Monthly Archives: February 2012

I Am Just Stepping Out…

In the words of Captain Oates: I am just stepping out; I may be some time. Unlike the gallant Englishman, I do expect to return, however, in about a week – on the 6th of March. I am heading overseas on an assignment, not an unusual thing, but in this case the spot I am going…

Packaged Dreams

Something that never fails to amaze me, and saddens me a little, is the curious laziness of imagination and blinkered outlook so many people seem to have when it comes to envisioning their dream bicycle. You see this on cycling forums all the time: somebody will be planning on buying their dream bicycle to mark…

Pouring Oil on Troubled Flames

Whoever came up with the term ‘traffic calming’ to describe the gauntlet of chicanes, pedestrian islands and speed bumps British street planners put in place to modulate the flow of traffic was clearly an ironist of the first order. The theory, of course, is that the presence of such obstacles in the road and the need to steer accurately around them will cause motorists to slow down, take a more thoughtful approach to their driving and proceed in a calm and stately manner. Perhaps that’s the way it plays out in the computer modelling. But as anyone who has ever pedalled a bicycle down such streets can tell you, nothing is more likely to elevate motorists’ blood pressure and bring out the worst in human nature than a bit of ‘traffic calming’.

Ships in The Night

No place amongst the many places that I ride do I feel more assured of finding perfect contemplative solitude than I do when I am pedaling along the lonely old road across the Pevensey marshes at a quarter to five in the morning. It’s a world that’s mine and mine alone. So I could hardly believe my senses this morning when all of a sudden in the midst of a reverie I heard a whirr of another bicycle coming up briskly beside me. I glanced around, startled out of my dolly-daydream, to see a preternaturally early-bird commuter with backpack and helmet sweep by me on a road bike in a kind of stately rush, without so much as a glance or a nod in my direction.

The Art of Bicycle Chain Maintenance

A bicycle chain is a thing of rare mechanical beauty – flawless in design and nearly perfect in its ability to transfer your power to the rear wheel and send you spinning down the road with the ease of a bird in flight, but how on earth do you keep a chain clean and bright and flowing sweetly in an imperfect world of grit and mud, salt air and rain?

At Last! It’s Getting Lighter in the Mornings

A fine crescent moon hanging low over a millpond sea and a sky full of stars when I went out this morning at a quarter to five. The air was sharp with frost and the puddles from the showers that fell around midnight were frozen over and crinkled noisily when I rode through them on my way across the marshes. In all, it looked and felt like another brisk and bitter winter dawn – but with a subtle and pleasing difference. For today, and for the first time this year, I really began to notice how much more light there was in the sky on the homeward leg of my ride.

Race Around the World – The Armchair View

At nine o’clock this morning ten intrepid cyclists set out from Greenwich to race each other around the world, alone and self-supported. I like that there should be such a race. With its old-fashioned sense of derring-do and gallant young men in jaunty jalopies, and the weeks of hardy travel involved, it is the perfect restorative to a 21st century world made small and mean and over-familiar by cheap air travel and a gazillion frequent flier miles.

Banjo Paterson & Mulga Bill’s Bicycle

Light the candles, break out the tinnies. Today is Banjo Paterson’s birthday – born on this date in 1864, at ‘Narrambla’, near Orange, in rural New South Wales. For those of you who are not Australian, or haven’t had the pleasure of living down there, and don’t immediately recognise the name, Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson is Australia’s national poet, the man who gave the world Waltzing Matilda, and a rich swag of iconic Australian ballads such as The Man from Snowy River and Clancy of the Overflow, and, for those of us of the cycling persuasion, Mulga Bill’s Bicycle.

Life’s Bumps in The Road

Occasionally, in my more lyrical moments, when things are going well and I feel the master of my fate, I find myself thinking almost fondly of some of the jackasses I have encountered over the years, and how they have ended up – unwittingly and unintentionally, to be sure – being catalysts for good things.…

The Ultra Marathon Man

With so much bitter weather around and treacherous black ice on the roads, especially in the pre-dawn hours in which I do my riding, I decided to stay off my bicycle this week. Why risk a broken wrist, hip or collarbone, surgery and three months or so on the sidelines for the sake of what,…