and then glacial onward to Aylesbury. But as the novelty of a Chiltern Railways’ train leaving on time never fades, it seemed appropriate to give it a go.

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Morning Morningitus

There was a certain “MondayMorningitus” about my commute today. Firstly the electronic ticket machine had rejected its’ “pin required” upgrade like an unwanted spleen, and so mirrored the operational state of the uninformative passenger information system.

The rather touchingly simple platform ticket machine showed solidarity with it’s electronic brethren in a “one out, all out” scenario leaving me the solitary option of dealing with a real person. Sadly this endemic malady had crossed the electronic/carbon barrier and the station master (mistress?) was also off on the sick.

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Cycling Myth#4 – Riding makes you fit

Okay not fit but thin. I’m currently in denial about what could be euphemistically referred to as “organic body armour“.

The mid torso blubber has made itself known through a slight tightness in the trouser and a noticeably enlarged belt hole. Loosening my belt would alleviate both these problems, but this would be an admission that cycling 70+ miles a week does not nullify the consequences of a confectionery based diet.

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Bikes and Beer. A winning combination.

Sometimes stuff all comes together to create the perfect weekend. Not often and rarely does it involve paintbrushes or aged relatives, but this weekend we had a good stuff implosion centred on the Quantock Hills. Firstly proper winter weather – crunchy underwheel, windchills up to minus six and endless muti-toned blue sky. Then add commuting fitness, a great bunch of friends, huge plates of dead animal and, of course, beer. Or in some cases Cider. You know the stuff they make in Somerset – tastes like some unholy union of marmalade and rocket fuel.

When riding in summer, there is an expectation of dry trails, sunny days and cold beer. But I’d forgotten the unconfined joy of finding the same deep in midwinter. In 2006, I’ve already had two great rides (although this has to be offset by one pantless morning) so I’m starting to believe this could be a fantastic year.

You’ll be glad to hear that I’ve decided to let a picture or two paint a thousands words rather than drivel on about how great mountain biking is.

Nigel descending to the tea room

Andy having a collective moment

Gets a bit windy on top!

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