Wednesday, 25 February 2015

I've been at it again...

...yes I've been at it again.  I have a dirty dirty habit of taking pictures of other peoples bikes.  This one's something of comfort over fashion, because let's face it style is always comfortable.


I mustache your handlebars a question....


... what comfort has won over your sense of fashion? An extra wide seat on your Carbon Venge*?  Sports socks over your clipless pedal shoes?  Asda bag over your aerodynamic bike hat?

Jx

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*Funny story: when I first started getting into cycling, there was a story in Cycling Weekly about Mark Cavendish, and it was full of sayings like 'Since getting The Venge, I've been more focused... it's been a point of which I've been channeling my energies through...'  I thought it was an illness.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

I scowl superiorly from my corner....

I'm kind of judgemental, but I'm also very cowardly, so the chances of me being judged as judgemental are very slim since I hardly ever say anything that I'm judging people for.   Don't get me wrong, I am heartily aware that people judge me too but probably no where near half as much as I think they do, but they do.  And then they think about cake, or crossing the road, or how chickens are just little dinosaurs.  None the less, I am aware that I am judgemental, not particularly negatively judgemental I don't think, but I do and try to curb my judgementalness but sometimes find it difficult. I could of course spend more time curbing my cowardliness but that would just make me shouty.  

Rather pertinent to this blog I judge other cyclists a lot.  I look at them and judge if they're wearing appropriate attire for the climate for the day, if I can tell from how they ride if they're drivers or not (hint: if I see you do a roundabout I think yes, you drive a car).  Generally my judgeyness is not necessarily negative, but being pure of thought is not something people will say about me.  I know this, so I try to not be so negative, but there are some instances where it is difficult. For example:



Now, it's not the electric bike thing that gets me. A cyclist is a cyclist is a cyclist, batteries or no (and I was in the car when I took this.)   It's not the ear phones, which usually get me (but then I think what about all the deaf cyclists).  Or the lack of bike hat (straight up Darwinism).  It's the hand in the back pocket.  



I mean really??!?!  Would you!?!?!?!  On a busy Saturday afternoon on one of the busiest streets in the town?!  Would you?!?  In the bus lane, with half a dozen light stops, pedestrians, potholes and the rest?!  One handed?!  Fer Fecks Sake!!! Where's the sense in this world?!?!

Have you seen anything on the road worthy of ridicule?  Would it be worthy of ridicule by others? What do you see that you would never do?  Let's let it all off our chest now!

Jx

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Friday, 13 February 2015

Dinna' Cast Yer Clout' Just Yet!

My mate Tricia mentioned that this year would be her year of resurrecting her commute to work. Considering that clear cold nights are making for heavily frosted mornings I asked her if she wasn't worried about the ice in the earlier hours of the day? But then the belt and braces kind of gal my pal is goes and mentions she's already got those having being told by The Dutchy (her blokie) that if the Russians can cycle in the winter so can she. and needs to fit them on her own town style pootler.  OOooo, says me, gees a shot?!  And she does.

Now, the third thing on my list things I hate about cycling, besides the wind (number one) and mountain biking (number two) is Ice.  Snow itself isn't too bad to cycle in, but ice - the kind you can see or no - is a nasty little fecker that wants to whip the table cloth off your formal cream tea of life just so it can laugh as scones go flying.

Greasy, black icy horrible cobbles!
It is with this in mind I have often wondered if studdED tyres would be useful.  My pootling bike at the moment is the Brompton, and Brompton being purveyors of very fine and high end bikes, are also purveyors of very fine prices I mean seriously £30 for one (1) tyre?  The expense isn't something I can justify right now, at least not to 'just see' if I like them or not. Further to this I have often assumed they'd be a faff, besides the fitting could I have left them on all year or would I have to change them back on wet or warm mornings so this all in all was the perfect opportunity to find out. 

By happenstance Tricias' house is one of the coldest streets in Aberdeen,  indeed, at 10 am on a fine crisp morning there was still a great deal of sheet ice and snow when everywhere else has come over slushily patchy.  Our arrangement was that I'd come round for a shot to give her the incentive of fitting the tyres, which after we'd switched to teaspoons instead of a lone flat head screw driver, was a doddle.

Tricias' replacement horse



Her Burgundy Ridgeback Town Bike sits' you up so high you feel a mixture of Pope-like in his Pope mobile and vertigo.  The large seat and wide tyre base is definitely more for comfort and safety than speed (not that I go very fast on any of my bikes) and it does take a wee while to get over yourself parading like the Queen to pedestrians who think you 'a mental'.  By the time we'd had our coffees, got the tyres on, and I'd stopped waving at folk there was still spots of ice and snow on the road.  Pen face at the ready, I got down to some serious 'in the interests of blogging' trialing.

The White Stuffs the Ice and snow*


Things I learnt about Studded Tyres:

1.  It's spelled StuddED, not StuddIED.

2. They can go on both tarmac and icy roads - in fact, they need to be 'worn in' for 40km before their optimum grip on the roads can be reached. So say the icy roads have put a damper on your commute, this year, if you get them in August/September, they'll be good to go by mid October!




3.  They have the same wear as normal tyres so you could infact leave them on all year round. 

4. They do make a noise on normal tarmac.  I didn't find it too distressing but then Trish's bike is so high I might not have been close enough to appreciate the sound in it's full annoying glory.

5.  They do work.  And you can feel it.  On snow you can feel the tyre slide then suddenly grip faster than you are used to.  Now, I've cycled where the snow has lain so thick, it's shaved off by mudguards as the tyres have gone round, I've cycled on ice where tyre wheels have stopped turning and I've only got the camber of the road and my own procarious ballance holding me up, I've felt my back wheel go from under me round a secluded corner and had to do the counter-intuitive thing of going faster - and squealled when doing it.  So I know when my wheels have gone from under me, to somewhere else, but what was interesting is that I felt the wheels slip and then latch on.  It's quite odd and not what I expected.  It's different from normal tyre grip - that's something you don't really notice until you don't have it any more - because you feel like you're going to fall but you don't.

Having had a shot, I would now consider investing in studded tyres.  I think, however, if I was doing a spectacuarly wintery sportive/race I'd feel better off with some knobbly treaded ones, but for the day to day commute they'd be perfect.

Have you tried studded tyres, and how did you get on?  Do you prefer knobbly tires?  Are they an investment you plan to make, and what other items do you plan to add to your winter to spring commute?

Jx

*To protect privacy I blacked out a lot of the street detail, I may have got a bit splash happy.

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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A call to Peleton!

I'm not really a 'joiner'.  I'm like a strip of hairy sellotape, I'd like to join things, I want to join things, I feel like I should but when it comes down to it I just can't.   Especially when it comes to cycling.  I never returned to the Deeside Divas (well, not yet anyway).  I went to one CTC meet, and I've yet to return a book I've taken from the library.  So, not a joiner*.





This attitude of mine is particularly prevalent when it comes to campaigning in cycling.  I know the importance of cycling.  First and foremost the impact it's had on my health and thusly my life is far from immeasurable.  Due to the exercise as a result of my cycling, sleeping well, eating better, writing,  the ability to meet friends and being able to enjoy their company are all achievable.  I don't internalise things as much, I have more patience with others, my repetitive thought syndrome is more controllable and I'm able to articulate more of what I want to say. The ability to get out on a more cycle friendly safer road is very important to me.  And yet I've been reluctant to stick my oar in, to put my shoulder to the metal, on any sort of campaign.

Why is this?  Well, as I've already said, try as I might I'm not a natural partaker in things.  But there's also a polemic in a lot of cycling campaigning which sounds like complaining for the sake of complaining.  For example, several months ago there was a cycling advert which likened cyclists to horses, not in that we eat hay but that when cars are over taking we need a wide berth (which was the actual 'joke' in the Ad).

(This One)

This ad was eventually banned, and then after a kick up, un-banned but not seen since for a bunch of completely different reasons other than the moaning I found online but to be fair, we all know about how brave folk get hiding behind a computer screen (I for one feel very bolshy).

None the less ,it's this kind of attitude which has put me off, as it is the awful shouty ones screeching about how whatever is done (whether it's a 'concession' or not) is not right because it's not what they said, that get the most notice, and I've never met a cyclist who constantly ran red lights who didn't complain that we're not like Copenhagen (I've yet to meet one who's actually been).  It's like the taxi driver who accuses me of being that same red light running cyclist, but then gets all affronted when I tell him does that mean he's the Blue van man who called me a 'Stupid Bitch Cunt' whilst riding on the wrong side of the road because he didn't have enough space to over take me?  I digress.

'Whaaa!!!'

The point is, to me, cycle campaigning had always seemed to come through the medium of a sort of lycra clad UKIP. And whilst this has been going on, the 'MAN' (aka. the Government and thus councils) is making a lot of noise about Sustainable transport, leaving the car at home, introducing more cycle lanes, government sponsored ride-a-longs and all sorts of stuff.  Don't get me wrong, I have a healthy mistrust of the government and councils alike.  I was brought up during the Thatcher era and have seen her gone from something that's put on top of a bonfire, to being described as 'Great' (I always want to add '...but terrible, like Voldemort'). Indeed,  the lack of satire in Scottish politics is not due to the inability of comedians to find Scottish politics funny, it's that the politicians are laughable and such stereotypes themselves there's very little else to be said.

But I care about cycling, having cycled more on than off these past 20 years , it is getting better.  I want it to get even better. I want to know the government and councils are doing what they say they are, as well as being in a position to be aware of real life changes to roads and neighbourhoods that affect me and others like me.  How does someone like me, who's neither a saddle wanking militant hater nor a government sycophant, find their place in cyclings' civic duties?

This Way Only
A quick search on the Google for Cycling Aberdeen resulted in the Aberdeen Cycle Forum, a volunteer group 'seeking to encourage and develop cycling within Aberdeen'.   It meets monthly in the Town Hall - the section opened by The Queen none the less - and it was an eye opener.   The first meeting of the year concerned an introduction by Nestrans Development Officer (or Rep) Catherine Mackay, and then a run down of the various road works involving either improving or creating new cycle paths.   It's this last bit which really surprised me.  Aberdeen City Council and various other surrounding councils have, like councils all across the country, been making loud noises with regards to making cycling an everyday travel-useful pursuit.  Several areas were under discussion including to my surprise Riverside Drive and Ellon Road.  Both roads I use regularly (though to be fair I use the pavement of Ellon Road regularly, you'd have to be off your nut to use the road).  I had no idea that the council had undertaken the improvement of the cycleable aspect of these roads.  Not only was what they were doing under discussion but also if they'd started it (Riverside Drive they had), how much had been completed and if there were any issues (for example a cumbersome sign going through the Riverside developments telling 'Cyclists Dismount'  on a cycle path).  There was also discussion on what of the Cycle friendly budget was being used, how it was being used, and where else it was being allocated to (there are a lot of 'No Waiting' and 'No Parking' signs going up).

What was interesting was that all of the participants were volunteers (with the exception of Ms Catherine, the Nestrans rep development officer).  The conference room itself was provided by the city council, and there were several other cycling clubs and organisation in a sort of unofficial representation. There was the impression on the whole that not everything would be listened to, but, that day-to-day change could measured by those that used the roads.  Indeed, remember this guy:




He was there and reported that since his fall(s) the cycle path has since been gritted!

I'm glad I went.  It was interesting, because Councils and Governments are known for promising so many things to a point it's very difficult to know if they've delivered what they're supposed to unless it's a particular promise that directly affects you.  Even at that, there's such a malaise that any sort of contention that your average member of the public may have is expected to be ignored. 

So if you're interested in what's going on in your area do a quick online search. See what comes up and go for a nosey.  Best thing that could happen is you might find a bunch of reasonable niceys trying to make the roads a little safer, getting the council and government to keep their word, and if the worst thing happens and they turn out to be lycra clad mentals, well, you never have to see any of them ever again.

What puts you off getting involved in civil and government issues?  What involvement do you have and why do you take part?

Jx

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*I can put up some lovely shelving though,

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