Cyclists And Their Bikes (Part 1)

What cyclists say, when asked about their bikes:

An old bike rotting in woodland

A good bike will last a long time if you look after it

“I think I love my bike. Whatever love is.”

“I keep mine in the house, in the hall if there are people coming over but quite often it’s in the dining room. I just like looking at it.”

“My bike? It’s over there if you want to take a look. You’ll have to move all the kids’ bikes off it. Sorry. The tyres are probably flat.”

“I had silver tassels on the ends of my handlebars but they’ve come off.”

“I’ve gone retro; I don’t like these modern ones. Give me steel any day.”

“Don’t look too closely – it’s in bad need of some loving care.”

“Do you like it? I’ve just painted it that colour. Very pink, very bubblegum, very me, don’t you think?”

“I’ve got a folding bike, just for the commuting. That’s my only one.”

“I like bikes and all that but I don’t go mad about them. My boyfriend’s made, like, a fetish out of his. He’s always fiddling with it, has to have the latest bits for it. I don’t get it. He spends a fortune but he never goes any faster.”

“That thing?! That was left behind in the shed of a place I rented when I was a student and it’s sort of stayed with me ever since. Lord, that was a few years ago now.”

“I just ignore it until it goes wrong and then the old boy in the bike shop sorts it out for me. I can’t even fix a puncture. I suppose I ought to learn really. Mind you, it’s people like me that keep him in a job.”

“Can’t say I’ve ever given it much thought. It gets me about. It’s a three speed.”

“It’s the old ones I really like; finding an old gem in a bike sale or something is just brilliant.”

(More next week)

Part of theUnstated.Net   Part of

On Codgertating …

A letter, out of the blue, from a fellow Codger. It’s always good to know you’re not alone.

from a fellow codger


Does cycling make you happy? Does it make me happy? Bear with me.

I saw the Hot Club of Cowtown last night. I could drone on about the ins and outs of hot jazz/western swing, but in some ways all anyone needs to know is that theirs is very happy music.

Happiness is odd.

A mushroom growing in a 'wound' in a tree

A mushroom up a tree. What’s not to like!?

I have trouble imagining myself playing Hot Club of Cowtown recordings when alone. I have trouble imagining them playing live to anything other than a crowded room. Their kind of music and, more broadly, that kind of infectious, good natured, uplifting and happy spirit, is – I thought last night – something that’s only really possible to experience in the company of others. Happiness, in this sense, is essentially, crucially, a shared, communal experience.

I largely cycle alone. I enjoy cycling with friends when it happens, but an important benefit, to me, of cycling is that often it’s just me, alone with my thoughts and free of the distractions of company and communications – electronic or personal.

I had a good ride today, albeit on a fairly average route. My legs were good, the traffic was light, the weather stayed reasonable for the most part; even the final eight or so miles into a stiff headwind wasn’t too soul-sapping.

I spent most of the ride thinking about happiness and that I don’t quite know what it is that I generally experience when I’m cycling, but it’s nothing akin to the happiness of a ‘Hot Club …’ gig.

For a start, I’m alone; I’m also putting in effort, having to deal with hazards, having to be alert and all those other things that are inevitable aspects of riding a bike. I can find myself feeling angry – at pot holes perhaps, or fly-tipping, or something more abstract. And it’s not unusual to find myself with a fairly blank mind – which can be no bad thing at times. But whatever I am when I’m riding, I don’t think I’m ‘happy’.

I know this might be largely – perhaps totally – a question of semantics. That acknowledged though, I am coming to suspect that happiness for humans is something of a shared activity. For me, solo cycling, instead of happiness as such, is all about my general well-being and state of mind; is all about some kind of peace, some kind of mental space, some kind of contentment.

The Hot Club of Cowtown

Incidentally, this was another good gig put on by Empty Rooms Promotions, bringing high quality live music to the people.


Summer is over! It feels like I’ve not worried about rain for ages … today getting a soaking was back on the agenda.

Rain Clouds

I’m not going to worry about you and your mates raining on me

There were ‘Met Office Weather Warnings’ for rain, and there were ‘Met Office Weather Warnings’ for gusty winds and it’s very easy to suspect their unstated aim is to ensure we’re all infantalized by the whole approach they take – and thus end up dependent on them. They wouldn’t be the first institution to take that approach.

And the worse thing is, it’s very easy to let this attitude creep under your defences and start infecting your own outlook. Today I rode around for a while worried about getting wet. I mean … for pity’s sake. If I get wet I’ll go home and I’ll dry off. I’ll perhaps have to oil-up some bits of the bike. Nothing about it would be a big deal. UK Rain is very rarely life-threatening.

So, after about 15 miles of keeping a wary eye on the clouds as if it’s going to be a disaster if I get caught out … I finally came to my senses, and spent the next 20 miles feeling all the happier for it. And, of course, absolutely nothing weather-related happened that merited any kind of warning.

I can only recommend making your own mind up as a key factor in your own happiness.

Make Your Own Mind Up

Level Two Heatwave Warnings! Level Three in places!! Rooms can get hot on hot days so do be careful. Outside can be hot too if it’s hot out. Drink plenty if you’re sweating, especially if you’re thirsty. Don’t wear warm clothes in warm weather, wear cool clothes instead. Consider opening windows to cool a room down. Watch out for the coming crime wave because there’s always a near breakdown of law and order whenever there are a few sunny days.

If you’re not feeling scared by a spell of hot weather you should at least be worried. If you’re neither then you haven’t understood the risks so we’ll say it again – there are Heatwave Warnings! Official Warnings! Real life Experts and Scientists are issuing Warnings!

A moment’s thought and it’s obvious that the fear industry is actually quite ludicrous. It gives idiot journalists something to write. It gives officialdom reasons to justify itself. It merits only ridicule. There are people vulnerable to health problems in hot weather but they are a tiny proportion of the population. They do not justify the scaremongering.

The alternative, that all the trite advice and warnings actually are necessary, requires that we be a nation of imbeciles. If that is true, then that self-same officialdom has an awful lot to answer for regarding the nation’s education over the past several decades.

As it is, contrary to all the indications, today I enjoyed a bike ride that included The Bell at Aldworth for lunch – and that can’t be bad. Happiness is making your own mind up.

Shady Woods

A welcome bit of bosky shade

Sack The Ignorant

Much of England is hot – in the 80s F. It has been for a while now and it will be for a few days more at least. This is not bad news. It makes life a bit difficult in some regards – this being England, we’re not at all geared-up for any kind of weather other than the middling-temperate variety. But it would be churlish to complain

The hot nights means open windows, and open windows means the sound of jets landing at Heathrow. Right now they’re not coming in overhead but in a few days the wind will be veering east, and that means they’ll be waking me and thousands of other people up, from about 5.30 or 6.00 onwards.

Today saw Heathrow submit its plans for expansion to the enquiry that’s looking in to Britain’s air traffic capacity. There’s lip-service concern about noise but the notion that there can be an additional 260,000 flights per year without it ruining an awful lot of lives is laughable. Worse, it’s an insult to suggest it.

The BBC on airport expansion plans

It strikes me that we ought to be looking at what percentage of air travel is business related. We then need to sack pretty well all the business people taking those flights as they’re patently too ignorant to use online conferencing tools and are running up costs to their companies (and the country) for no good reason. By definition, this makes them bad business people. Once sacked, then we could assess what kind of air traffic capacity we actually need. It would, surely, be a very much lower requirement. And think how happy that would make so many people on the ground.

If only/fat chance.

In the meantime, it’s perhaps counter-intuitive, but I’ve always found cycling on hot days a good thing to do. You’re guaranteed some air passing over you, and if you’re working up a sweat that’s only going to cool you down. It’s better than just sitting and panting by a long chalk. If you don’t know what to do with yourself on a hot day then – assuming you’re physically OK – I recommend it.

From near Christmas Common, getting a breeze up on high looking over a sun-backed Oxfordshire.

From near Christmas Common, getting a breeze up on high looking over a sun-baked Oxfordshire.