Saturday, 15 December 2012

Cycle control

I'm a lapsed cyclist. I rather unkindly laughed out loud this week at a work colleague who now commutes the 1500m distance between home and office by cycle and is a recent but enthusiastic cyclist. When I mentioned I was thinking about getting a bike for the Spring, he suggested I attend a cycling proficiency course. After I'd stopped laughing I explained that I had more than 20,000 cycle miles under my belt and used regularly to cycle 80 mile a day round trips on some of the most dangerous 'A' roads in the country, that I used to build my own bikes from bits and spares to achieve bespoke perfection and that I came from the generation that anticipated using a puncture repair kit on a long road trip and could still lever-off a tyre, extract the tube, find the leak with the aid of a wet drainage ditch, fix it and ride off again. Never mind taking a link out of a heat-stretched chain on a baking Summer roadside with only a Yale key, bent nail and a lump of flint. 

In place of Isotonic drink holder was nothing. To assuage true thirst stop at a field with cattle in, locate the trough, plunge your face in the water and take deep draughts. They don't mind sharing. I've never owned a little torpedo hat, never worn dayglo lycra and frankly find those expensive little clicky shoes much favoured by city commuters rather comical. In Summer, a breast pocket to keep your fags in and in winter a well-zipped Barbour. This was an age in which cycle-consciousness amongst drivers was non-existant; to survive you had to front-up 30 ton Sugarbeet wagons on 'A' roads, high-speed artics whose passing vortex pulled you towards the heavy trailer wheels, coaches that raced past you at 60 with just a few inches clearance and of course car drivers blind to anything with fewer than four wheels sharing the road. At junctions you needed the courage at all times to take the centre of the road and compel the queue behind you to follow until the other side when you could safely fall back to the left.

But I can't remember ever being angry or militant about it; even during all those angst-filled years of youth when even the slightest injustice would move me to fury. It was just the way it was. Many times I had to flick the bike into a ditch or a verge to avoid collision and suffer lesser injury by choice, twice I've ridden straight into carelessly opened offside doors. It was par for the course. 

So get ready, London, for a large smiling middle-aged man in a wax jacket riding a home-made cycle. Appearances can be deceptive. 

12 comments:

G. Tingey said...

How apt - see also:
http://www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2012/12/cyclists-can-be-the-problem/

Jeff Wood said...

The second half of your second paragraph explains exactly why I gave my bike away. I was never tempted to use "cycle paths" because they never go anywhere useful, and I preferred to leave them for pedestrians.

Here in Italy, cycling is big, despite the state of the roads. Scootering and motorcycling too, natch. Everybody started on two wheels, so drivers "see" two-wheelers.

Demetrius said...

In my day a half decent cyclist on a racing bike could reckon to overtake any three ton truck and keep up with most family cars (driven more slowly then because of braking, clutch care and petrol prices. I was once ticked off for overtaking a police car. But sports cars were a worry, especially driven by blokes in caps and scarves.

Martin said...

One thing to bear in mind is that since you last cycled regularly cars have become much wider but roads remain the same width. Good luck !

Dave_G said...

One thing Radders probably IS aware of is that HE is a little wider too!

Brightside Bob said...

Demetrius - "I was once ticked off for overtaking a police car."

I did the same once on a motorbike, copper insisted I'd broken the speed limit to do so (I was young, but not that stupid).

Radders, any pics of your "bespoke" (sigh!) masterpieces?

Anonymous said...

Anyone know where one could buy an ashtray to fit the handlebars?

Anonymous said...

Magic comment! You old fart;-)

With mucho bottle Sir.

Edward Spalton said...

Might I make a plea to cyclists young and old to comply with the law and fit a bell? I walk on a number of foot & cycle paths where I am frequently surprised by cyclists who just do not have a bell fitted. Most are fairly considerate but, being slightly hard of hearing, a cheerful ring from cyclists approaching from the rear would be a great help.

A while ago I was in town on the pavement and there were some children playing and shouting somewhere to my rear, I was nearly run down by a youngster who came hurtling past on his bike and shouted "ARE YOU BLOODY DEAF?" as he did so. No bell, of course.

I saw him go into a shop where I knew the staff and so was able to follow him for a full and frank exchange of views which, I hope, left him somewhat shaken.

Anonymous said...

Why should a cyclist be on the footway in the first place? (Note, what we call the 'pavement' is in fact the footway. Anything paved, including the road itself, is 'pavement').

And what is the point of commenting if the comments disappear without trace anyway?

Edward Spalton said...

Anonymous,
I quite agree that cyclists should not be on the pavement - a normal English usage for what the Americans call the sidewalk and you the foot way.

Perhaps a cyclist may read this and remember to fit a bell to his steed. Several middle aged. Cyclists with whom I made closer acquaintance than I really wished had no bell fitted either. It seemed that it had not occurred to them.

Raedwald said...

Anon 11.44 - I never knowingly delete legit comments but Blogger captures a lot of comments as spam and sometimes classes a legit comment as such; if I fail to spot it and reinstate it it gets deleted. many apols if this has happened - I do try to read all the spam to check