Archives for October 2011

More Superstition

It’s obvious but so easy to ignore: human stupidity knows no boundaries.

Essentially, there are two back-lane ways down to Remenham Church. Let’s call them ‘A’ and ‘B’. I normally go down ‘B’. The last time I went down ‘A’, I punctured.

Today I was bowling along quite pleasantly and at around about Crazies Hill I did think to myself that for the last day of October I’ve done well on the puncture stakes, as this time of year is normally ‘puncture season’ – when the weather starts to turn and there’s more grit, including those razor sharp bits of flint, being washed down on to the roads.

Soon after that, I started down ‘A’ and yes, of course, I punctured.

A puncture, by and large, is no big deal. Ten minutes and it’s fixed: just replace the inner tube. Nevertheless, it’s a thing best avoided and it always merits a curse. And curse I did, mainly myself, for a) thinking about punctures and b) going down lane ‘A’.

Which is what I mean about human stupidity having no boundaries: to even entertain the notion for a second that somehow merely thinking about something can make it happen is stunningly dumb.

Granted, it is possible that route ‘A’ might perhaps be more prone to having stones washed down on it, and it was a bit of flint that did the damage, but to imagine that every time I personally go down that lane I’m going to get a flat tyre is just daft, and to suspect that because I’ve thought it might happen, it’s all the more likely to actually happen, is plainly ludicrous.

(To rub my nose in it, as I was mending it another cyclist passed me – puncture free.)

I suppose it’s a touch sobering to realise that I’m just as stupid as anyone else; it would be nice to be able to believe one’s own ego and the propaganda it puts out about being above superstitions, imaginary friends and other gobbledegook. Sobering or depressing.

Unfriendly In Henley

A better ride today and a longer trip too. The route took in Henley which was surprisingly empty for a Saturday, but – recession aside – the future of most town centres is bleak –perhaps Henley’s just a good bellwether.

Mind you, if that bellwether role is true, then let’s hope it applies just to the future of shopping and not to the nature of drivers. All journeys, whatever the mode of transport, involve numerous interactions with other road users. Most of those interactions are neutral, some will be actively co-operative, even friendly, and a few might be something else – aggressive, negligently inconsiderate or actively unhelpful. In Henley today, the latter were in the majority.

One young-ish chap cut me up, quite deliberately, and then adopted that typical, fixed, borderline sociopathic, stare ahead – determined to not catch my eye, all too aware that he was in the wrong. There was a child in the car with him; nothing about the pair of them looked happy. I wondered whether it was a case of begrudged ‘quality time with the kid’. You wonder how the child will grow up, how they’ll look back on these years.

If ever you hear anyone talk of ‘quality time’, the ‘quality’ needs qualifying – would that be good or bad quality you’ll be offering this time around?

So some unhappy young-ish bloke cut me up; it’s no big deal but as you get older you realise time is finite and that karma is a boomerang. You just wish you could get that message across to people while they can still act on it. It was ever thus though.

Wardrobe Woes And Other Autumn Aggravations (Just For Cyclists)

What to wear on a not-that-cold autumn day – showers, with sunshine? You cannot get it right. All you can do is resign yourself to getting wet – from the rain or your own sweat, or both.

The sun’s low this time of year and the glare can be squint-inducing. All you can do as a cyclist riding into the sun is try to be aware that drivers coming up behind you might be struggling to see you. Quite what you do with that awareness is another question … It’s hardly practical to get off. Glare off a wet road is even worse.

Painted markings on roads are also slippery hazards this time of year, as are wet iron-works – drain covers and the like. I’ve also had moments on bends covered in leaf debris that’s become ground up and smeared across the road in a traction-free mush, and if you see a sign saying ‘mud on road’, know that a really muddy bit of tarmac is at least as tricky as if it were snow covered. Unlike blinded drivers, at least with these hazards you can cycle accordingly.

I’m not riding well at the moment – dead legs whenever I go out, for however long. It happens at times; I’ve never been able to pin-point a cause or a cure. I ride on; I get better again.

A Nasty Thought For Nasty People

An off-road ride, in part to try out some new tyres. They were noticeably squirmy on road but that’s fair enough – they’re designed for mud. Unfortunately, the dirt off road was surprisingly hard and dry so it was no real test.

Yes, dry dirt in October. Climate change is all too real. I read in the news that some high profile American, previously a ‘climate change sceptic’ has apparently changed his mind in the light of recent data and research. I don’t care. I don’t even care enough to look up his name.

The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence says climate change is real. The media give an ludicrous amount of coverage to the tiny minority of voices who want to deny that. There is an awful lot of active disinformation and misinformation about what’s happening to the planet, aimed at sowing doubt. It’s identical in approach to the tobacco companies’ propaganda tactics once the link to lung cancer was proven. Such is extent of the greed some people are capable of. We should not be surprised at human nature.

No, that some American has changed his tune about climate change matters not one jot. All I hope, for the sake of justice, is that those orchestrating the dis- and mis-information, and those who repeat it, live long enough to see their grand children struggle with the consequences of an over-heating planet. A nasty thought, for nasty people.


After the chilliness of earlier in the week, now it’s warm and sunny. That’s not a complaint.

Today’s was another off-road trip with Charli, really just a pootle about the lanes and bridlepaths between Reading and Henley – inevitably sharing some of them with more walkers and cyclists than we’d normally meet during a week day. There was a real feel of ‘making the most of it’ in the air.

Sharing the roads and paths isn’t all bad; we came across a family with a little kid on a hobby-horse type ‘trainer bike’ and his enthusiasm was as obvious as his smile was infectious. It’s a dire cliché but there is something uniquely valuable about innocent laughter, about witnessing and hence sharing – however vicariously – another’s malice-free, cynicism-free pleasure.

(The reason for a leisurely Sunday ride was largely to try out some bike work – a new seat pin to replace one that was worn, prone to slipping and thus needing to be done up with the quick release ludicrously tightly. A new one (with no sleeve) and hey presto, sensible pressure needed for the quick release, and no creaking either. Next, new tyres and a new front mech – the current one, after just 3,000 or so miles, is wearing on the rivets. At the risk of sounding like the old man I am, they don’t make them like they used to. I’ve old Campag and Suntour kit from the 80s that has less play in it than this couple-of-year-old mid-range Shimano stuff. )

Save Your Money (Just For Cyclists)

The first ride for a long time in the proper cold; there was a real frost last night.

I can’t say I wholeheartedly enjoy cycling when the temperatures get much below around the mid-40s (F). There’s that bit more will-power required to go out the door. Often, once out, it’s enjoyable enough but it’s pretty well impossible to dress right in the cold, especially when it’s also sunny. As today demonstrated, there are limits to wicking clothing – whatever the adverts suggest.

Some money spent on some decent layers is money well spent, without a doubt: if you’re going to sweat at all, the ‘proper clothing’ is a lot better than going out in, say, a plain cotton t-shirt and woollen jumper. But I’ve tried expensive, I’ve tried mid-price and I’ve tried the cheap end of the cycling clothing ranges and none of them have kept my body properly dry as I’ve sweated.

I’m happy to say that I do think it’s an unrealistic expectation – surely, wicking can only go so far. All I’d say to anyone reading this, who might imagine that it’s possible to be kept thoroughly dry if only you spentd enough, is that my experience suggests you should adjust your expectations instead – and don’t punish your bank balance.