Other People’s Bikes

I had to go to London yesterday to attend a meeting. Walking down Fisherton Street on the way to the station in Salisbury I watched an old gentleman pull up to the kerb slightly ahead of me on a clearly much used Roadster. He had his right trouser leg tucked into his sock and was wearing a battered old fedora rather a helmet. He spun the cranks with his foot and rested the pedal against the kerb in the time honoured fashion, before crossing the street and entering the homebrew shop. I made sure he couldn’t see me then furtively took this shot of his lovely bike on my phone.

Nice Roadster on Fisgertons Street, Salisbury.

Nice Roadster on Fisherton Street, Salisbury.

Later on that day, walking through London I came across a nice fixie with Japanese sweet wrappers in place of spokecards. The bike was chained to some railings on Charing Cross Road, just after the intersection with Shaftesbury Avenue. I slipped off a couple of pictures, but again very furtively (and the focus was appalling).

Sweetie wrappers for spokecards, Charing Cross Road

Sweetie wrappers for spokecards, Charing Cross Road

I don’t know why I feel worried about photographing other people’s bikes. Maybe the bicycle is such a personal thing that in some level it might be conceived as an invasion of privacy. The relationship between cyclist and bicycle is a curious and intimate one, the bike has no power of its own and can only go as fast as its rider can push it. Each bicycle has its own interface with the rider, on my road bike I feel the slightest movement from me, a gentle leaning to the right, and the bike follows. On my Mountain Bike, it’s like steering a shire horse, on the slopes I must lean and pull to point the wheels where I want to go, there is an element of the bike choosing the line for me.

I have many, many of these voyeuristic pics of other people’s bikes, and each bike seems to have its own narrative built into it, whether that is through tyre choice, the saddle, the bags attached, the choice of grips, decals… Perhaps I should post a few, what do you think?

Published in: on March 13, 2009 at 5:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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Of Occult Cyclewear, Slayer, RPGs and Cycling

Last night I came across the website of a cycle inspired clothing company. If you think you may have a penchant for cycling tinged with elements of the occult (Laura), I’m talking Process Church of the Final Judgment reliance on neat graphics, then you have to get your dammned self over to http://www.everybodylies.net/ and see the fantastic t-shirts, caps and patches on offer. It appears to be a one man operation – rooted hard and fast in the SF courier/fixie scene. Here’s a photo displaying Lies’ influences:

Lies clothing influences

More than a sniff of Freemasonary and hey! Slayer’s first full album Show No Mercy. Often derided as ‘immature’ and even ‘laughable’ I have a massive soft spot for this album, I own it on cassette and as far as I’m concerned it’s all killer and no filler, in fact I’ve just realised it’s the only cassette I still play. I even like Metal Storm/Face The Slayer.

“You see me lift the axe and it plunges through your shield…”

and my favourite line…

“Now, I can freeze your burning eyes!”

The song, about a warrior who is trapped in some sort of twilight world, locked in combat with a demonic being that prowls through a mist-filled maze, reminded me of Role-Playing Games.

Bear with me here, this is only a slight digression from cycling as you’ll see in a minute. I wish to salute the late Gary Gygax. Gygax was the co-inventor of Dungeons and Dragons – if that interests you at all, then read this brilliant article about his passing from the NY Times that futurist and publisher Betageek sent me. I’m not going to write an obit or anything, partially because I didn’t get on with D&D, I was strictly Warhammer and Call of Cthulhu, but I acknowledge that he pretty much created the fantasy roleplaying game and as such is worthy of great praise from me. RPGs had a huge effect on my life, but in order to play them with any regularlity I had to get from Hilmarton to Calne, where our gamesmaster lived.

At the age of fourteen, hammering down the Swindon Road was pretty much out of the question, there were regular accidents on that fast and in places narrow main road. So the way to get to Calne by bike was via Compton Bassett. The rider would have a pleasant pedal through gentle country lanes, finally to be spat out onto the Marlborough road just as it hit Calne at the start of the 30 mph zone, relative safety, but it did make the journey about five miles instead of three, and put in a pretty serious hill to the equation. As I got bolder, and my player character (a psychotic dwarf called Mad Morgan Khazias) entered deeper and deeper into the fiendish campaign poured out from the mind of our gamesmaster (Mark Johnson), I began taking my life in my hands along the main road. Many’s the time an artic lorry would scream past me having just emerged from behind a bend, so close that I could have reached out and run my hands down its side. I had no helmet, the only protection my head had was provided by a cushioning of imaginings; orcs, elves, dragons, daemons so that I cycled along blissfully and didn’t consider the perils of the road. The too fast traffic, the blind corners, the massive, clanking lorries that seemed almost out of control as they hurtled along.

The way back was the old route via Compton, a slow meander home, time to think on the day’s adventuring. The rattle of D10s across Mark’s mum’s kitchen table, the acidic taste of cheap lemonade, banter with friends, battles won and lost, fat purses of gold pieces. My mum wasn’t too keen on the RPGs, there were numerous scare stories in the media about kids commiting suicide or murder as a result of playing them. So my mum thought they were dangerous. Ironically she thought I was going for three to four hour rides on my own on Sunday afternoons, an activity much more dangerous to a 14 year old (pre mobile phone) than sitting down with my mates in Mark’s kitchen, battling through a fantasy world using the power of our collective imagination, a rulebook and some many-sided dice.

Me: I draw my sword and point it to the heavens, I lean back and shout to the sky “Gary Gygax I salute you!”

GM: [rolls two d10, consults rulebook and notes] hmmm, the tiny readership of your blog has no idea what you’re talking about.

Sainsbury nee Budgeons: “Lard, be gone!” and Bastard, Bastard, Lorry.

Imagine my surprise and alarm on discovering this morning that I appear to have a tractor tyre round my middle. I knew I’d put some weight on, but the nature of the blubber had not occured to me until now. By my reckoning, I would do well to lose about one and a half stone. To this end, I have decided to ‘do some running’, Jez reckons that it should take two weeks of running three times in seven days to start losing the lard, I’m giving it a go.

I made a start on the lardbusting today by cycling to the supermarket on the racer. It was bitterly cold, though the sky was bright and clear, so I found a lightweight merino scarf that belonged to my first born when he was just a toddler, and wrapped it round my head lengthways. Now with my ears covered up I could brave the elements. It took a little while to get going especially into the headwind, the Wingfield straight was murderous. Cars screaming by, overtaking in each other’s wake without even looking to see if the opposite carriage was clear. There was a close call as an SUV overtook me, narrowly missing an oncoming lorry and cutting into me, I was going 29mph in a 30mph area at the time. Away from the hidden dips and onto the straight itself things weren’t so bad, although the wind was searingly cold. By the time I reached the Farleigh, Trowbridge, Bradford-on-Avon crossroads I was feeling weary, but I’ve found something that helps. If when you first set off on a ride you start to flag, just stop for five minutes. I pulled over at the shrine by the crossroads and took a picture. As usual, the flowers were fresh.

Roadside shrine, Wingfield Crossroads

On getting back on the bike I felt refreshed and ready to go. I often find that a tiny break not long after setting off, perhaps two miles down the road, will get the energy levels up again. On towards Bradford-on-Avon, warming up nicely now, the cars few and far between. To my left the ditch had been recently dug out, a reminder of the recent floods, today the roads were dry, the Spring sunshine had melted the morning’s hard frost. I hurtled onto the roundabout on the Rode side of Bradford, hanging a right, then another, into the car prak of Sainsburys. Total chaos. The store is being extended and the carpark remodelled, traffic queued up everywhere. It wasn’t clear where cars should go, the arrows on the road bore no realtion to the current temporary layout. Not a problem for me on my bike though, I picked a clean line through to the new bike racks. It was pleasing to note that with my bike locked up, all the racks were in use, and someone had left a crazy looking folder or shopper in the foyer.

It didn’t take long for me to fill the backpack with grub from the shopping list my wife had supplied, then out on the road again, albeit somewhat more heavy-laden than the outward journey. I elected to go back via the Bradford-Trowbridge cycle path. Ah smooth, smooth tarmac. And just as well, I’d forgotten about the hill. Riding that stretch of cycle path is a real pleasure. It’s short but sweet, mixed use, but rarely do you meet another pedestrian, fields to the left and the smell of sewage when you reach the water treatment plant. Someone had written in pen on a sign “Polski Go Home!”, the directions to the recycling centre perhaps an odd place to choose to express one’s fear of immigration, but not as odd as writing the surreal message “Achtung Polski!” on the Wessex Water sign five meters later. The cycle path ends at the outskirts of Trowbridge, jettisoning the rider onto potholed crumbly tarmac. Heading into the roundabout a gravel lorry was in the left hand lane. I thought I’d better stay behind him, even though I was going right, because you never know…

..sure enough he was making a right turn without signalling. Actually he was going right the way round the roundabout, much to the surprise of a car waiting to come out of the Broadmead turning! The lorry driver could not hear the horn of the car, or move his hand to signal for one reason, and this became apparent as the cab swung broadside to me: He had his mobile phone pressed up against his ear and was using the palm of his left hand to spin the wheel. As an avid reader of The Moving Target messenger zine (I am not a fakenger, witness my photos and my ride – I could not be accused of copying neither courier style nor speed, I just think it’s one of the best cycling blogs out there) I am all too aware of the incredible danger HGVs present to urban cyclists* so luckily I hung back. If I’d have been in that right hand lane, looking to go right (and I could rightly assume that a vehicle in the left hand lane not signalling at a two exit roundabout is going straight ahead) I’d have been crushed, even at fifteen miles an hour, it would not have been pretty. The car that had pulled up short when the lorry passed in front was still honking his horn as he pulled out behind the lorry and followed it up the hill. Afterwards it occurred to me that I wasn’t shaken or surprised because I have started to get back into that cycling zone when you just ‘know’ when a vehicle is going to do something silly, and actually, that worried me because the last thing I want to feel is a complacency from assuming that I have some weird ‘bikey sense’ that tingles when something dangerous is going to happen. Got to stay alert!

Through Broadmead, up a different side of the same hill I’d just cycled down, and back along the Wingfield straight to home. A good ten miles in cold weather and, I feel, a reasonable start to the “Lard, be gone” campaign.

Tomorrow, running! Damn!

*Stop press, on picking up the link to Moving Target to place in this post, I saw that the latest post on MT concerns two Messengers , who did get hit by lorries. It’s sobering and very frightening, Buffalo Bill, the MT author writes “2 guys under lorries in the same day. Thank god you are both still alive.” and Christ, I second that, good luck to those riders, I hope they both make a speedy recovery.

Sore Legs and Smithfield Nocturne

Ooh my aching legs! That John Hayes, all the technical blazing through mud, up and down sheer grass slopes and over rubble has taken it’s toll on my pins. Definitely an exercise rest day today then.

It looks like the Smithfield Nocturne was a great success despite the rain and, apparently, a totally chaotic messenger race. See some footage from the BBC here or check out the Le Mans style start of the folding bike/commuter race below.

…and off they go…

Published in: on June 27, 2007 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bike Messengers Roll to the Stones

I know of the pre-dawn ride from Salisbury to Stonehenge every Midsummer Solstice, and I’ve always managed to miss it due to only having my Brompton available when I was a resident of Sarum. What I had no idea about until now, was the heroic ride by London bicycle Messengers from Hyde Park to the stones in an effort to beat the sunrise. THAT’S what I’m talking about! More details here at the Moving Target Zine. It’s a 90 mile ride in the dark through the year’s shortest night and it must be saluted.

Published in: on May 25, 2007 at 9:56 pm  Comments (1)