For The Sake Of It?

The roads are foul – debris strewn, wet, and filthy with both human and nature’s rubbish. If it’s not raining it will be shortly. If it’s not blowing a gale it will be shortly. True, around here – Berkshire and South Oxfordshire – we’re getting away with it relatively lightly (so far at least); there are plenty of places struggling far more with the consequences of all this bad weather. Nevertheless, it’s not as much fun as it could be if you’re out riding a bike this winter.

That all raises a question: what is it a measure of that I still went out today? What does it indicate that I’ve two friends (who are like me, cyclists for pleasure rather than necessity) who’ve been telling me that they’re either going out in the lousy conditions anyway, or are genuinely feeling the worse for not getting out?

Perhaps there’s something about the science of it – the pleasure-related chemicals released into the brain through exercise; perhaps you can get addicted to them. Perhaps that’s tied-in with our ancient ancestors and the fact that at root we aren’t made to live and work indoors. What I do know is that the desire to get out and ride is real – and it’s recommended. Leaving the obviously dangerous times aside, and as I’ve said before, it’s very rare indeed for a ride to be a mistake.

So the next time you see a cyclist out in bad weather, don’t think they’re out riding for the sake of it. Don’t think they’re daft. Think, instead, about joining in.

Winter tree line

And the light at this time of year has a unique quality too


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.

Old Wisdom

“Topography can’t lie but isobars can be fickle.”

In West Berkshire, I rode for while with a chap in his 80s (so he told me); riding what I reckon must have been a 30-40 mile route. In amongst everything else we chatted about, his maxim about the lie of the land versus the unreliability of the wind stays with me.

I’ve long advocated riding out into a headwind; I’ve long railed against the uselessness of most weather forecasts. Planning routes on the basis more of the land than the predicted wind direction might be wiser. He’s had more years than I to arrive at that view.

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.

Sweating and Moaning

A moan: there are times when the English summer weather is perfectly foul. It rained last night, just a little. Today was warm but not hot. It was humid. It was grey. The clouds were ominous but you could tell they weren’t going to do anything apart from make it feel oppressive. You could cycle, you could walk, you could do both; whatever you did, it was sweaty. Not in the good ‘you know you’re working hard’ way, but in the sticky, uncomfortable way.

And there’s nothing you can do about it, and there’s no point moaning. So, why moan? I was with Charli today and we both complained about it, totally without point. All we were doing was making the obvious explicit. There are times when I despair of the kind of basic, nuts-and-bolts, day-to-day stupidity I’m capable of. It didn’t stop us doing anything. Get on with it and get over it; make the most of it.

And now I’m moaning about moaning. Argh.

An oppressive sky seen from Lardon Chase, Oxon.

A view from Lardon Chase