Archives for March 2013


Potholes- filled badly and needing re-doing

Please, just do the job properly

A tedious, never-ending winter. A tedious strong and cold wind from the east. Today’s was a short, tedious ride on a fixed wheel – short because it was too cold to be anything else and remain even vaguely pleasurable.

The tedious predictability of sleep-wrecking jets overhead well before dawn – when the prevailing wind, a westerly, is in charge they’re not audible around here. You could, perhaps should, get very angry about the insult to all the people beneath flight paths that allowing flights at this time – from any direction – represents. That there are people willing to allow these flights, whatever the cost in human happiness and health, is as tediously true as anything else about human nature.

The tedium of pot-holes appearing time and time and time again where they’ve previously been ‘mended’. Whatever happened to doing a job once, and doing it properly. Councils: don’t plead ‘cuts’ and and claim to be hard-up when you’re visibly, crassly, painfully obviously wasting thousands upon thousands of pounds ‘mending’ roads to such a dismal quality standard that you’re just throwing good money after bad, time and time and time again.

The tedium of repetitious problems. And, stupidly enough, the tedium of finding so much about day-to-day life tedious. I can only look upon my response to it all with contempt.

And Again, Again

With the temperature in the low 40s F and a horribly strong, cold easterly wind blowing, it was borderline stupid to go out for a ride today. I cycle, above all else, for pleasure.

As it was, while I was out the gusts appreciably strengthened and a few spots of rain appeared in the mix so I headed home on a shorter route through South Oxfordshire than I’d planned. A .75 on the Hengistbury Scale*.

Pigeons hunkered down on a kerb

All you can do is hunker down and wait.

Of course, it’s no big deal. I’ve a home with heating. I can afford the fuel bills. I don’t have to ride a bike. I don’t even have to go out in this weather much by any mode of transport: I work for myself from home. I am barely inconvenienced by it. I know there are – quite literally – innumerable ways in which I could be far worse off than I am, in relation to the weather and in the broader sense.

As always, the problem lies in the gulf between what you know intellectually and what you feel emotionally. If I can find anything interesting to glean from how this weather’s making me feel, it’s the need to focus on that gulf. Without understanding that, ‘know thyself’ is a very distant goal.

*The Hengistbury Scale.

And Again

Daffodils behind a fence

Spring feels forbidden

Another short-ish ride, just to get some miles in before the weather turns even more inhospitable again, just to get out while I can. The wind’s cold and from the east and this is shaping up to be about the coldest March in my lifetime. It’s certainly, already, the worst March for cycling that I can remember, the fewest miles ridden that I’ve ever recorded.

And there’s nothing to say. We’re in a kind of horrible stasis, locked-in by the weather. True, the days are longer and you can see nature reacting to the increasing light levels, despite the temperatures. A lot of birds are noticeably in pre-mating frisky / chase mode; there are some buds beginning to show; there are a few daffodils out.

All these signs of spring in nature are despite how it feels, not because of it.

The overall feeling is of an unwelcome stasis.

Appreciation where it’s due: after battling up to the top of Remenham Hill, I was very grateful to the Tardis (waste disposal) lorry driver who gave me plenty of room to turn off. It does make a difference.

Encouraging Disaster

Today’s was a ‘get out while I can’ ride – between showers; as work permits; in case the weather gets even worse. As it was, it was a largely grey and fairly cold spin – around the lanes and passing through Henley en route.

Riding around, I saw a learner driver get a simple T-junction totally wrong, ending up stalled half-way out in to the road being joined. The pupil, I’d guess mid-20s, was red-faced, visibly upset and obviously completely flummoxed. The instructor wasn’t looking too happy either. The car, a badged-up driving school’s vehicle, was for automatic-only tests.

And the not particularly original thought occurred to me: should we really offer automatic-only licences?

Such a licence is pretty limiting so, presumably, only people who can’t handle a manual gear box as well as all the other requirements of driving opt for it.

To state the obvious, driving is both dangerous and responsible; you can easily do an awful lot of damage in a car. You can end lives and wreck lives.

The huge majority of drivers on the roads can manage to steer, indicate and so on, and change gear, and drive day-in and day-out safely. Changing gear in a car isn’t difficult. If you, as an individual, can’t cope with it, in and of itself, then, presumably, physically, you’re not able to drive a standard vehicle*. If you can cope with it, but not at the same time you’re doing all the other things required of a driver, then, surely, that’s a pretty strong indication that you’re not mentally suited to driving.

That’s not meant to be harsh or unpleasant or discriminatory. That’s meant to be a simple recognition of the realities of the road: it’s a busy, dangerous environment which requires a lot of information to be taken-in and decisions made more-or-less instantly, and often more-or-less constantly, while carrying out the basic physical and mental task of driving a car.

If it’s not an environment and task an individual is suited to, then we shouldn’t try to lower the barriers to them joining – which is what an automatic-only licence is. We should be making sure the alternatives – public transport, cycling, whatever – are suitably attractive, so no-one feels that they have to learn to drive at all costs – costs to themselves and quite possibly to others. And as a society we shouldn’t look upon being a driver as the norm.

*And yes, of course if someone is limited physically but is mentally up to it, then that’s a different issue for which an automatic car can be an appropriate solution.

Riding Upstream

When you’re riding on the road and it occurs to you that you’re going upstream as well as uphill, that might be a clue that it’s raining a touch too hard for comfort. As you’ll have gathered, that’s precisely what happened to me today as I slogged up to Woodcote via a soggy, pot-hole strewn circuitous route through the lanes of South Oxon.

The slightly worrying thought is that the weather for this month last year turned out to be the best of the whole year. If that’s a precedent, and this month’s also going to be the best we get, 2013 is going to be truly grim. Hey ho.

That’s unlikely: the real impact of climate change is unpredictability. Whether that’s in any way better is a moot point.

The Flywheel (Just For Cyclists)

This is just an aside prompted by a couple of turbo-trainer sessions and, today and yesterday, two sub-20 mile rides on a fixed wheel.

Last year I was using a fixie on the trainer, this year it’s a regular geared bike. Comparing the speeds and comparing how I feel, the significance of influence of the flywheel effect that riding a fixed wheel offers is quite apparent. This is nothing scientific, I know, but it seems to me it’s worth at least one-to-two miles an hour, everything else being equal – gear ratio, the quality of the rider and so on.

And, this week, riding a fixie out on the road, the same feeling of the bike positively working with you – if that makes any sense – really struck me as I was coming up a gentle but fairly long incline. It has to be said that riding a fixed wheel does offer quite a different, and very pleasurable, riding experience … just not one that’s ideal on very hilly terrain or windy days!