Culture Club

Well I’ve learnt a lesson this week. Actually, I’ve learnt a few, all in one go.

Let’s go back to last Wednesday night: after going to bed I heard noises and just thought it was the neighbours. They’re not that noisy but sometimes you hear movement or voices. But hey, that’s what happens when there is someone living next door…

Next morning I got up and went downstairs and just happened to glance out through the back doors. At this point I spotted that my shed doors were wide open and I could see that my bike was no longer there. OH NO! On investigation I found that the shed door lock was hanging off and although they still had to get it out of the garden, the gate padlock had also been removed.

CIMG3737

Where’s my bike?? At least they left Mrs D’s wheels (and basket!)

When I told my wife she said she’d also heard noises in the night but that she had woken up fully and knew it was coming from outside. But what she didn’t realise was that what she was actually hearing was my bike getting nicked.

After that initial sick feeling, knowing that my prized possession was no longer in my care and control, (and thinking about how much it had cost me) I realised that a whole load of hassle was about to ensue: and I was right. Call the police; call the insurance; make a list of all of the accessories that were attached; look into how to get a new bike; buy locks; repair the shed; the list goes on.

All the while feeling angry, upset and infuriated that someone thinks that its OK to come into my property and take my possession. Bastards!

The good people at Evans Cycles were really helpful: they had the same bike still in stock and I’ve already been out and replaced it! So luckily I’m still mobile although I’m still missing some bits and pieces that I will get in due course. Its come as quite a surprise how many parts and accessories I’d added (shhh, don’t mention how much I’d spent…).

So what do I take away as learnings from this whole sorry saga? Here’s a few things that have occurred to me:

  1. Don’t ignore noises outside your house at night! You might not save your bike but you can at least yell at them and give them a scare before calling the feds. (But please don’t confront anyone: after all it’s just a bike and you don’t know what sort of scumbag you’d be squaring up to…)
  2. Security, security, security. Get it sorted before you need it! As I’ve learnt to my cost, afterwards is too late. I’ve actually now added FIVE locks and an alarm to my overall security set up! Any future thief will have to be prepared to spend a good deal of effort and time, and risk making a row (let alone the alarm going off) if they want to relieve me of my possessions in future.
  3. Insurance. Get it insured so that, if the worst happens, you know you’ll get some help to get back on two wheels (or three if you’ve got a trike!)

But the most surprising lesson I’ve learnt is how bad it makes you feel. At the end of the day you’ve worked hard to earn the money to buy something (bike, watch, Picasso, it’s still your possession) and some scrote thinks they can just walk off with it. And the police have little chance of catching them so maybe they are right. You’re just left with an empty space where that item used to be, and an overwhelming sense of injustice at the unfairness of the world.

In fact, I’m now ultra-aware of any odd noises coming from the general direction of “outside.” That’s the reason I’ve opted for the alarm because it will generate an unusual noise that can’t be mistaken for anything else.

Other than that, the future is now in the lap of the gods so let’s keep fingers crossed eh? And if you’d do that for me too then that would much appreciated!

Now its music time: I could have gone with the Bad Boys theme but this is my favourite Culture Club song so I decided to go with looking at things from my perspective. I’m not giving those thieving gits any more acknowledgement than I need to! Enjoy.

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LaBelle or Anita Ward?

When Saffi was still with us (see About) I did a lot of walking and had a fairly low opinion of bikes that would come flying past with no warning, leaving me with nothing but a racing pulse and the aroma of their sweat. Nice.

I couldn’t understand why they didn’t use their bell. Every bike has one and it’s not going to rival an iPhone in the high-tech stakes is it? I mean, come on, how difficult could it be? Well very apparently, for a lot of cyclists.

Do you want to risk an accident? Do you want people to think you’re an arrogant fool? Or do you really think you’re that special? I’m guessing the answer is “no” to all three questions. So USE YOUR BELL!

But, like everything, it’s not what you’ve got, its how you use it.

Actually, that’s not quite true. There’s a lot of bells to choose from and I’ve found that some are quite quiet and some are a lot louder. Check this out:

50572_1_Zoom

It calls itself loud and will currently cost you £3.11 from Tredz. Not exactly a kings ransom is it? And if it saves you from a crash (either with a person or something inanimate after swerving to avoid a person) then surely you’d agree it’s a bargain.

So back to how to use the bell. You’d think it’d be a quick ping and that’s it. Not a chance. This is where you have to take a breath, look around, and realise your place in the scheme of things. As I’ve said, you’re not the only person on the trail/path and using your bell as a weapon to send the message “Grrrr. Get out of my bloody way” is not going to be the most productive approach.

Use it as a warning aid. I ring my bell a couple or three times in plenty of time for any pedestrian to move to one side or another or, as some people do, give you a thumbs up to indicate they’ve heard you and you’re free to pass without scaring the pants off them. If I’m not sure they’ve heard, then I slow down and ping again. As long as they’re not weaving like a drunk then I’ll pass by whilst giving as much space as possible.

Then everyone is as safe and comfortable as they can be.

And don’t forget to be polite! If people move out of the way, they have done something for you so remember what your mother told you and say “Thank You.” Good manners cost nothing!

Lastly, it sets a good example to people with young kids out on their bikes to give them a ding, a wave and a “Thank you.” That way you can feel smug about showing the next generation how to behave!

Let me reiterate one more time: Use your bell. There is no reason not to and it makes you a better and nicer cyclist.

OK, so far so pro-pedestrian. Yes, cyclists can be inconsiderate rude sods. I see enough of them when I’m out on my bike. It always makes me shake my head. But this is where we move on to the other side of the coin.

For god’s sake would you pedestrians, would you please keep your eyes and ears open! I cannot tell you how many times I cycle towards couples or groups and they simply don’t register your presence. I mean, how engrossed in a conversation do you have to be not to realise that there is a big bloke on a big bike coming at you with his bell ringing away? Or putting yourself into your own world with headphones so that you’re oblivious to your surroundings?

It seems that some people on foot believe that they can yield all personal responsibility for their own safety. I wouldn’t say they deserve all they get but….. If you hear a bell, move out of the way: it’s safest for everyone. Its not rocket science either.

In summary people, try to get along and realise that whether you’re a cyclist or a pedestrian, you’re both as entitled to be there as each other. There’s enough conflict in life: you’ve made the effort to go out and enjoy yourself so make sure you do.

Sermon over. At least on the subject of bells.

Now for the music. What a choice this week: an artist to give a great link to the subject or another disco classic with a slightly more obscure reference. Which to choose? Tell you what, have both.

It’s my turn to dish out a Brucie bonus. Enjoy

Journey

[Alternatively: The (tow)path to success…. or failure?]

Goals. Its good to have a goal I reckon. After spending time on the bike I thought that I might want to do more than just ride up and down a section of the Thames. I then received a delivery of an online order from someone like Wiggle which contained a leaflet for an organised ride on something called the Lemming Trail. Great name.

(Incidentally, Wiggle will sometimes add a little Brucie bonus to your order like a packet of Haribo – what’s not to like?)

I wasn’t sure I was brave enough to be a lemming so started looking at other rides and there’s loads of them. I’m sure you’ve all seen people bombing around the roads at the weekend but, as I ride off-road, I saw that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in an organised ride without risking life and limb on the roads. (Just watching the crowds of cyclists clashing with traffic on Box Hill on a Sunday is stressful enough: forget riding….)

And then one September day I left my house and found lots of people whizzing past along the towpath with British Heart Foundation entry numbers attached. A quick google and I found the London to Brighton off road event and the seed of a plan was planted.

Two years on, I’m enrolled and in training. God help me.

To illustrate the challenge I face, its 75miles in one day and I’ve done well to manage 90miles in one week. So the training distances need to step up a tad.

Then there’s the terrain. A quick check of the elevation profile for the ride shows some pretty steep climbs and likewise with the descents.

l2b

London to Brighton elevation

As a comparison, below is the elevation profile of my longest route to date:

richmond

Towpath to Richmond Park with a loop of the path

Quite similar you’d think? Until you realise that my chart is about a third of the distance that I need to achieve and the climbs/descents on the top chart are compressed in distance compared to the lower chart.

One thing is for certain: I have four months and a lot of hard work ahead of me if I’m going to make it to the finish line.

Wish me luck!

 

And now for your reward for getting this far down. A little predictable but hey…..

Genesis

(After giving it some thought, I’ve decided that my hook will be a music theme to the title of each post. Ambitious? Twee? Pointless? You’ll have to decide! Anyway, see the end of each post for a title-based treat!)

Now whilst the title might not immediately appear to make much sense, I wanted to share how my interest developed since first getting a bike. The first thing to consider is that it’s a machine, toy and gadget it will there for qualify for that bloke trait that says that anything that can be tinkered with, will be tinkered with.

I started with a standard “off the peg” mountain bike (a Giant Talon Zero 2010 model) and only thought that I needed three things: a pump, mudguards and a lock. Simple, you’d think…. Oh no, no, no! And that’s before you consider price! A quick trip to Evans Cycles in Wimbledon sorted me out but at a total cost of £70-odd! The mudguards were fine but I’d only learn later that the pump and lock weren’t really fit for purpose. Probably the sort of error that is commonplace for newbies.

So off I scooted, got a few rides under my belt. All well and good you’d think. Not a bit of it!! There’s immediately a few problems I think I need to address. The first problem is a bit sensitive. Tender, if you will. Yep its the botty! Not something to be sniffed at (sorry for that mental image…)

OK, that’s easily sorted: padded undershorts. Feels a bit weird like wearing a nappy, but the saddle-soreness is a thing of the past. Phew!

Next problem is the my poor little mitts: they got a bit fuzzy and numb after riding for a while. What does one do? Well in time-honoured male fashion you google it and then see what toys are available to solve the issue! That leads to a special pair of handlebar grips to help with the vibration effects. Huzzah!

Remember, this is still at the very beginning of my venture into mountain biking!

Since then there’s been so many other things to address: pedals; saddle; chain; tyres; tubes; seat post; lights. The list goes on. And that doesn’t include tools and maintenance equipment or clothing!

But guess what: IT’S GREAT!!

Us blokes love this sort of thing and, even when its dark out or winter/raining hard, you can still get online and spend hours comparing, contrasting, deciding on your next purchase or seeking advice on forums.

But, remember, none of this is compulsory! Its just what I did and whilst I’ve ended up with some dud purchases, there’s also some great ones! In the end, I suppose, it depends on what you ultimately want to get out of cycling. Want to commute but have to leave your bike somewhere public: you be unwise spend thousands just for it to disappear whilst you’re working! Want to get into pedalling but unsure of whether you’ll like it? There are plenty of budget options. That’s what I’ve done and whilst I’ve upgraded my bike recently (I’ll talk about that in a future post) I still look around to see what I want to get next!!

So that’s my initial experience: its daunting at first but you soon get to grips with terminology and realise there are bags of resources out there. Don’t be afraid to use them and pretty quickly you’ll be talking the talk with the best of them!!

 

Now for the bit you’ve been waiting for: enjoy a 90’s classic!