She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life said Susan B. Anthony, US feminist of the 19th century. Most days right now it feels like I am failing at both. My brain is failing to process information quickly enough to help me make decisions; I’m not looking far enough ahead and I’m not rolling on the throttle to get me smoothly through the corners.
Martin Hopp said lots of interesting things at Cadwell, the most relevant of which right now seems to be that controlling the bike should take no more than 10 per cent of your attention, leaving 90 per cent for information gathering, scanning, gear choice and all those other things that get you making progress. I reckon I’m still somewhere around 50 per cent of attention going on machine handling. When I learnt to drive I hated roundabouts, because you had to spot the gap and be ready to go all at once…unlike traffic lights where you had time to get the clutch to biting point, set the accelerator and be ready to go on green.
In an effort to find tranquillity I have taken up archery again, where you have all the time in the world to get bow arm positioned, target sighted and arrow loosed (and despite this, I’m still hacking lumps out of my arm. I’m not a junkie, I just have “string sting.”) At the club last night we were joined by John Cavanaugh, one of the UK’s top archers, who’s going to Beijing with the paralympic squad. He pointed out that all the practice in the world won’t help if your basic technique is wrong. So maybe I need to go back to year zero in some sort of biker regression therapy. I’m sure my KH100 is out there somewhere…
Despite one being very slow and one being very fast, archery and motorcycling do have one thing in common. When you get it right, there’s an amazing feeling of sweetness and flow. One arrow last night, one corner at Cadwell on Tuesday. Maybe I should look at this in a glass-half-full way and think how much I have to look forward to when I get it right all the time.
Thursday, 31 July 2008
Monday, 28 July 2008
An unrepentant old lady climbed out of the car. "You're parked in a motorcycle space" said the MMW.
"Yes" said the old woman.
"That's not a motorcycle."
She thought for a moment. "I'm only going to the cash point."
And shuffled off, pants on fire (well, they ought to have been ... or she takes more than 15 minutes to get cash out).
We debated the most appropriate reprisal. Personally, I'm all for taking two of the wheels off and leaving a note which says "your vehicle has been modified to have the appropriate number of wheels for parking in a motorcycle space" but lockable nuts prevented this.
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Posted by Highwaylass at 18:44 PERMALINK
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Westminster have finally set a date for the introduction of charges for bike parking - 4 August. I was under the impression that charging would be brought in first for the new, secure spaces but it's actually a £1.50 charge for using any space labelled "solo motorcycles" - or the small slice of space that you finish up with after late arrivals wedge themselves in next to you. The bay in St James Square, which I sometimes use, was recently doubled in size but it's now full up again, which gives an indication of the level of unmet demand. I got used to the idea of paying for a secure space, but paying for the right to compete in the melee seems too much.
Monday, 21 July 2008
I am tidying up, which is always a Sisyphean endeavour and came to a rapid halt when I uncovered the 2008 Touratech catalogue which I had picked up at the NEC show.
While the Aerostich catalogue remains my first choice of bedtime reading, the special charm of its Teutonic cousin is the fact that some of the UK copy has clearly been translated by Babel Fish: "COOLMAX Inlet or easy cottages sleep sack. COOLMAX is a Hightech tissue out of 100% Polyester that moisture transports quickly of the body away outward." The 2007 edition promised me "cuddly camping" if I invested in their fleece and trousers, which was an offer I found very tempting :)
Anyway, I think I have been highly restrained. Surely a super-light titanium coffee press comes under the list headed "essential"? Especially given the promise of slow, appreciative enjoyment ;)
Saturday, 19 July 2008
Friday, 18 July 2008
Posted by Highwaylass at 14:03 PERMALINK
Thursday, 17 July 2008
I think I deserve a special prize for not just riding to work once today but actually doing it twice, once at actual going to work time and then again in the evening after a late recall. Which, unexpectedly, turned an OK day into a great one.
Riding to work isn't as exciting as it used to be. The first time I did it I crashed on the way home, (distracted by totty); then I tried to ride into London before I lived here, was terrified, couldn't filter and had to park the bike in the car park of the Finchley Road Sainsbury's and finish the trip by tube. These days, while I'm in no way complacent about the madness of riding in the capital, I gird my loins, prepare my steely gaze and join the daily demonstration of Darwinian selection, so being rewarded for it with a free breakfast at Metropolis in Vauxhall seems a bit of a con.
On the (first) trip home I was overtaken by a DHL courier whose top box sticker announced "God has plans for you." At the time it seemed that God's plans included a strong chance of me getting squished between a bendy bus and a bin lorry, but I evaded my religious destiny and lived to meet up with 2 old friends over a pint and a south indian curry. It turned out God's plans were actually to bring together two hitherto totally separate parts of my life. While one of my friends is a mountain biker the other saw the light in 2005 and took his bike test (hotly dissuaded by his partner.) We swopped tall tales, and showed each other photos of our prides and joy (me: Ruby Thursday and the Adventurer with no name; him: Triumph Sprint ST); I showed off my Crowtree jacket (and was told that they have retired, I hope that's not true!) and about halfway through the evening he said "As Tony Sleep said the other day" and I said
And it turned out that my old friend, who I haven't seen for 15 years, not only is a biker but is a cix_biker and member of Team Waste. As I was in the late 1990s. I keep thinking I've written about them on here, but searching for a post to link to, I find I haven't. So I leave that treat in store for a week when I have no riding to write about. And in the meantime I will think about how wonderful it is not just to catch up with old friends but to find out that they know your other old friends too. The world is bound together by bikers!
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
It's Ride to Work day tomorrow. Last year I rode to work, and then rode straight home again as, by the time I'd had my bacon roll at the Ace Cafe, snarfed a very fine Take your Bike Test Now hi-viz vest which now sees weekly use on IAM observed rides (oops. Now sees daily use as I wear it all the time, honest, guv), and ridden into central London, the bike bays were full of scooters.
Still - it's called Ride TO Work day. Doesn't actually say you have to stay there....
Monday, 14 July 2008
Graham has banned me from writing anything new until I finish the story of the 6 points. Fortunately I am not that easily defeated :)
Read about the RBR Hayfield Camping extravaganza...over here, on the Daily Telegraph!
Sunday, 13 July 2008
Friday, 11 July 2008
I am sneakily becoming a full-time 2-wheel commuter, though riding an adventure-touring motorcycle with powder-coated aluminium panniers 6 miles to the office feels a little bit like pony-trekking on Red Rum.
Yesterday was stressful. Today I decided to go Easy Listening (helped by the fact that I am hoping for an early departure north for RBR camping in the High Peak, so we are sat-navved and duffled up and ready to roll once the sun hits the yardarm) and roll with the flow instead of trying to outrace the waves. Much more cheerful, much less risky, and – as could have been entirely predicted – quicker (though I think it’s an unfair comparison, most of London seems to shirk from home on Fridays.)
My beatific mood was only broken by a tale of two cyclists. I want to be able to use bus lanes, but the CTC believes that I present an “actual and perceived threat” to pedestrians and seeks to change Boris’s mind. I accept we all have bad days and don’t always ride the way we would wish ourselves to. And I have had the arguments about conserving momentum by riding through red lights if it’s safe to proceed explained to me. But I don’t think any of that makes it OK to ignore the red light at a pedestrian crossing, bomb across at full speed, and cause an 8 year-old boy and his mum to leap back out of your way – Mr Stripey Shirt, serious helmet and thousand-yard stare, I’m talking to you.
Karmic harmony was restored by a gentle “ting ting” from another cyclist catching me on my off-side (this is the point at which I decided I was proceeding a little too peacefully). He came past me, indicated left with his arm, cut in leaving lots of room, and pedalled serenely on down the Caledonian Road. No aggro, no conflict – and no lycra. Maybe it’s lack of blood flow to their manly parts that puts them in such a bad mood…
Thursday, 10 July 2008
Some commutes are about elegance and grace. Sometimes getting to work and not being dead seems reward enough. This is not a healthy place to be! but it's where my head was as I passed Kings Cross this morning - it's what happens when the phone starts ringing at 7 am and I end up with a very very small window of opportunity to get to Central London before an immovable deadline. I hate riding to a time limit, it makes me nervous and it makes me gamble on amber and attempt to stare down London Buses' finest as we both lay claim to the same 6 foot of tarmac. If Boris wants to start slowly on his bus lane pledge, I nominate the Euston Road as his first target - being able to slide past the gridlock from Grays Inn Road to the left turn opposite Euston station would transform my stress levels. My usual beat down through Holborn to the Aldwych, thanks to roadworks and "improvements," has been transformed from a broad and sweepy boulevard to a nightmare. So at Tavistock Square I took a gamble, took a right, and ended up bouncing over the cobbles round Covent Garden, which made me laugh because it feels like I'm riding somewhere I shouldn't be. (And it's the nearest Ruby's going to get to off-road riding this week.) The cobbles shook off the bad mood and I parked up (small miracle in its own right!) with 10 minutes to spare. Thus proving that riding a bike is good for your mental health. I think.
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Back after a year's break and a short delay...at 2pm, the words being declared by the person in charge weren't "Gentlemen, start your engines" but "You may kiss the bride." Yes, in one pannier Ruby had notes for the National Rally, satnav instructions and waterproofs, and in the other floaty pink dress, diamante sandals and make-up so that I could look suitably glamorous for the surprise wedding of one of my finest friends. (But not as glamorous as the bride, obviously, as that would be bad form.) Quick change in the ladies and off down the road...and round in a big circle. Haven't quite cracked this sat-nav lark yet!
I need to read the manual, as at the moment the zumo has a fondness for motorways which I don't share (particularly less than a week after paying 300 quid to replace tyres worn squarer than David Coulthard's jaw by the 6 points), and insists on using road names rather than numbers. I'm familiar with the A1 also being known as The Great North Road, but I'd prefer to be told "left on the A507" than "left on Station Road." So I'm hoping there's a setting that can change these. Worse than annoying, the maps are out of date - while updates are available on the Garmin website, I have to pay 59.99 plus VAT for the privilege, which seems a little outrageous!
[UPDATE, 7 July: I called Garmin customer support this morning and an update disc is in the post. Apparently the online system was confused about when the zumo was first used - it was the display unit and had been switched on to show customers what they were getting. So it's a big thumbs up from me :) ]
I'm going to have to upgrade my own rally participation from "finisher" to something a bit more challenging...compared to the RBR, driving 30 miles along main roads from one dayglo-signed checkpoint to the next is losing its lustre a little. But I'm reluctant to ride solo through the night, I think it would be a lot more fun in a team. (Subtle plea for volunteers... ;)
Normally I start in Stevenage at BikeStop. But thanks to the wedding, I started in Wokingham where Ruby attracted some approval - "you're set up for some serious motorcycling." (I think it's the mules). Hopes for coffee to go with my wedding cake at Waddesdon were dashed by the cafe being shut. Bikestop were well-stocked with freebies, Sawston staffed by the never-knowingly-underpunned Trevor Magner; Bury St Edmunds actually in Thetford (no, not a satnav error...just some creative geography from the organisers) while Wisbech Motorcycle Club turned Ely control into a party (and got my nomination for best control.)
On Sunday morning the rain finally found me again on the run into the Final Control at Bletchley Park and didn't give up for the rest of the day. Station X's reputation for mysteries seems to have survived into the 21st century - I heard at least three cries of "buggrit where are my keys?" from the bike park - surely a puzzle that a crack team of codebreakers would solve in a flash (answer: wherever you put them down last).
Bletchley Park seemed really pleased to have the rally and invited survivors to take one of the tours of the site. I went on the 11am tour and, while slightly disturbed to find that the ZX Spectrum of happy memory ...
>Thorin sits down and starts to sing about gold
>You can see a dead dwarf
... is now a museum exhibit, am pleased to take up the challenge of our guide: "Bletchely Park was one of the best-kept secrets of the war. Please help us make it one of Britain's best-known secrets." If you like machines that go ping, computer tape, model boats and tales of derring-do and intrigue, you'll love it. And the breakfasts aren't bad either.
(Photo shows a despatch bike in the Bletchely Park museum: despite all the signals wizardry, sometimes two wheels and a trusted pair of hands remained the best way to get a message safely to its destination)
Saturday, 5 July 2008
"A band of rain heading from London towards East Anglia"
and underneath it, me, riding towards Interphone National Rally checkpoints at Stevenage, Sawston, and Bury St Edmunds...
More later - it has been an exciting week, Dan Walsh's book arrived (it's every bit as good as I hoped, I'm being strict with myself and only reading a little bit at a time, otherwise, like Christmas, it will be over far too fast), and I have finally entered the modern age of navigation, which meant I got to play with spanners fitting all the bits onto Ruby. The satnav also lived up to expectations by taking me into London via Regent Street (choked with buses and lemmingpeds) and then trying to send me the wrong way up a one way street. Maybe it thought I was a CTC member :)