The rains in Spain fall mainly on the plain.

They had better bloody not. Ok for the meteorologically challenged I’ve included the entire Sierra Nevada range in that last comment. I have this perfect picture in my head of sun kissed singletrack, warm rides and cold beer. Three out of the four weather sites insist on something different and damper. The other one is hedging it’s bets. I’m going with that one for now.

Still compared to spending another day in this (hopefully) final slap of winter, even warm rain seems almost too good to miss.

I have to pack my bike. This is likely to be a unmitigated disaster spiced up by tape which sticks to everything (cats, children, dinner) except the frame, serious bleeding due to aggressive wielding of the Stanley knife and a “Michelin Man” sized bike that exceeds the volume of the bag by 20% or so. Then I’ll go and fetch the hammer, and then they’ll be an argument and before I know it, I’m taking my hardtail because I’ve beaten the 5-Spot to within an inch of its’ life.

Remember that Fawlty Towers sketch when John Cleese is birching the car: “It’s not like I haven’t warned you is it, you are getting what’s coming to you, etc”. That’s a metaphor ably describing my life at the moment.

We going with these people http://www.ciclomontana.com/ and riding trails like this:

http://www.ciclomontana.com/img/content/welcome_1a.jpg

Cupping my electronic ear, I’m picking up some angst racing down the information super highway. Can’t quite make it out, something like “plucky flooking bar steward”.

Four days riding, beer scheduled to start at breakfast and much fun to be had with like minded friends 🙂

“Oi! You can’t park there”

“I just did” is, in my experience, a proportional response. This holds a special pleasure when directed at some pompous ass who truly believes every Englishman’s home is his castle. It’s almost charity work to disabuse them of the notion that house deeds rarely extend to the public road.

I had a similar experience today. Chiltern Railways “cyclists charter” treats bike carrying in the same vein as murdering your fellow passengers with a blunt axe. Messy and bad for business – especially at peak times. Therefore I had little option but to haul cold, dark butt out of bed at 6am in the morning so as not to suffer the fate of a possible eviction at Amersham.

Wind back a bit here. Why was I doing this? So I could swap

From This

To This

And I hear you ask again Why the hell was I doing this; replacing one mountain bike with another? Long story which inevitably will be blog-food in due course.

As the 6:35 rolled out of Stoke Mandeville, I’d cunningly wedged the bike into the disabled area. The train was almost deserted and short of suffering some potential early bird wheelchair action, I was perfectly positioned for some quality snoozing.

What I’d failed to recognise was a. this is the slow train which stops at every station, siding and seemingly where people stick out an opportunistic hand and b. there is a critical mass of sad buggers travelling that early. Past Amersham, it’s standing room only and lustful glances are being cast at the foldable seats nailed shut by forceful insertion of a mountain bike.

Continue reading “Oi! You can’t park there”

CHIP and PIN(g)

This morning I’ve debated a fascinating logical conundrum with the security guard. Nice fella, we’ve had a few chats, with him sharing amusing anecdotes of car park securitydum. I know his name and he knows mine; we’re not friends as such but more than nodding acquaintances.

This morning he’s run out of the security hut with a turn of speed belying his 40-a-day rollup habit and advancing years. This unexpected manoeuvre caused me some consternation due to a high approach speed and partially committed move to dodge the barrier now occupied by my portly yellow jacketed chum.

Sketchy stoppy completed with some panache, I assumed he was desperate to impart some choice missive on how the chefs create their special mayonnaise or some such but no:

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The Mobile Phone: A weapon of career destruction

Here’s a tip; Nokia provide a simple key lock for your phone to prevent unintentional dialling. Use it. Here’s another; program a dummy number in the first phonebook entry for the time you neglect tip#1. And for the serially stupid here’s Tip#3 which must convey the complex nuances of speaking without thinking but can be summarised thus: Shut The Feck Up!

Experience is how the stupid categorise their biggest mistakes. Tonight I am truly experienced having extemporised to my work colleagues much that I know nothing about and a little I probably shouldn’t have shared. This is just pub talk at the end of a day when a thin corporate veneer prevents you from carrying out instinctively violent actions against the guilty. Which today included almost everybody.

So almost expected behaviour. Except for significant additional circumstances.

My boss, separated by half a mile, but connected through a combination of a forename starting with “A” and my wanton abandonment of Tips 1, 2 and 3 gleefully listed to the entire exchange on his office speakerphone.

To be fair, he was trying to explain that I had inadvertently conferenced him in. Somewhat less fairly, my phone was buried deep in a suit pocket which prevented me hearing him. Still Nokia Mics are a bloody triumph of miniature engineering. I really wish they weren’t.

Powerful as the English language is, it cannot even begin to adequately portray the depth of the pit into which my stomach plummeted. Not can it properly document the white hot embarrassment felt on my discovery that “PubGate” had gone global.

The only fading glimmer of light in this tunnel of cringe was my genetic inability to tell large fibs allied to a pathological hatred of talking behind people’s backs. Or into their phones as was the case here.

I’m kidding myself. It’s not really a glimmer is it?

The instinctive response is to pass the whole episode off as a indiscretion similar to jarring someone’s arm at the coffee machine. However Andy – my boss – is an infrequent reader of this blog and I can hear the bugger chuckling. Quite right too – experience may finally have taught me that mobile phones, beer and ranting at the speed of stupid make very unhappy bedfellows.

I left the pub somewhat chastised and considered allowing a “Strand Suicide” taxi to administer the last rights, but even this small pleasure was denied me.

Normally at this time of night I’d put my phone on charge. But you know what? I don’t think I’ll bother.

I’m not having a good day.

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.

Continue reading Merino wool – stinky by design.