Archives for August 2012

Handlebar Tape (Just For Cyclists)

Cinelli padded handlebar tape, with cork

Cinelli padded handlebar tape. You can just about see the small bits of cork it’s impregnated with – keeping it absorbent.

This is one of those ‘just in case’ entries – as in, just in case you’re not aware of this.

Your backside on the saddle, your feet on the pedals and your hands on the handlebars – and thus (if you’re on a standard road bike) on the handlebar tape: those are the points of contact – the points which have to carry all your weight. That’s obvious enough if you think about it, but you do need to think about it.

To be comfortable on a bike means those points of contact need to be comfortable. The longer the ride, the more important comfort becomes, but whatever the distance, the happier you are on the bike, the better you’ll be able to ride and the more enjoyment you’ll get.

To just focus on the bars, handlebar tape comes in any number of varieties. Today I was riding with new, padded handlebar tape – replacing some previously non-padded stuff that I’d bought without thinking (which in turn had replaced some padded tape). Going back to a padded version made me realise just what a big difference it makes. (I’ve used Cinelli tape; there are other makes though. Just make sure it’s thick and non-slip.)

So, if you’re getting any discomfort with your hands, you could do worse than trying some padded tape to see if that helps. (You could also try some decently padded gloves/mitts.) New tape is a relatively low-cost thing to experiment with, and there are plenty of videos online showing you how to wrap bars if you’re not sure: put “taping handlebars on a road bike” into Google and take your pick. (My tip: don’t be in a hurry when you set about doing it; it takes time to do it nicely.)

Wave

The Twyford-Henley branch line. Charli and I were rewarded for our waves with a toot on the horn. Thank you!

The Twyford-Henley branch line. Charli and I were rewarded for our waves with a toot on the horn. Thank you!

When crossing railway bridges, particularly over quiet branch lines, you should always give a friendly wave to train drivers. You just should. They’ll often wave back; sometimes they’ll even reward you with a toot on their horn – which is excellent.

Foolish nostalgia? Harmless whimsy? Who cares?

(There’s possibly something interesting in the fact that when you wave at a train driver, that’s normal. Do the same to passing cars and people will think you’re crazy.)

Dogs Being Wagged

I presume because of the wind direction, there were relatively few aircraft flying over East Berkshire today, as I pootled around the lanes between Reading and Windsor. It makes a difference: the resulting quietness is something to savour.

I was especially mindful of it because some Tories have been calling for a third runway to be built at Heathrow**. The focus of the talk is about how it can be done without upsetting regulations about CO2, and about how it will do wonders for trade.

Leaving aside climate change, no-one mentions the people who’d be further blighted by increased air traffic – all those who live under the flight paths. There’s no attempt – by any politician of any note of any hue – to evaluate human happiness. There are assumptions that economic growth is good when, patently, endless growth in a world of finite resources is impossible and we should probably be trying to organise society to contract. There are assumptions around trade, earnings and wealth that are at best untested and certainly aren’t put out to public examination, and in fact they’re being made in a context where we’re increasingly aware that the things we buy don’t buy us happiness.

(Yes, minimum standards that come with a degree of wealth are needed, sure, but if there was anything even nudging toward a fair distribution of wealth in the West and perhaps even globally, they’re achievable.)

And so it was that the obvious struck me: the tail is wagging the dog. The only point of work, of trade, of wealth and all the rest of it is if it brings benefits. Get to the point where it doesn’t, and it all needs re-evaluating. There’s a lot that says we’re at the point where a lot of work is pointless and we need to re-order society to put work in its rightful place – there, but in the service of life, not dominating it.

We’re not put on the planet to work. That’s just a myth put about, very persuasively, by those who ‘gain’ the most from that work. Quite possibly the most bitter irony is that there’s plenty of evidence that suggests those ‘gaining’ from all this work aren’t happy either, despite – or perhaps because of – their greed and riches. It’s lose-lose. It’s a funny old world, but no-ones laughing.

An aircraft overhead: shattering the peace or in pursuit of our greater good?

An aircraft overhead: shattering the peace or in pursuit of our greater good?

** Telegraph report on calls for a 3rd runway

The Animal Within

A nuthatch on a feeder in my garden as I left; a close encounter, certainly closer than I’d expect, with a female Roe deer and one youngster near Exlade Street; considerate drivers; cheery-enough cyclists; one of those fleeting eye-contact moments with a builder when he dropped a tool as I rode by and the mutual smiles that provoked; the rain holding off and the wind not getting up. All in all, a decent ride. My legs weren’t up to much but you can’t have everything.

Following on from yesterday’s musings about the lack of connectivity with our geographic environment, today was all about being alive to the weather. There’s a low pressure system coming in and you can sense the change coming just as much as you can see the cloud building up off to the west.

It’s hard to say just what it is you’re sensing; I have no idea if you’re able to actively feel varying air pressure. Perhaps it’s something more obvious – a temperature change maybe. As a rider I think there’s more to it than that – the air can feel thick some days – but there’s something over and above that too.

Whatever it is, as with the geography of an area, there’s something satisfying about realising you’re aware of these more elemental aspects. Why that should be satisfying I don’t know. I think it’s fair to suspect that animals are more aware of what’s going on around them; perhaps tapping in to our own awareness is to put us more in touch with the basic, fundamental, animal that we are, and perhaps, in turn, being in touch with animal nature is somehow deeply … what? Comforting?

Empty bench in a park: And sometimes it's good to just sit

Perhaps we should all spend more time sitting and staring, just being, just being an animal.

Trapped In Our Modernity

Dropping down into Marlow today, from the Maidenhead side of the Thames, and then climbing back up again heading towards Henley, once more I was struck by the geography of the area. In places the Thames is running in a steeply sided – picturesque – valley that you’re just not that aware of as a driver.

Dog lazily looking out of a car window

Well, I’m in touch with my surroundings.

Once you’re out of a motor vehicle you become much more aware of the lie of the land. You wouldn’t have to go back that many years to enter an era when everyone must have been much more alive to their surroundings; when surroundings would have been far more of a barrier and travel wasn’t something to undertake lightly.

Life in the bottom of the valley would have been different from up on top and while their respective inhabitants wouldn’t have been alien to each other, even moving such relatively short distances would have required a significant effort.

Remember that this was a time when there was far less knowledge of the world beyond what you might have personally witnessed – no Internet, no TV, no radio, no photography let alone moving pictures, few books and so on – and you realise that from our modern standpoint you cannot even begin to imagine what life was like then. You cannot unlearn and it’s futile to even try; your brain has been formed by different influences; you can try to be empathetic but you’re doing so from a modern start-point.

We can’t go back, we can only move on. Insofar as progress implies change for the better, it’s important to not confuse moving on with progress; ‘moving on’ is merely change.

6YGE2Y8Q7XXH – Item for Technorati; humans – please ignore!

6YGE2Y8Q7XXH – This is simply an item to meet Technorati’s requirements; humans – please ignore!