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Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

The Tour de France

Monday, July 23rd, 2012 by Mick Allan

Am I the only person in the UK who isn’t apopleptic with delight at the prospect of a British winner of the TdF. For the first time in the Tour’s 107 yr history a Brit finished the race in The Yellow Jersey, it’s all over the front page of every newspaper in the land (including – unbelievably – The Daily Mail, that’s never, as far as I’m aware, had a single good word to say about cycling/cyclists). And I don’t give a shit.

It dawned on me over the weekend as people who know me – cyclists and non-cyclists alike – have been greeting me with big smiles and expressions of wow, isn’t it great? And I’m struggling to find the enthusiasm to crack a smile. I am, it cannot be denied, a miserable old curmudgeon. I have the kind of droopy middle-aged face skin which makes it look like I’m scowling even when I’m happy. But that aside, you’d imagine that, as a Cyclist this would make me happy. But it doesn’t make me happy.

The trouble is this: I was once in love with The Tour. I watched it every day – and the highlights on a rest day – and for twenty years I harboured an ambition to one day join the throngs lining one of the mountain stages. As someone who’d survived testicular cancer I watched Lance destroy the competition year after year from the edge of my seat. I was a fan.

Fignon, Hinault, Delgado, Lemond, Indurain, Millar, Pantani, et al. I was a devoted fan. I loved the heroism of it, and I loved the heroes. And then it all went to shit. Year after year I watched as the drugs scandal after drug scandal slowly ruined my sport. It became harder and harder to feel any joy in it. I tried to stay true but, like anyone in a romantic relationship who is lied to, whose lover cheats on them and, however deep the feelings, eventually, slowly, inevitably….. I fell out of love.

In recent weeks it has been announced that the US Drug people haved banned Armstrong from competition and are bringing charges against him. That was the final straw.

So last week when Wiggo was doing well, and then when he looked certain to win, and even when it was inevitable – I simply couldn’t bring myself to watch it. In my heart it’s broken

So well done Brad, great guy, worthy winner. But for me – it’s just too frickin late.

John Wayne

Thursday, February 9th, 2012 by Mick Allan

In the movie ‘The Shootist’, John Wayne’s character John Bernard Books famously says:

“I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.”

Now, whatever you think about John Wayne the man, or of the parts that he played, you knew what you were getting with John Wayne’s characters. You got John Wayne. A man of  rather ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘conservative’ values no doubt, but an honest man, a man of integrity, with principles, who stood up for what was right, who protected the vulnerable. In Hollywood’s portrayal of the Wild West he was The Goody. And when I first encountered the above quote very many years ago it stuck with me. As one of the entries in the set of rules we each choose to guide us in our encounters with other people you could do a lot worse.  A combination of ‘Treat others as you would be treated’ and ‘Don’t **** with me’.

Thankfully we don’t live in a time where might is right and the person with the meanest spirit and largest gun rules all before him. Oh. Wait a minute. We do.

There is one place left in our modern civilized society where it’s still acceptable to pose the threat of physical harm and violent death. Our roads.

John Wayne on a bikeJakey boy was riding home last night (for the record, as if it matters, he’s a good rider with skills and lights) when he was overtaken by an articulated truck. It’s a 30 zone but it soon turns into a 40 and then a 60 and so you can feel their impatience as they sit on your back wheel desperate to put their pedal to the metal. Jake was given just enough room to survive. He was, and I make no exaggeration, terrified by the encounter.

Being treated as an irritant, as some kind of parasite who shouldn’t be on the road, by people who should know better is enough to make my blood boil. But this? This is the very real threat of violent death. It’s the sort of encounter which, if it doesn’t kill a cyclist, puts them off cycling for ever. Which was probably the point. It was a punishment pass, designed to show who’s boss.

How is this any different from pointing a gun at someones head?

Jake was too shaken to get the vehicle’s number, and maybe that’s a good thing because, as someone whose primary instinct is the protection of his family it’s likely that I, pacifist, easy-going vegetarian that I am, would have been tempted to hunt down the driver and tear him limb from limb. What kind of person would rather endanger someone’s life, someone’s son, in exchange for a few seconds of time saved. And what kind of society allows it. Because, sure as hell, if we’d reported the incident to the sherrif he’d have done sweet Fanny Adams about it. Well maybe they’ll start doing something if they get enough phone calls.

If it was an isolated incident i’d feel differently, give the driver the benefit of the doubt. But it’s not, it’s happens all the time. It feels like war has been declared on us.

So. To all drivers who use Main St. in Fulford, From now on we, the family, all of us, will ride down the centre of that road. We will not let you overtake because it’s too narrow. You can’t squeeze by because there just isn’t the space – so you’ll just have to wait. We are going about our normal, legal business. That we happen to be on a bicycle does not give you the right to barge past us with contempt. From now on if you cut us too close we will not let it pass with a cheery two-fingered wave. No more Mr Nice Guy. If you are a professional driver with a phone number on your vehicle expect your office to get a phone call. Taxis, buses, trucks. Watch out, we have your number and we’ll call it. And then we’ll call the Police. And then we’ll call the newspaper. Private motorists too. Endanger the lives of me and my family and expect a call from plod.

‘The Shootist’ was John’s last movie, when he was terminally ill from cancer. Early on he turned to the producer and said:

‘I’ve never shot a man in the back. Change that’.

My Other Car is a Bicycle

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 by Mick Allan

The car came back at the weekend after a week away, borrowed by the inlaws. I drove it to work today, just as I drove it to work yesterday. The weather is pretty dismal at the moment, freezing rain with strong winds, and so my pedal to work on routes which are quite pleasant for three seasons out of four become something of a grim ordeal. So I drove. No big deal, everybody drives right?

My point, which I’ll get to eventually, is this; If bike freaks like me, proper dyed-in-the-wool, life-long, committed cycling enthusiasts give up when the going gets tough how can we ever hope to persuade the general motoring public to adopt cycling? It’s not like I don’t have all the gear, the right bike(s), waterproofs, lights and all the rest. I’ve got no excuse.

Going on a guilt trip

But it gets a bit wearing when you’re struggling into a icy stinging headwind and one vehicle after another comes by too close, too fast, leaving you gasping in a cloud of spray. Drivers look at you as if you are completely mad from the comfort of their warm cocoons. And you wonder why the hell you’re doing it. For the planet? Why? When no one else seems to give a hoot. Answers on a postcard etc..

Aaargh.

Friday, January 6th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Not content with the recent wholesale destruction of my beloved SRAM i-Motion 3 coaster hub, today I outdid myself in the Doh! department.

Riding my lovely new Contropedale with its recently installed front ‘porteur’ rack this morning, I stopped to take some pictures in the low winter sunlight which was streaming across the landscape. We haven’t had any rays for days, but this morning everything came together, the light was magical, the bike looked stunning and I was – genuinely – thinking that this is the best set of photographs I have ever taken.

Got to work. Plugged in the camera to the PC. And deleted them all.

There will be no images in this instalment of the Cyclorama blog. Because I am an idiot.

Normal service will be resumed asap. :/

Towards Oblivion

Thursday, December 8th, 2011 by Mick Allan

I’ve no desire to get political. This blog is supposed to be about cycling after all. But hey – one of the many reasons I ride a bike is because I give a hoot about the environment.

I watched the BBCs outstanding Frozen Planet last night. It’s the kind of program which restores one’s belief in the power of television. Attenburgh showed us that the rate of polar melting has accelerated at an astonishing rate over the last few decades. Watch it if you haven’t (This isn’t a debate about whether climate change is real or not, or man made or not. Anyone who still doubts that made made climate change is real and upon us really should get their head out of their behind and look at the evidence). If you’ve been following the climate change story at all this will not come as a surprise, but that makes it no less shocking and no less terrifying.

One of last week’s top news stories featured our Prime Minister visiting the Land Rover and Jaguar car plant, basking in the ‘good news for the economy’ that they were taking on 1000 workers to cope with demand. The week before that it was the same story from the UK’s Toyota plant. And nestled inbetween was the little story that the government wants to build more motorways. More motorways. Peak oil anyone?

My pet theory, that our species is prone to ‘Large Family Syndrome’ where we all make a mad dash grab for whatever resources we can and to hell with everyone else – whether it’s chocolate chip cookies or oil reserves – is going to leave our progeny and their progeny with nothing. Not even a planet they can call home if the worst case scenario predictions are true.

My school books in the seventies warned about the dangers of population growth. We did nothing about that either. I know that the story of the suicidal lemmings is bogus but the analogy can’t be beat. We really are, all of us, rushing headlong towards a precipice.

So to hear today’s news from the conference in South Africa that the US , the world’s biggest polluter, is trying to defer any action on climate change until 2020 just makes me want to weep.

What brought it home to me was the sight this morning of a jacked-up, macho-man Land Rover Defender 4×4 tearing through the village with the phrase ‘One life – Live it!’ stuck to his visor. So wrong, seven billion lives at last count.

A little less macho posturing and selfishness is required from each and every of us, individuals and countries alike, if our children are going to avoid being sent back to the dark ages. It beats me why the people who we elect to represent us cant see it.

Two of the children refered to in the article.

Two of the children refered to in the article.

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The Decline in Moral Standards.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 by Mick Allan

I am not alone in thinking that driving standards continue to decline in this part of the world. Every local cyclist I talk to feels the same way. What’s going on? Caz thinks that part of the equation is the squeeze on motorists costs. A large percentage of the motoring population still imagine that their ‘right’ to use the roads is greater than a cyclists by virtue of the ‘road tax’ they pay. Could it be that the increase in frequency of aggression and discourtesy towards cyclists is driven by an increasing sense of resentment that we are using ‘their’ roads for free? The reality is that we cyclists in many parts the world are widely treated as second class citizens.

Yesterday, for the second time in a month, I was overtaken on the right side by a car driver as I was making a right turn. This is by cars doing 30 and 40 mph. Legal right turns mind, following all the rules.

I’m an experienced cyclist, a qualified National Standards cycle instructor and a former professional driver. My driving licence is untarnished. I know what I’m doing on the road and I ride – and drive – as if my life depended on it. I follow the rules, and I follow them for all kinds of reasons, including a simple desire to set a good example and a reluctance to give ‘them’ any ammunition.

AAAAARGH!!!

They should have slowed down and waited the few seconds I needed to make the manouever. Unfortunately the urge to get to their destination was more important than my safety.

And in the last few days I was deliberately squeezed to the kerb by a bus which hadn’t left enough room to make a clean pass and I witnessed a Tesco supermarket delivery van driver reading a document whilst driving. You’d imagine wouldn’t you that professional drivers, whose livelyhoods depend on their ability to drive, would follow the rules. Is it a sign that First Bus and Tesco.com employ morons or that people in general simply don’t give a damn – about road safety, about my safety?

The danger posed by motor vehicles is the first reason people give when asked why they don’t cycle. If, as we suspect, driver’s attitudes towards cyclists is actually deteriorating where the hell do we go from here?

Well, I tried to report the Tesco.com van driver yesterday. It took five phone calls before I got through to someone who promised to pass on my complaint to the relevant person. They’ll call me back they said. I’m still waiting. My email to First Bus remains unanswered.