A swift return

I gots me bike back!!

I went to the police station this afternoon, and was hoping to speak with someone who knew the details of how my bike was recovered, so I could find out a bit more, and maybe see if I could get my thanks to the guy who pursued the thieves. Unfortunately, I only got a rather rushed-off-her-feet desk lady who didn’t know the details, so I had to make do with merely getting my bike back.  Can’t complain, really.  🙂

The policeman who phoned me last night gave a few details about what happened over the phone.  Apparently, someone saw the thieves using a bolt cutter on my lock, and chased after them.  The thieves ditched the bike, which was then taken home by the same member of the public, who phoned the police to have them collect it.  The policeman warned me that the rear tyre was deflated.

Without knowing any more than that, the only additional information is in the damage caused to my bike, but I’m not entirely sure if all the damage was caused by the thieves…

The punctured rear tyre
I’ve heard stories of thieves deliberately disabling a bike by slashing the tyres, in order to buy time to allow them to get tools and come back.  I can’t see any holes in the tyre, but I can see at least two holes in the inner tube.  One is a 5mm rough hole, and the other is a clean slash, about 2cm long.  The slash is on the rim side of the tube, and the small hole is a bit further down the tube, more on the side.  I guess they could’ve punctured it with a small knife or something, and the slash was caused by either the end of the knife, or the rim as they tried to wheel it away.  Or maybe the puncture fairy was watching over my bike for me.  🙂

If it had a flat when they stole it, it’s no wonder they ditched the bike to make a faster getaway!

Damage to the RH side of the bike
There’s quite a lot of damage to the right-hand side of the bike..  The pedal has a massive gouge taken out of it, the crank has a couple of big scratches on it, the front mech is in contact with the chain, and the rear mech is all scratched up along the bottom.  I would assume this was all caused by them ditching the bike, and it clattering over onto the right-hand side.  I hope they didn’t bend anything!

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The adjusted saddle
The saddle was adjusted to as low as it’ll go with the rear light clamp still attached, which wasn’t all that much lower than usual.  It was adjusted correctly, so that when I’m cycling, my leg is straight when the pedal is at it’s lowest point. That means that you can’t just jump onto the bike – you have to get onto the pedal first, give a push, and then hoist your leg over.  Doing it any other way usually ends up in entangulated legs, and the bike falling over.  I like to think that one of the thieves tried to get onto the bike while running, which would’ve been quite painful, and may have been the cause for it being ditched.  It’s kind’ve a shame that I’d replaced the pedals, coz my old ones would’ve taken his leg off!  🙂

The dirt on the handlebars
There was dirt embedded in the handlebar grips, and in the brake levers.  More on the right than the left, but it was on both.  It may have been caused by the ditching, or maybe the Samaritan stored my bike on its ‘back’, in an earthy area.  There’s no actual damage to the handlebars that I can see.

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The over-inflated front tyre, and the upside-down front light
When I first bought my tyres, I pumped them up to their max PSI, for max speed, but the bike was horrible to ride.  The roads of Manchester are so badly maintained that they’re actually rougher than most trails, so I run the tyres at a comfortable 35 PSI in order to stop my teeth falling out.

My front light is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster, held onto the stem by two different light clamps slotted into each other.  Due to the angle of the stem, the light points up in the air if it’s on top, so it’s underslung.  I haven’t ridden it in the dark since I attached it, so I’m not sure if it works very well.

After recovering my bike, my front tyre is so full of air that I can’t get the tyre to compress with my hand, and my light is now pointing to the heavens!  I guess either the police or the good Samaritan were trying to fix perceived damage.  It does pose the possibility that the rear puncture was actually caused after the theft, when someone tried to over-inflate the tyre.


So, all in all, I don’t really know much more, other than that it fell on its right-hand side when they let go of it, and someone tried to fix the bike afterwards. The tyre issue is weird, and I’ll never really know what happened there.

It’s a shame that i might never get to thank the person who chased off the thieves, but I hope he gets good karma from it, or something.  I can’t imagine ever giving chase to two people who’re obviously armed with at least one chunky length of heavy steel, and I’m not sure I’d want anyone to do it for me, either.  It’s nice that I got my bike back, but this could easily have ended with the guy being sent to hospital, or worse.

What’s to be learned?
The most important thing I’ve learned is that my old lock was shit.  I was convinced that a cable lock was better than a d-lock, because most people use d-locks, and the crims can’t carry tools for everything, so they probably only carry tools for breaking d-locks, right?.  That may or may not be true (probably untrue – they’d carry the easiest to conceal tool, and then look out for compatible bike locks), but I’d failed to spot an obvious flaw in the lock that I was using – it was a thick Kryptonite cable, taken from my d-lock, but it was held together with a padlock.  The padlock was a decent brand, but it wasn’t designed to be bolt cutter proof.  In retrospect, it was rather ridiculous.

I’ve now brought the old d-lock out of retirement.  By god it’s heavy, and it doesn’t fit anywhere on my frame, but I’d rather carry that around than risk losing my bike again.

Another thing I’ve learned is that I’ve made my bike stand out maybe a little bit too much, as I don’t think anyone would’ve given it a second glance when it was all standard and knackered-looking.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.. like I said in the previous post; I’m glad it’s not just a run-of-the-mill standard bike, so I’m not downgrading my bike just to deter a few thieves!

I’ve learned that I need to make a note of the frame number, and possibly get the bike post coded, if they still do that.  Now that I have a home of my own, there’s no good reason not to.

Finally, I’ve learned that it’s always worth reporting thefts to the Police.  I already knew it was worth doing, but it’s nice to have a bit more validation.  Once, I even reported lost car keys, which it turned out had already been handed in to them by the person that found them.  Those are the only things I’ve ever had recovered, though..  I’m still down by two bikes and a digital camera.  😛

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Have you seen this bike?

UPDATE: The police recovered my bike! Will add more details when I know them. Woooooo!!

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Yesterday, I was riding home on my Specialized, and looking at the bazillion other Specialized bikes that were going in every direction.  They’re really quite popular these days, aren’t they?  It made me proud, though.  They were all on practically identical bikes, but I’d made mine ‘mine’.  Since my last post, I’d upgraded the pedals to proper big platform pedals.  Big red platform pedals!  I’d also removed the stickers from the suspension fork, and put some colour co-ordinated stickers on.  It doesn’t sound like much, but they transformed the bike.  It was really rocking the red & silver look!

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I pondered what other possessions I have that are so close to my heart, and I couldn’t think of anything.  My son, my wife, but no possessions – they can all be replaced, but not the bike – I’ve owned it for 9 years, from new.  I’ve had loads of fun on the bike.  I’ve pootled over Dorset with my best mate, I’ve had some me time in the New Forest, I took it with me to Germany for a weekend, and now it’s personalised.  Even the weird clunking noise whenever I turn slightly to the right is ace, because I did that.  🙂

I was aware that the red pedals would attract attention, and I was hoping the rain would come back and give me some mud to plaster over them, and also let me have even more fun on my bike (I love cycling in the rain!).  Unfortunately, fate was having none of it.  There was no rain, and today there is no bike.

expletives.

I suppose it’s ironic or something.  I had to go to the Post Office to post a load of ebay stuff; some old PSP games, and some unused bike bits. The sale was to counterbalance the amount I’d spent on buying new bits for the bike.  I’d sold £60, which just about balanced it out.

I locked the bike up on Spring Gardens, just off the precinct that’s outside the Arndale center.  There’s 4 racks, next to some Natwest cashpoints.  There was a lot of people queuing for the cash points, and there appeared to be some CCTV watching the racks, so I thought it should be safe.  I went into the Post Office at 13:05, and came out at 14:10 (I hate doing ebay stuff.  My lunchbreak’s only supposed to be 30 minutes!).

Due to the length of time, I was already nervous, and I could just about see the bike rack in the distance.  The bike in my position didn’t look like it had red-walled tyres.  Oh crap..

Maybe I’m not looking properly.. get closer.. that’s not my bike..  where’s my bike?  WHERE’S MY F**KING BIKE????  Not even a broken lock’s here?  No sign of it ever existing? How can they steal a locked bike in front of a queue of people, under CCTV?  Did I forget to lock it?  No, I remember having to yank the bike to get the cable to reach around the rack pole.  Did they move it?  Are they still around?

I then did a sort-of spiral around the Arndale, looking at each bike rack, and every cyclist I could see.  Still no bike.  I went back to the rack, and into Natwest, to ask if their CCTV covered the racks.  Even though it seemed to be looking more at the bikes than the cashpoints, she didn’t think it did.  I got the impression that they purposely aimed it just slightly away from the rack so that they didn’t get hassle from the Police every time a bike was stolen.  hmmmm…

I then made my way back to work, in a very zig-zaggy way, looking at even more racks, and trying to remember where the Police station was.  I should’ve remembered – it’s just around the corner from work!  So I got the incident number, and quite a nice desk sergeant.  I expected him to treat the theft as ‘just another bike gone‘, but he seemed genuinely concerned!  Probably just a good actor.

I still have the other bikes, so I’m not out of the running yet, but the others are road bikes, which means returning to the A6.. I want to go off-road!

Hell is other cyclists

I’ve been mingling with a lot of students recently, and it’s been rather enlightening.  I’ve experienced the suicidal nature of students before, as my wife was still a student at Manchester university when I first met her (she’s a doctor now!), and the hospital where my son was born is right next to Manchester university, so I’ve spent lots of time driving around the area in a car, having to be constantly on the lookout for people obliviously wandering into moving traffic.  It’s as if the students think they have a force field that vehicles can’t penetrate, and apparently that force field is still with them when they cycle!

When I first started commuting in Manchester, I found red light jumpers annoying, but there wasn’t many of them.  On the A6/A34, there was maybe a 1 in 10 chance of a fellow cyclist jumping a red light.  Sometimes I’d shake my head or try to visibly tut, hoping a motorist might notice and ponder that not all cyclists are RLJing cretins.  I don’t like people who get motorists riled up – a raging motorist is a bad thing for all cyclists.

If I tried that on Wilmslow Road/Oxford Road, I’d do my neck in from the continuous shaking, and my tongue would fall out from the tutting.  On this road, the chances of a cyclist RLJing is more like 2 in 3, and unlike the cyclists on the bigger roads, these people are doing it without thinking.  They RLJ through moving traffic, they RLJ through pedestrians.. they’d probably RLJ a train crossing if there were any on the route!

If it were just students doing it, I’d put it down to inexperience, but there are plenty of other cyclist sub-groups doing the same thing.  I guess when you’re stopped at a light, and 3 people cycle straight through it, it must be hard to fight the urge to do the same.  The more people do it, the more it becomes a “but everyone does it” grey area, like ignoring box junctions, or driving at 80mph on a motorway.

When they’re not jumping red lights, the inexperienced are stopping at them, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost the urge to get ahead – they prefer to shoal.  Shoaling is a term for cyclists who, when required to stop at a junction or a red light, will amass at the line with no order or respect for ability.  If someone’s at the line before them, they’ll stop ahead of them and the line.  If people are already ahead of the line, they’ll stop next to them.  If that area’s full, they stop behind them  This means that the poor soul who got there first is now surrounded by other cyclists, and it’s guaranteed that the people who pushed to the front are the slowest and wobbliest of the group.  Being a well mannered softy, I tend to be the one who’s trapped, and I start to realise why some people risk death to ignore red lights.  The risk is probably worth it if it means not getting stuck in a shoal of wobbly bikes!

Shoaling isn’t specific to cyclists, of course.  I’m quite a fast walker, so this also happens to me while I wait at pedestrian crossings.

I hate other people!

Helmets!
So, in one post I suggested that everyone should have life insurance, and in the next one I confessed to being quite glad that I had an excuse to not wear a helmet.  It took a couple of days for the logic to seep in and propogate an idea, but eventually I realised that I should probably be protecting my head!

I mentioned that I prefered ‘rock climber-ish’ helmets, which are apparently BMX helmets, so I searched for one of those first.  The one that seemed to fit the bill was a Lazer Armor; the size (58-61cm) sounded like it would match my head, the manufacturer was well respected, and the helmet looked alright, without too many graphics (none, in fact), so I bought it.

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It seemed to fit alright at first, and I wore it for a few days on my commute, but my opinion of it started going downhill, and not in a good way.  The helmet has no proper adjustments in it – it’s just polystyrene and some padding.  It fitted a bit tight on the front and back of my head, leaving a triangular indentation on my forehead whenever I wore it, but the sides of the helmet were almost an inch away from my actual head, meaning it tended to wobble from side to side, using my head as some kind of axle.  It often felt like the chin strap was the only thing keeping it on.

On top of that, the white line that runs around the edge of the helmet started to crack and flake off after only a day!  I didn’t like the line too much anyway, so removability is probably a plus rather than a minus, but it was a bit disconcerting.

Finally, the helmet was just too silly looking, due to the width.  Not as bad as most helmets I’ve tried on in the past, but still pretty ridiculous.

So much for internet shopping, and so much for BMX helmets.

After that failure, I tried to find out if other people have the same problem as me.  It turns out, they do!  I’ve got what’s known in motorcyclist terms as a long-oval head; my head is long from front to back, but relatively narrow from side to side.  Most helmets are designed with a more rounded head profile in mind, so when someone like me puts one on, I get the problem that I mentioned above.  I found several posts across different forums, with people recommending brands that make more elongated helmets, but there was some contradictory advice going on.  The only companies that were consistently mentioned as being suitable were Rudy Project, Lazer (errr..), and Specialized.

I’d gone off Lazer somewhat, and Rudy Project were way outside my price range, so Specialized were my only hope. I decided to find a bike store that stocked Specialized helmets and had a large showroom.  It just so happened that such a place was on my commute, and so I paid a visit to the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative.  I’d been there once before, to get my bike serviced in less enlightened times, and their service had been a bit sloppy.  Thankfully, I didn’t need them to do anything to me or my bike – they just had to have a selection of half-decent helmets, and I can’t fault them in that regard.

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The helmet I’d had my eye on was a Specialized Echelon II. Much like my bike, it’s was pretty much a bottom-of-the-range model, but much better than unbranded or low-aiming brands.  The medium (54-60cm) helmet that was on display wouldn’t even get past the top of my head, so the assistant got out a large (57-63cm) model, in black.  It was initially too big, which is a new experience for me!  A few twists of the adjustment dial sorted that out, and I found myself wearing a helmet that actually fitted, and didn’t look particularly silly!

So, I’m now a helmet wearer.  You’re not gonna catch me wearing lycra, tho.  A man’s got to know his limitations!

Hello, old man. Hello, heron.

That pesky camera
I don’t wear a helmet.  This is mainly because I can’t find one that fits me, but I confess that I’m really rather glad that they don’t fit.

It’s easy to ridicule the helmet companies for not making helmets that fit everyone, but head shapes are more varied than boob shapes, and look at how many differently shaped bra’s you can buy!  You don’t have to have spent hours wandering behind a partner, wishing you could sneak off to HMV or Currys or ANYWHERE, to tell how many there are – massive areas of department stores are dedicated to them, whereas the helmet range in bike stores is tiny.  Admittedly, I don’t think there’s much call for helmets that actively try to shape people’s heads differently.. lift and separate?

Also, helmets generally look stupid.  I’m sure all the contours and vents do something snazzy, but they look like capsized catermarans.  I’m more of a fan of the simple rock climber-ish helmets that you can get, but so far I haven’t found one big enough, or that doesn’t jab into my cerebellum like a woodpecker hunting for grubs.  Maybe I should look for helmets in a rock climbing equipment store (do they exist?).. they’ll probably have a big range, and a helmet designed for protection when falling off a cliff should be okay for falling off a bike, I would imagine.

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Anyway, why was I talking about helmets?  oh yeah – my helmet camera!  Without a helmet, there’s no good place to mount it.  I was hoping I could get away with mounting it on my bag, so it looks out from my shoulder, but my choice of clothing has scuppered that plan.  All the video footage I’ve had so far has been of the hood of my red hoodie, and looks rather a lot like a colonoscopy.  It’s not ideal for observing the traffic and ducks of my commute..  The bag I use has sturdy waist strap thingies for hiking, so last night I tried attaching it to one of those, but the flaps don’t half flap about when they’re not being used properly, so the picture quality turned out a bit rubbish, and mostly looked out too far to the left to be of any use.  Tonight, I’ll try attaching it to the frame of my bike, but I suspect it’ll be too bumpy.  The next plan is to attach it to my glasses, which might make people think I’ve got a Google Glass (or whatever it’s called) headset on, especially with the USB cable poking out of it, and disappearing into my bag (to the battery).  Failing that, I might have to have another look for a helmet!  😮

Is this even a commute anymore?

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I forgot to mention something about my new approach to commuting; I’m not trying to be as fast as possible anymore!  Last year, I always tried to go flat out, especially when I was on the singlespeed (it was harder not to).  Now, I’m trying to be more relaxed and enjoy the ride.  It was difficult to do on the old commute, because keeping up with traffic was essential, and the route itself was so annoying that I just wanted to get it over and done with ASAP.

The new route cures all those ills!  While I’m in the suburbs, there’s so little traffic that I don’t have to worry about keeping up with it.  I don’t have to worry so much about being squished by people turning, because they can see me coming a lot more easily.  There’s no buses or taxis on the route, so I don’t have them suddenly turning in/out in front of me.  There’s no HGVs, so I don’t have to worry about them not seeing me, and the road is so wide and quiet that anyone overtaking can give me a ton of room.  I don’t even see many other cyclists, so I don’t have to fight the urge to keep up or overtake them too often.  All in all, I wish I’d tried this a year ago.  It’s adding an extra 20 minutes to my commute, but that’s a small price to pay for a relaxing pootle.

oh, and I saw a heron and some coal tits (I only ever see greats and blues normally) on my way home last night, and an old man on a pushbike said hello to me this morning.  I’m pretty sure an ice cream van is lurking in Edgeley Park somewhere, so the journey home might start taking even longer sometime soon.  Hooray!  😀

Even softer

UPDATE: For people searching for Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis blogs, I’ve got a dedicated PSC blog called Pesky PSC (which doesn’t seem to have gotten to Google yet). Go have a look!

I’m back!  Did you miss me?  Does anyone even read this blog?  HELLO?!

Well, if that’s how you’re all going to be, you’re going to miss the following advice: If you have a dependent, a wife, or pay a mortgage, get life insurance NOW.  Don’t think about it.  Don’t plan it for when you’re a bit older.  DO IT NOW!!

Life insurance costs summat like £10 a month if you’re a non-smoker.  £2.50 a week.  Not much more than it costs to buy a lottery ticket.  The chances of winning more than a grand in the lottery (5 balls) is 1 in 55,491. 5 balls plus the bonus is 1 in 2,000,000! From my own perspective, the chances of anyone having PSC is 1 in 16,666.  The chances of having cancer are even lower – something like 1 in 100.  That’s not even including the chances of being in an accident..

I can’t get life insurance now – no-one will cover me.  That means that when I die, my family are going to be financially screwed.  If I’d taken the time to get life insurance, they would’ve been fine.  My biggest regret about this whole thing is that life insurance was on ‘the list’ at the time that I first went to the GP with jaundice, but I’d been delaying it.  My only hope is that I can get to retirement age without dying, but that’s pretty unlikely.

Back to bikes!

But enough about that!  I’ll only mention PSC again if it’s related to cycling.  Speaking of which; my jaundice went away a month ago, and my chest infection has finally cleared up!  I’m practically healthy, although I’m now weedier and thinner than I used to be.  My only remaining excuse for not cycling into the icy cold wind was that I was too out of practice to jump onto a singlespeed bike – I needed to start slow, which meant using gears.

My geared racer was still out of action, as it turned out the seat tube was indeed eliptical.  I didn’t really want to start out on a racer anyway, and something else had been bothering me; why on earth had I ever thought that single-speeding my MTB was a good idea, and why did I continue buying puke-green parts when it should’ve been obvious that they looked shit?  Had my illness also affected my brain?  Maybe the yellow hue of my eyes had masked the true nature of my ‘upgrades’?  What I do know is that when I opened the shed door, my MTB was practically begging to be put out of it’s misery.  Fear not, faithful steed – I shall save you!

A few days later, and the parts arrived – Alivio shifters, brakes, both mechs, a new cassette, and some red cable outers.  Cheap stuff, but still better than the Altus stuff that it’d had before.  First, I swapped the seatpost for the original, then I took off the green handlebar with the brake levers and their cables still attached (but not to the brakes, obviously), then I took off the chain device and the chain.  They now all live under the stairs, awaiting a day when I can be bothered to clean them up and put them on ebay.  Maybe next year!

All the bits went on easily enough, but then came the cables.  I know brakes – brakes are easy, so they went on first, but gears.. When I mess with gears, it usually ends up with only one or two of them working, and the chain frequently trying to escape.  😛  This time, I consulted the interweb, and followed the instructions of 3 different websites at the same time, to make sure I was definitely doing it right.  Put the chain on, this goes here, that goes there, tighten, tighten, adjust, adjust, tighten some more, turn the bike over, change the gears to test, aaaand..  they’re both shifting backwards??  aaargh!

It turned out that I’d had the rear shifter set to high instead of low (or the other way around – I can’t remember), and I’d skipped a load of routing for the front mech, which meant it was pulling down instead of up.  More adjusting, and…  it worked!  Unfortunately, the chainwheels are bent out of shape from when I last tried to remove the crank, and didn’t think I’d need them (I never did manage to remove it), so I can only use the biggest gear on the front, but the rear gears are all working fine.  Better than they used to, in fact.  I think I might even understand their workings enough to be able to adjust them on the fly!  🙂

I’ve now cycled into work a total of 4 times, with gaps in between to let my legs recover.  The commutes were okay during the Easter holiday, but the traffic always seems to increase to above-normal levels after holidays.  It’s always the same; a week or so of free flowing traffic during the holiday, followed by 2 weeks of solid traffic, followed by several weeks of dense but moving traffic until the next school holiday.  There’s so many HGVs involved that I can’t cycle any faster than the traffic around me.  I have a rule about not going around HGVs or buses if I don’t think I can keep ahead of them for a decent amount of time.  Life’s too short to be dicing with death in that way.  In fact, life is too short in general, and my fun with PSC has caused me to think about things a bit differently lately.  It’s made me want to try and enjoy life more, wherever possible, and there’s one big thing that’s been bugging me since I moved to Manchester: how bleak everything is.

A rant
Manchester city centre is a natureless hellhole.  There are a few tiny green bits, where there’s consecrated ground, but most of it is concrete.  There used to be a ‘peace garden’ outside the town hall, which barely counted as a green area, and was really just the last refuge of the homeless, but they bulldozed it last month. Years ago, there used to be a nice-looking (in photos) bit of park near Picadilly (hence the area being called Picadilly Gardens, despite the lack of gardens), but they bulldozed it after the IRA bombs, with the excuse that it was run down and only used by drug dealers (every councils favourite excuse).

I came from Southampton, where half the city centre is greenery, and parks and greenzones spread off to the outer limits.  Portsmouth was similar.  Less large parks, but the sea was never far away.  A proper sea, with waves that move and crash.  Not like the so-called sea you get on the West coast, which is phoning it in (when it can be bothered to appear).  Northampton was quite small, so didn’t have much room for parks.  Maybe that’s why I never liked living there, although I couldn’t put my finger on the reason at the time.

So, I think I must be some kind of nature boy at heart, which means I need more nature!  I’ve tried visiting nearby places at weekends, like Bramall Park, Poynton Park, Lyme Park, Etherow, Tatton Park, the Ladybower reservoir, and many other places, but somehow they fail to fill the hole in my heart.  If I can find a place that’s even half as beautiful as the crappest part of the New Forest, then I’ll be happy.  I’m sure something like that must exist somewhere around here – I just need to find it! Until then, I’ll have to make do, so I’ve adapted my commute!

A change of commute
My old commute was up the A6 from Hazel Grove to Longsight, then down Plymouth Grove and across the A34 to get to Oxford Road and work.  The only greenery on that journey is an empty playing field behind the Plymouth Grove pub.

My new commute takes me through the back streets of Davenport, to Cheadle Heath via Edgely Park, then onto the Trans-Pennine Trail to Parrs Wood, then down Parrs Wood Road to Fallowfield, and onto Oxford Road.  It adds 2 miles to the journey, but also adds a metric shedload of greenery!

I tried it for the first time yesterday evening, and it was sooooo much better than the old commute!  The initial battle with buses, students, and the mad drivers of Rusholme was a bit worrying, but no worse than getting through Longsight and Levenshulme.  Edgerton Road and Parrs Wood Road are much quieter than the A6, and have a barely-needed cycle lane, which made for quite a relaxing cycle.  Then there was the Trans-Pennine Trail, which took me through fields to the litter-strewn banks of what I assume is the Mersey river, which I followed for quite a while until finding a bridge to get across to Cheadle Heath.  There’s some posh houses in Cheadle Heath!  I’d never been to Edgely Park before – it never looked too great on Google Maps, but it’s now definitely on the ‘to visit with son’ list, as it has a cool looking playground, and a pond with ducks and geese.  The rest of the journey was so-so, just through the suburbs of Stockport which I’d travelled through on countless occasions.

I wanted to try it this morning, but I left too late and had to get the train.  I’m looking forward to the journey home, though!  Maybe this time I’ll adjust my camera so that it’s not just filming the hood of my hoodie, so that I can add some photos!  😀

Be safe!

KOM!

oooooh, yeaaaaah!  I got my first ‘KOM’ (king of the mountain?) on Strava last week!  You’d better all watch out – I could be overtaking you at any moment!
ImageAs long as you’re cycling through a park, that is.  A park that apparently only 4 people are cycling through…

So, yeah – I’m the top out of 4 people, and I wasn’t actually trying.  The first time I got onto the segment was when I went into the park to swap my 16 speed cog for a 14 speed, and spent 15 minutes at a park bench doing the swap.  Strava only tracks moving time, so the time stopped wasn’t counted, but I still veered offroad, braked to a stop, then had to accelerate out again.  That got me second place, so gawd knows what the other three have been doing!  Jogging, probably.  😛

I’ve ran Strava on my phone since I found out about it a few months ago, mainly just to see if my speeds are improving, or if variations of routes are faster than others.  I never expected to be beating anyone elses times, because I don’t jump red lights, I’m not great at filtering through traffic, and I’m just too cautious in general.  That’s one of the reasons why I’m a softy (should that be softie? I need to consult the Beano!).

While I’m talking about me, I suppose I should mention all my cycling foibles, then you can guage the kind of cyclist I am. From good to bad to personal taste..

1) I stop at red lights
2) I always have lights fitted
3) I don’t cycle on the pavement
4) I never undertake HGVs or buses
5) I don’t wear a helmet
6) I’ve always got headphones in
7) I usually filter on the left
8) I don’t wear lycra
9) I wouldn’t be seen dead on a hybrid

When I’m on my bike, I’m a road vehicle, so I try to abide by the highway code, even if I’m the only one.  Sometimes I’ll use pedestrian crossings by getting off the bike and walking, but I never cycle through.  I think cyclists who jump pedestrian crossings are the worst kind of cyclist, because they could really hurt someone.  By all means risk your own life around cars if you have to, but don’t risk injuring the peds!

I’ve never found a helmet that fits, so I don’t have much option with helmets.  Having said that, my life has been saved by my peripheral vision on a couple of occasions, and I’m not sure how I’d like having my head restricted, so even if I had a choice, I might not take it.  I never have my headphones turned up very loud, as I hate not being able to hear traffic.  It effectively removes one of my senses, and it’s a bloomin useful one.  I’m the same in the car – I have to be able to hear the engine, and can’t stand it when the radio’s on too loud.

My left filtering is just me being a bad cyclist, and it should improve with time.  It’s a hard to get into the habit of filtering on the right, though, and every time I try it, I get stuck in the wrong lane while HGVs surround me.  It’s no fun!  :s

Lycra.  lycra, lycra, lycra..   I don’t care what benefits it has – it looks ridiculous!  I’d rather be one of those lunatics who cycles in their work suit than wear lycra.  A few people can get away with it, but I dunno if most lycra wearers realise that what might look passable while standing in front of a mirror looks positively repulsive when they’re hunched over a bike.  One guy on my commute has the proportions of Greg Davies, yet wears lycra.  I’ve now started altering my commute when I find myself behind him – my poor eyes can’t take it!

I don’t think I need to say anything about hybrids.  Also; lycra on a hybrid?  What on earth is wrong with some people?  😛

Stealth limpet

Hi!

Well, the Blogger blog hit a hitch – my workplace blocked blogger.com, which meant I couldn’t add or edit posts via my work computer.  That’s fair enough, but I don’t get much time for this sort of thing while I’m at home, and I’m certainly not going to start trying to do it using my phone!  So, plan B is to try WordPress.  I’m fully expecting work to block this, too, but we’ll see..  maybe it was just a coincidence that it was blocked not long after I started writing a blog!  😛

To recap; I moved from Southampton to Stockport, and began commuting into Manchester by bike on a daily basis.  I caught a bit of a cycle bug, and I now own three bikes:

A 1974 Carlton with no name, 14 speed (not completely built)
A 1977 Carlton Cobra, converted to singlespeed
A 2004 Specialized Hardrock XC, which I’ve owned since new, also converted to singlespeed

Both Carltons are off the road – the Cobra is having a spoke tension issue, and the nameless Carlton has no seatpost or rear brake.

The Hardrock is supposed to be a bad weather bike, for when the ice and snow hit.  I converted it to singlespeed because I really like the way singlespeeds handle in traffic.  It’s lighter, more responsive, and I don’t have to worry about gears.  All good things!  It’s not so great on the long slogs, though.

And that’s where this blog post starts proper!

Last night was not a fun commute home.  I was stuck in traffic all the way from Manchester town centre to the other side of Levenshulme, and when I finally got to put foot to pedal, I found that I didn’t have much energy!

My tactic for low energy is just to put my head down and try to get into a rhythm.  It helps that the worst bits are on bus lanes, so I don’t have to look up.  I just focus on the road just in front of the front wheel, and keep the rhythm going. huff huff huff huff huff… overtake a hybrid… huff huff huff… go around a bus… huff huff huff.. did I just jump a red light? (no) huff huff huff…  before I knew it, I was going down the valley into Stockport, back into traffic and some nice traffic lights to let me have a bit of a rest!  🙂

Going up the other side of the valley, I became aware of someone cycling VERY closely behind me.  The hybrid?  I’d overtaken him ages ago.. I’d hit a couple of traffic lights, but at the speed he was going, there’s no way he could’ve caught up.  I didn’t want to look around, but I could see a shadow.  For a while, I wasn’t even sure if it was the other cyclists shadow, as it was so close.  It could’ve been my shadow, just from different streetlights.  But the head didn’t look like mine, and at one point I glimpsed what looked like drop handlebars.  A road bike?

I’ve ridden road bikes and mountain bikes back to back, and I know just how much faster a road bike is.  I can understand hanging back when the traffic’s busy, and you don’t want to get splatted, but the guy kept on my tail even when we got out of the town centre, and the traffic dissipated.  He didn’t overtake until we got to the Davenport Park hotel, a mile later, and what overtook me was a bit of a surprise!

It was a lycra-clad guy on a very sleek-looking singlespeed racing bike.

Not your usual logo-strewn mess, either – this guy was all about low profile.. grey bike (I think), grey lycra, grey helmet, little strip lights.. more like a stealth bomber than a cyclist, and when he overtook, he was off into the distance!  So why did he stick to the rear wheel of a slowcoach knobbly MTB being ridden by a baggy clothed amateur for just over a mile?  Was he having a rest in my mahoosive slipstream? Did he spot my SS conversion, and was curious to see how fast I’d go? (he was probably disappointed)  I just don’t get it..

It did get me home a lot quicker, though, as nothing makes me keep my speed up like someone following behind me.  🙂