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.


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?


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!

Stealth limpet


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.  🙂