When DIY isn’t enough. A day at Chicksands.

Chicksands is neither populated by nursery hens nor is it noticeably beach like in terms of crushed golden micro-rocks. It should be better described as a year round playpark for Mountain Bikes stuffed with jumps, drops, raised planks and other amusing ways to hurt yourself rather badly. I wrote about it here.

We arrived late. Two of my riding pals – who’d arrived on time – took that as their cue to leave. I’m not sure the two were connected but I nearly left with them due to being “insufficiently motivated”? as my appraisals are want to document. My previous visit had been blighted by a serial bottling of a large drop which had my name written all over it. Unfortunately – as smelted in my excuses workshop – it also had pain, suffering and a ruptured spleen written in slightly larger letters. I wasn’t really looking forward to a rematch, so instead chose to tactically ignore its’ existence and try and recapture the essence of fun this place always use to have.

After a practise on some baby obstacles proved that three months Chicksands absence makes not a freeride God, I grasped the nettle of fear and whimpered a little before attempting to ride some learner plankage. It was neither very high nor terribly narrow, but having the balance of a three legged stoat suffering a serious head wound and possessing the low speed bike handling skills bettered by almost any 4 year old who has chucked away their stabilisers, it’s a bloody challenge. Mental rather than physical which mocks muscle memory and laughs in the face of previous successes.
Continue reading When DIY isn’t enough. A day at Chicksands.

4 policemen and a bromptoneer

On the bit of riding I did acutally manage today, I see the “naughty cyclist” police were out in numbers around Trafalgar Square. 3 of them apprehended a hapless Bromtoneer as he ducked onto the pavement. I mean THREE cops for one poor guy. And while this was going on, I couldn’t help but notice the irony of two buses and a car jumping the red lights right in front of them and nearly cutting a cyclist in half.

What’s that saying? It you can’t catch the criminals, criminalise the ones you can catch? Surely there needs to be a co-ordinated approach so ALL road users abusing the law are punished.

I am not having a good day 🙁

There’s no other way to say this..

…this morning I bottled it. Oh I have excuses locked, loaded and ready to fire at those hardy commuters, who see brutal rainstorms as a meteorological foe to be fought and bested at every opportunity. But I have a bit of a cold and I’ve just cleaned the bike and it’s been a tough week’s riding on tired legs and the cat’s not been well and…. But once you break through this flimsy web of deceit, the simple truth is I’m nesh and I bottled it. And I feel terribly guilty.

Continue reading There’s no other way to say this..

Cycling myth #1: Road Bikes don’t get dirty..

…. my arse. After a winter maintenance regime of “slinging it in the barn and forgetting about it”, it became clear the time had come to clean the shopper. The rear cassette had morphed into one single big gear packed with two months of gritting salt and road muck. The rest of the bike was in a shocking and neglected state as well. I feel the latter may have been the cause of the former.

Cleaning it was akin to urban archaeology. Layer and layers of road grease interspersed with random vegetation were stripped away before a long forgotten silver toothed thing was triumphantly unearthed.

I had to be pretty generous with the degreaser and I’m not sure the brush will ever work again but I’ll admit to a pang of satisfaction when it was done.

The rest of the bike is still a shed. If I had a pond full of degreaser and an army of brush wielding enthusiasts, it may be possible to restore it to its’ former glory. Failing that I’m chucking a bucket of water and a blanket over it possibly even in that order.

Sometimes it’d be worth getting the tube.

If only to hear these pearls of wisdom from the staff (stolen from Cycling Plus)

Here is a list of actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have made to their passengers…
1) “Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologize for the delay to your service.

I know you’re all dying to get home, unless, of course, you happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you’ll want to cross over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction.”

2) “Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering fromE & B syndrome: not knowing his elbow from his backside. I’ll let you know any further information as soon as I’m given any.”

3) “Do you want the good news first or the bad news?

The good news is that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time.
The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between Stratford and East Ham, which means we probably won’t reach our destination.”

Continue reading Sometimes it’d be worth getting the tube.

2 hours, forty miles, you do the maths.

This morning the train was working but the track was broken. Rubbernecking up the train line, as the passenger information system entered an electronic sulk some months ago, there was a complete lack of train shaped objects emerging from the pre-dawn gloom.

Then the flat distorted tones of the PA system informed us that a “major points failure at Amersham has suspended all southbound services indefinitely”. Only train companies and BBC announcers use this type of syntax – is there a school they go to? My fellow commuters remained unmoved on the platform even after a further announcement suggested re-routing via High Wycombe or Rejavik.

Sensing something afoot, I awaited further news which wasn’t long in coming. Alledgedly the “major points failure” was now magically fixed and the next train would be along as soon as the driver had finished his breakfast. We all shuffled forward to the platform edge, in the manner of lemmings facing a bit of cliff action, before old “flat-tones” on the PA cheerfully announced the points were, in fact, still broken and London bound services would resume sometime in the Spring.

Continue reading 2 hours, forty miles, you do the maths.

I’m campaigning for a name change

For Chiltern Railways. In the future they shall be known as the “Unreliable, Overcrowded Baggage Truck” or BUT-O for short. This morning after a total of two hours travel, I have covered a truly epic 15 miles. Of which the first 5 had been on my bike.

The first train never turned up. The second one broke down threatening to leave us destitute in the Buckinghamshire flatlands. The third has mysteriously mislaid about half of it’s carridges reducing us to increasingly irritated sardines.

Still Chiltern Railways did offer their apologies and hoped we hadn’t been inconvenienced in any way. No, two hours to cover 40 miles while being repeatedly wounded by a fellow commuter’s sharp edged laptop bag and tortured by a thousand inane mobile calls is hardly an inconvenience. How could it be? But for the record I don’t bloody well accept your apologies. Make the trains run on time. It’s not hard and I don’t know why you keep having a problem with it.

If the Americans want to force confessions from those still held in Camp XRay, make them commute for a week on Chiltern Railways. They’ll snap like a twig.

And the creaking singlespeed is now attracting worried glances from passers by no doubt expecting mechanical disaster at any moment. Nothing that sounds like that can be expected to remain in the same shape and configuration for long.

I swapped the pedals. Same creak. It’s definately not my knees. H’mm what next?

Cylogs – a site for obsessives.

Cyclogs has an interesting take on Internet willy waving. As you log daily mileage, your progress (or otherwise) is tracked on a leader board against other members. It’s free, simple to use and annoyingly addictive. As membership increases, your own personal standing falls so I’ve plummeted from the vertigo inducing heights of the top 15 to a more realistic mid 50s placing.

There were four riders within two miles of my total and we’re leapfrogging each other most days. One guy though has left the gravitational pull of our cluster and is accelerating outwards to the top 30s with suspicious velocity.

Surely he’s not cheating? I mean what is the point? Any shallower and people’d mistake him for a teaspoon. I adopted a lofty moral position stationed firmly on high ground for at least a couple of days before being driven to action.

I emailed the fella asking what his route was. Then I checked it with three mapping programs and – in desperation – some string and a ruler. Still convinced that his distances are mendacious works of fiction, I’m considering requesting an OS overfly. Some friends have told me this smacks of obsessive behaviour – what’s wrong with these people? Everyone – except me of course – is so weird nowadays.

Oh and my London commuter singlespeed cross dressing jump bike has developed a creak somewhere in the transmission area. I’ve tried tightening up the cranks and ignoring it. But it’s getting worse. I’m wondering if completely catastrophic failure will soon insert itself painfully into my journey to work

The Internet is a wonderful thing

For reasons best not discussed, we were debating classic song titles. I trumped the lot of them with “Drop Kick Me Jesus through the Goal Posts of Life”. I was summarily accused of telling a great big whopper of a lie and challenged to prove it.

A couple of seconds intensive googling brought up the required result.
The effect was like mainlining laughing gas. It’s a classic song and shows what can be done with some righteous beliefs and a rhyming words book

Full Lyrics Below
Continue reading The Internet is a wonderful thing

The four horses of the commuting apocalypse…

…Wind, Rain, Dark and Cold. All four horseman were out riding with me this morning as 30 MPH winds first batted me sideways, before settling down and driving cold stinging rain into my face for three long miles. Dark and Cold were in close attendance adding their own brand of misery.

Riding in these conditions sometimes feel like a tax on the stupid. And maybe it is – the seeds of my downfall were planted last night with the abandonment of a resolution to pre-pack the commuting bag ready for morning. The alarm trilled irritatingly as it always does at 6:30am and as normal I flail around wildly trying to cancel it/break it into a thousand small pieces so not to wake my wife. From there on in, things kind of went downhill.

It’s dark. Really proper dark where I live with no streetlights and no close conurbations. But thanks to the miracle of electric light, I’m able to dress in sufficient expensive gear to waterproof a small elephant before heading out into the cold and moistness of a winter’s morning. Today I headed back in a number of occasions for keys, water bottle, work shirt, etc. That’s what happens when laziness overrides common sense leaving me standing uncertainly in the kitchen, head swaying from side to side, trying to remember what I’ve forgotten.

As may be apparent I’m not a morning person. My cognitive functions refuse to operate before daylight creeps over the horizon and they have been fortified by a strong cup of coffee. Their response to any enquiry before such precepts have been fulfilled is to flip a neural “V” sign and suggest consulting the hind brain instead which may be able to help. It didn’t and I had a train to catch so off I went with the fifth horseman – more a pit pony really – “doubt” riding alongside.

Continue reading The four horses of the commuting apocalypse…