As has become traditional, dawn broke on the Unity Ride to the sound of rainfall. After a bit of armtwisting and the loan of my waterproofs, my pillion agreed to be undeterred by the thought of a swift London soaking and consented to make the trip round the North Circular to the Excel car park. Unlike Kill Spills, I didn't see many other bikes on the way and thought, maybe it will be a wash-out - but London bikers are made of sterner stuff and the East Car Park was full of slightly soggy riders, and Pudsey Bear.
The organisers had put together a great route kicking off with the Dome, past Monument, a quick lap of Parliament Square and back up the Strand to St Paul's and Tower Bridge. This is a large part of my usual London beat but it is so much better when accompanied by a large number of the Met's finest keeping over-assertive car drivers under control!
Lots of waving from the pavements, and lots of mobile phones being held up to capture the event - makes me wonder what the tourists will say when they get home. Maybe they will describe London as a city of bikers. Would be nice if it were true! (and maybe a few more of the potholes would get filled in.)
Sunday, 19 August 2007
Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Washing the bike after our monsoon endeavours, I realised that the chain was baggier than an old lady's underpants, and would probably ping off the sprox if I didn't get it sorted before heading to Scotland for a few landmarks more. Adjusting the chain is one of those jobs that I know how to do in theory but don't dare take my spanners to, on the grounds that if I get it wrong my back wheel will fall off. I developed a cunning plan that made it essential for me to ride to work before stopping at Metropolis on the way home for them to do my dirty work.
Riding to work means it's time to play the parking lottery - made more hazardous by the decision of a film crew to set up on the spaces I had in mind for trying first, but my third-choice spot came good with a broad sweep of tarmac sullied only by two scooters. Within 30 seconds a horde of suit-clad scooterdrones appeared like wasps round pimms to fence me in on all sides - for once my timing was perfect!
Sadly riding home was not perfect, I hate it when I ride like a muppet. 10 years of practice and I'm still emergency braking to avoid the back of the cement lorry, bullseyeing every pothole and rolling off the throttle mid-bend. I thought experience was meant to bring expertise :(
At least the chain was smooth.
Sunday, 12 August 2007
I took this book on holiday with me - it's in the fine travel tradition of Paul Theroux and Tony Hawks, in which slightly tetchy people do something extraordinary. Terry, Monica and their whippet Jim take their narrowboat to France by sailing it across the Channel. Rather like biking, boating seems to attract doomsayers who don't know much about what they're criticising but know it's dangerous. Fortunately Terry, Monica and Jim are indomitable. They also have mini-moto muppets in France:-
"I wondered how those machines are sold? Monsieur, that one is a nice colour, but it doesn't have the decibels. Now this one has the Fartblaster, which can be heard fifteen miles away. It deafened my uncle permanently and I can thoroughly recommend it. The bike in the corner brought great success to your friend Guillaume. On their very first date, his new girlfriend said OK you can have me right here and now on the pavement if you will just turn that fucking thing off."
Saturday, 11 August 2007
I missed the first Unity Ride, which ran in the wake of the London bombings, so I'm looking forward to Unity Ride II, running through the capital on 19 August. There's been some debate about whether a second ride is needed, but the organisers describe it as "a Charity event that celebrates motorbiking. Staged for ‘Children in Need’ and ‘Help a London Child’ and supported by the London Met Police & the Unity Support Riders, together we will visit all the major sights of London." which sounds good enough for me.
Thursday, 9 August 2007
I am at the seaside in search of tranquility. A quest which was doomed the moment this arrived on its trailer:-
The coast is for people who have made the effort to learn to sail, or who are having a good time paddling their own canoes, windsurfing or kite surfing. (Just like the roads are really for people who have made the effort to get a motorcycle licence!) This creates a tranquil backdrop of splashy noises and the odd curse. The jet-ski is for people who can't be bothered to learn to do something more difficult, and creates an annoying whiny noise. (Old F1 Joke - How does Murray Walker know which Williams Nigel Mansell is racing? Because on Mansell's car, the whining noise carries on after the engines are switched off).
And then I realised - I'm channelling an aquatic version of Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom! I don't go to the countryside in search of tranquility, so I've not had much sympathy for his view that motorcycles are "quite remarkably intrusive" - but there are a lot of people that do, and there's nothing more terrifying than a mass of Ramblers in full cry. Time to cut back on the loud pipes?
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
TfL are reported to be planning for £120 fines for cars "straying" into cycle lanes. Now, most bikers in London filter on the right, but the big bit of green tarmac at the front of the lights is a good place to wait once you've filtered to the front of the the queue. Yes, technically it's illegal because you've passed the solid white stop line. But it's a lot safer than having to wait between the queues of cars, lorries and buses. And it seems pretty well tolerated at the moment. Are TfL really saying that any biker that does this owes them £120? Filtering the queues is how bikes cut congestion - it's a good thing. There are even trials going on in some parts of London where bikes and m'cycles can share the Advanced Stop Line. But this proposal could stop it stone dead. As with traffic calming and the continuing ban on bikes in bus lanes, once again we are threatened with a policy which might make the roads safer for one lot of two-wheel road users at the expense of the others. Pretty stupid.